Article | December 16, 2013

Protecting Natural Water Supplies First Step In Conservation


Regions predicting water shortages must look to alternate ways of conserving natural water resources. 

While some states have seen an abundance of water supplies, such as New Jersey, other states with more agricultural and irrigation needs have been less fortunate. However, some sources suggest that one of the first steps for regions expecting shortages and are agriculturally dependent is conservation through the protection of natural water resources. 

Wisconsin is a good illustration of how strategies that still rely upon natural water sources, like Lake Michigan, can be effectively implemented without causing strain on the supply. Waukesha, a Southeastern Wisconsin town that balances between the subcontinental divide, drafted a plan that would recycle water from Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The lake is a vast and seemingly unending water source in the Midwest, a resource that would be generally unaffected by Waukesha's use, the Journal Sentinel suggested. 

Currently, underground aquifers attempt to pump groundwater from the region at a rate that will be nearly impossible to replenish before serious damage is done. However, with the city's new plan hinging upon water from the lake would allow the area's customers to receive the nearly 10 million gallons of water they require will giving the aquifers and soil a chance to rest. 

This model, if applied to other communities facing dwindling groundwater supplies and other natural resource issues, could have long-standing positive effects on the environment, economy and future of water. 

Los Angeles searches for more resources
In L.A., the hunt is on for ways to expand the city's drying water supplies. The region recently proposed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan as an effort to replace and repair the vulnerable web of underground pipes and aqueducts. The $25 million dollar plan would ensure that the network of tunnels would adequately supply L.A. residents, as well as the one-third of California customers who receive water from the supply, Southern California Public Radio reported. 

Oftentimes, water infrastructures that are outdated or have not been restored in a number of years become susceptible to rusting, leaking and other issues that compromise the integrity of the system. 

Jerry Meral, deputy director for the Department of Water Resources, told KPCC, Southern California's public radio station, that in order to support a sustainable future for water, conservation is a must. 

"It's gradually going to become more and more necessary to conserve like crazy, and recycle," he asserted. "It isn't either or, it's both."

Complicating the issue at hand is the region's ongoing struggle to rely on local water sources, as the U.S. state with the highest population attempts to meet its supply and demand needs. Part of the problem is the growing urban architectural scene that calls for more concrete and asphalt than earthy ground that can soak up water. Because of this, rainfall gets funneled into storm drains and sewers and swept away to sea, Marty Adams, the L.A. Department of Water and Power director of operations said. 

Currently, groundwater only accounts for 11 percent of the region's supplies, a figure Adams wants to climb to 43 percent in the next 20 years. 

Conserving natural water resources throughout the U.S.
Conservation efforts to save natural water resources are going on elsewhere in the U.S. as L.A. continues to advocate for their Bay Delta Conservation Plan. According to Michigan State University Today, one of the largest aquifers in the U.S., the Ogallala Aquifer, is in danger of drying as communities continue to pump water at a rate that outpaces its replenishment. 

"If current withdrawal rates continue, such depletion will expand across extensive portions of the central and southern areas served by the aquifer during the next few decades," said MSU ecosystem scientist Bruno Basso. 

The future of these regions' natural water supplies will heavily rely on their ability to manage and conserve, meaning municipal and state conservation plans will need to be revisited and infrastructures will need to be restored.