The Colorado River winds 1,470 miles from our backyards in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California’s Sea of Cortez – or used to in it’s better days (it no longer actually reaches the sea). Due to the average American’s water habits, the Colorado is being depleted at an alarming rate. Our average consumption here in the US is 2,000 gallons per person per day. That’s the equivalent of 140 showers a day. And 2 times the global average. The almost more shocking fact is that nearly 95% of this water use is hidden in the choices we make on a daily basis. Our food, the products we buy, and our daily habits contribute to this number. According to an article in National Geographic, a shocking 70% of this water goes to our diets, largely towards the production of meat.
We came across this pledge recently, sponsored by National Geographic, called ‘Change the Course‘. For each individual pledge made to reduce your daily habits that contribute to water consumption, Change the Course will replenish 1,000 gallons of water to the Colorado River. In order to start to understand the impact of your own daily life, Change the Course has come up with this water use calculator. Simple choices in how we manage our homes, yards, diets, energy, and consumer patterns have a huge effect. For more intriguing and motivating statistics, there is an entire section of National Geographic’s ‘Environment’ website with hundreds of links to data, articles and resources on the impact we are placing on our fresh water resources, and ways in which we can begin to reverse these patterns. Things as simple as knowing the source of your water can begin to make a difference. If everyone knew where their drinking water was coming from, would they not pay a little more attention to the things they were putting back into it? The EPA also has a great interactive watershed mapping tool called “Surf Your Watershed“. Check it out to see where your own water is coming from… you may be surprised, and inspired.
Another significant way we can reduce our impact is by designing and treating our landscapes appropriately given the climates in which we choose to live. Plant choices and site appropriate design are decisions we make when we design our surroundings. Paying attention to the constraints of our environment might mean a slightly smaller palette, or a smaller lawn than we think we need, but these decisions will have a huge impact on the water necessary to maintain them and we must consider if those choices warrant a reduced amount of fresh water available for our future fellow humans.
Read up on more info on the Colorado River, and how to take an active role in preserving it, and other fresh water sources worldwide, here. Take the pledge, and most importantly, become informed on how your decisions can change the course of our rivers.