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Watershed Academy~Job Pathways for Water and Climate Resilience

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Lesson 17 of 20
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Water Use Then & Now

February 14, 2023

Then and Now

How do people use water?

Water has many uses; like when you take a shower or brush your teeth you use it for hygiene. Water is also used for cooking, sewage, and even energy and material production. The average household uses about 800-1,000 kw hours per month. Did you know that it takes 18 gallons of water to produce 1kw hour of electricity? That’s a lot of water! and it all comes from our local watersheds. Unfortunately, water on the surface and from underground reservoirs don’t get refilled at the rate that they are being used. ┬áThis is why it is so important that the watersheds we use are restored and protected.

Of course, people did not always have electricity, but they still used the watersheds. Instead of industry there was agriculture and trade. It was important to have a social order around water consumption, like the mayordomo system which ensured everyone get a fair amount of water. Now, our office of State Engineers is in charge of who gets water and when. Surface water in natural streams and sources are promised to the public thanks to Article 16 of the New Mexico constitution which declares that all streams perennial or torrential, meaning seasonal or constant flowing. Ground water, however is allocated to specific people, industries and other Texas. As of the late 1800’s industry has taken off. See the chart below to understand how energy production has changed from 1776-2012. Notice the types of fuel: wood, coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, renewables and hydro. Notice when spikes of production occurred and try to remember what was happening in history at the time.

This chart helps us understand how much more water is used now then only 200 year ago. Human population in 1850 was about 1.2 billion compared to over 8 billion in 2024. Demand has increased exponentially and has to be met with the proper resource management.

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