Fresh water is an important resource connected to the environment and society. Water is a critical component of ecological cycles. Aquatic ecosystems harbor diverse species and offer many valuable services. People require water to run industries, for energy, and to grow food. Due to the importance of water, humans have tried to control water resources in a variety of ways (Goudie 1997). In Canada we are very fortunate to have extensive supplies of water, but we take this resource for granted. The pressures of human development are causing many of these water sources to lower their quality. We dispose of human wastes, animal wastes, and chemical substances into the environment at such a rate that even the largest lake and river systems have difficulty cleansing themselves and sustaining life. Canadians are said to be the largest water users withdrawing more than 2000 Liters of water per person per day. Agriculture accounts for the largest volume of consumption and the highest ratio of consumption to withdrawal (Mitchell 1995).
Over 10% of the water withdrawn from natural sources in Canada supplies municipal systems used by residents, businesses and some industries. The most water withdrawn is used by farmers, mainly for irrigation, crop growth requires huge amounts of water (Owen 1998). Conservation on the farm can greatly expand water supplies throughout the world. Annually large amounts of irrigation water is lost by the process of seepage, which is when the water drains out of dirt-lined ditches. Seepage can be reduced by lining irrigation ditches with concrete, asphalt, or plastic or by replacing ditches with closed pipes. The city of Casper Wyoming, relined their irrigation canals in the surrounding farmlands, and now has larger supplies of water available for domestic and industrial purposes. These measures cut water loss by half (Owen). If farmers made maximal use of drip irrigation, which is when water is slowly released directly to crop roots by plastic pipes, water loss during irrigation could be greatly reduced as well (Owen).