Often the most wasteful areas of water use is that of landscaping. Irrigating landscape often uses immense amounts of water because many decorative plants have high water demands. Also, poor landscape design can lead to wasted water by causing excess runoff and even small-scale flooding in areas.
Landscape irrigation often requires immense amounts of water because of the non-native choices that many homeowners make when designing their landscape. In California, for example, many gardeners select ornamental plants for the colorful flowers that last only a few weeks at a time. In order to significantly reduce the amount of water used to irrigate your garden, you should consider planting native species in your garden. Many of these plants have beautiful flowers and attract native wildlife such as birds and various mammal species.
Another significant cause of wastewater in landscape is poor landscape design. Extensive areas of non-permeable hardscape cause small-scale flooding because the water often has nowhere to drain. In my own yard, for example, there is a section of cement approximately 10’ wide by 25’ long that was used as a patio by the previous owner, which now fills with water every time it rains. One of the easiest solutions to this problem is replacing non-permeable hardscape with a permeable version. You can buy cement pavers at local hardware stores, and these allow the water to pass between each piece, helping drain water and replenish underground storage basins. When water is unable to enter the ground, it is most often channeled into sewage systems where it must be treated and re-released into the environment.
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For many farmers in developing nations, water is the most precious resource-even more so than gold or silver. That is because water is the only long-term solution for starving populations. Debatably one of the main reasons for these nations to remain in the “developing” state, as opposed to “developed” is because they do not have the resources to fuel their growing population. Most notably—these nations simply are unable to feed their citizens. One of the common methods for food production in developing nations is self-production. This is where individual families tend to their small farms, and grow just enough food for themselves. In bountiful years, their surplus food is either kept in storage for drought years, or it is traded in a market for other goods, such as tools. However, families often cannot grow enough food to sustain themselves—let alone create a food surplus to barter with.
There are two ways to grow more crops with water: either use more water, or use the same amount of water more efficiently. One small startup company founded by Stanford graduate students has developed a mechanism to use the same amount of water more efficiently. Similar to a drip system, this mechanism is a tube with holes in very cheap tubing. This tubing evenly distributes water over individual plants, instead of flooding rows of crops, or entire fields. This mechanism costs as little as $5 to supply enough tubing for an entire farm. For $15 extra, the families are able to grow crops during the dry season, likely due to a water storage tank.
By enabling farms in developing nations to grow surplus food, people will be able to trade it in the market, obtain tools to further increase food production, and repeat the cycle. This cheap, $5 device could create a source of income for impoverished families world-wide. As a result, nations would have stronger populations and more ability to create economic change and power.