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WATER: Why Care?

Background: The best available information suggests 1.3 Willis Towers are lost each week in Northeastern IL. The Chicago area is privileged to be situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, the third largest of the Great Lakes, which altogether account for 20 percent of the world’s readily available freshwater. . . .However, the presence of this vast Lake too often lends the illusion that our water is limitless. In fact, both the water itself and the public funds required to attain, treat and deliver it are finite. Every day tens of millions of gallons of Lake Michigan water are lost due to leaks, faulty meters or accounting errors, never producing any revenue. Water also goes to waste through inefficient plumbing and excessive outdoor use. Both lost water—which costs money to produce—and wasted water—which was paid for but used unproductively—are a financial burden. Fortunately, the factors that lead to loss and waste are controllable, and the problem is solvable. (Metropolitan Planning Council report, “Immeasurable Loss: Modernizing Lake Michigan Water Use)

  • 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, yet only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is fresh water and fit for human consumption. (97.5% is in oceans or saline lakes.) US Geological Survey
  • 70% of the world's fresh water is locked in ice. Most of the rest is in aquifers that we're draining faster than can be recharged. National Geographic
  • Water managers in 36 states expect shortages by 2013. Wall St. Journal
  • The average American uses 176 gallons of water/day compared to 44 gallons in the UK and 5 gallons in Africa. 
  • Landscape irrigation accounts for 30% of residential water use (totaling over 7 billion gallons per day). U.S. EPA
  • Flushing toilets accounts for 27% of U.S. indoor water use, equal to the total daily average in China (for showers, laundry, etc). Yes Magazine
  • The average Oak Park household uses 141 gallons/day .PlanItGreen  Humans can go up to several months without food, but only several days without water.
  • The Great Lakes contain 90% of N. America’s surface freshwater, but see less than 1% renewal each year by rain and snow.

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