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What is Water Conservation?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Water conservation is a practice in which people, companies, and governments attempt to reduce their water usage. The goal may be to address an ongoing water shortage or to make lifestyle modifications to be more environmentally friendly. In the late 20th century, water usage emerged as a major issue, especially in the developing world, where many people do not have access to safe drinking water, and the question of conservation began to attract a great deal of attention.

One of the most obvious reasons to practice water conservation is in a situation where water supplies are limited. An ongoing drought can restrict the supply, as can a change in water policy, especially in an area where people are dependent on water from other places. Desert regions, for example, rely on water that is shipped, trucked, or moved through aqueducts, so distant policy decisions can directly affect the amount that can be accessed in these areas.

Conservation may also be practiced in response to rising water prices. The cost of this resource is usually contingent on how easy it is to access, how far it must be transported to reach the end consumer, and how much it needs to be processed in order to be made safe. Water treatment can get extremely expensive, causing prices to rise; this may also happen when water supplies are tight. From an economic standpoint, using less water keeps bills down to a manageable level, and it frees up water for other uses.

Some people encourage the practice of water conservation because they would like to promote the sustainable use of this resource. While water is a renewable resource in a sense, every time fresh potable water is used, it takes a long time for that water to re-enter the supply, as it may become contaminated by chemicals, hazardous materials, and so forth, requiring extensive cleanup before it can be re-used. Using potable water for things like gardens, car washing, and industrial production may be frowned upon in some communities where people would prefer to reduce the overall amount of water they use so that clean water will be available to future generations and other regions of the world.

An order may be issued to require citizens to conserve water in some communities. Conservation orders are often issued when water supplies are low and officials are worried about running out. They may also be used to mandate water conservation for environmental reasons. Typically, these set rules about how and when water can be used.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon930435 — On Feb 05, 2014

To conserve water, what campaign can be put into place?

By anon184271 — On Jun 07, 2011

The text was very nice. It was very helpful too. It helped me in my EVE project. I am very thankful to you.

By ValleyFiah — On Jun 18, 2010

Water conservation is a big issue in the Southwestern United States. One of the biggest complications to managing fresh water resources is the fact that they are not confined by state and national borders. This makes water rights agreements a necessary thing between nations or states that may have very different ideas of how much water they are entitled to.

Take for example the Colorado River. The fresh water resources from the Colorado River are shared amongst multiple states and Mexico. The water usage from the Colorado has increased, and there have been prolonged droughts. This has prevented the Colorado from reaching the Gulf of California most summers; creating a buildup of silt and topsoil that is destroying the Colorado River Delta wetlands. These factors have also led to the critically low water levels that plague many of the Colorado's reservoirs.

There are water use agreements that essentially allocate the amount of the Colorado that can be used by each party involved, but these unexpected variables have created situations where there is not as much water as needed. This is starting to create some tension between some of the larger consumers like California and Nevada, and the other states and Mexico that are farther down river. The Situation has gotten to the point that it could create problems with electricity generations for hundreds of thousands of residents who receive their electricity from the Hoover Dam power generation station.

Other example of increased tension due to water rights agreements can be seen in many other places. Diplomatic tension has increased between Jordan and Israel as well as China and India because of the need for fresh water to sustain economic growth, and the fact that they are on the same water tables.

Even in places like Hawaii water conservation has become an issue. Parts of Honolulu have bad water because sea water is being drawn into the water table. This is happening because there are more people than the small islands water table can sustain. As water resources contract and populations expand, it will be interesting (and maybe a little frightening) to see how these quarrels play out.

By Glasshouse — On Jun 02, 2010

There are some very simple ways that people can conserve water in their own homes. Covering pools and hot tubs when not in use can prevent loss from evaporation. Fixing leaking faucets and toilets is often cheap and simple; savings hundreds if not thousands of gallons throughout the year. Using old water from fish tanks to water house plants is a good way to save water and save money on plant fertilizers. Installing efficient shower heads as well as replacing older toilets with newer more efficient models will also save thousands of gallons a year. Fresh water resources are scare, but if everyone does their part to reduce waste water will be more plentiful and cheaper in the long run.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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