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Water: Don't Lose It, Reuse It!

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It's hard for many to process the fact that although 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water, we can only access about one percent as potable fresh water. As awareness of a potential water scarcity grows, so does the global effort to reuse water traditionally used for everyday functions like bathing, flushing, cooking and cleaning. Purple pipe reuse programs are well underway that vastly reduce demand on potable water by replacing it with treated wastewater from commercial and residential locations everywhere, contributing to an impressive reduction of wastewater discharge into bodies of water and the subsequent environmental impact of pollutants.

Put another way, you wouldn't grab another clean glass out of kitchen cabinet every time you wanted to take a sip of a cold beverage; you would simply wash out that glass and use again thereby saving your other glasses for another time.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 2 billion gallons of water are reused in the United States every day, and the volume is growing by approximately 15 percent annually. And the most encouraging part is that this sustainable progress is being done without any federal mandates -- we are taking our water future into our own hands.

From flushing toilets to irrigating crops, landscaping local parks to recharging groundwater aquifers, reclaimed or reused water is becoming an increasingly popular option to fulfill any number of important water uses. The proof is in places like Foxborough, Massachusetts where the home of the New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, is saving 250,000 gallons of water during every major event thanks to the double piping system, installed and managed by American Water, which treats recycled wastewater from the facility as well as from adjacent office complexes and stores.

Utilities Inc. is another prime example. The company is engaged in projects to supply reused water for industrial cooling, watering local golf courses and construction activities. In addition to providing reused water for practical uses like car washes, Utilities Inc. has also fitted several residential developments with reuse facilities for irrigation needs.

And then there's United Water, which has partnered with the West Basin Municipal Water District in California to operate and maintain the largest water recycling operation of its kind in the country. Following a 15-year partnership that has saved more than 100 billion gallons of water, the ongoing agreement will save precious potable water supplies in the drought-prone region in a number of ways, including a reduction of wastewater discharged to the Santa Monica Bay. In the coming months and years, the partnership aims to replace half of the region's imported potable water with recycled water to ease the demand for a scarce water supply from Northern California and the Colorado River.

The technology exists for all of us -- not just large corporations and utility companies -- to contribute to this future, and to promote a more eco-friendly society simply by reusing our own water. Take rainwater harvesting, for example. According to the EPA, rainwater reuse provides an inexpensive supply of water that needs little treatment for irrigation or non-potable indoor use, it reduces stormwater runoff and pollution, not mention it lessens peak summer demands. This age-old practice of collecting and reusing rainwater is becoming more and more popular as people all over the country become more aware of the cost and availability issues of water.

There is no doubt that hundreds -- thousands -- of examples just like these are taking place all over the country, and the world, right this moment. They are stories of conservation and responsibility and care, just waiting to be shared so others can learn how and why to join the cause. Ultimately, the more we share our stories and discuss the benefits of water reuse, the more successful we'll be in preserving our most precious resource.

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