Protecting Our Water Is Everybody’s Business

While water makes up around 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh, and only 1 percent of that freshwater is accessible for the 6.8 billion of us living on this planet. With the population booming, this small percentage of water is only going to get smaller, and we are just now beginning to find ourselves in a water crisis. More than 1 billion people already lack access to safe drinking water. As a result, the competition for clean water used for drinking, cooking, bathing and survival is only getting more hostile, leading to water wars that affect impoverished countries.

Unfortunately, humans are not efficient when it comes to water usage. We’ve all seen that stubborn neighbor watering his flower beds during a summer drought, and some of us are probably guilty of taking long showers or leaving the water on too long while we brush our teeth. These bad habits, combined with leaky pipes, aging infrastructure, inadequate technology, inefficient flood irrigation and the intense irrigation of crops, waste water at an alarming rate.

In addition, climate change’s impacts will only further deplete water supplies as temperatures rise and pollution triggered by heavy rains increases. We are already witnessing reservoirs drying up across the globe, from California’s intense five-year drought, to Iran, whose agricultural output has been devastated by a lack of water.

Without adequate water supplies, impoverished countries will be hit the hardest, and their economic growth will be drastically affected, resulting in the spike of food prices. This lack of food security can in turn lead to increased violent conflict and migration. Look no further than Syria to see how this tragic scenario can play out; in 2006, Syria felt the worst drought in 900 years, which destroyed farms and decimated livestock. The resulting suffering and social upheaval were among the driving forces behind the unrest that ultimately led to this devastating Syrian war and the displacement of millions of refugees.

Water has become more important than oil. Changing our poor habits now can help the political climate On a large scale, we need to invest in water-saving and water-recycling technologies, improve how we irrigate crops, include grass-roots organizations in climate-change talks, improve government policies and regulations and strive toward sustainable manufacturing methods that use less water.

According to the Pacific Institute, the average Gambian uses approximately one gallon of water per day, compared with the 70 gallons used by the average American. To protect our water, we need to gain awareness and start employing better habits, like short showers or investing in gutters that save rainwater so you can water your plants. We can also fix leaky faucets in our houses, thaw food in the fridge and not with running water, and install an ultra-low-flush toilet. Every small step can make a difference as we aim to conserve the essence of life upon which we all depend.

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