People don’t want to use water so much as accomplish specific tasks like washing clothes, growing food, or watering gardens. Improving efficiency and conservation is often the most economically, politically, and environmentally responsible way to increase supply and save for the future. And by cutting waste, we can ensure that our economy and the environment can continue to thrive.
Why worry, a skeptical reader might ask? Water is cheap and plentiful in much of the industrial world, and the methods we have long used to store, purify, and convey it are effective.
The problem is that we are approaching the limits of our resources in some places. And to complicate matters, climate change, aging infrastructure, watershed modification, chemical pollution, and population growth also threaten water supplies– even in the United States.
In short, business as usual can’t continue. We need to find a new way of thinking about water. To this end, the Pacific Institute has long been involved with a range of water efficiency and conservation projects.
One of our most promising projects estimated how much water California can conserve using currently available efficiency technology. Despite the progress California has already made in improving water efficiency, the report, “Waste Not, Want Not,” estimates that up to one-third of California’s current urban water use — more than 2.3 million acre-feet — can be saved using existing technology. And at least 85% of this savings (over 2 million acre-feet) can be saved at costs below what it will cost to tap into new sources of supply and without the social, environmental, and economic impacts that any major water project will bring.
Other reports on this subject have looked at successful examples of water-saving efficiency and conservation techniques (PDF) and laid out a sustainable vision for California and the Colorado River.