With all the dark, foreboding environmental news to choose from, here’s a drop of optimism: our country is using less water.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has just completed its every-five-year report about national water consumption. The total for 2015, the latest year available, was 322 billion gallons per day, down 9 percent from 2010 and the lowest total in five decades.
The numbers declined despite a 4 percent increase in population over those five years.
“The downward trend in water use shows a continued effort towards efficient use of critical water resources, which is encouraging,” said Tim Petty, assistant secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. “Water is the one resource we cannot live without, and when it is used wisely, it helps to ensure there will be enough to sustain human needs, as well as ecological and environmental needs.”
Why the drop? The biggest factor was an 18 percent decline in water used in thermoelectric power generation, a technical way of saying water that cools off machines that make electricity. Technology has helped make power plants more efficient.
Irrigation actually rose 2 percent from 2010 to 2015, with the California droughts in that period a likely culprit.
But personal use continued to drop significantly, from 100 gallons per person per day in 2005 to 88 gallons in 2010 to 82 in the latest report. Analysts credit increased water efficiency in washing machines and dishwashers, the growing popularity of low-flow toilets and shower heads, and more awareness of the need to conserve our vital resource.
But they also warn that the number needs to keep dropping in a world with limited resources, rising water prices, growing population and a changing climate.
At Echo Environmental, we strive to make good environmental news every day. And we tell our dads that you don’t need to keep the hot water running all the time when you’re shaving.