What is water worth?

Water, water everywhere and, according to the water reporting group Circle of Blue, only 2.5 percent of  the Earth’s supply is drinkable.

The average human body can only survive without water for five to seven days, so a world without clean drinking water would be catastrophic.

“We take [water] for granted; it’s our most precious resource, and it’s running out,” President of the UW-Whitewater Water Council Jeff Bodendorfer said.

In states surrounding the Great Lakes, access to fresh water is commonplace, but last summer Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in 42 counties as a result of drought or abnormally dry conditions.

Bodendorfer said he considers the university to be a trailblazer in terms of environmental education.

With its integrated science and business water major and water business minor, Bodendorfer puts UW-Whitewater ahead of most schools, but wishes there was more of an emphasis on water consciousness.

He said anyone can find an interest in water.

“Regardless of your major, there is something for you in water,” Bodendorfer said. “No matter what degree you have you can be involved; the possibilities are endless.”

The water council was formed in 2010, and Bodendorfer said its goal is to educate people on emerging water trends. It also serves as a means to inform students of water business opportunities, many of which can be found in Milwaukee.

“In terms of water business, Milwaukee is a huge hub,” Bodendorfer said. “It’s my hope that the university as a whole will become more water conscious and work to reduce its blue footprint.” Dean’s Advisory Council representative Dylan Thomas has been an ISBM major for two years, and said he still learns about new opportunities in water business all  the time.

“I think some students are naïve to water in general; I tell people what my major is, and they are like, ‘What’s that and why does it matter?’” Thomas said.

Thomas said most people in Wisconsin can use water whenever, but that other parts of the country cannot.

“I have a buddy at the University of Utah who can’t take showers some days, because there is literally no water to use,” Thomas said.

The 2010 U.S. Census reported the population at just under 309 million people, and Circle of Blue said the average American uses about 150 gallons of water per day.

The issue of water conservation is not limited to clean drinking water because it can used for so many different things. The need for water can be complicated by the geographical separation from this precious natural resource.

Circle of Blue found that San Diego imports 90 percent of its water. They found the market for useable water has become so hostile that businesses are outbidding farmers for mass quantities.

Bodendorfer said society’s water problems will take a combined effort of students, businesses, nonprofits and others to solve.

“In the coming years, all of us will have to change our habits,” Bodendorfer. “I’m not asking people to wash their dishes in their bathwater, just to rethink their water usage.”

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