In water-scarce areas where the demand for freshwater outpaces supply, it’s easy to understand why wasting the resource is harmful. If you live somewhere that’s naturally dry and needs to import its own water supply, or is dependent on variable rainfall, you likely place a lot of value on water conservation already.
But if you live in a place that isn’t water-stressed (you can find out the overall water risk of your region on this map), you might be wondering why your personal water use matters much. This is a question that Newsha Ajami, Ph.D., a hydrologist and the Chief Development Officer of Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area, thinks about a lot.
After more than a dozen years studying water demand and urban water policy, she’s come to the conclusion that small household changes can add up to make a huge difference on the community level. Consider, for example, the fact that if your home gets public water, it takes a fair amount of energy to transport that water to you, and whisk it away when you’re done with it. And since all the water piped into our homes–from sink to toilet–is potable (ready to drink), it also requires a fair amount of chemicals to clean. Every time we waste water, we waste these resources, too.
Ajami emphasizes that thinking about your water use in the context of this whole system is the key to understanding the importance of your tap.
“The less we use, the less impact we are putting on the environment from the top and the bottom,” she tells mbg. If many people in a community reduced the amount of water they used at home, it would significantly lighten that community’s water demand. And in the future, as the population continues to grow and climate change threatens water supplies around the country and the world, the more we can reduce the pressure on our local water systems, the better.