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“Water, Water Everywhere!...?”

by Bob Andrews

If you look at our planet from space it appears that water is everywhere! It may also seem that way here in Concord, where we are blessed with an abundant and well-managed supply of good, potable tap water. The worst scarcity of water we have ever experienced, to my recollection, is a restriction on how much we can water our lawns during peak summer heat. In such an abundantly supplied community, it may be hard to believe that our world, and even large sections of the United States, is threatened with an accelerating water crisis and that by 2050 millions of Americans could find themselves with “not a drop to drink.”

In fact, however, water that is fit to drink is already in short supply in many places around the world. The United Nations has published statistics that show that while the Earth has enormous water resources, 97.5% of all that water is salt water. Only 3.5% is fresh water; and less than 1% of that is fit to drink. “Water scarcity,” according to a U.N. website, “is among the main problems to be faced by many societies and the world in the twenty first century. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century; and, although there is no global water scarcity as yet, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water.” Details may be found on the web at http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.shtml.

Climate change, along with large-scale pollution, is aggravating the water crisis that growing numbers of human beings are already experiencing by bringing us more and more extreme weather, including new extremes of flooding and drought. Drought poses a serious and growing threat to large sections of the United States.

On May 20, 2013 the New York Times ran an article entitled “Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust.” The article describes what is happening to the High Plains Aquifer, described as “a waterlogged jumble of sand, clay and gravel that begins beneath Wyoming and South Dakota and stretches clear to the Texas Panhandle.” The article points out that although some portions of the aquifer still have very ample supplies of water, the more southern portions are “increasingly tapped out, drained by ever more intensive farming and, more recently, by drought.”

There is a great deal of attention paid by our government and media to “the energy crisis.” The prospect of running short of fossil fuels is commonly seen as a huge threat to our whole way of life; and our national government has made “energy independence” a policy priority. Countless billions are spent searching for new supplies of fossil fuels. New technologies have been developed to make sure that we extract every last drop of oil and natural gas from the Earth, even though some methods of extraction wreak terrible environmental damage, and burning them is fueling climate change.

Does it not seem that a threat to global water resources deserves at least equal attention and thought? Everyone on this planet, and all other forms of life as well, require potable water for health and survival. I believe that access to water should be considered a basic human right, along with clean air to breathe. I believe that government should manage our water so that it is accessible to all in a fair and equitable manner. Large corporations who disregard environmental and human needs should not be allowed to exploit water for profit. Think about that when you buy bottled water!

Bob Andrews is a Concord resident and a member of the Steering Group of ConcordCAN! .

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