uses of water

recreational use

People love water for swimming, fishing, boating, river rafting, and other activates. Even activities such as golf, where there may not be any standing water, require plenty of water to make the grass on the course green. Despite its value, the amount of water that most recreational activities use is low: less than 1% of all the water we use. Many recreational water uses are non-consumptive including swimming, fishing, and boating. Golf courses are the biggest recreational water consumer since they require large amounts for irrigation, especially because many courses are located in warm, sunny, desert regions where water is scarce and evaporation is high.

household use

Think about all the ways you use water in a day. You need to count the water you drink, cook with, bathe in, garden with, let run down the drain, or flush down the toilet. In developed countries, people use a lot of water, while in less developed countries people use much less. Globally, household or personal water use is estimated to account for 15% of world-wide water use. Some household water uses are non-consumptive, because water is recaptured in sewer systems, treated, and returned to surface water supplies for reuse. Many things can be done to lower water consumption at home. Convert lawns and gardens to drip-irrigation systems. Install low-flow shower heads and low-flow toilets. In what other ways can you use less water at home?

environmental use

Environmental use of water includes creating wildlife habitat. Lakes are built to create places for fish and water birds (Figure 1.5). Most environmental uses are non-consumptive and account for an even smaller percentage of water use than recreational uses. A shortage of this water is a leading cause of global biodiversity loss. Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL:


industrial water use

Industrial water use accounts for an estimated 15% of worldwide water use, with a much greater percentage in developed nations. Industrial uses of water include power plants that use water to cool their equipment and oil refineries that use water for chemical processes. Manufacturing is also water intensive.

aquaculture problems

For some species, aquaculture is very successful and environmental harm is minimal. But for other species, aqua- culture can cause problems. Natural landscapes, such as mangroves, which are rich ecosystems and also protect coastlines from storm damage, may be lost to fish farms (Figure 1.4). For fish farmers, keeping costs down may be a problem since coastal land may be expensive and labor costs may be high. Large predatory fish at the 4th or 5th trophic level must eat a lot, so feeding large numbers of these fish is expensive and environmentally costly. Farmed fish are genetically different from wild stocks, and if they escape into the wild they may cause problems for native fish. Because the organisms live so close together, parasites are common and may also escape into the wild. Shrimp farms on the coast of Ecuador are shown as blue rectangles. Mangrove forests, salt flats, and salt marshes have been converted to shrimp farms.



Aquaculture is a different type of agriculture. Aquaculture is farming to raise fish, shellfish, algae, or aquatic plants (Figure 1.3). As the supplies of fish from lakes, rivers, and the oceans dwindle, people are getting more fish from aquaculture. Raising fish increases our food resources and is especially valuable where protein sources are limited. Farmed fish are becoming increasingly common in grocery stores all over the world. Workers at a fish farm harvest fish they will sell to stores. Growing fish in a large scale requires that the fish stocks are healthy and protected from predators. The species raised must be hearty, inexpensive to feed, and able to reproduce in captivity. Wastes must be flushed out to keep animals healthy. Raising shellfish at farms can also be successful.


why not change

Why do farmers use wasteful irrigation methods when water-efficient methods are available? Many farmers and farming corporations have not switched to more efficient irrigation methods for two reasons: 1. Drip irrigation and other more efficient irrigation methods are more expensive than sprinklers, trenches, and flooding. 2. In the United States and some other countries, the government pays for much of the cost of the water that is used for agriculture. Because farmers do not pay the full cost of their water use, they do not have any financial incentive to use less water. What ideas can you come up with to encourage farmers to use more efficient irrigation systems?


nonwasteful methods

A much more efficient way to water crops is drip irrigation (Figure 1.2). With drip irrigation, pipes and tubes deliver small amounts of water directly to the soil at the roots of each plant or tree. The water is not sprayed into the air or over the ground, so nearly all of it goes directly into the soil and plant roots.

wasteful methods

Three popular irrigation methods are: Overhead sprinklers. Trench irrigation: canals carry water from a water source to the fields. Flood irrigation: fields are flooded with water. All of these methods waste water. Between 15% and 36% percent of the water never reaches the crops because it evaporates or leaves the fields as runoff. Water that runs off a field often takes valuable soil with it.


Some of the worlds farmers still farm without irrigation by choosing crops that match the amount of rain that falls in their area. But some years are wet and others are dry. For farmers to avoid years in which they produce little or no food, many of the worlds crops are produced using irrigation. Water used for home, industrial, and agricultural purposes in different regions. Globally more than two-thirds of water is for agriculture.


human uses of water

Besides drinking and washing, people need water for agriculture, industry, household uses, and recreation (Figure Water use can be consumptive or non-consumptive, depending on whether the water is lost to the ecosystem. Non-consumptive water use includes water that can be recycled and reused. For example, the water that goes down the drain and enters the sewer system is purified and then redistributed for reuse. By recycling water, the overall water consumption is reduced. Consumptive water use takes the water out of the ecosystem. Can you name some examples of consumptive water use?

water consumption

Humans use six times as much water today as they did 100 years ago. People living in developed countries use a far greater proportion of the worlds water than people in less developed countries. What do people use all of that water for?

instructional diagrams

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humans use this much more water today as they did 100 years ago.

a) twice as much

b) three times as much

-->  c) six times as much

d) sixteen times as much

aquaculture of large fish does damage by

a) converting natural ecosystems to fish farms.

b) putting wild fish at risk for disease and parasites.

c) taking a lot of food energy to create its product.

-->  d) all of the above

water that can be recycled and reused is called __water use.

-->  a) non-consumptive

b) consumptive

c) non-commercial

d) commercial

to decrease the amount of water you use in your household you could

a) use drip irrigation.

b) install low-flow shower heads and toilets.

c) reduce the amount of time you take in the shower.

-->  d) all of these.

drip irrigation is better than other types of irrigation because

a) it is more efficient

b) it costs less

c) there is little evaporation and runoff

-->  d) all of the above

industrial water use includes using water for cooling, but not using up the water.

-->  a) true

b) false

recreational uses of water

a) make up a large part of the water use in developed countries.

-->  b) can be extremely wasteful of water.

c) are all non-consumptive.

d) are not a good use of water.

which is not a feature of environmental uses of water?

-->  a) they account for a large portion of the water use in developed countries.

b) they are non-consumptive.

c) they increase or maintain biodiversity.

d) they provide habitat for fish and water birds.

overhead sprinklers, trench irrigation, and flood irrigation are wasteful because

a) a lot of the water evaporates.

b) a love of the water runs off the fields without being used.

c) the water is not directed to the plants that needed.

-->  d) a & b

aquaculture of some species provides a lot of food value at little environmental cost.

-->  a) true

b) false

diagram questions

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