We forget that the water cycle
and the lifecycle,
– Jacques Cousteau
The twenty second of March is the United Nations International Water Day. Water Day is a day to celebrate the importance of water in our lives. Water is a live sustaining matter for the planet and without it we, and many of the systems we rely on will cease to exist. At present there are 780 million people who don’t have access to clean drinking water, and 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation. Resulting in six to eight million human deaths annually.
Water is not only a vital life sustaining source for us to drink it is a valuable part of our production processes and natural environmental flows. The way that we currently consume water it is estimated that we would need three and a half planets to keep consuming at our current (western society) rates.
Water and Agriculture
But where does all this fresh water go?
Agriculture currently accounts for seventy percent of our freshwater usage, and up to ninety percent in rapidly expanding economies. With current global climate change estimates and eight five percent of the worlds populations living in the driest parts of the planet, there are concerns about increasing population numbers with estimates that agricultural water consumption will need nineteen percent more water by 2050. This is a worry when we are already so overcommitted that we require 2.5 more planets than we have available.
As we become more wealthy (particularly in developing countries like India and China) there is a dietary shift toward an increase in meat and dairy consumption, and a favouring for starchy foods. According to statistics from Hoekstra and Chapagain, 2008 presented on the UN Website ‘producing 1 kg of rice requires ~3,500 L of water, 1 kg of beef ~15,000 L, and a cup of coffee ~140 L’. Many of these countries converting to ‘western’ eating habits had diets based around fresh vegetable produce. With populations on the rise and changing tastes there is a prediction that well will need seventy percent more food by 2050.
More food will require more water.
Pollution and Climate Change
More people also means more pollution.
As developing countries experience population increases infrastructure (if there was any in the first place) struggles to keep up with sanitation requirements. Ninety percent of the waste water in these developing countries will flow into natural systems untreated, many of which are used for drinking and bathing. These natural systems can be polluted with everything from human excrement to the chemicals that result from garment production processes. Chemicals and pollutants can and will kill humans, and have flow on effects to all parts of our environmental systems that cannot always keep up with the amount of pollutants we put into them.
Pollution and drought know no boundaries. The pollutants from outsourcing production from developed to developing countries flow on in our rivers and oceans. Our economic activities have had a detrimental effect on the planets climate and we are getting warmer and water is becoming more scarce. The changes have also resulted in the possibility of an increase in extreme weather events.
What you can do
While all of this news sounds pessimistic and scary we really are at a tipping point in history. We have the capacity and awareness right now to start making positive changes. Small changes you can make at home include being water wise, having less children (any more than two and you are contributing to population growth), and opting for a date that requires less meat and dairy.
There are loads of ways you can learn about our planet and our water on the 2015 World Water Day website. But I urge you all to take a look at this initiative started by the lovely Vanuatu local (our wedding photographer) to provide Lifestraws, a device to convert contaminated water into drinking water to assist the people of Vanuatu whose island nation was severely affected by Tropical cyclone Pam.
Lets turn the dream of water for all beings and systems into a reality!
The story behind the photos
The lovely photos above were taken by my hubby at a little puddle on a construction site near our home. It is magical how beautiful a dirty mud puddle can be and it has provided a habitat for ducks and water birds along with a breeding ground for frogs (and those darn cane toads). I will be sad to see this ‘playground’ of life covered in buildings in the not-too-distant future.
For now I am off to celebrate the remainder of World Water Day kayaking after a thunderstorm that blew in.