A quarter of humanity is running out of fresh water, with the number of hydrologically stressed nations bound to increase due to climate change. That is the conclusion reached by the Washington-based World Resources Institute in an analysis of the latest data.
The challenge to the human race is further compounded by accessible fresh water comprising only one percent of all the water on the planet.
But all is not lost. A solution is lurking in the wings if a conservation ethic can be instilled into human beings’ state of mind and daily lifestyle.
How would this conservation ethic be expressed in practice? By integrating vigilance against wasting water into regular routine.
That said, conservation amounts to more than installing low-flush toilets and guarding against leaky faucets. In extremely arid regions, catch-basins should stand at the ready to capture and store the infrequent rainfall.
A class in water conservation techniques should be part of standard high school curricula throughout the world. Emphasis on recycling of waste water for drinking and agricultural purposes should be a basic tenet of the course.
From a governmental perspective, rationing systems should be prepared for activation in times of emergency.
Even countries not confronted by water shortages, but facing such a future scourge from burgeoning population growth, should enlist low-use drip irrigation and drought-resistant crops as precautionary measures.
When there is no immediate emergency but the conservation ethic needs to be enforced in anticipation of future challenges, a pricing system should be installed with the caveat that drinking water is a right rather than a privilege, even to those who cannot afford the tab. Governmental subsidies would then be in order.
Promotion of technological solutions for a sustainable, pollution-free water supply should accompany conservation inculcation. That includes desalinization of sea water, hopefully powered by solar energy rather than natural gas that releases carbon into the atmosphere.
Distribution has to be improved, especially to eliminate waste and expedite delivery. The key strategies in this regard are upgrading pipelines and reducing evaporation loss.
Regional pacts to share scarce supplies, and regulation of corporate water usage, can ease equity concerns regarding water access and reduce societal tensions.
Potential developments providing cause for optimism include preservation of Earth’s remaining wetlands and ultimate stabilization of human population growth and extreme climate fluctuations.