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Cooke: Students can help mitigate the water crisis

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

So far, 2020 has been a year defined by crises. A pandemic, a crashing economy, civil unrest in major cities and an upcoming election are just some of the extremely complex problems facing our country today. There’s another problem, however. It is just as significant — although much less obvious — than the rest. That is the issue of water.

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The global water crisis can be explained with simple math: While the amount of freshwater on Earth remains somewhat constant over time, the amount of people on Earth who need access to that water has increased and will continue to increase with global population growth. More people needing the same amount of water has serious consequences for human communities and wild ecosystems. 

Colorado is no exception. Our particular geography makes us a “headwaters state” because at least four major river basins originate inside Colorado. How Colorado uses that water is crucial, considering that millions of people depend on a dwindling reservoir supply of it.

States situated within the Colorado River Basin have already drafted a temporary Drought Contingency Plan, which went into effect earlier this year, to avoid a water emergency amid “historically low levels” in reservoirs.

Although Fort Collins and Colorado State University technically sit within the South Platte River Basin, substantial amounts of water are diverted from the Colorado River and others west of the Continental Divide to the Front Range. This means we all share a duty to be conscious of our water usage.

CSU is globally acknowledged for its sustainability efforts. In 2015, the school received the world’s first Platinum rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. This level of recognition should be felt and reflected by everyone who calls CSU home.

The water crisis is particularly important for us to consider since our daily habits and routines have an immediate effect on it. Students at CSU should realize that our easy access to water is a profound privilege, and we should treat that water like the life-or-death resource that it is.

Fortunately, we all have the ability to make a difference. By making just a few simple changes to our routine, we can start to use less water and maybe save some money in the process.

Perhaps the first place to start should be our sinks. That’s where we wash our hands, clean our dishes and brush our teeth, things that all require water. But none of these activities require all of the water that flows out of a fully-turned faucet. In other words, turning the faucet all the way just to wash one bowl in the sink is a waste of water.

Instead of washing two or three loads (of laundry) a week, doing one big load at the end of the week can conserve water.”

Instead, only turn the faucet halfway or even less. You’ll still be able to completely clean that bowl, but you’ll have used significantly less water. The same goes for washing hands. Scrub your hands without the water running, then wash the soap away at half-flow. I do this method myself, both to conserve water and to avoid the annoying splash-back that happens when the faucet is flowing at full-force.

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These may seem like trivial suggestions, but over time, the difference can add up. Average household faucets usually allow between a half gallon to 1 1/2 gallons to flow per minute, and the average house uses about 20 gallons of water per individual per day just from faucets. By not using the full force of your faucet whenever you do the dishes or wash your hands, you can seriously cut back on the amount of water being used.

According to CSU Extension, washing clothes uses “between 35 to 50 gallons of water per load.” Instead of washing two or three loads a week, doing one big load at the end of the week can conserve water. You can stretch that even longer (and save even more water) by re-wearing clothes that aren’t actually dirty or smelly.

Taking shorter showers is another easy way to conserve water. If your shower head has the option to temporarily restrict water flow (or if you feel like turning off the shower altogether) you can save water that otherwise would have disappeared down the drain while you shampooed your hair or scrubbed your body with soap. Especially now that many of our classes and schedules don’t have us going out as much, consider choosing not to shower on days you didn’t sweat.

These are just a few simple suggestions that can substantially cut back water usage. Not only can you conserve a shrinking and essential resource, but you can save money on your water bill by simply using less water. This report published by CSU Extension offers several other cheap and easy ways individuals and families can save water.

It might not seem like it in our day-to-day lives, but our City’s, country’s and planet’s water supply is one of the most important things we should be conscious of. Water may seem like a given, but taking it for granted could be extremely dangerous.

Cody Cooke can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @CodyCooke17.

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About the Contributor
Cody Cooke
Cody Cooke, Opinion Director
Cody Cooke is the director of the opinion desk for The Collegian and has worked for the newspaper since December 2019. He is a senior studying English and history with a concentration in creative writing. Cooke joined the opinion desk as a consistent way to sharpen his writing and to get involved with other student writers. He began as a columnist and remained a regular writer for more than a year before moving into his director position. He sees opinion writing as a rich and important combination of argumentation and journalism — a way to present facts that goes beyond objective reporting and makes a point. He also sees it as one of the most accessible platforms for any writer to start building a career. Working at The Collegian has taught him to be accountable and responsible for his own work while being proud of creating something worth sharing to a large audience. While not always easy, Cooke's time at The Collegian has been one of the most constructive and satisfying experiences of his collegiate career. 

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