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Waste water in Wyoming
Science and Health:
Stripping the West
More on This Story:
Where's the Water?

The Northeast area of the United States is in the middle of one of the worst droughts of the last thirty years. This follows closely on the heels of a severe drought that nearly turned some Midwestern states into a dustbowl — an image that brings back frightening memories of need and devastation.

Water shortages like these have a way of reminding us of what we often take for granted. Water may seem plentiful in America but it's a fast-vanishing resource.

Water has so many crucial uses that it's stewardship is even more complex than other natural resources. We use it for agriculture, it helps run our industries, and it keeps us healthy and alive. Water as an issue has a global reach — as shown by the search for energy in Wyoming's Powder River Basin and the efforts of South Africa's Working for Water Project to replenish their watersheds by removing foreign vegetation.

There are certain facts about U.S. and international freshwater that everyone should know. According to the World Health Organization, by 2025 the world's population will have increased by 30% and access to safe drinking water will be greatly reduced. As water experts remind us, freshwater is a finite resource — there's the same amount of water available now as there was when the earth was formed.

Water Facts

% freshwater resources worldwide available for drinking:  1
% of U.S. treated public water used for drinking or cooking:  1
% freshwater resources in polar regions:  97
U.S. per capita annual withdrawal of cubic meters of freshwater:  1,844
World per capita annual withdrawal of cubic meters of freshwater:  664
# of tons of pollutants entering U.S. lakes and rivers daily  500,000
Average number of gallons of water consumed by humans in a lifetime:  16,000
2002/1930s % of U.S. area under drought conditions:  30/70
Sources: World Resources Institute; Colorado Water Resources Research Institute; World Health Organization: Water for Health Day, National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, U.S. Waternews.

Water Saving Tips

  • Install low flow plumbing fixtures.
  • Repair all leaks immediately.
  • Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Turn off the flow while soaping or shampooing.
  • Refrigerate a bottle of drinking water instead of letting a faucet flow until the water is cold.
  • Turn the faucet off while cleaning vegetables. Rinse them in the sink with the drain closed or in a pan of water.
  • If possible, use a dish rack and spray device to rinse dishes or fill one sink with soapy water, another with clear.
  • Do not use the toilet as a wastebasket.
  • Wash the car with water from a bucket.
Water resources of the United States
United States Geological Survey (USGS) provides water data, as well as statistics and information about water use and water quality.

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