What Happens When We Do Not Conserve Water?

Water is a critical resource for human survival. If we fail to conserve water, eventually an adequate, healthy water supply may not be available. Lack of water can lead to dramatic consequences. Water conservation can help prevent local and global problems such as rising costs, reduced food supplies, health hazards and armed conflict.

A man carrying a case of bottled water during a drought. (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Shortages

Water, especially the fresh, potable water necessary for survival, is in limited supply. Overuse of water results in shortages. Although water can be recycled, and the supply itself is ultimately maintained through the natural cycle of evaporation, condensation and rain, overuse of water results in an immediate depletion of an area's currently available supply. Although reservoirs and aquifers can be restored, this process takes time, and an immediate shortage can cause dramatic short-term effects.

Conflict

As the world's population continues to grow, so does the demand for water. Without conservation, naturally dry areas of the world will eventually run out of water, forcing the native populations to migrate. This places added demand on other areas of the world, so conflict during periods of scarcity of water or drought is inevitable, according to the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Food Supply

Beyond providing sustenance for the human body, water is also a critical resource for growing our food supply. The increased urbanization of America has siphoned water from rural areas, where food is typically grown, to urban areas, where the majority of Americans live. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that groundwater levels and storage continue to decline in places like California's Central Valley. Lack of conservation will result in the further depletion of water that can be used to grow food, which in turn results in less food available for a growing population.

Costs

Unless you have your own well or other fresh water supply, you have to pay the local municipality for the delivery of fresh water to your residence. If you increase your water usage, you will have to pay more, not only in terms of the increased amount purchased, but in terms of overall price, as increasing demand for water results in higher per-unit prices.

Overwhelmed Systems

Water filtration and replenishment systems are designed for regulated use. If lack of conservation results in runaway demand, these systems may be overwhelmed. The results can range from untreated water being forced into the water supply to overworked equipment breaking down or needing to be replaced. Both of these scenarios may result in higher costs and health hazards.

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