The Answer To Our Problems Is In Our Own Backyard: Water

I’ve been thinking a lot about environmental problems lately, though they’re hard to hear about on the news between mentions of Kardashians and political bickering. Are there answers to these problems? Do we need to get a seal of approval from everyone around us before being concerned about the environment and our impact on the planet? It seems to me, people are always looking for answers to problems from outside of themselves. It’s got me thinking about what kinds of solutions we could find to these issues if we tackled them more on an individual level than a societal one.
Humor me for a little bit while I write about some of these topics. I’d love to hear what you all think as well so please leave a comment below to add to the conversation.
Drawing by super talented Anaheim Third Grader, Sarah Carvajal.

WATER

In the later half of the 20th century, the precious resource was oil. Countries were conquered and created in its name. The control and use of it directed the geopolitical conversation for decades. Thousands have been killed over it. Maybe millions.

In the first half of the 21st century, the precious resource is, and will, be to an ever greater degree…water. I don’t want to be a complete alarmist, but if you think you’ve seen violence and disorder over oil, imagine what we will see over the primary necessity of life.

Read: “If You Think the Water Crisis Can’t Get Worse, Wait Until The Aquifers Are Drained” by National Geographic.

The U.S. circa 2025?

It’s truly telling how little the country understands the depths of the severity of this issue when so much of the country is gripped by drought, with farms and states drilling ever deeper into groundwater to irrigate crops and pump to far out suburban developments, that we still persist in wasteful, and relatively useless vanity landscaping such as non-native grass lawns.

Green grass and outdoor pools in the desert.

Even in the desert climate areas of the U.S. where drought warnings are a part of daily life, people install lawns and waste water to keep them green. Not to mention all the gasoline we burn over every square inch of lawn across the United States to keep them manicured and uniform.

So does getting rid of our lawns and turning the water off when we brush our teeth solve the problem? Nope.

“Where does our water come from?” is the important question. 

For one, it comes from reservoirs fed by rain and rivers and it comes from wastewater treatment facilities fed by…you know. As water is diverted into reservoirs it is chemically treated to make sure that all the organisms it picks up its way to you don’t kill you.

Wastewater is treated much the same way with a few extra steps added. What’s wrong with that? Well, scientists are now discovering that many of the prescription medications we take and excrete through our bodily fluids are not being removed completely from our wastewater. Not to mention all the medications or chemicals that are flushed straight down the toilet because they are expired or no longer needed.

The result? We’re drinking other people’s medications and household chemicals.

As they are just discovering this problem, there aren’t any longitudinal studies to determine to what extent these pharmaceuticals including antidepressants, female hormones, and steroids are doing to us. But you can wager it’s probably not awesome.

Studies have already found that fish swimming near outflows of wastewater treatment centers are having problems with organ failure. Know anyone in your family with organ problems? I’ll bet you do. Funny how that just seemed to happen out of the blue in the past few generations.

So what’s the answer? Simply put: we need to regain control over our own water supply. Not on a societal level, that’s what caused these problems in the first place. We need to maintain our own water supply on the household level.

HOUSEHOLD WATER MANAGEMENT

What does Household Water Management mean? For one, it means capturing and safely using the water that falls on our own homes. Water catchment systems and rain barrels should and need to be foundations of every human structure. This goes for skyscrapers and sheds alike.

Capturing and filtering water for safe human consumption on a household level is a necessity. The water that comes out of the tap and goes into or on our bodies, should come directly from filtered tanks on our own property, not a city reservoir. The water we will use for our food-producing gardens should be the stuff that falls directly from the sky.

It’s a simple fact: plants watered with rainwater versus tap water just do better. It’s a lot cheaper too. You don’t get charged for rain. The food they grow will be healthier and better for you.

A rainwater cistern.

Now, I understand how difficult it can be to install a fully functional water catchment and filtration system on your current home. I think individuals with the means should strongly consider adding this to their homes to safeguard themselves against future water shortages and rising costs (because it is going to rise) and add to the value of their property.

This could mean installing a large cistern as seen above or even just one simple rain barrel hooked to your existing gutter system to water the garden. Everyone can do something, and should.

Simple rain barrel. The garden will thank you.

What can be done about our wastewater? Wastewater systems still prove a valuable function. Our wastewater should and needs to be treated. But it shouldn’t be spilled into the environment or consumed by humans. Plainly put, the water in your toilet should be water that was previously in a toilet. A closed loop system that goes from your bathroom, to the wastewater treatment facility, and back to your toilet is the only proper use of this resource. This could be augmented with the water from our sinks and showers.

I would love to envision a world where we collect, use, and dispose of our own water, but it’s not realistic, it even has some serious problems. We have an enormous infrastructure and need to retrofit the existing system to prevent widespread water shortages and health risks.

As we continue into the 21st century, it is patently irresponsible of the housing industry in this country to continue to profit by churning out huge unsustainable homes that contain no self-sufficient or green technologies and further strain our already taxed resources. The planet is not a blank check.

We are the force that creates change. Voting for elected officials doesn’t guarantee results. Voting with your wallet, however, is the only thing that seems to create any real change.

Taking control of our water usage on an individual level will save us money in the long run, prevent potential health problems, and ensure that our whole way of life doesn’t implode in the next few decades. Try to find ways to take control of your water even in small ways in your life. It’s an investment that will not only repay you, but our whole planet as well.

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