I am Thinking About Water

There is not enough of it to take care of the growing world population.  And much of what exists is saline or brackish, is polluted, is claimed by more than one country, is wasted, is far from the population centers.  It is a question of scarcity, of increasing needs, of growing populations and urbanization, of insufficient infrastructure, of political rivalry, of changing weather.

I have just read through a publication put out by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, which puts a lot of this into perspective.   For example, the World Health Organization concludes that 2.6 billion people lack access to sanitary facilities, and 65% of the population of low-income countries are at risk of water borne disease. 1.8 million children die of diarrhea caused by unclean water every year.  Women in Senegal spend, on average, 17.5 hours a week collecting water.  Half of Accra, Ghana, cannot rely on safe drinking water.  China’s problems are themselves impossible to imagine:  outside of Tibet, there is no unpolluted lake in the country, 3/4 of surface water in Chinese cities is unsafe, 90% of urban ground water is polluted, and 40% of Chinese river water cannot be used in industry or agriculture.  And what about the Mekong River, where China, Cambodia and Vietnam have claims.  Or the Jordan River, with Israel, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians all with claims.  Or the Amu Darya, where a number of the Stans are competing with Russia for limited resources.  And on it goes.

There are many people working on the water problem, but it may be so enormous that no one will be able to solve it.  We can moan about the problems between Israel and Gaza, but that is a problem that human beings can solve if they want to.  That may not be the case when it comes to water.


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