What Is Freshwater Conservation?

Cindy Quarters

The earth’s surface has far more water than land, but only a very small percentage is fresh water. In addition, only about a quarter of the fresh water on earth is actually available for use, since much of it is frozen as part of the two polar ice caps. This means that it is important to protect water resources. Freshwater conservation focuses on preserving these sources and the habitats that create and nurture them.

A map of the polar ice caps, which contain much of the Earth's fresh water.
A map of the polar ice caps, which contain much of the Earth's fresh water.

Freshwater resources are necessary for many different reasons. Drinking fresh water is essential to life, but washing and cooking also require a significant amount of resources. Additionally, farmers rely on water to sustain the crops that provide food, and it is also used to water animals that are raised for meat and dairy.

A big part of freshwater conservation is making sure that water sources are not polluted. This includes monitoring the dumping of garbage, industrial waste and untreated sewage. When too many pollutants get into fresh water systems, the waterways become unable to heal themselves and the water typically ends up unfit to drink or even to use for washing to watering plants. Keeping harmful items out of the water helps to ensure that it remains clean and usable.

Another important aspect of freshwater conservation is protecting not only the actual source of water, but the entire ecosystem that is in and around that source. If plants, animals or fish is depleted in a specific region, it results in an imbalance in the entire ecosystem. In many cases this can cause harm to the water, usually by allowing plants to grow out of control and choke streams and lakes. It can also result in an overgrowth of organisms that end up polluting the water with their numbers or with disease that they carry.

Organizations concerned with freshwater conservation strive not only to get laws enacted that protect water sources, but also to offer education regarding the importance of water sources. When people are made aware of potential problems that can result from overuse, they may be more careful with how much water is wasted. Using less is another form of freshwater conservation, since it insures that more water is available for necessities. Many support water savings by implementing simple measures such as low-flow shower heads, limiting how much water they use for lawns and gardens, and by turning off water when it is not needed.

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