Is Water the Next Oil?

The heat wave has hit New York.  Yesterday as I spent the day swimming and kayaking on

Castle Rock, Lake Waccabuc

a lake from childhood, my friend and I talked about water.  Both of us were so amazed a how clear the water of the lake was, this is a lake that I spent much of my childhood swimming in and in the winter skating on.  There is little development around the lake, compared to most, and where there are houses you can see the difference in the water and what is growing, imagine looking at an underwater forest.  Our discussion evolved into our drinking water and how we had both heard that water was going to be the next oil, with people fighting over it , coveting it and how fortunate were we to live in an area where many homes still have wells, then the question came to me on the way home, “How much do we take water for granted?”

What would you do if you turned your faucet on and nothing came out or the water coming out was brown and full of disgusting matter that you could see and disease-causing bacteria you could not see?  For most of us in the United States and most developed countries water is a given fact of life, but for many others in the world clean water is a luxury or not attainable at all.  Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use.

According to the documentary Blue Gold, “Wars of the future will be fought over water, as they are over oil today.”   Referring to an article in the Mideast News, 1994, “Oil has always been thought of as the traditional cause of conflict in the Middle East past and present. Since the first Gulf oil well gushed in Bahrain in 1932, countries have squabbled over borders in the hope that ownership of a patch of desert or a sand bank might give them access to new riches. No longer. Now, most borders have been set, oil fields mapped and reserves accurately estimated – unlike the water resources, which are still often unknown. WATER is taking over from oil as the likeliest cause of conflict in the Middle East.”  Looking closer to home we can look at the battle over water rights that is waging between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  Georgia was dealt a blow by a federal judge, ruling that the state has little legal rights to the massive north Georgia reservoir that supplies Atlanta with most of its water.  Because of this Georgia is even looking at the state line with Tennessee claiming that the state line is not where it was supposed to be and were contemplating contesting the state line so that they could have access to another water source.  This is a battle that is between state residents and state wildlife, since some of the water from the reservoir is to help two types of endangered muscles in Florida. The judge gave the states three years to reach an accord or risk cutting Georgia off from most of its supply.

With droughts come water restrictions that are lifted as soon as the drought is deemed over, but shouldn’t we all be living and conserving water as if there was a drought?
A person needs 4 to 5 gallons of water per day to stay healthy, the average American uses 100 to 176 gallons of water in the home per day and the average person in the United
used 35.66 gallons of water per day compared to the average person
in the developing world
uses about 2.64 gallons per day.  1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, roughly one-sixth of the world’s populationThat is a staggering amount, yet here in America the water we use for drinking water is the same water that fills our toilet bowls, is used in the shower, for
landscaping, washing our cars and to fill our pools.  We have to start conserving now and finding ways to reduce our water use.  Every aspect of our life is connected to water, and we use enormous amounts of it to make everything from electricity to food to household products. For example, it takes 24 gallons of water to make a single pound of plastic, and over a hundred gallons to make a pound of cotton. Even the electricity we use is tied to water – with power plants consuming 40 percent of our country’s fresh water

So what can you do? First assess your water usage, I think you will be surprised in how much you truly use.  A good place to start is: , this is also a great place to gets tips on how to cut your water usage.  DO ONE THING EACH DAY THAT WILL SAVE WATER.  EVERY DROP COUNTS!

Here are some water facts and tips to help you reduce your water use.

Indoor water use:

  • Approximately 26% of all indoor water use is the result of toilet flushing at a rate of 20 – 27 gallons per person per day. Remember the saying, if it is yellow let it mellow, if it is brown, flush it down?
  • If your toilet was installed prior to 1980 it is most likely not a low flow toilet.  Place a bottle filled with water or a brick in the tank to decrease the amount of water used for each flush.  Make sure that the bottle/brick does not interfere with the operating parts.
  • Put food coloring in your toilet tank, if it seeps into the toilet bowl you have a leak.  Fixing it could save you 600 gallons per month.
  • Every day, on average, Americans use a total of 40 billion gallons of fresh water.
  • When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full and you could save 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly.  Compost instead and save gallons of water every time you do not use your disposal.
  • Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap for cold water so that every drop goes down you not the drain.
  • Wash your produce in the sink or a pan that is partially filled with water instead of running water from the tap.  Use the wash water to water plants.
  • If your shower can fill a one gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, then replace it with a water-efficient shower head.
  • Put a bucket under the faucet in your tub/shower and collect the water while waiting for the water to get hot.  You can use this water for plants and your pet’s drinking water.
  • Time your shower to keep it under 5 minutes – you will save 1,000 gallons per month.
  • Turn off the water while you shampoo and condition your hair and you can save more than 50 gallons a week.
  • Do you really need to take a bath/shower every day?
  • When you clean your fish tank, use the water you drained to water your plants – they will love it, full of great fertilizer.
  • Turn off faucets tightly after each use.
  • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth and save 4 gallons of water a minute.
  • Insulate hot water pipes and your water heater; you will not have to run the water as long to get hot water.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible, this will retain more of the nutrients in the food.  Allow the water to cool and use to water your plants.
  • Turn off the water while you shave, save 100 gallons a week.
  • When you give your pet fresh water, don’t throw out the old – use it to water plants.
  • Don’t throw those ice cubes in the sink, place them in a plant.
  • When washing your hands, don’t let the water run while you lather.


Drip irrigation

Outdoor water use:

  • Up to 30% of water applied to turf, shrubs, etc during the middle of the day can be lost due to evaporation.
  • Use drip irrigation – which uses tubing and/or micro sprinklers.
  • Water early in the morning, before 9am – it’s the single best thing you can do to prevent evaporation.
  • Cover bare areas around trees and plants with organic mulch 2″ deep to prevent water loss due to runoff and evaporation.
  • Consider using soaker hoses instead of sprinklers in the “thirstier” area of your yard/landscaping, to deliver water more directly and quickly.
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinkler so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
  • Plant during the spring and fall when the watering requirements are lower.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway or sidewalk and save 80 gallons of water each time.
  • Divide your watering cycle into shorter periods to reduce runoff and allow for better absorption every time you water.
  • Only water your lawn when needed.  You can tell this by walking on your lawn and if you leave a footprint – it is time to water.
  • Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting.  Longer grass shades root systems and hold moisture better than a short lawn.
  • Direct downspouts and other runoff  towards shrubs and trees, or collect in a large container for use in the garden.
  • Invest in rain barrels or a water collection system.
  • Don’t water on a windy day.
  • Remember to weed your garden and lawn; weeds compete with plants for water, light and nutrients.
  • Fertilize sparingly.  Fertilizer increases water consumption.
  • Choose indigenous plants and low water plants.
  • If the kids want to cool off, let them run through the sprinkler on a section of the lawn that needs watering, but not during the hottest point of the day.
  • Bring your car to a car wash that recycles the water and if there is not one in your area wash your car on the lawn, with biodegradable soap.  Remember to turn the water off while soaping up the car.
  • Leave lower branches on trees and shrubs and let the leaves accumulate, this keeps the soils cooler and reduces evaporation.
  • Start a compost pile.  Adding compost when you plant adds water holding organic matter to the soil.
  • More plants die from over-watering than from under watering.
  • Bath your pets outdoors in an area that needs water.
  • Aerate your lawn; the water will reach the roots instead of sitting on top.
  • For hanging baskets, planter, pots place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to give your plant a refreshing cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.
  • Have your plumber re-route your gray water to trees and garden rather than letting it run into the sewer line.  Check with your city codes, and if it isn’t allowed in your area, start a movement to get that changed.

And lastly, please stop using bottled water, this depletes aquifers, under ground springs and water sources of other people to line the pockets of the bottling companies.  I truly believe that the selling of water is one of the biggest marketing ploys of our times.  New York City is known to have some of the best naturally filtered drinking water (that is why the pizza, bagels and hard rolls are so good – it is the water) and PepsiCo bottling knows that, that is why they bottle some of the Aquafina product in Queens, using NYC tap
water!  Invest in a reusable water bottle.  If the water coming out of your tap is not palatable to you buy a water filtration system, a good place to start would be

Get Involved:

Waterkeeper Alliance – provides a way for communities to stand up for their right to clean water and for the wise and equitable use of water resources, both locally and globally.
The vision of the Waterkeeper movement is for fishable, swimmable and
drinkable waterways worldwide.  Their belief is that the best way to achieve this vision is through the Waterkeeper method of grassroots advocacy.

Food & Water Watch – is committed to creating an economically and environmentally viable future, by working with grassroots organizations and other allies around the world to stop the corporate control of our food and water.

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility  – ICCR is a membership organization of over 275 faith-based organizations and communities that has been a leader of the corporate responsibility movement for over 35 years. ICCR members use their investment
clout to engage corporate management on social and environmental issues such as
global warming, genetically modified foods, water, and environmental justice.

I highly recommend you take the time to watch the documentary Blue Gold, which can be viewed instantly on Netflix.   Please go to their website and learn more

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