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Less than 1% of the Earth's freshwater is accessible — and it's being wasted.

Between using the restroom, washing the dishes and laundry, showering and more, the average American uses 88 gallons of water daily. Considering that the world has access to less than 1% of freshwater on Earth, that’s a scary amount of water to see washed away. What’s even more frightening is that 40 out of 50 U.S. states are expecting to see water shortages within the next decade. With water being such an important component of life, it’s vital that the world saves more of it.

While it’s a fact of life that people rely on water, the average person doesn’t need almost 100 gallons a day to survive. In fact, for plenty of places in the world, that’s not even an option. 780 million people don’t have access to a clean water supply, and 2.5 billion people lack an improved sanitation of water, some of whom are no doubt in impoverished areas of the United States. Although America is unfortunately plagued by some notorious water sanitation crises — infamously Flint, Michigan — by and large, America is privileged when it comes to water supplies.

The regions with the most extreme lack in water sanitation and supply are mostly sub-Saharan Africa and southern and eastern Asia. In some of these areas, over half of the population is affected. With other countries undergoing extreme water shortages, it’s a complete waste that Americans are using such huge amounts of it.

Obviously, humans aren’t the only species that needs water to survive. Excessive use of water leads to less water being available to funnel into agriculture. A lack of water for agricultural purposes immediately threatens everything that relies on it and even puts wildlife at risk of endangerment.  

Finally, the process of extracting, filtering and distributing water takes an unruly amount of time and energy. To extract water, the use of non-renewable fossil fuels is required. Because of this, the more water each person wastes, the more they’re contributing to their carbon footprint.

With the dangerous and harmful effects of wasting water being real and prevalent, Americans are privileged enough to be able to make the ethical choice to conserve more water. Tasks implemented to reduce water usage could not only benefit the average American by drastically cutting their monthly water bill, but could also help save the environment and the people who inhabit it.

For example, some older showerheads dump out five gallons of water per minute. A twenty-minute shower would be over the 88 gallons that the average American uses daily. Simply cutting down a shower to five or ten minutes could have drastic effects on annual conservation. Other tasks like turning the water off when brushing one’s teeth, fixing a leak in a house as soon as it springs, making sure the dishwasher is completely full before running it and other minimal household conservation tasks can seriously help the environment. Overall, Americans need to step up to the plate and recognize water as the precious fuel of life that it is.

Josie Haneklau is a freshman political science and psychology double major. Contact Josie at hanekljr@dukes.jmu.edu.