Friday, September 22, 2023

Dispelling common water myths




Phyllis Webster earned a degree in journalism before embarking on a long career in public relations and marketing. A Granbury resident since 1998, she has been deeply involved in the community. She is an award-winning writer and photographer, as well as a Master Gardener. She has authored Garden Patch since 2001.


There’s nothing like drought to bring out the myths that surround one of our most precious natural resources — water. Since our very existence depends upon water, let’s do some myth busting.

“We can’t run out of water.” First, water is a finite resource. About 75 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water, but less than .65 percent is fresh liquid. The exact same water has moved in an endless hydrologic cycle of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, transpiration and runoff for billions of years. In other words, new water is not generated. We use what already exists —over and over.

“I use lake water, so I can water as much as I want.” Lake water is someone’s drinking water. Texans draw about 40 percent of water supplies from surface water sources. Surface water includes lakes and rivers. This water supply is gradually dwindling, partly because of sediment accumulation.

“I get my water from the city, so I don’t need to worry about groundwater.” – Texas water utilities and individuals draw 60 percent of their water from groundwater sources, which comes from underground aquifers. Only about 10 percent of groundwater is used because of high extraction costs. To recharge Texas aquifers, it takes millions of acre-feet of rainfall each year! Due to drought and an exploding population, groundwater supplies are predicted to decrease more than 30 percent within 30 years.

“I can’t make a difference.” Two factors affect water quantity both above and below ground: 1) climate variations and 2) changes caused by human activity. In Texas, the biggest climatic indicator of water quantity is rainfall, which varies across the state. Currently, 80-90 percent of the state is in drought, with more than 30 percent in extreme drought. Humans alter water flow by diverting it for use. And when people waste water, they reduce the quantity of total available water. One form of waste is pollution.

Agriculture uses 70-80 percent of available Texas water. About 10-20 percent is used by industry. Less than 10 percent is used for human consumption. Municipal water use for homes, businesses, sanitation, landscaping and fire protection is the fastest growing water use sector. Conserving water at home and work can slow this growth.

“I have a well, so I can use as much water as I want.” While legally this may be true, it is terribly misguided. The water in your well comes from a Texas aquafer that is shared by countless others. Your water use affects other people’s accessibility to fresh water. Already, about 400 Texas communities in 96 counties have inadequate water supplies. And projections estimate the state’s population will at least double by 2060.

“The fertilizer/pesticide I put on my yard does not hurt the lake water.” Wrong. Residue from chemicals travels into water bodies, polluting them and reducing supplies.

“Water restrictions are voluntary, so I do not need to conserve.” Remember, we all use the same finite water source. When it’s gone, everyone suffers.

For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or go online to visit | 817-680-4849


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