Conservation Efforts Affect Worldwide Availability of Drinking Water

Can one person change the world? It’s not likely unless you’re watching a sci-fi movie. But one act multiplied by billions of people can make a big difference in the future of our planet Earth. I’m reminded of the story about the starfish. A man is walking along a beach and nonchalantly picks up a stranded Starfish and tosses it back into the sea. His companion asks why he even bothered because there were so many others dying on the shore. He felt it hardly made a difference. The starfish rescuer replied . . . “It makes a difference to that one.” Likewise, one by one, we can make a difference in the life or death of our planet’s inhabitants if we practice conservation of water.

The power of one is about people making a difference in small but significant ways. It’s based on the multiplication factor of your small, but significant, changes to help curb the present water wastefulness and ensure that future generations will have potable water. One U.S. government report sites a survey that showed 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013. The southeast states had plenty of water until the last 10-20 years’ growth of people and development. Population needs are also creating a struggle for the Southwest states to provide their residents with water. Midwest states are seeing their wells dry up, which threatens the production of crops due to the cost of drilling new wells. Both the Northeast and Northwest states have been blessed with an abundance of rivers and lake systems, but these states have been proactive in protecting their water source.

The story repeats itself around our shrinking world. Consider Africa’s Lake Chad. It is one-twentieth the size it was 40 years ago. Latin America’s access to water is compromised by pollution and social inequality. Mexico City gets 70% of its water from aquifers that are being exhausted 80% faster than they’re being replenished. Nearly 70% of the Haitian population lacks direct access to potable water. These examples are only a fraction of the many areas of the world suffering or threatened by water shortage.

There are both individual and community actions to solving our water dilemma. Your individual actions may include the following solutions:

(1) Make a concerted effort to use less water.

(2) Avoid using water during times of drought.

(3) Catch rain water in barrels for use on the lawn.

(4) Turn the faucet off when brushing your teeth.

(5) Take shorter showers.

(6) Contact your government representatives; both state and federal, to encourage them to pass new legislation that helps conserve water shortages.

(7) Consider a membership in national water conservation advocacy groups.

(8) Support organizations that work to save the environment and our water resources.

Community solutions to the global water problem include:

(1) Repair of leaks in municipal water systems.

(2) Recycle waste water for large-scale irrigation demands.

(3) Provide incentives like rebates to encourage consumers to replace old appliances with more efficient water saving ones.

(4) Fine people who violate water restrictions on lawns, gardens, washing cars, etc.

(5) Vary water fees so that those who consume more pay more.

(6) Promote public awareness with campaigns to encourage water-saving effort.

(7) Build renewable energy sources to replace traditional power plants.

As long as we can turn on the faucet and water flows out, we tend to be complacent about where our water comes from and how much is available. Sam Bozzo and Malcolm McDowell directed a documentary called “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” in an effort to direct public attention to the global water crisis. Its promotional website states that as our “Blue Gold” enters the global marketplace and political arena, it will be sought out and fought over as oil is today. They warn that if we don’t help each other by making water a global consciousness, the outcome may be war. Although competition for water will intensify in the decades ahead, some believe that there has been more cooperation than conflict over water between countries. Let’s hope concern for the environment continues to draw nations together in an effort to protect our natural resources.

We cannot afford complacency. By 2025, more than half the world’s nations will face freshwater shortages. Water experts at Sandia National Laboratories say that by 2050, seventy-five percent of the world’s nations will face freshwater scarcity. There is an abundance of data that supports the dire situation we face if we fail to conserve our water. Consider these principal threats to our global water sources:

(1) Population growth.

(2) Global warming.

(3) Infrastructure development.

(4) Deforestation, agriculture, and urban growth’s land conversion.

(5) Pollutants released by agricultural businesses and industrial chemicals, as well as human wastes . . . two million tons daily.

Note that population growth is the number one threat to the world’s water supply. The United States population increased 2-fold since 1990, while water use increased 6-fold. The population growth of countries already stressed for clean water is expected to increase by 6-fold over the next 30 years. You might argue that with all the lakes, rivers, oceans and seas of the world, we can’t possibly be facing water shortage. But consider that 97% of the earth’s water is ocean salt water. Of the remaining freshwater, only about 0.3% is in readily available river and lake sources, and these are being depleted and polluted. Although you might suggest large scale de-salination plants to provide freshwater, environmentalists are against depleting our ocean waters and creating a different type of problem. Bottom line, our need is for freshwater that isn’t tainted by disease and parasites due to poor sanitation.

A United Nations Human Development Report of 2006 states that “When it comes to water management, the world has been indulging in an activity analogous to a reckless and unsustainable credit-financed spending spree.” Some conservationists believe that an important way of achieving efficient and equitable use of water is to see water as an economic good with economic value. Currently, a square meter of water costs 51 cents in the United States, $1.18 in the United Kingdom, and $1.91 in Germany. Attacking people’s pocket books by raising the price of water is one way of getting their attention.

Along this same thought of water as an economic good, consider this; though the U.S population quadrupled in the past century, water consumption increased from 5 to 10 gallons per person to between 80 to 100 gallons per person per day. Europeans, however, are said to use significantly less water than the United States. The suggested reasons are that they pay higher water prices, have more efficient distribution systems, have wide-spread use of water-saving devices, and they use less water for irrigation of their lawns and gardens. Each of us, whatever our nationality, needs to decide individually that we are a power of one in rescuing our valuable global water supply.