Is it possible for us to run out of fresh water? Of course not, it is in a perpetual cycle right? Like we learned at school? Unfortunately not.
Yes the Earth is covered with the blue stuff – but sadly 97% of it is salt water. A tiny 3% is fresh and drinkable, and this figure is diminishing. The water in our cycle is being destroyed – poisoned, polluted and lost at a rate that would make your head spin.
The documentary on this link describes water as ‘Blue Gold’ and analyses the World Water Wars that are raging across the Globe each day. It discusses the political motives that have seen water become a commodity in recent history, rather than a standard human right.
We know that our ground water supply is polluted by run off from agriculture, contamination with human sewage, exhaust fumes and emissions from industry, which is addicted to fossil fuels. But when we consider this in the context of fresh water as a finite resource, this knowledge becomes far more of a worry.
We are depending on ground water more than ever, pumping billions of gallons every single day. This is especially foolish when we do not know with any accuracy how much water is actually beneath us. On an ecological level, this incessant plundering of the ground water is changing the planet’s plate tectonics. The Earth’s land masses are becoming lighter as water is removed, and the ocean floors are becoming heavier. This leaves us vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, and is also responsible for sink holes and subsidence of whole cities.
The Earth is extremely resilient, but the water is being pumped out at a rate that is nowhere near the amount being replenished, especially when the rain that is falling is not given a chance to seep back through to the ground water supply. There are a number of factors contributing to the loss of rain, which is simply running straight into the sea.
Deforestation is a big cause of water loss. With no thirsty tree roots, the soil loses the ability to hold water. Soil actually erodes, becoming harder, losing precious millimetres, which is infertile and just blows away. We are becoming more urbanised, the vast areas of hardscape of not allow water to permeate like the rural spaces. Instead, rain is captured in drains and whisked away through the sewage system to the sea. Enormous hydrodams are also contributing to the problem, as while the water is trapped, rivers are interrupted and choked. The dry river beds become arid soil, which erodes, where there used to be a vein of water feeding nutrients and oxygen to the land. While it sits stagnant in the reservoirs, water loses the nutrients that it held. By damming the rivers we are literally choking the life blood of the earth.
The real problems arise when huge multinational companies recognise an opportunity to make a profit from the brewing global crisis surrounding this essential, depleting finite resource. 3 companies to be precise – Veolia, RWE/Thames, Suez, have slowly but surely bought the right to control the water in many countries across the world. Governments have allowed their public water supplies to be privatised, and the result is that control of much of the world’s water is in the hands of these businesses. The WTO declared water as a commodity and thereby the ‘right’ to have access to fresh water was put in the balance.
After privatisation service problems began to arise. There were no clear performance requirements or any guarantees for performance, and grass roots communities were obviously the first to suffer. Water rates invariably began to rise, with water meters installed in parts of Africa, which made clean water an absolute luxury, unattainable by most. In some African countries Coca-cola took went a step further still, selling their bottled water (Dasani) at a considerably higher price per litre than Coca-cola itself.
It has been clear to see that large companies are preparing to capitalise on the control of this commodity. Many will in fact make a profit from the dirty water that they are creating. Money is being pumped into expensive clean-up technologies and enormous desalination plants. If the time comes that we rely on sea water to meet our needs, the companies that are in a position to provide it will have full control over our access. They will own the water.
Governments have been mapping areas of the world that they expect to suffer the most as our water supply depletes. Strangely rich political families are starting to purchase areas of land in Latin American countries that are blessed with abundant fresh water. Canada is also feeling the pressure. Military bases are beginning to crop up close to these water rich areas. It feels suspiciously like those at the top of the chain are preparing for war.
So What Can We Do?
Thankfully, there is always something that we can do! Once again, it will depend on us, the public, coming together in unity. The corporations are not invincible, politicians are not safe either. Mayors that have taken bribes to privatise water in their cities are being taken down. Huge multinationals are losing small battles with local people over individual lakes and the momentum is growing.
On a physical level we can help to replenish the ground water by creating small water catchments. Digging holes in the ground and building small dams in streams with logs. The idea is not to divert the natural flow of water, just to catch it to allow enough time for some of it to seep into the ground.
Replenishing the ground water will reboot the cycle; there will be more rain and clouds. And as the documentary states, employing people to build small water catchments could reduce unemployment across the world! It is an inexpensive, uncomplicated solution – and we can start right away!
Another issue to support is the decommissioning of dams. There are alternative ways to harness hydroelectric power – such as micro turbines which do not effect the flow of rivers.
Another realistic yet controversial solution is to limit population growth in areas, depending on the available water supply there.
Finally – something that you have heard time and again….DON’T WASTE WATER!
Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth, change to a low flow shower, or limit yourself to 3 minutes, use an economical toilet flush, how about stop hosing your lawn? Water is incredibly precious. We need to use every drop wisely.
Stay aware! Find out where your own water comes from and goes to. If we all start to protect our supply we can prevent serious problems in the not too distant future.
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