Water Works

Part of the Water: H2O = Life exhibition.

© Klaus Janssen/iStockPhotoDam

You've probably had a drink of water or washed your hands today. But humans put water to work for hundreds of other purposes—raising animals and crops, generating power, making paper, keeping lawns green. To support our water use, we have built a huge infrastructure—from massive dams that harness waterpower to vast networks of wells, canals, and irrigation ditches.

Our water works and water consumption are often necessary, but they can harm animals, plants, and other people. This may help explain why so many creatures that live in fresh water are endangered—aquatic animals make up about 60 percent of all endangered species in the United States. Smarter, more efficient practices and policies can help ensure that there's enough water for all life on Earth.