We can’t let the day go by without noting that today (March 22) is the 21st annual World Water Day, declared by the United Nations as a day to focus attention on the importance of fresh water and the need for the sustainable management of fresh-water resources.
We hope you didn’t roll your eyes. The global needs and demands for fresh water increase every year – from population gains, droughts, agriculture and other industries. It’s serious enough that, a few years ago, one MIT professor warned that water “is the next oil” – meaning that governments will begin to trade, store and maybe fight over water rights.
According to the U.N., “around 700 million people in 43 countries suffer from a lack of water. By 2025, 1.8 billion people (23 percent of the total expected population) will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population (another 3.4 billion people) could be living under water stressed conditions.”
You may ask: for “the blue planet” – a planet whose surface is more than 70 percent water – how can this be? Well, generally, 97 percent of the water on Earth is salt water, which is unusable in that form for most of our needs. (And desalination is costly.) That leaves 3 percent as fresh water. But two-thirds of that is locked up at the poles as inaccessible ice (ice that’s melting, which just sends it into the salty sea, causing a whole set of other issues). This leaves 1 percent of the water on Earth as accessible fresh water. Accessible; not necessarily clean, of course.
Here’s what the U.N. says on World Water Day: “The fulfillment of basic human needs, our environment, socio-economic development and poverty reduction are all heavily dependent on water. … Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threaten the resource, while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population, now at over 7 billion people, for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. Water is a shared resource and its management needs to take into account a wide variety of conflicting interests.”
So today we raise a glass … of refreshing tap water … and remind you of some simple ways to preserve and conserve this precious resource:
• take shorter showers.
• use less fertilizer and pesticides on your lawn.
• keep a pitcher of water in your refrigerator, so you don’t have to wait for your tap water to get cold.
• fix leaky faucets.
• watch for notices of river cleanups and volunteer your time.
• go to car washes (where water is recycled) instead of washing your car in the driveway.
• don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth.
• set up a rain-water collector, to store water that can be used for gardens and landscaping.
• and keep in touch with your legislators to encourage them to support clean-water initiatives.
Learn more about World Water Day at www.unwater.org/water-cooperation-2013/home/en/
And get more information about water conservation at www.maritimeaquarium.org/long-island-sound/conservation.