Friday, May 7, 2010

Of Waste and Water

In a recent entry in the Web site Springwise, a claim is made that 58 billion paper coffee cups are discarded each year, using up 20 million trees and 12 billion gallons of water.

I don't have any facts to dispute that, but I find myself objecting to the notion of using 12 billion gallons of water. Except in rare circumstances, we don't use water. The amount of water existing on the planet is an amazingly stable thing. The water we make use of is still water.

Now, we can pollute water and make it unsuitable for living things, and that is a problem we have to consider as we put water to work. There can also be localized water shortages, as anyone who has lived through a drought can attest. And in certain areas getting clean water for drinking, bathing, and food preparation is a huge problem.

But on a global scale, we don't use water so much as move it around. Let's take a simple example. You wash you hands. Where does the water come from? In my case, in a rural area, it comes from an underground well. It goes down the drain into my septic system, where it leaches back into the ground, and eventually find its way back into the water table, which is also fed by rain and underground streams.

It's different if you live in the city, but the net result is the same. The water goes round and round.

It would help the discussion of water coservation if we avoided meanlingless statistics about so many gallons of water, or millions or billions of gallons, being used, and gave more thought to how the application of water affects the quality of the water.

Because nothing we do on any meaningful scale affects the amount of water in the world.

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