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Water Quality, Focus on Illinois

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  • Five Myths About Water

    I’ve posted about the first two topics before (No, we’re not running out of water, but… and Bottled Water vs. Tap Water). We have a constant amount of water on this planet; we can’t destroy water or make new water. The problems are that fresh potable water is not spread equally around the world, we keep building in places with inadequate water supplies (hello Phoenix), and we don’t always do a good job of keep our drinking water clean. We don’t destroy it, but the less we protect it the more costly it is to clean it up.

    Don’t drink bottled water. It’s a waste of resources because energy is needed to produce plastic bottles (which are not efficiently recycled) and transport those bottles, and bottled water almost always leaves its watershed. And it’s not cleaner than tap water.

    The third myth is unlike the other four and the most controversial. I have heard Fishman’s argument that this will not be a century of water wars, based on work by a researcher concluding that, in the past millennium, there has never been an armed conflict between countries with water as the primary issue. Maybe so, but plenty of others think the future will be different. There certainly are volatile regions with serious water conflicts, such as Pakistan-India and Israel-Palestine.

    I think the least appreciated of these five myths is the fourth one. We have made major advances in water conservation in recent decades, and America actually uses less water now than in 1980. Everyone knows about low-flow toilets and showerheads. Many cities, such as Chicago, have made a major push to replace old leaky water mains, saving thousands of gallons of treated water from leaking into the ground. There are still gains to be made in water conservation, although most of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. Still, there are still plenty of things we as individuals can do to conserve water. One thing I’ve done over the years is to remove turf grass from my lawn and replace it with native drought-resistant plants.


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