Worldwide Water Conservation Can't Wait
by Doug Pushard and Christian Sarkar
hear a lot about the drought that we are experiencing in the southwest
and other parts of the United States, but we rarely hear about
dry conditions in other parts of the world and what others are
doing about it.
of the other places in the world that are experiencing drought
England: recent winter was the second driest in the last
- Australia: experiencing one of the worst droughts
in a century
- Portugal: facing its worst drought in 300 years
- Spain: experiencing the driest conditions in 60
- China: Yunan province is in the midst of a drought
that is affecting the drinking water supply of more than 7 million
- Eastern Africa: suffering from a severe drought
for the sixth year in a row
- Thailand: 63 of 76 provinces are suffering from
is a worldwide phenomenon, widespread and accelerating, or
so it would seem. And to make things worse, population growth
is also exacerbating water shortages. In the last fifty years,
we have added 3.1 billion people to our home planet that now need
water and it is projected that in the next fifty years another
2.8 billion will be added. Over this same period, the amount of
water has not increased. We are drilling deeper and deeper wells
to get to very old water sometimes labeled "dinosaur
water", building bigger and bigger dams to contain it,
and considering water pipelines to transverse mountain ranges
to move it. All this, to quench our current thirst.
of the worst droughts of the Twentieth Century occurred
in the Horn of Africa in 1984 and 1985. This NASA image shows
Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomaly for August
1984. NDVI anomaly indicates the vigor of vegetation relative
to the long-term average. Dark red indicates the most severe drought,
light yellow areas are normal, and green areas have denser than
consumptive ways are also impacting current water shortages. According
to a recent study in the UK, such wasteful habits are pervasive
there, too. In the 1920's, the average household used 31 gallons
(120 liters) per person per day. That has increased to 39 gallons
(150 liters) and is expected to rise. The more affluent we get,
and the more appliances we buy for the home, the more water we
use. As we watch our precious resource run down the drain while
brushing our teeth (an estimated 1.5 gallons or 6 liters), the
scarcity is perpetuated.
thoughtless and wasteful habits are part of the problem.
If the entire adult population of England and Wales turned off
the tap while brushing, it is projected that enough water would
be saved to supply an additional 500,000 houses, according to
the UK Environment Agency.
actions some areas are talking about range from the archaic to
the inane. In Folkestone, UK, the water company has asked the
Environment Minister for the right to make customers install water
meters, while in London, which uses more water than the national
average and a third more than other European cities, the London
mayor Ken Livingstone said they could start by "not flushing
the toilet after they had a pee".
come and go; they are part of our natural weather cycle, regardless
of your position on global warming, er, climate change.
what has undeniably changed is the world's population and our
consumption habits. So as small measures are being considered
and partially implemented today, just take a moment and contemplate
the same droughts fifty years from now.
Can You Do?
this as a backdrop, what can or should we do? What can one person
or family really do? I know we fully understand the desire to
run and hide (i.e. build a fully-sustainable house off the grid
in a remote location).
have both had fears, stemming from such factors as a lack of trust
in the government to address the problem, a lack of faith in others,
and a feeling that it may already be past the point of no return.
But what type of life is it when you survive and billions of
we must take care of our families. But just taking care of #1
is not sufficient. It is one of the reasons we started this website
- to help others understand how easy it is to conserve. But that
is not enough either. We are being efficient in our water use,
but we are also volunteering and helping others conserve.
urge you to do so as well. Each of us must first be efficient
in our water use and secondly, get involved in programs to help
others conserve water. Conservation is key to our future and our
is our most precious resource and we need to manage it as such
and teach others to do the same. We urge you to get involved today,
be part of the solution, conserve today and pass it on - volunteer!
it's time for the politics to end. Let's face reality and
search for the truth. No more partisan bickering. If we could
have made things better, but instead chose to look the other way,
then we are guilty - all of us, from our leaders on down - and
our children will blame us for doing nothing.
those interested in learning more about drought conditions
around the world or places to volunteer to help, we recommend
the links below. If these sites don't fit your particular circumstances,
call your local water conservation agency and volunteer.
and Conservation Related Sites: