(Part 4 of 5: Clean Water Epidemic)
Water for Granted
While the United States is busy arguing about what chemicals to add to the water supply, many countries are unable to source enough water for basic needs – including parts of the United States. Did you know that over two thirds of worldwide water usage is for crop irrigation? In contrast, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization states that “water rather than land is the binding constraint” on crop production in at least a third of the world. It may be easy to write these problems off as being “third world,” however; water shortage is a “world problem” as it impacts our agriculture, our environment, and our health and wellness. As filmmaker Jim Thebaut, CEO and President of the Chronicles Group Inc. (a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising global water issue awareness) concluded, “[Water] is the centerpiece of our existence and it interrelates with everything—agriculture, food supply, energy, public health and all of these issues are really crucial. When you combine these with the problem of population growth—we are now [6.9] billion people going on 9 billion by the year 2050—water is really a major issue.”
Global Water Perspective
Fred Pierce, environmental writer and author of Transboundary Water: The Geopolitical Struggles for Control, states that “water will be the crucial issues of the 21st century. Once, we took water for granted. Increasingly however, water is not available where we need it or when we need it, and in a growing number of regions, scarce water supplies are limiting development and threatening food security.” Due to dwindling water supplies in many countries, water wars are developing for “water control.” Governments asserting control over existing natural water sources, and displaying aggression with the storage of clean water. Check out this staggering chart, by the World Resources Institute, that displays each countries “water stress” level by the year 2040 – should we continue our current trajectory of water usage.
Global Farming & Agriculture
To emphasize his point, many of the world’s largest rivers are severely decreasing in volume, some no longer reaching the sea in certain times of the year. Rivers like the Indus in Pakistan, the Yellow River in China, the Nile in Egypt, the Ganges in South Asia and even the Rio Grande and the Colorado in our own country. As these natural water supplies slowly disappear, many farmers have begun “mining” for their water by pumping groundwater. However, many farmers are utilizing the same sources creating major stress and additional drought conditions. With groundwater being mined 70% faster each decade, many countries are pumping their way into an even greater water crisis. Through importing and exporting, the success of global farming makes a huge impact on the overall global economy and food supply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one in every three acres on American farms is planted for export markets and imports give us access to products that would not otherwise be available—such as fresh fruit in the winter. Access to imports boosts the purchasing power of the average American household by about $10,000 annually.
“Water is the new oil, set to dominate global geopolitics in the 21st century. It will never become a global commodity like oil, but as the world faces real limits to supplies, and as climate change alters the geography of its availability, water will become an increasingly political issue both within and between countries. We will no longer be able to take water for granted.”