When you think of water, what do you think of? Maybe you think of the cool, crisp, fresh water in a mountain stream; the clear, clean water that comes out of your tap; or the beautiful blue green water of a mountain lake. These are all wonderful things that we enjoy now, but how long will they last? Maybe they will last a few more years, a decade, or maybe longer. Our water is being contaminated and ruined in several different ways.
Water is an extremely important natural resource in Washington. Many people believe that there is an endless supply of water here because we get so much rain. It is true that we have plenty of water during the winter and spring; but during the summer, we have a lot less water. We also use more water than many people may realize.
Water is used for the everyday household uses and to make hydroelectricity. We also use lots of water to irrigate crops. Many people also enjoy recreational activities such as fishing, water skiing, sailing, and swimming. Water is a part of the natural habitat for our state's fish and wildlife. We need plenty of clean pure water for all of these things.
Of all the electricity in the world, about 20% is generated by hydropower. About 10% of all the electricity in the United States is provided by hydropower generators. Hydropower generating prevents a lot of pollution. Hydropower generating is clean and does not leave any waste. Because of the electricity generated by hydropower, the amount of oil and coal needed to produce enough electricity is reduced. It prevents the need to burn about 22 billion gallons of oil or 120 million tons of coal each year.
The amount of electricity that a hydroelectric plant produces depends on two things: how far the water falls and the quantity of water falling. The higher the dam, the further the water falls and the more electric power produced. If the water falls twice as far, there will be twice as much electricity generated. The quantity of water that falls also affects the amount of power produced. The more water that flows through the turbines making them spin, the more electric power produced.
Of all the water in the world only 2.5% is fresh water. Two-thirds of the fresh water is in glaciers and ice caps. If you think of all the water in the world contained in a one-gallon jar, three-eighths cup would be fresh water and only two tablespoons of the fresh water would be available for human use. We use a lot of water. Raising one pound of beef requires 2000-2500 gallons of water. Raising one pound of corn only requires 100-250 gallons of water. Farmers who raise grains and vegetables using drip irrigation consume up to 40% less water than farmers with other systems of irrigation.
There are several factors that contribute to the pollution of our water. A few of the major contributors are: industrial or household wastes and runoff from 80,000 miles of roads, lawns, parking lots, and pastures. A few of the other causes of water pollution in Washington State are: 5.2 million cars; 36,000 farms on 15.7 million acres; 250,000 homes and 40,000 new houses being built each year; 767 commercial dairies with over 260,000 cows.
We can protect our water and keep it pure if everyone will work together. Remember, if we all do a little bit to help protect and preserve our natural resources, it will add up to a lot and then there will be plenty for all.
Photo in title courtesy of ArtToday.