Water is fundamental to life. As athletes, we have a special relationship with the stuff but we often take it for granted. We turn on the tap, fill our water bottles, and gulp it down. We swim in lakes, rivers and oceans and expect them to be clean. We turn on the shower and out it pours.
The truth is water resources around the planet are under stress. Climate change, over population, contamination and poor stewardship all contribute to the problem. Today, 450 million people in 29 countries suffer from water shortages, according to the United Nations. And two out of every three people on the planet will live in water-stressed areas by 2025.
The challenge isn't just in developing nations halfway around the world. It's in our own backyard. A recent study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego projected 50/50 odds that Lake Mead, the largest man made reservoir in the U.S., would dry up by 2021.
That's not a very comforting statistic for residents in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico--all of whom rely on Lake Mead for their water. What happens when Las Vegas runs dry? Or Phoenix?
Major bodies of water such as Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay and Chesapeake Bay are in sorry shape as a result of the toxic brew of residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial runoff. There's a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River that's about 6,000 square miles caused in part by nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers used by farmers in the states bordering the river.
These are big problems that demand big, creative solutions. Yet we all have a responsibility to be more water conscious and to take action to preserve and conserve. There are the obvious things you can do, such as reusing towels, turning the water off when you brush your teeth, and taking shorter showers. But there are plenty of not-so-obvious practices as well.
Try These 10 Water Conservation Tips at Home
- Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap till the water's cold.
- After exercise, use the remaining water in your water bottle to water your plants or pour it in the dog's bowl.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables in a bowl then pour the water on your lawn or plants.
- Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when full.
- Fix leaky toilets. Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak.
- Upgrade older toilets with water-efficient models.
- Put a bucket in the shower and use the water you collect to flush toilets or water your lawn and plants.
- Use an efficient, water conserving shower head.
- Use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
- If you use pesticides or fertilizer on your lawn, research non-toxic, eco-friendly alternatives.
More: Eco-Friendly EatingYour actions don't have to be confined to your home. Suggest water-saving ideas at work, at your kid's schools, or to your town or city officials. You might also consider joining or donating money to the local Save Our Body-of-Water organization or taking part in beach or shoreline cleanups.
It's up to everyone to do their part. Be the change.
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*Water tips courtesy of wateruseitwisely and other sources.