Why Conserve Water in Chicago?

Recently I was chiding a coworker about what I considered wasting water and he asked me "What difference does it make if I waste water in Chicago? We're next to one of largest fresh water sources in the world?" I didn't have an answer so I took it to Colin, a friend and sustainability consultant (I think that's his title) for a large architecture firm. Here's what he said.

I'll break it down for you as a 30th Birthday present:

1. Don't forget the Aral Sea!!

It used to be one of the 4th largest lakes in the world. In just 30 years it has decreased in size by 90% because of industrial and agricultural demand for fresh water. Lake Michigan water is used by numerous industries and agriculture. Once they use the water, it is sent down the Mississippi and into the Gulf... where it becomes unusable. Ever since the Chicago River was reversed 100 years ago, storm water and used potable water do not infiltrate back into Lake Michigan.

2. Water = Energy Use = Carbon Emissions

Nearly 4% of all electricity consumed in this country is for treating waste water. This does not include the amount of energy needed to pump fresh water into buildings and homes. See this information on the EPA website:

Also, the second page of this pdf is helpful:


3. They're coming for our water!!!!

The Great Lakes are 85% of the fresh water in the Americas and 25% of the fresh water in the world. The majority of the world does not have access to fresh water and now the US Southwest is losing access to fresh water. Multiple proposals have been drawn up to divert fresh water to the US Southwest and ship fresh water tankers to India and China. Luckily the Great Lakes Water Pact (signed by the US and Canada during Bush... I know) is currently protecting the Lakes. Once things get ugly and people run out of water in 20 years, that pact may not hold. More reason to conserve now and be an example.


4. Be an example

Touching on that last point, many people in this world DO NOT have fresh water. Just because we have it doesn't mean we should abuse it.

Happy Birthday

Thanks Colin!


Bill said...

I thought Stiles only drank red bull and vegan tears