Oct 15, 2010

[Blog Action Day] Water

Welcome to Blog Action Day 2010! I think this is only the second time that I'm participating in this particular blog event despite the usual demands of the work life beyond. Besides, it's for a great cause.

Flickr: Engineering at Cambridge - Victoria Hickman - 'Water shortages in Kibera'
Victoria Hickman - 'Water shortages in Kibera'
by Engineering at Cambridge via Flickr.

There's an old rhyme attributed to the naval profession that goes, "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink" - a good way to capture the truth of things. Despite a planet that is mostly covered by water, many people are without regular access to potable drinking water. Nearly 38,000 children under the age of five die from unsafe drinking water and lack of hygiene every week. A number of wars have been fought over control of clean water, potentially including the conflict in Darfur.

Earlier this year, the United Nations declared that access to clean water and sanitation is now considered to be a basic human right. But making such a declaration is the easy part - the trickier part is doing something about it.

So what are we going to do about it? Sure, it seems like an overwhelming program that is bigger than all of us, but every little bit counts as long as we all pull together.

Think about the waste we generate on a daily basis. Are we recycling or do we have access to recycling facilities? We should do everything that we can to reduce the amount of waste we generate since a lot of this ends up in our rivers, lakes and oceans. Do you still use plastic shopping bags? Plastic waste is one of the most prevalent and resilient out there and this almost never seems to go away. There is a huge mass of floating plastic waste in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that stands as a testament to our wasteful ways.

A large pile of half-pint Poland Spring bottlesImage via WikipediaThink about your preference for bottled water. Clean water is important yes, but bottled water actually requires more resources to produce compared the end result. In the US, it takes over 17 million barrels of oil to meet the demand for the 200 water bottles consumed per person per year. The water may be clean, but the plastic bottles remain and pollute our planet and linger on indefinitely.

Water is important to all processes. It takes a lot of water to produce the food we eat and even more to produce the highly synthesized fast foods that we seem to enjoy so much. Water goes into the production of energy and we consume even more of that just to charge our exotic gadgets and devices. And the list goes on and on.

To bring things closer to home, the recent Water: Crises and Choices - ADB and Partners Conference 2010 organized by the Asian Development Bank brought a lot more attention to the issue in the region. The studies discussed at the conference stress the importance of new technologies for water delivery and crop irrigation in order to increase efficiency, increase output and reduce waste.

ADB's Special Senior Advisor Arjun Thapan stated “Asia’s water world has gone past its tipping point. The challenge now is to urgently halt, if not reverse, the decline in freshwater availability." Many of the speakers agree that Asia is approaching a water crisis driven by increasing demands for food given the highly overwhelming population growth in the region. And this problem isn't going to go away on its own.

It is the responsibility of every individual to push for conservation of resources and greater responsibility in how they are used. We can't just expect our governments or major corporations to do the work for us. That's a narrow-minded and self-centered view of things that has contributed to why we're in this situation in the first place.

Everyone needs clean water to live. Think about how you can help protect this valuable resource, for the sake of our future and for those to follow after us in the years ahead.
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