Earth Day is on Friday 22nd this year (that’s Good Friday).
BUT, this newsletter is actually devoted to water…
World Water Day.
A Prayer for Japan
Our prayers go out to Japan and to the heroic people working to get cooling water on run-away nuclear reactors… (The role that water plays in the making of energy is another story.)
The Worst Case, Could be a Lot Worse
As bad as it is, and nuclear reactor issues aside, it could have been worse. Imagine if this earthquake had been on the other side of Japan? Actually between Japan and Asia?! The tsunami in 2004 killed almost 10 times as many people (230,000+) in several Asian countries.
Water, Water, Everywhere…
Water, so critical to life can be devastating in its absence. It can be devastating in abundance. Australia, plagued with decades of drought, finally got rain: it had an area flooded the size of Germany and France combined! This was followed in February with Cyclone Yasi in the northeast. (A cyclone is the Pacific version of a hurricane… and, yes, they went through the alphabet to get to Y.) We know a lot about hurricanes for two years starting in 2004 giving us in Florida 3 or 4 per year including Katrina that also hit New Orleans.
But the quiet pain associated with water is very easily preventable with very little money. More than 1 billion of our world’s 6.9B population have inadequate drinking water with an additional 1B having inadequate sanitation. The result is that more than 3.5 million people die each year because of easily preventable water-related diseases (World Health Organization). Approximately half of the world’s hospital beds are taken by water and hygiene-related diseases (http://water.org/learn-about-the-water-crisis/facts/).
World Water Day
World Water Day was initiated to try to solve health and wellness problems around the world where people have poor water and sanitation. The UN has a 10 year program to attempt to overcome the pain and death associated with inadequate water by 2015. Progress has been made, but it is slow.
WATER STATS: Most of the earth’s surface (70%+) is water. Yet only about 2.5% is freshwater. (The salt in oceans and some lakes make it unusable for drinking, agriculture, etc. without expensive desalinization processing.) Of the world’s freshwater 68.7% is in ice caps and glaciers, 30.1% is underground, ~1% is other, and barely 0.3% is fresh surface water! That’s about 0.009% of our total is fresh surface water. Freshwater is lakes (87%), swamps (11%) and rivers (2%). So as we divert and consume the fresh water available to us – taking from rivers and aquifers – the impacts become ever greater as rivers dry and ancient aquifers are depleted.
This year the theme is Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge. Cities everywhere are running out of fresh water.
The Water Bubble and Water Wars
The water bubble may be coming faster than we originally thought... Water sources, especially the invisible underwater aquifers are being depleted. This will show in increased prices for water, water shortages and food shortages/prices (Marks, 2009). “We're fast draining the fresh water resources our farms rely on, warns Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute” (George, 2011). Our own Ogallala Aquifer in the high plans of the US (underground aquifer from Texas through Wyoming) will be depleted in about 25 years. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer.).
Water wars and water conflicts are expected to increase dramatically. Counties (and states) that are at the headwaters of rivers can take all the water and leave nothing for the cities, farmers and fishermen below. Worst case, and a horrible example, is the Aral Sea. What used to be the world’s 4th largest lake is now mostly dry, highly salty and toxically polluted. Russia has been consuming the water that would have run downstream (and through) the former USSR state of Kazakhstan. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea and the following news video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8b0svfuO_k at Russia Today.)
The truth of the matter is... that water matters! …
Even in Florida where we are surrounded by H2O.
What can we do?
Basically, we need to become more informed about the sustainability impact of all we say and do. We need to become more informed consumers of water. Maybe compute our water footprint.
1) Compute your water footprint (and take actions to reduce it):
a. H2O Footprint: (Water footprint calculator.)
b. Facts at National Geographic
3) For Florida-centric details & water-saving tips, please visit: www.WaterMatters.org and www.savewaterfl.com.
4) References and links below.
Thanks for listening, reading, and thinking about sustainability.
Marks, S. J. (2009). Aqua shock: The water crisis in America. NY, NY: Bloomberg Press.