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Water Needs Versus Wants

Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increases in the last century. Over 1.4 billion people currently live in a river basin where the use of water exceeds minimum recharge levels, leading to the desiccation of rivers and depletion of groundwater. In Canada, the average residential water use is 327 litres per day, and the virtual use is over 3,000 litres every day.

shooting water out of garden hose

What are water needs and water wants?

People, plants and animals all need water for survival. Water is a basic necessity of life and therefore we need clean drinking water. On the other hand, a want is defined as something that one could survive without. For example, if our car was dirty, we would survive. So, a clean car is not a “need” although we may “want” a clean car.

Determining our needs from our wants is about sustainable water management. Sustainable water management requires that our water uses are not more than what we need or is available. Over the long term, plant and animal communities cannot survive if we overuse our natural resources.

We must all strive to manage our water sustainability. Managing our water sustainability means we must use it without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability calls us to find a balance between our social, economic and environmental demands.

sun shining over lake

How much is too much?

The world’s freshwater resources are unevenly distributed in time and space. Of global water resources, a large fraction is available in Canada and as a result, Canadians are at the top of water consumption.

Many things we use or produce use vast amounts of water that are not always evident. The use of “virtual water,” or water that is unseen and unaccounted for must be considered when we examine our individual and collective impact on water. By identifying which of our water uses are needs and which are wants, we can all be better at conserving water and move towards more sustainable water management practices.

By practicing Lake Friendly actions, we all can help preserve the health of fresh water for generations to come.


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