WATER: How It’s Used, How It’s Wasted
We tend to think of water in the most personal terms – a mother bathing her child in Calcutta, India, or a cool drink on a hot day – but only 10 percent of the water consumed worldwide is for household use. Agriculture takes 70 percent, and half or more of that water is lost to evaporation or runoff. Drip irrigation, which uses perforated tubing to deliver water to crops, uses 30 to 70 percent less than traditional methods and increases crop yields to boot. The first drip systems were developed in the 1960s, but even now they’re used on less than one percent of irrigated land. Most governments subsidize irrigation water so heavily that farmers have little incentive to invest in drip systems or other water-saving methods. Industry consumes the remaining 20 percent of water, often inefficiently. In Binzhou, China, workers at a liquor company wash bottles with water that is used once and discarded. Reusing water and adopting other conservation measures could help the world’s industry cut its water demands by more than half.
National Geographic, September 2002: 14
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