Access to fresh water is one of the world’s major geopolitical issues, yet in most of the U.S. we still use drinking-quality water as if it were free and unlimited. A substantial portion of this usage happens in buildings where leaky plumbing drips it away and fixtures designed decades ago use exorbitant quantities.
In some areas of North America, water is drawn from ground and surface sources at unsustainable rates—in other words, withdrawals from aquifers exceeding annual recharge rates. For much of the year, for example, the Colorado River no longer reaches the Gulf of California. In the U.S., we currently withdraw more than 300 billion gallons of fresh water per day from streams, reservoirs, and wells. Even in places where the water supply has traditionally not been a concern, problems are appearing as populations grow or precipitation patterns change (perhaps due to global climate change).