Everybody seems to be talking about water. And it¶s no wonder why.
Just have a quick look at what¶s happening with our water here in South Australia. Australian households (and that includes us in South Australia) use the most water per household in the world!
The average person in Adelaide might use as much as 341,000 litres (that¶s around eight backyard swimming pools) worth of water each year!
Rest of world
The world average is 57,000 litres! We¶re nearly using six-times as much water as most of the other people on the planet!
How can it be that we use so much water? Well we do use a fair bit of water around the house, washing the dishes, watering the garden, cleaning our clothes and flushing the toilet.
But we are getting much, much better at saving water at home. So how come we're still using so much more water than the rest of the world? It turns out that a lot of the water that we use we don¶t even know we are using. We can¶t even see this water that we use. What are we talking about?
Almost everything we use and buy and eat needs water to be produced. It¶s not written on the label and we can¶t see this water in the clothes that we wear or in the food that we eat. We don¶t even get the chance to drink it! But it was needed to make the clothes and the food, and so it still counts towards the total amount of water that we use. We call this water µVirtual Water¶.
What is 'virtual water'? Well we think it means the water that is hidden in our food or other products that we use. It means the water that was needed to grow or make our food or those products that we use. For example, it¶s the water that was used to grow the wheat that was used to make the flour for the bread that you ate for breakfast today. And the butter that you spread on your bread? Well, to make the butter the cows that gave the milk needed to be given water for drinking, and needed food to eat, and this food needed water to grow.
So you¶re probably thinking that it can¶t be that much water that goes into making all the stuff that we eat and consume. Well, actually, it is quite a lot. Look at the following list of products and look at how much water each one uses.
1 glass of milk (200ml) - 75 litres 1 slice of bread (30g) - 40 litres 1 slice of bread (30g) with cheese (10g) - 90 litres 1 apple (100g) - 70 litres 1 glass of orange juice (200ml) - 170 litres 1 bag of potato chips (200g) - 185 litres 1 egg (40g) - 135 litres 1 hamburger (150g) - 2,400 1 pair of leather shoes - 8,000 litres 1 cotton t-shirt - 2,000 litres 1 sheet A4 paper - 10 litres 1 microchip - 32 litres 1kilogram of beef - 16,000 litres
So that¶s where a lot of our water goes. But that¶s not all. Our water supplies lately have been getting lower and lower. The picture on the next slide shows South Australia¶s rainfall over the last three years. You will see that many parts of South Australia have recorded some very low rainfalls while other parts have recorded high rainfalls. The red shows the places with the least rainfall while the blue shows the places with the most.
Rainfall in South Australia for the last three years
Why have these water levels been dropping? Well as you probably already know, we¶ve been having a very bad drought for quite some time now: about 10 years actually.
The problem is that it looks like this might not just be a drought, but might actually be the first signs of climate change. More and more scientists now believe that the South Australia¶s climate patterns are changing. This means that the dry spell that we¶re having might never really end: instead, this might be the new climate.
On top of that, the water that we do have is getting more and more polluted. You¶ve probably seen rubbish floating in the river or creek. This is pretty bad for our waterways. But there are also tiny bits of pollution that are sometimes impossible to see but that are really, really bad for our water.
Where might these tiny bits of pollution come from? The tiny bits of pollution can be found in the and grease that run-off the streets in the rain, they can come from leaking sewage pipes, from accidental spills by factories, and from cow and dog poo washing into the rivers and creeks.
This can start to sound a lot like very bad news. But don¶t worry; it¶s not all bad. There are lots and lots of people all around the world working hard to make sure that we¶ll have enough water to drink and grow food with, and the water that we have is clean and healthy. But they can¶t do it alone. They need your help!
So what can you do? Start by thinking about what you would most like to see happen or change: what would that be? How do you think you go about making that happen? What little things could you do in a little way everyday to help you reach that goal?
Using the Cool Green Hero Checklist that we have provided, or using one that you have created yourself, think up at least two actions to help our water that you think you can achieve within the next six months.
Write down a few sentences for each cool green action that describes what you hope to do. If you¶re a bit stuck for ideas, have a look at some of the tips that we have found are easy to do to save water.
Tips for saving water
Fix any dripping taps or leaky toilets. A leaking tap can waste as much as 20,000 litres of water a year. Enough said. Likewise the dual-flush toilet. If it¶s yellow let it mellow, if it¶s brown flush it down with a half flush. While we¶re being short but sweet, take shorter showers. And obviously, turn off the tap while you¶re brushing your teeth. We know you know, but you¶d be amazed... Install a rainwater tank! Your roof is more efficient than a dry dam catchment and you¶ll save on water bills. Save some shower water and share it with the lawn. Or the street trees in front of your house. For more tips and more information on water visit the Our Cool School site. Did we forget any? Send us your tips and we¶ll post them on the Our Cool School website!