Our world's resources are far from infinite. Water often seems to be abundant, but humanity is actually putting a great deal of strain on the available surface and groundwater water supplies. Our failure to conserve our water supply is causing droughts, dust storms, and other environmental problems that hurt both humanity and nature. The only way to minimize the situation from turning into a disaster is to start conserving and recycling water.
What is Water Recycling?
The water cycle ensures that used water will eventually work its way back into nature, but it doesn't always end up in reservoirs that we can access. Most humans get their water from rivers, lakes, or groundwater reservoirs. When we put those resources under heavy use, we often draw water from them faster than they can replenish themselves. When we take too much from a surface water source, we could disrupt the rate of recharge and cause the little streams that branch off from it to dry up. When we take it from a lake or from groundwater, we cause them to dry up. They will eventually recover, but only if humans stop drawing water from them.
Water recycling refers to strategies to reuse water beneficially to reduce the use of available natural water resources. Every drop of water that we recycle is a drop that we don't have to take from our limited water resources. At the simplest level, water recycling can mean harvesting rainwater in a barrel. More complex systems collect greywater, which is the slightly dirty water that is left over from washing and similar activities, and use it for irrigation, toilets, or other uses where complete purity isn't a concern.
How Does it Help?
Water recycling offers several benefits, both to us and to the world in which we live. The biggest benefit comes from preventing water shortages. That offers protection to the world's water resources, which would get drained to ensure that humans can continue to prosper while we run out of water. Recycling also ensures that we have enough water to grow crops, maintain our hygiene, and simply stay hydrated. Almost every aspect of human life uses water at some point, so running out could cause our entire civilization to collapse.
Recycling also helps to prevent pollution, especially in an industrial context. Many machines and appliances produce wastewater that carry some pollutants. If that water enters the environment without treatment, it can spread those pollutants across a surprising distance and give them a chance to kill plants and animals. Wastewater treatment and water recycling prevents the water from contaminating our rivers, lakes and groundwater.
The Future of Water Recycling
Right now, most people think of water recycling as an optional activity. People who care about the environment or want to save money on their water bill do it, but most other people are quite content to ignore the issue. That is likely to change in the future.
The demand for water is directly connected to both the number of people in the world and the standard of living that they want to maintain. The world's population is high and still climbing, so the demand for water is not going to drop any time soon. The developing world is also getting richer, and the increased desire for luxury products will keep increasing the amount of water that gets diverted to industry and inefficient forms of agriculture.
This means that we need to find other ways to conserve water. Recycling is not our only option, but it is one of the things that everyone can do to help. As the demand for water increases, the price of potable water is likely rise, and more people will recycle water. Even the people who don't care about the environment will start to recycle in order to save money.
Our purification technology is also improving. That will make water recycling even easier in the future, both on a large scale and at a personal level. That makes it seem likely that water recycling will play a large role in most water management systems in the future, especially if more people get started with it now.
Bob Gorman is a freelance writer from Melbourne, who likes writing articles that cover environment and sustainability related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time on the beach with his family. Find Bob on Twitter at @bob_gorman82.