Why Does Water Matter?

Protecting Our Water Resources

We have dramatically changed Earth’s water cycle, significantly altering the amount, timing, and quality of freshwater flowing across Earth’s continents to the sea. Until recently, Earth’s water flowed naturally, uninterrupted and without pollution, through river networks and groundwater systems connecting land to ocean. Now, humans operate tens of thousands of dams as well as countless wells that extract water from aquifers. These practices allow us to divert and extract massive amounts of water from their natural flows. This extraction often exceeds nature’s ability to replenish water, leaving behind dried-up aquifers, rivers, and lakes in their wake. This often causes collapsed fisheries and widespread ecological devastation.  

How do we shrink our water footprint? The vast majority of the world’s water withdrawals (about 70 percent) are used for growing food and animal feed, so reducing food waste and changing our diets are great steps in the right direction. Another major way we indirectly consume water is through all of the things we purchase—including new phones, clothes, disposable cups, water bottles, and more. While it’s difficult to control the water used to grow our food and make our stuff, we can think about reducing how much we buy. And we can take important steps to directly reduce the water we use in our homes and yards.