There’s an old saying, “Water is destiny.” As so much of our planet is covered by water, Earth is often referred to as the “Water Planet.”
“Water is of major importance to all living
things; in some organisms, up to 90% of
their body weight comes from water. Up
to 60% of the human adult body is water.
“According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological
Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed
of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water.”
Equally important, the vast majority of fresh water is used for producing food. Water stress therefore likely leads beyond dehydration to malnutrition, starvation, and greater susceptibility to disease. In countries that have never known water stress, people find it near impossible to believe it could happen to them. That makes us vulnerable, should it ever happen.
Here’s a carefully documented picture of water stress, followed by some suggestions of what we, as individuals, might do to prevent the problem.
• • • • • • • •
Water Stress Could Affect Half the World’s Population in Just 5 Years
28 August 19
“World Water Week” kicked off this week in the shadow of a frightening reality that nearly one-fourth of the world’s population is living under extreme water stress and in just five years, half the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions, according to the Weather Channel. The dire scenarios circle the globe, from New Mexico to New Delhi.
The misuse of groundwater in Indonesia is so grave that the capital city, Jakarta, is sinking, prompting the president there to move the seat of government to Borneo, as CNN reported.
In light of the pressing need to replenish the world’s clean water systems, the 29th annual World Water Week started in Stockholm with the theme: Water for Society: Including all. The event, which aims to draw the world’s attention to water-related challenges around the world, is hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and supported by the United Nations water programs. UN-Water publishes the annual World Water Development Report.
Torgny Holmgreen, SIWI’s executive director, said in a press release:
“Many in our societies are not aware
of the vital role that water plays in
realizing prosperity, eradicating poverty
and tackling the climate crisis. Together,
we can change that perception and unlock
the potential of water-related solutions.”
The meeting rooms teem with ideas and solutions as more than 260 sessions will be held over the six days of the conference, which includes more than 3,000 representatives from 100 countries, as the Weather Channel reported.
Dr. Jackie King, Stockholm Water Prize Laureate 2019, said, according to a press release:
“We have the methods and the technology,
but need the momentum to make them work.”
One area of focus this week is how large corporations consume water and what they can do to reduce their excess usage.
The textile industry took the spotlight on the opening day, acknowledging outsized water use in its manufacturing. Cotton, for example, is a thirsty crop, and it takes nearly 1,000 gallons of water to make just one pair of jeans, according to Lisa Hook, who works on sustainability for Gap Inc., as Reuters reported.
She also acknowledged that her industry adds about 20 percent of the pollution in fresh water sources, especially in developing countries where labor is cheap and pollution standards are lax. Hook said to Reuters:
“Gap Inc. sees water as a human right.
We can’t do business where there is no water.”
Coca-Cola is turning to new technologies that clean bottles with air rather than water. It is harvesting rainwater at its plants. It’s also looking to create new wetlands and to put back into nature an equal amount of water as it uses by next year, according to Reuters. Liz Lowe, the company’s British sustainability manager, said to Reuters:
“Water is the absolute heart of our
business. If we don’t have water, we
don’t have a business — full stop.”
PepsiCo has also taken the mantle of providing clean water to people in need. It has already delivered clean drinking water to more than 20 million people and teamed up with the Safe Water Network, Water.org, China Women’s Development Foundation and the 2030 Water Resources Group of the World Bank, according to Forbes.
PepsiCo has also partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank to help support infrastructure projects in Latin America where nearly 230 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, as Forbes reported. Roberta Barbieri, who works in sustainability at PepsiCo, said, according to Forbes:
“At PepsiCo, we believe that ac-
cess to safe water is a fundamental
right. No matter where you live,
no one should be left behind,”
• • • • • • • •
Now, what can you, personally, do about this sustainability issue?
First, some easy-to-do efforts …
- Change to low-flush toilets or – which is used all over Europe – dual-flush toilets. The latter save about two gallons per flush. If a toilet is flushed ten times a day, that’s 20 gallons a day, 600 gallons a month, etc. It adds up.
- Change as much of your landscaping to native plants, as you can, as they don’t require artificial irrigation and can withstand periods of heavy rain or drought.
- Change to low-flow showerheads so you enjoy the same shower experience for a fraction of the water.
- Donate old clothes you no longer wear to a consignment or thrift shop, to reduce the need for the cotton-based clothes manufacturers’ product. (1,000 gallons for a single pair of jeans!!!)
- If you have a single-family home – especially one with an older roof – replace it with a metal roof. Then install a cistern with a submersible pump and use the rainwater for all on-site irrigation.
The costs for these changes will likely be more than offset by the savings in your water utility bill. And they’ll produce a far better outcome than petitioning some governing body or large water-consuming corporation.
I hope you never experience water stress where you live. But this is not a “potential futures projection.” If you do — and half the world is already about to have water stress — addressing it after-the-fact becomes infinitely more difficult and costly. This is clearly one of those “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” scenarios.