July is Fort Bragg Water Conservation Month. Why is water conservation vital to the future of Fort Bragg and to our Earth? Sen. Edmund Muskie, once said, “High quality water is more than the dream of the conservationists and more than a political slogan. High quality water – in the right quantity at the right place at the right time – is essential to health, recreation and economic growth.”

Indeed, water is a necessity for life and it serves many purposes. We use water to hydrate, maintain our bodies and prepare our meals. Water is the basis for many industrial and agricultural processes that produce our food, products and services. Water is an integral source of electricity. Water is a primary means of transportation and recreation.

Fort Bragg, like the rest of the world, is dependent upon reliable water supplies. Every day, the Fort Bragg community uses an average of four million gallons of water for human consumption, construction, field applications, military operations and quality of life activities. The installation consumed 1.6 billion gallons of potable water at a cost of $2.4 million in the last fiscal year.

Although water is a vital resource for us and our mission, water is also a precious and finite resource. Water covers over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet only one percent of our water is potable. Of the remaining 99 percent that is not potable, 97 percent is salt water and 2 percent is frozen fresh water in the form of glaciers and ice caps. Furthermore, all of the water currently on Earth is all of the water that we will ever have, and while water is consistently recycled through natural processes, water cannot be artificially created.

Our world population is increasing, and thus demands for fresh water and strains on our water infrastructure are constantly rising. Modern society is consuming water more rapidly than it can be naturally replenished and new uses are constantly discovered. Additionally, pollution is significantly reducing water quality and potable inventory. Water pollution from bacteria, nitrates, petroleum and a variety of chemicals is a major public health concern from digestive disturbances, rashes and allergies to liver damage, kidney damage and neurological disorders.

“The trouble with water is that we’re not making any more of it,” said journalist Marq De Villiers in his book Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource. “Yet, people are utterly dependent on water for their lives, for their livelihoods, their food and their industry,” he explained. “Of the water that is accessible to humans, more than half is already appropriated. This proportion may not seem so much, but demand will double in thirty years and much of what is available is degraded by eroded silt, sewage, industrial pollution, chemicals, excess nutrients and plagues of algae. Per capita availability of good, potable water is diminishing in all developed and developing countries.”

So, how can you ensure the future of water resources? The answer is simple — conserve as much as possible and report leaks to the responsible authority.

“Everyone can help conserve water,” said Lynda Pfau of Sustainable Fort Bragg. “Act responsibly when it comes to water usage and remind others to do so as well.” Additionally, you can protect water quality by practicing pollution prevention the right way … the green way … all the way.

Water conservation is not the exclusive responsibility of hydrologists, engineers and utility technicians. Conservation is the responsibility of all. As De Villiers wrote, “No one owns water. You can use it and abuse it, but it is not yours to own. It is part of the global commons – not property, but part of our life support system.”

Since everyone can reap the fiscal and environmental benefits of clean and abundant water supplies, we must all conserve water in order to enjoy these benefits in the future. “Each and every person living, working or recreating on Fort Bragg has within their power the ability to conserve water,” said Pfau.

“The way we look at water needs to change. Every time you turn on the faucet, consider what that water will be used for. Can it be done with less? Can it be reused? Just imagine going to the tap for a cool drink … you turn it on and nothing comes out. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘When the well is dry, we will know the worth of water.’”