Happy Earth Day!
To mark the celebration of the 40th Earth Day, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) is launching the Earth Systems Program. As increased stresses on the environment threaten environmental, resource, and food stability, environmental issues have become a key security matter.
The FAS Earth Systems Program (ESP) will explore these environmental issues and work with scientists, engineers, and policymakers to develop and promote sustainable, scientifically-sound policy, and technical solutions.
The Earth Systems Program will work in the following project areas:
- Improving dialogue and trust between environmental scientists, policymakers, and the public.
- Developing international science partnerships to solve critical environment and energy problems.
- Research on the links between human actions and natural resource sustainability, especially in terms of food, energy, and water.
- Creating tools to aid researchers, scientists, and policymakers in analyzing complex issues and systems.
In the spirit of Earth Day 2010, the Earth Systems Program asks you, how much water will you use today? The average American will directly use about 100 gallons or 379 liters of water today. But remember that water use isn’t just a factor of how often you turn on the tap and how long you run the shower for, but a factor of the electricity you consume, the gasoline you put in your car, and your daily purchases and decisions.
Here are five ways you can reduce your water consumption today:
1) Turning off or turning down your AC—electricity is extremely energy intensive. A nuclear power plant uses 2.3 kW/hr of water and a coal plant uses 1.9 kW/hr of water. In addition, decades of coal mining has contaminated tens of thousands of kilometers of ground and surface water in the U.S. (almost 5000km in Pennsylvania alone).
2) Carpooling or taking public transportation. Each liter of gas in your car takes 3-7 liters of water to drill, refine, and transport. For gasoline from shale oil, 3 barrels of oil are required to get 1 barrel of oil out of the ground, raising this to closer to 10 liters of water per liters of oil.
3) Changing your eating habits. In the agriculture sector, cereals use more water than fruits and vegetables and coffee uses 3 times more water than tea. And limit your meat and dairy intake—especially of red meat. 1 kg of beef requires 16000 liters of water for 1 kg of beef. To calculate your specific water footprint for several main food products, visit: http://www.waterfootprint.org/.
4) Buy clothing from bamboo, recycled fibers, hemp, or other non-cotton sources. Conventional cotton is one of the most water intensive agricultural crops in the U.S., with the cotton for a pair of jeans taking about 1900 liters of water to grow. Also buy organic clothing if possible. While it has an equal water irrigation footprint, fertilizer production and conventional fabric processing are both highly water intensive.
5) Keep in mind — the vast majority of water in the U.S. is used for agriculture, energy production, and industrial purposes (~85%). To measurably reduce the nation’s water footprint, national legislation on water intensity and use in these industries must be passed.
FAS thanks you in advance for celebrating Earth Day, and reducing your water consumption!
Happy Earth Day!