It’s important to be clear of what we mean by “waste” when we talk about “wasting” water. Because it’s always going someplace, and doing something.
In Albuquerque, for example, we talk about reusing effluent from our sewage treatment plant. But we currently treat that water and put it back in the Rio Grande, where it supports riparian habitat and downstream water users. To them, it’s not being “wasted”.
Luke Runyon at radio station KUNC in Colorado did a great piece on the Ciénega de Santa Clara, in the Colorado River’s former delta, that illustrates the point. “Waste” water from agricultural practices in the United States was for decades diverted through a canal onto the mudflats where the Colorado River used to meet the Sea of Cortez. There, a fabulous wetland emerged, some of the best habitat of its sort remaining in the desiccated region.
But with pressure to stop “wasting” that water, the Ciénega is in perpetual peril:
As the Colorado River basin heats up and dries out like climate projections predict, Butrón-Méndez is concerned people will stop thinking of the water that flows to the wetland as waste, find a way to use it and, in turn, harm the Ciénega.