8. Alfalfa Farming Woes
Many think of alfalfa mainly in terms of the sprouts that end up on sandwiches, but the vast majority of the nation's alfalfa output feeds livestock. The relatively low-value crop uses up about a quarter of California's irrigation water but contributes only 4 percent to the state's total farm revenue, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. It's not that alfalfa itself consumes more water than other farm plants, says Mark Grismer, a professor of agricultural engineering at the University of California, Davis; farmers grow alfalfa year-round in what is essentially a desert climate in the southwestern U.S.
9. The Ruin of the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea in central Asia was once the fourth largest body of freshwater on the planet. But by siphoning off waters from the massive lake for irrigation, local farmers and governments in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have drained the Aral Sea to 10 percent of its former size. (Satellite images show the sea's shrinkage over several decades.) The Aral has split into three parts, two of which are so salty that all the fish in them died. Lake Victoria in eastern Africa is another victim of overuse. Its water level is half of what it once was.
10. Wasting Water by Getting "Wasted"
As refreshing and cooling as that beer may taste, it's likely to leave you less hydrated than you were before you started. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases the frequency of urination (but you knew that already). Alcohol suppresses an antidiuretic hormone called vasopressin that tells our kidneys to reabsorb and conserve water. The more you drink, the more the hormone level falls, and thus the more water you lose. Severe dehydration is a big reason why after a hard night out, you end up with a hangover the next day.
How do you try to limit your water use? And how have you wasted water in the past? Let Scientific American know in the comments area below.