Monday, March 17, 2014

World Water Day 2014 - Where does your water come from?

World Water Day is coming up this Saturday, March 22nd.  The theme for World Water Day this year is "Water and Energy".  The website notes that globally, 8% of our energy is used for "pumping, treating and transporting water to various consumers".  That is a lot of energy required just to move water around!  So, where does your water come from... someplace close by, or from a far-flung area that requires a good deal of energy to transport to your home?

Lainey Piland photo

Those of us here in western Washington are very lucky. Unlike so many of our fellow Americans, we are fortunate to know exactly where our water comes from.  In fact, on most days, you can see it falling right from the sky.  As I sit in my living room writing this with an injured foot propped up on pillows and swaddled in ice packs (free advice: don't let a 1,000lb horse jump on your ankle), I can see a steady rain falling outside my window. There is a certain comfort in knowing that this same rain dripping from branches and pooling on the sidewalk outside my home is also falling as snow in the Cascades, shoring up our summertime water supply and refilling the mountain reservoirs that provide water all year long.

So many people in our country are disconnected from the source of their water, especially those living in dry, desert environments like the southwest.  In many cases, their water originated as rain that fell on forests, hills, and mountains hundreds of miles away, which then drained into rivers where it was collected behind a dam and piped hundreds more miles to the faucets in people's homes. 

It is crucial that we all understand where our water comes from -- not only so we become more connected to and aware of our environment, but also to realize what a valuable and delicate resource our water is.  Water is not an endless resource - it is finite, and with freshwater supplies declining each year, it is becoming more and more important for everyone to be aware of their water usage and take steps to conserve as much as possible (for water-saving tips, check out my previous blog post here).  Our water supplies are already stretched thin between the competing needs of people, industries, energy, agriculture, livestock... oh, and let's not forget wildlife and the environment itself.

Where does your water come from?  If you are in the greater Seattle area as I am, then your drinking water likely comes from either the Tolt River Watershed or the Cedar River Watershed.  You can even take a short trip up I-90 to visit the source of your water and learn more about it at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center.  Not sure where your water comes from?  Check with your city or water utility to find out!

You can even see the pipes carrying your drinking water (on the left side of this photo) as you run, walk, bike, or horseback ride along the Tolt Pipeline Trail Note: NOT the horse that stomped on my ankle... Lainey Piland photo

I've heard wonderful things about the Cedar River Watershed Education Center and the programs and tours they offer, as well as the hiking trails in the area.  Perhaps I'll be able to make it out there and experience it firsthand once my foot heals up and I can walk somewhat normally again!  In the meantime, I'll continue watching the rain fall from the heavy gray skies outside my window and be thankful for the water it supplies.  Not everyone in the world is so lucky.

Feeling especially thankful for your readily-available clean water? In honor of World Water Day, consider making a donation to organizations such as water.org to help those in developing countries without access to clean drinking water.  We're all in this together!


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