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FoodShed: Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

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Ah, the first day of Spring means the hot days of summer are not far behind, especially here in the South. Unfortunately, these long hot days usually coincide with seasonal drought and bring ongoing water issues front and center yet again. It’s actually hard to keep up with the water restrictions around here. Are they all the time, or every other day, or this side of the street these days and that side those days? What is the big deal with water anyway? And what does it have to do with your foodshed?



Well, your watershed is the specific land area surrounding you from which water drains into a common river or other body of water. It’s sort of like a bowl. Find out how large your watershed is and you can plot it on the map, along with your foodshed. You’ll see how much they overlap, and you’ll see why knowing about your watershed matters, since that is where much of your foodshed gets its water.



The Woes

Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink. Will we be saying that one day? Perhaps, if we as a society don’t manage our limited water resources more effectively.  Only one percent of our world’s water supply is available as fresh water, 70 percent of which is used for agriculture.


A number of factors have multiplied to threaten that supply—world population growth, deteriorating land quality, waste accumulation, atmospheric change and ecosystem damage such as the extinction of living species and destruction of wetlands. What’s more, political control over water flow from country to country impacts supply and strains relationships.



The Wows

Increasing awareness of worldwide water issues continues to force international negotiations regarding water flow between countries, access to clean drinking water as a critical component in the fight against disease and poverty, and conservation efforts from industry and agriculture. Positive developments such as regulations to reduce pollution, require more water-efficient toilets and showers, and improve industrial water treatment technologies make a difference. Agricultural opportunities include changing crop selection to minimize irrigation needs, using fewer pesticides (or none at all) to lessen or eliminate the pesticide runoff into rivers and streams, and encouraging societies to eat a more plant-based diet, which requires less water use than a meat-based diet (vegetarians, you can strut your stuff on this one!)



What You Can Do Now

1. Find your local watershed at Epa.gov/surf and plot it on a map. You may even want to find out what kind of polluters are within your watershed, and what kind of improvements are being made, if any.



2. Be responsible about water use. Turn off faucets when not using, get water-conserving shower heads, fix leaks, and consider "going native" when you add plants to your landscaping. This is called xeriscaping, which is a type of landscaping that relies on plants, trees and grasses native to your area. It’s another way to go local, and a great way to lessen your dependence on not only added water but also industrial fertilizers and pesticides.



3. Mount a rain gauge in your garden. Many people actually overwater their gardens. Most plants need about an inch of rain a week and do best getting it in deep soaks rather than daily surface mists.



4. Catch rainwater. Install a rain barrel to your downspout and put nature to work for you. Use this water to irrigate your plants.



Check out your watershed and let us know what you discover!  Make one small change in your water use this week and tell us about it. 

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