How You Can Help Fix the Global Water Crisis

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Humans may be depleting our water supply, but innovative methods say there’s a way to replenish it.

Author: Elaina Zachos | Published: December 27, 2017

The average American directly uses about 2,000 gallons of water each day. Your morning shower takes 17 gallons of water and growing the coffee beans for your cup of joe took upwards of 34 gallons. It takes 13 gallons of water to generate one gallon of gas, which adds up on your commute to work or school. The desktop computer you’ll sit at for a good portion of the day took about 7,300 gallons of water to make.

Before lunch, you’ve used up thousands of gallons of water. (Use this calculator to figure out your water footprint.)

Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and former National Geographic Society Freshwater Fellow, demystifies humanity’s obsession with water in her new book Replenish. When National Geographic caught up with her in New Mexico, she explained how people are coming up with innovative ways to conserve water before we run dry.

The book begins in a Colorado canyon. Can you describe the scene?

The opening of the book describes a trip up through a canyon known as the Cache la Poudre. There had been a fire in this canyon the previous year, so you could see the blackened trees. I was heading to a family wedding, an outdoor wedding, and it looked like it was going to just start to pour at any minute. I was contemplating the sky. The wedding happened OK, but this was the beginning of a deluge that produced an enormous amount of flooding. Because the trees had been burned so recently, there was just a lot of erosion and a lot of tree trunks moving down through that canyon.

I opened the book with this story because I was there to see the canyon right before this happened but also to indicate that the combination of wildfires and flooding and drought is coming together. We’re moving into a very different period where the past is not going to be a very good guide for the future.


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