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Making Water Work for Everyone

“According to climate scientists, it may be the worst arid spell in 1,200 years.” -Timothy Egan

I am a bath addict. I have been known to change hotel rooms and even hotels, more than once so I can take a bath at the end of the day. For me there is no other way to wash away not just the dirt and grime of work and chores, but more deeply give myself the spiritual cleanse that comes with a long soak in a hot, steamy tub. It is the one place where I procrastinate as my belly eases and muscles relax, layers of anxiety evaporate into the steam coming off the water. It is not lost on me the level of extreme luxury I live in which affords me not only the lovely tub, but seemingly endless supply of clean and usually hot water. This gift of a nightly soak excludes vast swaths of the global population.

Rarely do we stop and consider the wonder of hygiene and how foundational access to clean water is to everything that makes life healthy. Like most of our most essential blessings the regularity and normalcy of turning on a tap to hot running water is just how life is. It is news for us here to consider an impending water insecurity that billions of people have lived with forever. About 80% of world population lives in areas where fresh water supply is not secure, meaning that they lack reliable availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of fresh, clean water for health, livelihoods and production. By 2030 the UN estimates 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress. Given current trends in climate change, those numbers may be even higher and closer to home.

A recent New York times expose about the epic and unprecedented water shortages and rationing in California is a wakeup call. Recent trends concerning this life-giving resource is being brought to light demanding that we question the historical agreements and beliefs about water availability. California’s water plight, one of the most populous states in the country, where agriculture produces only 2% of its gross product and 3% of jobs uses up a whopping 80% of its water supply. Worse still, much of the water thirsty farm production is shipped overseas, essentially shipping precious water to China. More and more citizens who are being asked to cut usage by 35% are well aware that if the nut growing community’s (which is also extremely harmful to the bees) water supply was turned off, there would be no water shortage in Southern California.

Rethinking our precious resources needs to happen, not only locally, but globally. There is no way that we can make a sustainable planetary future without significant advances in water planning infrastructure and technology. This is particularly true for the poorest nations in the world, where they have the least resources to deal with water issues. I would not want to witness what the world would look like if water is allocated based on financial resources, but if ever there would be grounds for revolution this could well be it.

It is beyond time for us to pay attention to one of the few truly game changing paradigms that we face as a species and apply the same ingenuity and resources that have exploded our technological capacities to the water. The human body is made up of over 90% water, our planet is covered in water and yet, the resource of clean, available water remains in serious jeopardy.

Let’s start paying attention to what matters most. Clean water is where it begins…