Water is one of the most important compounds on earth. All life must have water to survive.
Water covers between around 70% of the earths surface. The total amount of water on the earth is about 326 million cubic miles of water.
The earth is a closed system, similar to a terrarium, meaning that it rarely loses or gains extra matter. The same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still present today.
Only 1% of all the water on our planet is usable by us, the rest of it is salt water or frozen making it unusable for our use.
Much more fresh water is stored under the ground in aquifers than on the earth’s surface.
Water dissolves more substances than any other liquid. Wherever it travels, water carries chemicals, minerals, and nutrients with it.
The water we use to sustain human life must be clean. This means that the water must be free of germs, and not have high concentrations of organic or inorganic chemicals. Water that is safe to drink is called potable.
History has shown us that human life is negatively affected when potable water is scarce or becomes contaminated with pathogens or pollutants.
Throughout the world, people are realizing the challenges we face with maintaining and using healthy, affordable and usable water supplies. It is clear that the future of human life depends on utilizing our fast-depleting water resources wisely and learning to decrease waste and contamination of this precious resource.
SOURCES OF WATER
We collect water many different ways.
Water that falls to the ground as precipitation.This water is collected in catchments and the catchment feeds water into a holding area via rivers, streams and creeks. The water is then stored in a natural or man-made barrier called a dam or reservoir.
Catchment areas are typically far away from population areas to prevent the water from contamination. Laws exist in all levels of government that guide human activities, such as farming and recreation in catchment areas and on dams to make sure water supplies are kept potable.
Springs are found where underground water flows out of the ground naturally without the use of bores, wells or pumps.
Rivers or lakes
Town or community water supplies are sometimes drawn directly from nearby rivers or lakes.
Excavated dams are constructed by digging a large shallow hole in areas with impervious soils. Impervious soil – such as clay - do not allow easy water drainage. If the soil allows too much drainage, the dam can be lined with a clay soil liner, concrete or heavy plastic. Farmers and ranchers often use these types of dams.
An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing rock. These rocks are permeable and allow liquids and gases to pass through them. Sandstone, sand and gravel, are examples of water-bearing rock. The top of the water level in an aquifer is called the water table.
An aquifer fills or recharges with water from rain or melted snow that drains into the ground. Aquifers are natures reservoirs for groundwater and sometimes flows out in springs. If the water does not release on its own, wells drilled down to the water table provide water for drinking, agriculture, and industrial uses.
If aquifers are drained faster than nature can refill them they can dry up. Many of the worlds aquifers are being used up faster than they can recharge.
Laramie Rivers Conservation District has addressed water issues since its inception. At first, water quantity was the focus as there was a growing awareness that the American West was not the well-watered promised land that many believed when settling the region and putting it into agriculture production. Conservation Districts offered expertise in water collection and retention projects and assisted agriculture producers with improving stock water supply and irrigation methods. LRCD continues addressing water quantity today through the Cost Share program, assisting landowners with technical advice and financial incentives. Some of the projects include: installing solar run pumps for remote livestock water tanks, installing drip irrigation systems, and helping home-owners with purchasing rain barrel catchments.
Beginning in Summer of 2015, LRCD began working with Wyoming Water Development Commission to conduct a watershed study of the Upper Laramie River Watershed. This study will provide valuable information for landowners planning small water projects . A watershed study includes information describing conditions and assessments of the watershed including hydrology, geology, geomorphology, geography, soils, vegetation, water conveyance infrastructure, and stream system data. For more information on the watershed study, contact Tony Hoch.
Beginning in the 1970's, attention turned to implementing EPA standards for water quality. LRCD currently monitors water quality on the Big Laramie and Little Laramie Rivers as well as offers assistance through the Cost Share program to address water quality issues. Some projects that LRCD has provided technical and financial support on include: stream restoration projects (including the large Laramie River Restoration Project), riparian area fencing to keep livestock out of vulnerable areas, and general water tests/analysis costs.
What you can do.
Water Conservation in the home.
Want to learn more about measures you can take to decrease your water usage? A good place to start is using the National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator. This calculator helps the user assess their personal water use at home and see where they are using too much.