An Overpopulating Nation Unconscious of Waste

Delta Winds cover 2000Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


An Overpopulating Nation Unconscious of Waste

Tara Burrows

"Every morning I roll out of bed and stumble into the shower. I never miss a day. Turning both the hot and cold handles until the pressure is so strong that I can barely stand the force, I wet my hair and move to the side of the running water, lathering my head with shampoo, then hurrying to rinse it out, for I seem to always run out of hot water before I am through in the shower. I step aside once again from the running water and apply conditioner to my hair," explained Emily. "As a swimmer, I am required to shave my arms and legs daily; therefore, I move away from the running water and begin shaving my my right leg, and then my left." Meanwhile, the water is running. "Moving to my arms, I shave the right arm, and then the left." The water continues to run, rushing from the nozzle directly into the drain. "After rinsing my body and hair I finally place the shampoo, conditioner, soap and razor back into their positions," as the untouched water is still running.

Today, the majority of people are wasteful in their daily living. From the lack of appreciation for our resources, our society is not only inconsiderate and careless but also unaware and ignorant to waste. Whether cutting down thousands of trees or simply crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it into the trash, the thought of waste is beyond the consciousness of most Americans. Busily bathing in the shower each morning, focusing on her agenda for the day, would Emily have ever stopped in her tracks and taken a step back to see the hundreds of gallons of water she continued to waste morning after morning? There is a good chance it would never have crossed Emily's mind. Like most people, she probably considers water "unlimited."

With the human population actively growing while the amount of water is not, water needs to be conserved. Instead however, water is consistently wasted. Water conservation does not only depend on awareness, which is the first step, but more important, on action. In the last several decades many more people have become knowledgeable and pro-active on prohibiting water waste. However, the majority of the world is still wasteful when it comes to our most important resource -- water.

Agriculture, by far, uses the most water of any industry. Because farming produces our world's food, much of the water should be used for agriculture. Feeding over five billion people is a substantial responsibility. Nonetheless, in the process of growing plants, water is often unnecessarily wasted.

One method of watering orchards is to flood the entire piece of land. While the flooded water is soaking into the roots of the trees it is also watering all the space in between the trees. Rather than taking the time and the initial expense to put the orchard on drip irrigation, which uses no unnecessary water, many farmers decide to waste the extra water, for it is less work and initially less money. Another massive practice that wastes millions of gallons of water in the agriculture industry is overhead sprinkler irrigation in windy areas. Unlike drip or ditch irrigation, overhead watering loses much water to the wind and evaporation.

Irrigation systems of residential and commercial landscape use a somewhat large percentage of water as well. When one considers the number of homes, businesses, schools and parks that have landscaping, the gallons of water used are considerable. Also, irrigation systems do not guarantee to water needed areas only. Unfortunately, irrigation systems often water sidewalks, roads, dirt and other nearby areas. Day after day, lost water adds up. Like the agriculture industry, irrigation of landscaping wastes water to the wind. If the landscape is on drip, however, the water would not come close to being wasted. But again, as in farming, businesses are not willing to extend the initial money, Though hand watering is no longer feasible, it was accurate and conservative. Like many technological "advances," irrigation systems have pros and cons, and water waste is a negative.

Many aspects of a household involve the use of water -- washing clothing and dishes, taking a shower, washing ones hands, going to the bathroom, as well as cooking and drinking water. All of these uses are important and needed in our current style of living. Who would rather have dirty clothing and dishes than clean clothing and dishes? Who would rather shower only once a week than every day? Who would rather go to the bathroom in an outhouse than in a toilet? Who would prefer dirty hands to clean ones? Today, almost everyone would choose the convenience that these water uses afford.

Yet, with American ideals of ease and comfort, many people take advantage of our easy access to water. For an example, instead of jumping into the shower and turning the handle on to half the amount of pressure capable, most people, like Emily, unconsciously turn the knob until the shower head reaches its highest pressure point, wasting water. Again, when washing ones hands, it is rare to see the water at any point of the pressure but full blast. Turning on the water all the way is an unconscious habit that needs to be broken. Brushing one's teeth each morning could actually use very little water, but thoughtlessly, most people tend to let the water continue to run as their brush is still in their mouth, once again, wasting water. Flushing the toilet is definitely one of the most wasteful forms of water in a household. Not only is flushing the toilet after every use unnecessary, the amount of water used in each flush is beyond what is needed. If one actually thought about how many times a day each toilet in a house is flushed by every family member, he would be overwhelmed. So much water is wasted in only one family, in only one day, for only one factor of water wastage.

A less noticeable form of wasting water, similar to unconsciously crumpling up a piece of paper and throwing it into the trash exists in almost every restaurant -- serving water. Serving water that has not been requested from the customer is considered proper. However, almost all people continue to order a beverage, even if there is water placed right in front of them. If one were to then walk about the tables in the restaurant after the customers had left, almost always, most of the water would still be in the glass untouched and cleared away to be poured down the drain. Not a big deal, it is only a glass of water, right? But now think about how many times a day each glass is filled for every person who eats in a restaurant. Details as small as wasting a glass of water for every customer add up. Once again, water is wasted.

Water is an abundant natural resource on earth but is not limited. Due to the increasing human population, more water is used every day, which means that more water needs to be conserved. However, much of society continues to waste water, whether in the industrial world or at home. Wasting water is often an unconscious act, one, however, about which it is imperative that we become aware. If water continues to be wasted year after year, the growing population will out-pace the available water. What will Americans do then? Desalinize?