Let’s Change our Water Story

A view of the Potomac River from Great Falls. Photo: Willard Culver/National Geographic Creative
A view of the Potomac River from Great Falls. Photo: Willard Culver/National Geographic Creative

Our human story has always been a water story.

The earliest civilizations developed and grew along rivers – from the Tigris and Euphrates in the Middle East, to the Nile in Egypt, to the Yellow River in China. Rivers have been the lifelines for the growth and evolution of societies, providing the essentials of food, trade, and culture.

Today, the daily news reminds us that global water trends are not good. Rivers are running dry, groundwater is being depleted, droughts are deepening, and competition for limited supplies is heating up.

This year, for the first time, the Geneva-based World Economic Forum declared “water crises” to be the top global risk in terms of impact – bigger than fiscal crises, weapons of mass destruction, or the spread of infectious diseases.

Some 750 million people – more than one in ten – do not have access to safe drinking water. As a result, instead of starting small businesses and studying for school, women and girls spend hours each day fetching water for their families.

Meanwhile, freshwater ecosystems are in decline from dams, diversions, and pollution. In North America, the rate of extinction of freshwater fish, mussels, amphibians and other faunal groups is 1000 times greater than natural background rates.

It’s easy to feel despairing. But since each of these trends is of our own making, it is within our power to turn them around.

So as we celebrate this World Water Day, let’s also pledge to act – to do something in our own lives that can make a difference to our local – or even global – water sources. For sure, we need policies that promote more sustainable use and management of water. But we can also build —> Read More

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