Living in an affluent country like the United States with abundant natural resources it is easy to forget just how important things like fresh water are, and even in those parts of the country where there are water shortages it is little more than an inconvenience for most, making them take shorter showers and not water their lawns, yet as the number of people in the world continues to grow the amount of water remains roughly the same.
According to the United Nations food and Agricultural Organization by the year 2025 nearly 1.8 billion people will be living in parts of the world with “absolute water sacristy”, meaning that every drop of water will matter to those people and it is likely that just getting enough water to survive will become part of their everyday lives and even now 1.1 billion people do not have access to enough clean water to meet their daily needs.
Yet it isn’t just those who will live in those areas of water scarcity that will be effected. Currently nearly 70 percent of the fresh water used in the world is used by agricultural concerns meaning that as water becomes more scarce the ability to grow food will also be effected causing even more trouble.
These concerns have not yet began to effect America directly, but they are beginning to cause a true security challenge as the U.N. says that if nothing is done there are more than fifty countries on five continents which will likely be involved in water disputes. Even if the United States manages to not be one of these countries, these wars will likely be far more bloody and far more difficult to mediate than wars over land or power.
How can you tell a country that a war for water is not in their best interest? How can you tell people who are starving that fighting their neighbors over the food isn’t a good idea? How can you call someone irrational or evil when all they want is clean water and food for their people? But how can you allow them to fight a war for that when it means taking those same things from other people?
It is time for countries all over the world to begin to adopt effective water management programs, but those who are in most need of it are also those who are least able to afford the costs to create the infrastructure they need to clean water and grow crops in a more effective and ecological way, and it is unrealistic for those of us with so much to expect those with so little to sacrifice, even if it is for their own good.
With our credibility stretched in the world, this is a simple place where we can step in and no one will question or motives or or ability to help, yet stepping in will not be an act of charity, but an act of enlightened self interest and one we must take before the crisis is on us.