In reporting about our current and impending national freshwater issues I have occassionally received criticism/feedback along the lines of “water conservation may be important in places like Africa, but we live in the U.S…so quit the scare tactics!”.
I find this ‘we-invented-water!’ attitude troubling considering the myriad of water issues facing our country today. Issues that, if not dealt with soon, will become a crisis making the oil problem look like a bad hair day.
So how best do I illustrate our current water woes to the folks who do not appreciate my water conservation tips?
…I got it! How about I get some leading minds in the field together to impart their focused wisdom? And accompany said wisdom with PICTURES!
Great idea me!
WaterCAMPWS (Center of Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems) consists of university faculty, research scientists, graduate and undergraduate students, and municipal practitioners in fields related to water purity from University of California Berkeley, MWRDG-Chicago, Clark Atlanta University, Howard University, University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NRMRL-EPA, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Sandia National Laboratories, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Yale University.
WaterCAMPWS has listed the threats to our water supply as:
- Increased demand by energy production.
- Agricultural run-offs, such as:
- Leaching of radioactive materials and heavy metal
- Depletion of aquifers
- Contamination of aquifers by:
industrial, organic, and biological toxins
Let me break these threats down further–time for the pictures…
Ironically, the aqua blue areas in the map denote water-stressed areas. Areas where water withdrawals are greater than 1.120 billion gallons per day! The Southwestern US is the most water-stressed area in our country.
Elevated nutrients in the water supply is most commonly an issue in agricultural areas where run-off from fields adds nutrients from fertilizer application to streams and other surface water–and from there into shallow groundwater.
Displaced soil from mining often ends up in surface water. Additional sediments result in increased salinity due to dissolved solids. Mercury was used extensively in gold mining, and the legacy of that use continues today.
Organic and Industrial Toxins
Water in urban areas is often contaminated by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). One of their primary uses are as gasoline additives, the most well-known being MBTE. Another major organic pollutant is a class of chemicals called polychlorinated vinyls (PCVs) that were once used as industrial coolants.
The principle source of radioactive contamination in the water supply results from the presence of uranium ore, and other radioactive elements, in the surrounding bedrock. Some contamination is also a result of industrial and military activities.
My goal in organizing this information from WaterCAMPWS is to illustrate the current problem on a national scale. A problem that will become a crisis if we don’t start changing our habits NOW.
Image credits and information from WaterCAMPWS. For more in-depth information (and more maps!) visit the WaterCAMPWS website.