by Prof. Liwayway Memije-Cruz
“Where there is no water, there is no life. . . . We live by the grace of water.” -Michael Parfit, writer for National Geographic
Almost all living things on Earth need water to live yet humans pollute and waste it recklessly. More than a fifth of the world’s population doesn’t have enough of it. Some areas have far too much water and suffer from floods, like Bangladesh and the flood plains of Mississippi in the United States. Other areas, like Africa and West Asia, suffer severe droughts. The problem of water availability is most serious in Africa and West Asia. If water consumption continues at its present rate, by 2025 two out of three people will not have enough water for their basic needs.
There is indeed a shortage of water everywhere. Why? Before, water is accessible and we are not yet buying bottled drinking water. The bodies of water are pristine and so clear. Nowadays, the scarcity of water is being felt already in most of the countries all over the world. The indications are very clear. According to an Uzbek saying, “If you run out of water, you can run out of life.” These words seem more prophetic than proverbial as what experts are pointing out now. Mining and industry pollute rivers with deadly chemicals. Farmers spray crops with pesticides and fertilizers, which are washed into rivers and lakes. In many parts of the world, people use rivers as open sewers and garbage dumps. Near coasts, when too much water is taken from aquifers (big underground reservoirs of freshwater), seawater seeps in and makes the water salty and undrinkable. It is like taking more money out of a bank than you put in, you get an overdraft and eventually go broke. We are doing this to our aquifers all over the world. In West Asia, North America, China, India, Russia and United States, we run huge annual water overdrafts. This combined with the discharge of untreated industrial waste and sewage into water systems makes water shortage one of our most critical environmental issues.
Each year about two million people die as a result of poor sanitation and contaminated water, and 90 percent of the victims are children. Diane Raines Ward wrote in her book entitled Water Wars-Drought, Flood, Folly, and the Politics of Thirst, that 40 percent of the world’s population “carry their water from well, rivers, ponds, or puddles outside of their homes.” In some countries, women may spend up to six hours fetching water for their families, lugging it home in containers that, when full, weigh more than 40 pounds.
Water is indeed considered as a precious commodity. In fact it has been regarded as the “liquid gold”, the oil of the 21st century. However, there are already alarming signs that most rivers allover the world are drying up already. These include the Indus in Pakistan, the Ganges in India, the Nile in Egypt, the Yangtze in China and the Colorado River in the Western United States.
A water as well as sanitation crisis is now being felt all over the world. According to the report done by the World Health Organization, the severity of the problem now is being felt in Africa, where 6 out of 10 people do not even have a proper toilet-a factor that contributes to the transfer of bacteria, viruses and parasites found in human excreta which then contaminates water resources, soil and food. The WHO report further stressed that the said contamination is a major cause of diarrhea which is the second biggest killer of children in developing countries, and it could also lead to other major diseases like cholera, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.”
· According to Globe and Mali, Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior which are popularly known as the five great lakes of the United States and Canada are shrinking “at an alarming pace.”
· According to the Scientific American Journal, the Aral Sea in Central Asia which was the fourth-largest lake on the planet in 1960 had shrunk to 10 percent of its original size in 2007
· New York Times reported that the usual production of rice grain by the Australia’s Deniliquin Mill that could then meet the needs of 20 million people had been reduced by 98 percent. The said mill closed in December 2007 due to six long years of draught.
Undoubtedly, water crisis is global. It thus poses health risks to billions of earth’s inhabitants including us.
What are the steps taken by people around the world in order to bring water supply and water use back into balance? Each country has its own method of dealing with the water crisis. Some are already into:
¨ Setting up of windmills in some countries where favorable winds regularly blow, windmills raise water to the surface and also serve to generate electricity.
¨ Desalinization of seawater is also viewed as a variable solution. in wealthier nations
¨ Building of Dams
What can we do to help solve water shortage?
1. Conserve water in the home. Recycle or reuse water.
2. Avoid dumping waste on land surface.
3. Do not allow wastewater to get into bodies of water.
4. Participate in efforts to protect water resource base, such as watersheds, rivers, and lakes.
5. Do not dump solid waste on unlined landfills to prevent contamination of groundwater.
6. Adopt a water watch campaign in the neighborhood.
7. Assist in educating the community on the effect of over-pumping along the seashore.
8. Conserve water resources by planting trees that can hold the water in watersheds.
9. Reduce water uses to allow others to avail of the water supply.
10. Support legislation for the proper management of aquifers along seashores.
11. Prevent contamination of surface water by proper waste disposal.
12. Support government projects for the development of water infrastructure.
13. Assist in monitoring point source pollution.
14. Identify possible areas that can be a source of pollution.
15. Help in the information campaign on proper water management