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Taking care with water

Remember the big drought we had from 1997 – 2009? More than 85% of Australians were on water restrictions. Some of us even stopped watering our driveways. Thankfully the rains have returned. But they seemed to have washed away our efforts to save water. Most of our drinking water comes from rivers that feed into dams. Some comes from boreholes that drill into underground water supplies. When we take water for irrigation to grow food it cannot be used in rivers and wetlands. We need to be careful with this delicate balance of nature. How do we get this balance right? Should we change the way we use water?

Where does water come from?

Water comes from the sky when it rains. How did it get there to start with? Water comes from water. It’s a part of the water cycle and is always on the move. Water is evaporated by the sun from our oceans, lakes and rivers. This water vapor joins together to form clouds. The clouds drop rain and the cycle starts again. In the Amazon Rainforest most water comes from the trees. They send water vapors into the shy to form new clouds and more rain. The more forest you have the more rain you get. All life depends on water.

What forms of water produce least pollution?

In the olden days all houses had water tanks to capture the rain that fell on the roof. This water was used for cooking, cleaning, washing and bathing. Many farms still have windmills that pump water from underground. We now rely on water supplies coming from one place (usually a dam or river) that flows out of the tap whenever we need it. The most polluting way to collect water is from a desalination plant (De-Sal). They use huge amounts of energy to turn salt water into fresh water. Scientists are working on ways to turn salt water into fresh. They are testing this buy using wave energy to pump salt water from the ocean ashore. Then they filter out the salt and create clean energy at the same time.

How can we tell which products are helpful and use less water?

Explore ways of reducing water waste. You may have trouble working out if the products are any good. Don’t believe everything you read. One way to make sure that you are creating less waste is to simply buy less packaged water in sweet and fizzy drink bottles. Who would would pay $2 – $4 dollars for something we can get from the tap just about for free? You can investigate how you manage water at home and school by asking about where the water goes. Do we recycle any water? Is there anyone out there helping people with good advice?

Is Australia doing a good job of saving water?

We just need to be less wasteful with water. The great thing about water is that it can be used over and over again, forever. There is no real shortage – it’s just often in the wrong place at the wrong time (floods and drought). Water needs a lot of energy and is expensive to move around. We have shown what a great job we can do when we want to save water. We need to think how we can use these good habits all the time. So why aren’t more people taking this problem seriously?

What might we do?

We can’t ignore the increasing demands for water. Farmers want water for crops, rivers need water for life. How much can we take out? How much should we take out? Is it different if you live upstream or downstream? If we start to plan for the future will it be less difficult later? Each of us can take action to be less wasteful with water. How can we get our school to waste less water? Is your family interested in making their water spread further? How can you get other people to listen to you to re-think water use?

Do we need another drought to get our attention?