The image above is the town in which I live, panoramic photos taken only one block away, rolled up into one tiny planet. It is meant to illustrate how at-home our thinking is when we neglect to think about the larger environment in which we find ourselves. We confine our thinking to the immediate, the how and what that affects us personally. I am guessing that the majority of inhabitants in my town are very unaware of the statistics I found and printed below. Unaware, because it is not happening to them or affecting them directly.
I write about water often, and am lucky to live in a place that has an abundance of fresh water. When you consider statistics from around the globe, the use and misuse of water becomes alarming. I came upon this chart that drives the message home.
Chart from A World Without Water, a blogger who is a Civil Engineer from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
Makes you think, right, when you look at water usage in the US compared to say, Mozambique. The water crisis is not only one of unmitigated scarcity, but one of poor land management and inequitable distribution, worldwide.
In the US, the average American uses up to 175 gallons of water a day, but this estimate does not include the amount of water necessary to clothe or feed us. Thankfully, it is less per capita than twenty years ago, but it is still eye-opening.
One thing is astonishingly a given: the water crisis is getting alarmingly more severe. The lack of fresh, clean water, threatens the economy and human health in about 80 countries.
So much so, that 40 % of the world’s population do not have immediate access to clean water or clean living conditions in many areas, both remote and proportionally, highly populated.
There are many videos of the suffering in these countries. One, and a good source of information is, A World Without Water. When you reduce this concern to numbers, it becomes a worrisome consternation. This video is a very hard video to watch because of the stark reality of the struggle of humans. Much turmoil is caused by the exploitation, privatization and commercialization of water. In addition, big corporations set up factories draining local aquifers and depriving farmers and families of what should be a right to life.
Think about that in terms of poverty. Almost two in every three people needing protected drinking water subsist on less than $2 a day, and to further delve into the depths of poverty, one in three lives on less than $1 a day. About a billion people across the globe do not have ready access to safe water; meaning, they must walk long distances to retrieve it everyday. Just consider that millions of women and children spend several hours a day collecting water from far and often polluted wells.
The lack of potable water has increased the use of waste water for farming. Consider for a moment that about 10 percent of the world’s people consume foods irrigated by waste water containing chemicals or disease-causing organisms. Every day an estimate of 3900 children die as a result of insufficient or unclean water, where the lack of potable water can increase the risk of cholera, typhoid, dysentery and other infections. But simple diarrhea is the lead cause of death of the young.
The situation can only get worse as water gets evermore scarce due to extremes in weather, land reuse and misuse, contamination and dead zones, and of course, the highly debated climate change; these being only a few cited examples.
This scarcity pressures people into stockpiling water in their homes, which increases the risk of contamination and inadvertently creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These vectors are carriers of dengue, malaria and other diseases. Not to mention the dangers of the reuse of plastic containers leaching carcinogens, like DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), a plasticizer or softener for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Sometimes you have to wonder about things that have become so engrained in our culture for the sake of ease and convenience, like in the US. But certainly there is no convenience in walking miles to fill up a plastic jug for a days worth of precious water in Bolivia if you are a peasant there.
3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease, according to the World Health Organization in 2008. In fact, WHO is a great source of frightening, mind changing statistics.
It is simple to realize that for those of us with a 24 hour supply, that there are those that water is a luxury. It is time to start doing the little things, where if millions of us that save water daily contribute and conserve, possibly we can make a difference for our very future. And it is our future that will be affected eventually. Estimates have water being priced per gallon higher than the price of gas in the future.
There are many possible ‘solutions’ proposed to get water where it is needed, as using and transporting glaciers from Antarctica. They would be dragged by special tracker ships and would ensure water for the arid countries around the world. The problem is that much of the glacier would melt before reaching its destination. And another problem to consider, glaciers are endemic to a region, and not to mention, are melting at alarming rates currently. Do we really want to further disturb an environment experiencing its own imminent stress?
One project that has some merit is transporting water in water bags, but this positions bulk transfer of water solidly as a commodity. The problem with this scenario, is that water goes where there is purchasing power and not necessarily where it is needed most.
Another solution would be the capture of aquifer layers. This too has its own inherent ecological ramifications, considering that water in some has been there a very long time and what does draining them do in the balance of things. Or, what Coca Cola has arguably done in Bolivia in the documentary film, A World Without Water, causing water to be drained from villages and towns, leaving people without.
And we still do not know the effects long-term of what we are discharging in the water. Experiments revealed that estrogen mimicking chemicals from waste water cause reproductive issues in fish and amphibians. And fish are aquatic life on which we depend.
The water crisis has led to strained situations and conflicts worldwide. Tension erupts as countries divert. You may ask how our planet which has 70 percent of its surface covered in water could face a water crisis. More than 97 percent of that water is ocean water. Of the remaining three percent, about three-quarters is locked away in ice caps or glaciers, and is basically unavailable. The fresh water is unequally distributed in areas that are inhabited. This is kind of a key point too, that people chose some of these places to set up home, and had to create ways to get water to them, like diverting rivers and the such.
Water is an emotive issue, about rights and health, tempered by politics. But ultimately, the commercialization of water not only takes it away from people, but from the rest of life, the trees, animals and microbes as well. And in doing so it is like the corporations are rewriting the laws of life. The rights of some are lost for the rights of other. And how did water become a right or a privilege? When it became a supply and demand scenario.
So, what does this have to do with gardening, you might ask? Most of you know the answer to this one. It lies in our planting practices and our conservation methods, much of what we do already. Oh, and you can save money too, always a personal plus.