Water Woes

Although there are many misconceptions and fallacies about water, there are two that cause much conflict and debate among concerned parties. These include water as a renewable resource, and water desalination/availability. As a water conservationist, these issues are discussed frequently with many varying viewpoints.
The view of water as a renewable resource is a significant controversy because environmentalists consider it to be a non-renewable resource. A non-renewable resource is one that has a fixed amount and does not regenerate, such as fossil fuels or water. A renewable resource, on the other hand, is one that regenerates itself and can be consumed for a sustained amount of time, such as lumber, and crops. Renewable resources must be used in a sustainable way, otherwise they will not be able to renew themselves fast enough. Water is not a renewable resource because there is a relatively fixed amount of potable water on earth. There is a fixed amount of fresh water in the global hydrological cycle, and thus has a limited supply available for human consumption and use.
Water desalination and availability is another common debate among environmentalists. Desalination is a common “solution” to water availability and conservation issues because it seemingly provides a foolproof solution. What better way to access more water than to take it from the sea, which after all, cover about 70% of Earth’s surface. Problems arise with the cost of constructing and maintaining desalination plants, as well as the excess brine produced in the process. Many cities and institutions have conducted studies pertaining to the cost and effectiveness of these plants. One such study conducted by Singapore found that it would be more cost-effective to treat wastewater than it would be to desalinate saltwater.
Not only do these issues have the potential to reduce our water shortages, but they provide a more environmental solution as well. By building desalination plants along coastlines, many fragile habitats would be effected and possibly destroyed. If we can instead treat our wastewater to drinking water standards, humans could potentially cease depleting aquifers by recycling the water we consume.
To read more about these issues, read Jerard L. Schnoor’s paper, Three Myths about Water which can be found in Environmental Science and Technology published during February of 2010.
Brian O’Neill


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