Most observers believe a water crisis threat to be one of scarcity, but there is another crisis at hand for Earth’s many inhabitants living without regular access to drinking water and sanitation. However, global water mismanagement unfolds continually which does not bode well for the future – regardless of where you live. As we strive to accommodate those who are suffering from a lack of access, we must also turn our efforts toward conservation and other measures to protect global water resources for future generations.
Understanding the scale of water use goes beyond our individual daily concerns. Personal use accounts for a significant portion of the water used, overall, but this is only one aspect of the big picture. In fact, domestic water use accounts for roughly ten-percent of total consumption levels, so household personal water use accounts for a relatively small portion of the total water used; especially when compared to agricultural and industrial use. In each of the primary water usage categories: Agricultural, Industrial, and Domestic; there is room for management improvement leading to more efficient use and conservation of water resources. Shifts in the way we farm and eat, for example, hold the potential to greatly diminish the amount of water used to produce food. Simply moving toward a plant-based diet, with less acreage devoted to raising beef and feed crops, would have a significant impact in itself.
Recognize the Limited Resource
Averting a water crisis starts with recognition that water is a scarce and limited resource which must be protected and conserved. Responsible water management requires commitments from users, who must alter their behavior to successfully lower consumption levels. Until the commitment becomes widespread, the status quo will continue to support water waste.
Water Management Realities
Pressure from pollution, industrial expansion, and population growth has led to water usage that is not sustainable. In addition to scarcity, the quality of the world’s water supply is degrading as we continue to draw on water resources. A significant share of the world’s wetlands have been lost to farmland or other development, for example, and some of the world’s great rivers no longer complete their flow to the sea.
Once water usage is quantified and the resource is recognized as a scarce natural supply, there are only two ways to address shortcomings in the world supply: Find more water or use less. Consumption levels cannot realistically carry forward at the same rate; especially in light of population growth and forecasts accounting for future demands. As a result, synching our human needs with the natural planetary resources provided is the only way to avert a water crisis. Effective management works the equation in reverse; claiming only the amount of water that is sustainable, rather than continuing to deplete future resources.
In addition to incremental conservation efforts conducted by individuals, water management reform relies on strong leadership. Legislators and other global decision-makers are tasked with crafting policies that influence how water is used in industry and agriculture, which account for a vast majority of the world’s water usage. The world’s population continues to grow by around 80-million people annually, so the current water usage model is unsustainable for a growing set of users. Lawmakers and global organizations can no longer leave water issues for subsequent generations to remedy; water management must be prioritized as a global concern. Global water mismanagement has set the stage for a water crisis more widespread than today’s regional lack of access to fresh water. Conservation, effective water management, and changes in the way humans use water are promising strategies for heading-off catastrophic consequences.
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.