Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Where’d the Water Go?
There are some legendary “wasters” of water. How about Celine Dion using a whopping 6.5 million gallons of water in 2007 at her home on Jupiter Island, Fla., according to a study done by the Palm Beach Post. Cry me a river! There’s also the estate of wealthy Atlanta investor Chris G. Carlos whose property consumed 440,000 gallons (1.67 million liters) in September 2007 alone. After a public outcry, Carlos dramatically reduced his monthly usage to just 12,000 gallons.
Some of our biggest and most unusual “wasters” of water aren’t all that glamorous. The Scientific American recently compiled a list of some interesting water sucks. Here they are:
1. Doing the Dishes: By Hand or Dishwasher?
A typical by hand session will go through about 20 gallons or so. But if you leave the water running while scraping at those last grisly bits on your fine china, you may use more than twice that amount. Modern electric dishwashers, in contrast, need less than 10 gallons (38 liters) per average load.
2. Washing the Car (and the Driveway)
According to a west coast chain, a home car wash can go through 80 to 140 gallons of water, whereas a wash at one of its garages will take about 30 to 45 gallons. Many professional car washes also utilize methods that recycle water.
3. Slipping Through the Cracks
A swimming pool naturally loses about 1,000 gallons a month to evaporation, although the local climate and the pool's overall surface area determines the amount that's actually lost. A bigger problem arises from the leaks that pools often develop during their lifetimes from cracks in a pool’s foundation, liner tears and pipe damage.
4. Lawn Sprinklers: Fountains of Backyard Verdure or Pernicious Aquifer Guzzlers?
The water sprinklers that keep our grass green and flowers growing can consume 265 gallons an hour. Landscaping usage generally rivals or exceeds estimates of what an average U.S. household uses daily. A good tip: unless you’re going to eat what you grow, don’t plant that which needs copious amounts of water to live.
5. Well-Watered Desert Resorts
You don’t see a lot of water around Las Vegas. The Venetian canals of the Bellagio, as well as the Mirage's water-and-fire volcano, seem to be on the “most wanted” list of water wasters. This is not as bad as it seems though. Apparently the Las Vegas Strip accounts for just three percent of local water use. Nearly 70 percent of the Las Vegas water supply goes toward irrigating the 60-plus golf courses and the many residential lawns in the area. Grow rocks; they don’t need so much water.
6. Biofuels' Hidden Downside
Just because biofuels burn cleaner than fossil fuels and therefore emit less carbon dioxide into the air doesn’t mean that there’s a dark side. Plant-power sucks up ridiculously large quantities of water compared with oil and natural gas production. For example, producing a gallon (3.79 liters) of corn ethanol consumes 170 gallons of water in total, from irrigation to final processing. Soybean biodiesel manufacture needs some 900 gallons of water per gallon of fuel. On the other hand, the water requirement to make a gallon of regular gasoline is just five gallons.
7. Agriculture in the Arid Southwest
much of the U.S. Southwest is a desert and about 90 percent of the Colorado River's water is today diverted into the Southwest for agricultural irrigation. It’s been estimated that almost half of the water could be lost through evaporation and seepage. Many farmers rely on flood irrigation, which, though inexpensive, is a highly inefficient means of delivering water to crops. The Colorado's dwindling water flow threatens the supplies of at least seven states; water rights are the new range wars.
8. Alfalfa Farming Woes
many think of alfalfa mainly in terms of the sprouts that end up on sandwiches, but most of the alfalfa crop feeds livestock. The relatively low-value crop uses up about a quarter of California’s irrigation water but contribute only 4 percent to the state's total farm revenue. The main issue is that farmers grow alfalfa year-round in what is essentially a desert climate in the southwestern U.S.
9. The Ruin of the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea in central Asia was once the fourth largest body of freshwater on the planet. Where did it go, did they drink it. Well sort of… But by siphoning off waters from the massive lake for irrigation, local farmers and governments in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have drained the Aral Sea to about 10% of its original size. The Aral has split into three parts, two of which are so salty that all the fish in them died!
10. Saving the Saddest for Last
Ah beer! It may be refreshing and cool but it's likely to leave you less hydrated than you were before you started. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you want to go. And when you go, you have to drink more water to make up for that which was spent. Alcohol suppresses an antidiuretic hormone called vasopressin that tells our kidneys to reabsorb and conserve water. The more you drink, the more the hormone level falls, and thus the more water you lose. Don’t blame the beer, it’s the dehydration.