Water is peace, water is life, water is dignity
Have you ever been stumped by this question: Why bother to conserve water? We have the same amount of water on our planet as we have had for millions of years. Here’s how to answer: water is peace, water is life, water is dignity.
Water is everywhere. It circulates around the globe from the snow packed mountains into rivers, eventually making its way to the ocean. From there, the cycle starts all over again. It evaporates, turns into clouds and then rains somewhere in the world.
Yet somewhere in the world water is falling either too little or too much. Global warming will bring flooding in some regions and droughts in others, with extreme weather patterns becoming the norm.
World Water Watchers is tracking shortages all over the world. California is not alone. Around the world droughts are devastating crops and livelihoods in Ethiopia, South Africa, and Thailand. In India, 330 million are affected by severe drought and water shortages.
In the Pacific Northwest where rain has always been in abundant supply it’s important to keep in mind that a fresh and predictable water supply is not guaranteed for the future. British Columbia is experiencing yet another year of drought. In Oregon (my home state), glacial snowpack is disappearing each year at an alarming rate. Approximately 61 percent of White River Glacier has disappeared (glaciers in the Northwest supply water to thousands of acres of croplands in this region).
It’s worth watching this one minute video by the Nature Conservancy to remind us that water scarcity is both a global and a local issue.
For our personal uses, water comes from local rivers, lakes, or from groundwater aquifers. “The problem with water scarcity emerges when we start using those water resources at a rate faster then they are being replenished,” said Brian Richter, lead scientist for the water program at The Nature Conservancy.
Irrigation siphons off much of the water for farming and food production, water-intensive industries such as energy production (hydro) and manufacturing, and used for making green lawns greener. About a third of these uses are taking more water then are being replenished from rivers and lakes which leads to water shortages and damaging aquatic species and natural fresh water ecosystems.
What can we do? This one minute video by Nature Conservancy sums it up quickly. More than 90 percent of water consumed in scarce regions is being used for agriculture to grow food and other crops.
“If that much water is being used out in the farm then if we could save just a very small percent of water, it would free up a tremendous volume of water that could be used for other purposes.”
Others who don’t currently have access to water would be able to use it and we could return a lot of that water back to the environment to restore aquatic habitats and lakes that have been dried up from over use.
Recently the Deputy Secretary-General’s key note address provided these guiding global water concepts during Stockholm’s World Water Week:
“Water is peace, water is life, water is dignity.
Peace, yes – water is central to the security of communities and nations.
Life, yes – water is indispensable to development, indeed to our survival on Earth.
Dignity, yes – water is a human right, fundamental for justice and rule of law.”
Only 2.5 percent of our planet contains fresh water. About 70 percent of our water is locked in icecaps and snowfields. Less than one percent is available to us in rivers, lakes, clouds, and aquifers.
Perhaps now is a good time to change our water guzzling ways and prepare for a future in which water conservation and sharing resource wealth around the world is the norm rather than the exception.
Author: Kathryn Thomsen
Founder of Hundredgivers, a nonprofit supporting and accelerating sustainability initiatives benefiting local and global communities. In addition to social entrepreneur, Kathryn is a consultant, researcher, writer, communicator and urban farmer. She collaborates with individuals, organizations, and businesses to evaluate and develop climate change, clean energy, and sustainability strategies and programs.