For Release July 25, 2004

Are You Water Wise?

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

How many times a day do you go to a drinking fountain or a faucet for a drink of water and give any thought about the water coming out the spigot and whether it is safe to drink? We simply don't give it a thought. We take water for granted both in quality and quantity. Yet well over half the world's population does not have access to water that meets minimum standards for safe drinking water.

Water distribution around our country, as well as around the world, is not very uniform. The greatest concentration of water, the oceans, are too salty to drink without treatment. Many of our fresh water sources are continuously at risk from man made contamination. The more people that live near a source of fresh water, the greater the risk that the water body will become contaminated. One of the most widely used sources of water is groundwater. But we are extracting that resource at rates that far exceed the natural recharge capacities of those aquifers. We are, in essence, mining the groundwater to depletion.

As we take this valuable water from all these sources, are we using it wisely? I recently flew to Orlando, Florida for meetings. We flew out of Kansas City, through Atlanta to arrive at Orlando. When you take off and land you get a wonderful view of the urban landscape. Certain things show up very well from the air, things like swimming pools and golf courses. The further south we flew we saw more golf courses and lots more swimming pools.

Now I have nothing against golfing or swimming, either one, but these are both luxury activities that are somewhat water intensive. But as we start to face more and more water shortages, communities and societies are going to have to start making some tough decisions. Much of Florida has a serious water supply problem, as does equally fast growing areas like Phoenix, Las Vegas and southern California. Some communities are, by necessity, becoming very proactive on water conservation. Turf areas in all landscapes are limited and many times a certain percentage of landscape plants must be water conserving native plants.

So what does this have to do with us in Kansas? Kansas is a relatively water rich state. Western Kansas has rich groundwater resources and eastern Kansas has rich surface water resources. But does being rich in a resource give us the right to squander it? I think not! We need to protect not only the quality of our water, but the quantity as well. Do you run a tap for several minutes waiting for the water to cool, or do you keep water in the refrigerator so it is always cold? Do you allow faucets to leak rather than fix them? Have you replaced shower heads with water conserving shower heads?

If you have an underground sprinkler system, does it run when the soil is wet and it is raining? Poorly applied lawn water is one of the number one wastes of outdoor water use. Do you plant adapted native landscape plants that conserve water or do you plant non adapted exotic plants that require extensive watering to compensate for our harsh climate? To protect water quality do you only apply fertilizers and chemicals when needed or do you apply excess fertilizer and chemicals which we know will run off the lawns, down the gutter and into surface supplies?

Water is a valuable commodity and we have all that we will ever have on earth. We can't waste it, we can't spoil it, because we all depend on it for our life!


Return to Agri-Views Home Page

Return to Ag Home Page