Water is essential for life. Plants, animals and people need it to survive. Water makes up about 60 percent of your total body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water helps regulate body temperature, carries nutrients to cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissue.
It’s no surprise that water is essential to a healthy lifestyle, but there’s more to it than drinking water. Water is also needed to grow fruits, vegetables and grains, and produce the dairy and meat needed for a well-balanced diet. One half gallon of water is needed to grow a single strawberry, and more than five gallons are needed to produce a head of broccoli.
Water is easy to take for granted. It seems to be everywhere. All we need to do is turn the faucet, stop at a water fountain, or pick up a bottle of water to get a clean and refreshing drink of water. Water seems to be everywhere outside too. It’s found in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Although it seems to be everywhere, the amount of fresh water available is pretty small.
Oceans are salt water. They make up 96.5% of all water on earth. A little more is found in inland seas and lakes, like the Great Salt Lake in Utah. People, plants, and animals need fresh water. Most fresh water on earth cannot be directly used for drinking or agriculture because it is frozen in polar ice caps. Only 30% is available for us to use. Some is in surface water like lakes, rivers, and streams. Most of the water we use to drink and grow food is found underground. Groundwater is found in the cracks and spaces in the soil, sand and rock. Wells let people bring water from underground – water tables and aquifers – to the surface where it can be used or stored for later use.
We all play an important role in conserving and protecting the small amount of fresh water available on earth. Just like you conserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, farmers conserve water by the choices they make. They select crops that are well suited to their environment. This is one reason Iowa farmers primarily grow corn and soybeans. We usually receive adequate rainfall to grow a bountiful crop without additional irrigation. Farmers in other areas of the country use high-tech systems to irrigate. Sensors that monitor soil and weather conditions help them decide when and how much to irrigate. With the help of technology, farmers have greatly reduced the amount of water they used compared to 20 years ago.