Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thinking Thoughtfully About That Elixir of Life As World Water Day Approaches


is on the brain today for two reasons.

First, owing to a study released late last year that found that we are hardwired with a swallowing inhibitor that prevents us from drinking too much water, thus in some cases saving our lives. Perhaps seven glasses a day may do the trick, no?

In Overdrinking results in the emergence of swallowing inhibition: an fMRI study, researchers reached this conclusion after giving study participants water both when they were thirsty and when they had consumed too much water. (http://www.bit.ly/2ofTFoK)

Secondly, thoughts of water have taken root because tomorrow is World Water Day. The theme this year is wastewater.

Wastewater is defined simply as water that has already been used. According to the United Nations, though 80 percent of wastewater flows back to nature untreated, it can be treated and reused. For instance, water used to brush teeth can be reused to wash cars, water plants and lawns and be used in heating and cooling systems.

Some other facts about water:
1. about half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by people with water-related illnesses;
2. leather and chemical companies are major water polluters;
3. allowing a tap to run while we brush our teeth uses several gallons of water;
3. Asia has the most polluted rivers in the world;
4. since 1990, 2.6 billion people have gained access to cleaner water.

Quite incredible on all accounts. Considering how little of the world's water is available for our use, reusing it where applicable not only make sense, it is vital.

In the United States - where we take the availability and potability of water for granted, where we may find the overdrinking study merely intriguing - much education and many reminders about the preciousness of water are necessary.

In parts of Africa, Asia and South America, for instance, people would likely scoff at the study. They are all too aware that water can be deadly, of course not in the way the overdrinking study cites. Thanks to efforts by the United Nations as well as non-profits like The Water Project and Charity Water, water catastrophes are becoming less commonplace in these regions. (http://www.thewaterproject.org/; http://www.charitywater.org/)

Much has yet to be done, the world over, though. Especially in the West, especially in the United States. California can be commended for its long commitment to water conservation. And many such programs like the one introduced in Gainesville, Florida last year are to be encouraged.

Laura Warner, UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, believes small water conservation efforts can go a long way.Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

In the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension (UF/IFAS) program, participants saved 65 million gallons in outdoor irrigation last year alone. It is estimated that this was enough to supply 15 subdivisions with water for a year.

They learned user-friendly strategies and practices such as best irrigation procedures and choosing drought-tolerant plants. (http://www.bit.ly/2mSNxCu)

It can't be said too often: water is an extremely precious natural resource that belongs to us all and should not be needlessly wasted.

On World Water Day and every day, we really want to earnestly think more about water conservation and preservation. We have the wherewithal, but we need awareness and the will.

What Laura Warner, UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, observed about Florida can apply to the country and the world.

“Seemingly small drops in the bucket really add up when we look at the big picture across the state and over time.”

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