Water Use in South America: A Photoessay

Images and insights from a recent trip abroad.

Photo of Grey Glacier, Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Grey Glacier, Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

Traveling offers a chance to step back from my daily routine. It opens my eyes to new ideas and exposes me to new lifestyles – and often, the habits I pick up along the way stick with me. Mostly, they are simple changes, like switching to French pressed coffee or buying fresh bread from the local bakery. But sometimes, as happened on my recent trip to South America, these new surroundings have a much larger impact – in this case, making me more aware of how “modern conveniences” can hide our true environmental impact, even from ourselves.

What I discovered abroad wasn’t so much a new idea as an old one that I had somehow forgotten. My travels through Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile reminded me that I could use a lot less water then I often do.

South America, as a whole, accounts for about half of the earth’s supply of fresh water. I can attest to the fact that, while in Patagonia, I tasted some of the cleanest water I ever have, straight from the glacier streams. But in the coastal region of Uruguay and the dry lands of the Argentinean wine country, fresh water is much less accessible. These towns make use of highly visible, aboveground irrigation systems, and water conservation is an imperative. The visibility of these systems served as a constant reminder of the source and accessibility of water, making me acutely aware of my own consumption.


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