Conserving water now may make a big difference later.

The normally dry southwestern portion of the United States has only one major river feeding it – the 1,450-mile Colorado River – so the last thing this fast-growing region of the country wants is for that river to dry up. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening.

A drought that is now in its 14th year – longer than any other drought it has experienced in the past 1,250 years – is causing major concerns for the people and industries that need water from the once mighty flowing river. In fact, in some places this river is little more than a brown, murky trickle, and reservoirs are sinking to about one-half of their capacities.

The nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, is being negatively affected by this drought, and there are concerns that people all the way from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, plus millions of acres of farmland, will soon have less water than needed. And if the water level of Lake Powell drops much more, it could shut down generators that supply enough electricity to power 350,000 homes.

If the drought continues – and predictions are that it will – one of the ways to fight the water shortage is conservation. Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District has a goal of reducing water consumption by 20 percent per person from 2010 to 2020. It is recycling sewage effluent, giving away high-efficiency water nozzles and subsidizing items such as artificial turf and zero-water urinals.

Water officials in southern Nevada are treating and returning to Lake Mead almost all of the water used indoors by the 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year, including from dishwashers, toilets and bathtubs.

Even if there is no drought or water shortage in your area, you can still do your part to conserve water. Here are five simple ways to do it:

• Install low-flow showerheads and faucets or faucet aerators.

• Only wash full loads – in the dishwasher and the washing machine.

• Water your garden and lawn after the sun goes down so that it will soak in better before evaporating.

• Take shorter showers.

• Catch cold water that comes out of the faucet while you’re waiting for hot water and use it to water plants or pour into the toilet reservoir after flushing.

Are there water shortages where you live, and if so, have government officials and people voiced concerns? What kind of water conservation efforts are being made in your area?


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