Why Do People Say “Conserve Water” When It Evaporates And Recycles Itself?

There have been plenty of clever slogans written about conserving water. The main agenda of these slogans is to spread awareness about the moderate and wise use of water to avoid water shortage crises. However, why exactly do we write these slogans? Water, whether it is from the sewers or the sea, always ends up evaporating and coming back as freshwater, so why are we so concerned with its conservation when nature does the job of cleaning the water for us? To answer this question, let’s first consider a hypothetical situation to answer this question.

Water Cycle and Hypothesis

To understand this hypothesis, we must first understand the water cycle.  The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle, describes the movement of water in any form, either above or below the surface. The water cycle starts with the Sun, which drives the water cycle and heats the water bodies present on the earth. Water in this liquid form evaporates into the form of water vapor. This process is also known as evaporation. After the evaporation of water, the vapor begins to rise to higher levels of the atmosphere. As the altitude increases, the pressure and temperature begin to decrease. The low temperature of the atmosphere at higher altitudes results in the condensation of the vapor into tiny water droplets. These water droplets are suspended in the air, because in the initial stages, they are very small and can be held up in the clouds due to the updraft. Once the water droplets begin to combine, the mass of the droplets starts to increase and makes it descent either in the form of fog or rain.

water cycle

(Image Credit: Flickr)

Now, let’s assume that all the freshwater in the world has been contaminated in some form or another and is unfit for human conception. The problem that we will encounter in such a scenario is that the above-mentioned water cycle takes time to generate fresh water. Imagine that you live in a certain location where it does rain; most of the freshwater, even if judiciously consumed, is very quickly used up by almost all life forms in the vicinity. Plus, it only rains a few inches every year, which could quickly be used up by humans, rendering us without any viable freshwater source to consume from. The judicious use of water also has other implications which come with it.

Reasons to Conserve Water

The first and foremost purpose behind the conservation of water is that it is highly essential for life! Without sugar coating the situation, anything composed of freshwater directly equates to life. All life on earth, whether plant-based or animal based, is dependent on freshwater as a source of life. Without freshwater, most plants and animals would perish in a matter of weeks. Even if we take our own human body into consideration, water plays a pivotal role in its fundamental functioning. It is a scientific fact that humans can exist without food for a few weeks, but would die without water within a few days. The World Water Council predicts that the current trajectory of human population growth equates to a 40 to 50 percent increase in population over the next 50 years, which would put a severe strain on existing freshwater sources.

Fossil

(Photo Credits : Snowshill/Shutterstock)

The next reason one can look at the judicious use of water is that it directly affects energy. Freshwater consumption affects energy consumption in two ways. The first way is in the extraction and delivery of freshwater. Most of the freshwater extracted today is removed from beneath the ground. It requires corporations to drill deep into the ground to suck out fresh water sources (aquifers). The more we waste freshwater, the more water we need to extract from these aquifers. This will lead to an eventual drying up of aquifers next to the surface, driving corporations to dig even deeper for fresh water. The deeper they dig, the more energy is needed to drill and extract the water.

water reverse osmosis

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

The second manner in which freshwater affects energy is in the process of desalination. In places that are extremely arid or deserts, governments and other water-manufacturing corporations turn to the desalination of seawater. This might also sound like an alternate and viable source for the production of freshwater, but as with all good things, this process comes with a catch. The amount of energy needed to desalinate water into freshwater is very high. To put this in some perspective, one cubic meter of water (999 liters) costs about $10-20 in terms of production. Sounds cheap, right? Well, water extracted from aquifers, for the same quantity of one cubic meter of water, costs only 10-20 cents for extraction. In the end, we can see that freshwater is more economical when it comes time for a consumer to buy it. In conclusion, we can say that even though conserving water for the environment might not move people to change their behavior, it is important to know that every little bit of water conserved helps them save money in the long run.

References:

  1. Boil Sea Water
  2. iSustainableEarth
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About the Author:

Venkatesh is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, India. He is deeply fascinated by Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. He is also a chess aficionado, He likes studying chess classics from the 1800 and 1900’s. He enjoys writing about science and technology as he finds the intricacies which come with each topic fascinating.

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