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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Water Shortage: What can we do?

By: Te-Hsin Tsai (Grace)
Taiwan ICDF Overseas Volunteer
Forestry Department

~Imagine there are, an apple and a liter of water in front of you. Now guess how many liters of water we need to produce this apple…~

I am pretty sure that most St. Lucians have the knowledge that saving water is very important and everyone has the responsibility to conserve water. Every day when you go to some public places, especially in the toilet, you can see many sensational posters or signs saying “Water is Life!”, “Save water, save life”, or “when there is no more water , then there is no more you!” Also, teachers in every school teach students to save water. WASCO tells everyone to save water. TV and radio broadcast this message all the time and so on.

But with St. Lucia being an island surrounded by water; the sea, you may think to yourself don’t you see we have lots of water?! So why do we need to save water if we have plenty of it?

Yes, I know some may also say “it’s sea water. We can’t use it.” And I will respond to you that “yes you are very right!” It is true that we need to save freshwater as we only have less than 1 % of the total amount of earth’s water being freshwater, so saving freshwater is very important!

However, let me tell you another truth. In this less than 1 % of freshwater, the water we use everyday such as the water for washing dishes, cars, taking showers, drinking, cooking etc. accounts for only 8 % of freshwater use. The other 92 %, is used by agriculture and industry. So, yes, you are saving water but just from the 8 % of domestic water consumption, which is also important, but unfortunately it is not enough!

Most of the things we can see now either comes from industry or agriculture, they cost direct and indirect water consumption. For example, we need water in the factory to cool down machines or wash products. And we need water for agriculture to grow crops and rear animals.

Now let’s get back to “how much water is needed for producing an apple?” The answer is 70 liters of freshwater (Water Footprint Network, 2012). From irrigating, harvesting, processing such as washing, delivering to shops and then your home, it takes 70 liters of water! Can you believe that! Do you think you can save 70 liters of water a day?
How about other things? A cup of coffee takes 140 liters of water. 1 kg of rice takes 3,400 liters of water and 1 kg of beef takes 15,500 liters of water (Water Footprint Network, 2012). These are just foods, how about tables, clothes, cars and other products? They need even more water to be manufactured!

Let me stop scaring you with the numbers. Maybe you already feel bad for having wasted water today. So let us do something instead of feeling guilty. What we can do is actually quite simple – just keep it simple. Think carefully when you eat or buy things. Ask yourself twice “do I really need these things?” before you buy them. Moreover, reuse old things. Eat simple foods instead of highly processed ones which are less healthy. Eat less meat or become a vegetarian; you can save water and also become healthier. In addition, eat seasonal foods because foods which are not planted in the right season need extra energy and water to produce them.

So, let us not only save domestic water but other freshwater by living more simply. And by the way, an additional piece of good news is that this can help you save lots of your money too.