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Water is not just one of the most important resources we have—it's the most important. But in the last couple centuries, we've been treating it like there's an endless supply. It's time to change that.
Here are fifteen things you can do right now to help ensure we'll have clean water for years to come.
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Avoid products with harmful chemicals—sodium laureth sulfate, triclosan, methylisothiazolinone, ammonia, bleach—that wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems. Buy from the Environmental Working Group’s recommended list of soaps.
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It stops pollutants from washing off hardscaping into storm pipes.
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They prevent activities like fishing and mining where ecosystems are thriving. Visit globaloceanlegacy.org.
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As of this year, Shell has permission to drill for oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, a fragile ecosystem that’s home to endangered wildlife and the harsh weather and seas that make a spill probable and cleanup near impossible—all for just three years’ worth of the world’s oil needs. Get involved at greenpeace.org.
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A pound of beef takes 1,850 gallons of water to produce; a pound of veggies takes about 39. Two meatless days a week cuts your water footprint by 16 percent.
IMAGE COURTESY OF EPA.GOV
Products carrying the EPA’s green-and-blue label use less water and save you money.
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Over a quarter of it sold comes from the tap anyway. Carry a filled canteen instead. Abroad, purify tap water with iodine tablets, or tote a filter bottle like the collapsible Vapur.
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From 2003 to 2013, we took more water than was replenished in 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers. Much of that went to thirsty farms and vineyards. But wine quality is generally improved with less or no irrigation. Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa, for instance, makes acclaimed wine while saving 65,000 gallons per acre every year by dry farming.
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Oceans absorb over 26 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions and more than 90 percent of heat from global warming; they’re acidifying and becoming unsafe for sea life. Drive less, unplug more, and, less obvious, stop getting junk mail. Yearly, bulk mail produces more greenhouse gas than 9 million cars, destroys 100 million trees, and takes 28 billion gallons of water to make and recycle. For $35, 41pounds.org will stop it for you.
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Connect with the wet stuff by swimming, kayaking, and sailing responsibly. Surfers can ride the environmentalist wave with surfrider.org. Scuba fans can dive deeper into conservation work with projectaware.org.
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Growing organic produce is nonpolluting and water-efficient: Compared to that of conventional operations, soil on organic farms retains far more water, preventing erosion and runoff and helping crops fare much better during times of drought.
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In the sea, high-IQ mammals travel far and live socially; in captivity, often forced to perform, they suffer stress. Opt for more animal-friendly family fun at ethical research institutes like Baltimore's National Aquarium, which runs a marine mammal rescue-and-release operation.
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Use buying guides like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and NOAA’s FishWatch.
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At the International Coastal Cleanup on September 19, help outdo 2014’s 16 million pounds of collected trash. See signuptocleanup.org.
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Sweep patios and sidewalks rather than hosing them, which wastes water and carries contaminants into freshwater systems. The exercise will help you burn a few calories to boot.