The unfortunate truth is that the concept of water conservation is easy to exploit, both as a conservationist and as a conservation detractor.
It’s difficult to explain why this occurs, considering that environmentalism is generally accepted as a noble doctrine, but often the eager and the ill-informed make mistakes and false claims, either to spur people to action or to convince there is no need for it.
Arguments can be made for both sides, but in the end scaring people into making decisions or using dubious facts to gain support is not ethical or appropriate, no matter how effective. Below are five myths about water conservation you should consider before deciding where you stand on the issue.
Myth #1: There Is No Water Crisis
This would seem to go without saying, but for whatever reason there are people out there who believe that either A) water is abundant and it is more an issue of poverty and infrastructure or B) that things aren’t nearly as bad as the so-called “liberal media” reports.
The fact is that while there are hints of truth in both arguments, the world is undoubtedly in grave need of more effective water management. Statistics vary (perpetuating problem B), but a reputable estimate is that 1 out of 6 people on the planet do not have access to clean, sustainable water. That’s 1.1 billion people, and the number is growing as the global population increases and water supplies dwindle.
Myth #2: The US Is Immune to Water Shortages
Living in the United States comes with many privileges, and one that is most often taken for granted is the seemingly endless supply of clean water: Just turn on the tap and it flows fresh and clear, and at very little cost.
This abundance, however, is the very definition of myth. Many states experience routine water shortages and are forced to implement strict water-use restrictions during dry seasons, and other states like Arizona are facing potentially disastrous long-term water shortages. Unbeknownst to many water users, states battle for water rights in the courts as the precious resource literally fall down the drain.
Myth #3: Water Scarcity Is a Third-World Problem
This myth is in part fueled by Myth #2 as well as by water’s comparatively low cost as a utility. The problem is that people are not yet asked to pay for the true value of water, which makes water conservation seem all the less important in developed nations.
Once upon a time, before the world would fully realize its importance following the Industrial Revolution, oil was also an undervalued commodity. Now, as the world population approaches 7 billion people, hydrologists, world leaders and even investors are looking at water in a whole new light – as a quickly diminishing vital resource that will be a linchpin in future global politics and finance.
Myth #4: My Water-Use Choices Make No Difference
Again, this myth is perpetuated in the U.S. by low water costs and easy access; however, statistics that reflect collective action demonstrate time and again how America as a whole can make a difference when it comes to water conservation.
There are numerous examples that illustrate this concept. From turning off the tap while brushing your teeth to cutting down on the use of items that take large quantities of water to produce (paper, plastics, meat foodstuffs, etc.), there are many ways to save water that they really do add up; so many, in fact, that even one person can make a measurable difference.
Myth #5: Bottled Water Is Safer Than Tap Water
This is nothing more than crafty marketing, and is arguably one of the most damaging blows to water conservation in recent history. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water quality, both have the same standards.
The real problem, however, is that bottled water takes so much more water to make, via the plastic bottles in which it comes, and that use is not offset even when the bottle is recycled. It is a zero-sum game that can’t be won save to avoid drinking bottled water.
So remember …
Doing something positive in the way of water conservation can be as easy as using a refillable bottle for drinking water, or taking shorter showers. You don’t have to change your life to change the trajectory of the world’s water crisis.
James Madeiros writes for Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology that helps farmers, manufacturers, and utility companies to measure and conserve water.
Photo courtesy of eVo photo