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"Environments are not just containers, but are processes that change the content totally." - Marshall McLuhan

Water; Not One Drop to be Wasted

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Water is as precious as they come. It covers the earth storing oxygen molecules in vast amounts. It flows through rivers providing vital energy and wealth to countries around the world. It makes up more than half of the human body, as much as sixty per cent in fact. Yet, human civilization seems at odds with its intricate relationship with the hydrogen-oxygen compound. Deplorably, drinking water is increasingly in short supply, while rivers in fast growing areas like the southwestern United States quickly disappear. What’s more, the fresh water left is being more and more contaminated every day.

Funny enough, apart from the toothpaste, soap and food particles of which we so unconsciously dispose waste water management is an excellent way in which to improve our usage of water. Of course, it all begins by no longer taking the resource for granted. In turn, with rudimentary changes to our household habits, such as in-house and municipal filtration systems, we can begin to reuse water in all sorts of innovative ways.

For one, filtered water can be used for the irrigation of crops, currently a major burden on water reserves. But reusing water within the house can also be incredibly efficient. In doing so, the diversion of waste water from the sewage system reduces the amount of energy consumed and the degree of pollution generated.

Households create two kinds of waste water which are defined based on the amount of fecal coliforms and organic matter they contain. On the one hand, there is greywater, which is all water generated from the shower, bath, sink and washing machine. It is the ‘cleaner’ one of the two. On the other hand, blackwater is the mixture of water and waste flushed down the toilet. Naturally, it’s comprised of fecal matter with high organic content. Filtering the latter is of course far more complex and expensive than the former, but both can be of great use in subsequent management schemes.

By far the best way to manage water resources effectively is at the consumer level. In other words, it is essential to not only reduce the amount of water we use in the first place, but also to tie the consumption of water to some kind of economic model in which the consumer pays per volume. Most jurisdictions already have such systems in place, but perhaps it’s time to start charging more in an effort to raise revenues to build new, innovative infrastructure. Either way, the places where water is predominantly consumed – cities being the best example – ought to be developed in close proximity to fresh, renewable resources. Given the cost of purification on both an economic and environmental level, this is all the more imperative.

Indeed, without too much effort, sustainable management of water resources can be implemented at the household, neighbourhood and regional level, in many cases offsetting the negative impacts discussed above. Of course, heavy industry is a whole other story, one which must be regulated through delicately though-out government intervention. But by reducing water consumption and maximizing its utility, all the while respecting the precious nature of the resource in the first place, we as a society can transform the precarious state into which our precious water resources are headed. Lest we forget we, ourselves, are made up mostly of it. The water will run.

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