November 10, 2010

Water: The Most Precious Resource of All

by Golda Gonzales

We might not think of it often, one tends to take for granted what has always been here, but it also doesn’t take long to come to realize the preciousness of water.  Wherever you turn, and from every angle, life is possible thanks to water. There is no replacement for it.

From the tiniest cell of any living being to the most complex of organisms, like the human body, which is 60% water, survival is simply not possible without water.  Most of us could survive on less energy consumption per day—a lower or higher thermostat, depending on the season, a bit less TV or a more fuel-efficient vehicle.  However, it is unlikely that any of us could survive without water for more than a week.

It has been estimated that our bodies need approximately two quarts of water each day. From household consumption to agriculture and manufacturing, the extent to which water runs through our lives is precisely why we have to confront the challenge of using it wisely, distribute it evenly and preserve it for future generations.

Clean, safe drinking water is a scarce commodity in many parts of the world because 97% of the world’s total water supply is salty ocean water. Two per cent of the fresh drinking water is ice-trapped in the north and south poles and less than 1% comes from rivers, lakes and underground soil.

With this said, a dilemma is born…how do we ensure enough water for drinking, growing our food, cooling our power plants, etc. given limited resources and a fast growing global population?  With more than 83 million new people on the planet each year, (National Geographic, April 2010) in 15 years 1.8 billion people will be living in geographical regions where water will be severely scarce.

A study conducted by Goldman Sachs (Newsweek, October 31, 2010)  estimated that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years and that the UN expects water demand to outstrip supply by more than 30% by 2040.

Statistics already show that of the 6 billion people inhabiting our planet, 2 billion lack access to safe drinking water, with more than 1 billion of them living in the developing world.  Countries in West and North Africa as well as the Middle East and Asia are the most affected. Groundwater supplies in these areas are critically important for survival since many in these regions get very little rainfall throughout the year. According to studies, many of these aquifers are being drained faster than Mother Nature can replenish them.  Tensions among countries lucky enough to be on the shores of the Nile, the Danube, the Tigris, who have been sharing water supplies with neighbors, have increased due to water shortages and drought.

This grim landscape can’t help but bring up a couple of questions: how successful can water management be, at any level, international, federal, local? Is conservation of our fresh water resources enough to offset the growing in population, and therefore the increasing demand on our water supply?

One thing is clear: today we’re using more than half of the fresh water supply in the world and unless something is done soon, we are going to run out of our most precious resource, not in generations from now but in this century.  What can YOU do?