Water makes up more than 70 percent of the earth's surface, and it's no secret that without it we wouldn't be here. Unfortunately, that knowledge doesn't stop us from polluting our oceans, rivers, and lakes and generally making our water unfit for use. Massive pollution occurs when such substances as oil and chemicals are dumped into bodies of water. The damage to the water, to the marine ecosystem, and to coastal wildlife from the accidental spilling of oil from supertankers and offshore drilling operations can be disastrous, and the cleanup can cost billions. Most contaminants, however, come from agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, wastewater, raw sewage, and silt that make their way into water systems over time. In some parts of the world – including certain areas in this country – water supplies are dwindling, partly because of diminishing rainfall and partly because of increased consumption.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been a major force in cleaning up U.S. waters. Companies are now held to stricter standards in the discharge of wastes into water treatment systems. In some places, particularly where water supplies are dangerously low, such as the Southwest, local governments have instituted conservation programs. In Arizona (which suffers a severe shortage), Home Depot works with governmental and nongovernmental agencies on a $1.8 million water-conservation campaign. From its forty stores, the company runs weekend workshops to educate consumers on conservation basics, including drought-resistant gardening techniques.