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Water conservation: How it flows through our lands, hands

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I've just begun reading an advance copy of a memoir, "The Ogallala Road", which is in wide release tomorrow, March 10. In the book, author Julene Bair has become painfully aware of the depletion of the aquifer on which her family's farm sits. However, water conservation is a far-reaching issue, one that encompasses the water we use every day to grow, bathe, and drink, as well as what becomes of that water once it leaves our hands. Sometimes the focus is quantity, at others quality, but ultimately water conservation is both.

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Locally, quality is sometimes adversely affected by combined sewage overflows during times of high water, and the Metropolitan Sewer District is under federal mandate to change that. As the home to the Ohio's first state and national Wild and Scenic River, the waters of the Little Miami River are important both to area recreation, and the conservation of wildlife habitat.

Also making a home in our area are some of the largest consumer products manufacturers and retailers, and the production of consumer products requires surprising amounts of water. For example, it takes 24 gallons of water to make a pound of plastic. What that means is that it takes at least twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount of water that it contains. Manufacturing water consumption also includes more than 700 gallons of water for one new cotton shirt.

In Bair's native Kansas, agriculture has drawn down the Ogallala aquifer 300 feet in some areas since the beginning of intensive irrigation more than 50 years ago, and consumption in the first decade of the 21st century was found to be at least 32 per cent of all 20th century consumption.

For illustration, check out the slideshow.

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