For the next few minutes I’m going to be introducing you to our unit on water. During this unit we will be discussing chapter 14:water and chapter 21: water pollution over the next two weeks. You will not have a quiz on Friday, instead you will take a combine chapter 14 and 21 quiz the following Friday.
Before I dive into our water unit I’ll begin by asking you to think way back to chapter 3. In that chapter we learned about natural cycles including the water cycle or the hydrolytic cycle. Back then, we discussed the steps in the water cycle and how the water cycle impacted how ecosystems work. Keep this model in mind during my presentation.
Now, to start off our new unit I want you to think about where your drinking water comes from. You may be thinking “From a bottle” or “from the refrigerator” but those answers will not be sufficient for this class. Freshwater is arguably the Earth’s most valuable natural resource and you need to understand the processes involved in acquiring freshwater suitable for human consumption.
There are some places in rural areas of the United States that still use well water but, for the most part, the freshwater from your taps comes from large water treatment facilities such as the one shown here. But, beyond that, where does the water come from?
Much of our freshwater comes from groundwater. Groundwater sources are created and replenished when precipitation infiltrates the ground and is stored in spaces in soil and rock. These underground caverns and spaces between soil layers create aquifers, which are like underground rivers through which groundwater flows. Wells can be used draw water from aquifers.
The problem is that over-pumping underground water can cause aquifers to slowing degrade resulting in subsidence or sinking of the land. Over-pumping and also cause aquifers to collapse suddenly creating large sinkholes that can swallow homes, business, roads, cars, and trees.
Water that does not infiltrate the ground or evaporate runs off into bodies of water as surface runoff. Surface water is freshwater that flows across the earth’s land surface and into rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, wetlands, and estuaries. This surface water is then replenished by surface runoff.
We sometimes use dams as a means for collecting surface water. Large dams and reservoirs can produce cheap electricity, reduce downstream flooding, and provide year-round water for irrigation but there is a cost. Dams also displace people and disrupt aquatic systems.
After discussing freshwater sources we will begin talking about how important freshwater is to humans—there is far less available freshwater on earth then you may realize. We will also look at different human activities and practices that waste water as well as things that can be done to increase our freshwater supplies.
When we are talking about freshwater you need to understand that water wasted is not just another drop in the bucket. Factors such as the relatively low cost of water in our country have lead to gross misuse of this invaluable resource. Lifestyle changes and well as changes in policy are needed in order to alleviate this problem.
Although it is true that 2/3rds of the Earth is covered by water, only 0.024% of that water is available as liquid water suitable for human use. Even though water scarcity is not an issue that effects populations in U.S. and most other developed countries, water scarcity is a serious problem in many developing countries.
By 2025 water scarcity will even spread further. This map predicts the global per capita water available in 2025. The red countries exhibit extreme water scarcity, the orange countries are experiencing water scarcity, and the countries in yellow are experiencing stress due to low freshwater availability.
Though water scarcity could lead to thirst, the main problem is that there is not enough available CLEAN drinking water. Nearly 1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation.
The two major water pollution problems are (1) exposure to infectious disease organism from having to drink contaminated water and (2) not having enough water for effective sanitation. A lack of clean drinking water leads to outbreaks of illnesses such as typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery.
The World Health Organization estimates that 3.2 million people per year die prematurely from infectious diseases spread by contaminated water or lack of water for adequate hygiene. 1.4 million of those people are children under the age of 5. Each year diarrhea alone kills 1.9 million people90% are children.
Water pollution is a serious problem in both developed and developing countries. In chapter 21, we will discuss several types of water pollution including infectious agents, oxygen-demanding wastes, plant nutrients, chemicals, sediments, and thermal.
In addition to looking at how humans are wasting and polluting the Earth’s water resources, we will examine what can be done and global, national, and local levels in order to reduce water pollution.
Individuals do matter, but reducing waste and water pollution is a global issue that will require global action and coordination which is why will talk about factors and possible solutions at global and national levels. We will do some specific local-level work though so that you all can learn what YOU can do to help and so that we can convince your PHS peers to do the same!
Some of the solutions/methods that we will be talking about are; desalination, greywater and low-flow systems, changing water use policies, prices, and taxes, planting crops based on water-demands, and at home practices such as the use of rain barrels and taking shorter showers.
To sum it all up. This unit will begin with sources and importance of freshwater, transition to water use/misuse of freshwater resources, and end with an examination of possible solutions. Along the way you will examine and evaluate your own habits when it comes to water use, create materials to help others improve their water use practices, and reflect on the issues discussed in this unit.
us as liquid
“Nearly 1 billion people lack access to safe
water and 2.5 billion do not have adequate
sanitation” - water.org
1.4 Million Children per Year
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