Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Water, Water...Nowhere?

Approximately 2/3 of our planet is covered by water.  But how much of it is usable for humans?  The answer: 1%.  That's it. Only 1% of the water on our planet is considered fresh water and usable by humans.  The other 99%, we can't really use. Let that sink in for a few seconds.

Now think about this:  It takes roughly 2,500 to 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.  (Another excellent reason to go meatless more often than not).  And, according to a recent Carnegie Mellon University study that investigated actual water use across 428 U.S. economic sectors, it takes over 4,000 gallons of water to produce one $20 bag of dog food and 283 gallons of water to produce one $1 bag of sugar.  That's a lot of water.  Water that we're running out of.  And we're not even talking about the bottled water industry that is literally trashing our planet! Annie Leonard has a new video out called The Story of Bottled Water.  It's definitely worth the few minutes to watch!

But, back to the the issue at hand.  With the global demand for water increasing due to population and industry growth, we are facing a global water crisis.  According to the Department for International Development, one billion people do not have an access to safe and affordable drinking water, and 2.4 billion people live in conditions lacking adequate sanitation.  More than 800 million people, 15% of the world population is malnourished, due in part to insufficient water for crops. Based on assumptions of population growth, projections of development and climate change, the Stockholm Environment Institute has estimated that the proportion of the world’s population living in countries with significant water stress will increase from approximately 34% in 1994 to 63% in 2025, including large areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Well that is just depressing and scary information.  But, all hope is not lost.  There is hope and there are solutions to these problems.  In his book, Plan B 4.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Lester R. Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, delves into the rising pressures of land, water and food scarcity, and offers potential solutions.  But perhaps the most important point of his proposed solutions is that we must act quickly if we are to turn these crises around.

"Plan B embraces a massive mobilization to restructure the world economy—and at wartime speed. The closest analogy is the belated U.S. mobilization during World War II. But unlike that chapter in history, in which one country totally restructured its industrial economy in a matter of months, the Plan B mobilization requires decisive action on a global scale. The four mutually dependent Plan B goals—stabilizing climate, stabilizing population, eradicating poverty, and restoring the economy’s natural support systems—are all essential to restoring food security. It’s unlikely that we can reach any one without reaching the others."

So, at this point, you may be thinking what can you, one person, one family, one village do to really effect change and have a positive impact on the outcome?  Things we can all do:
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Conserve water.
  • Learn all you can about the global issues of poverty, hunger, politics.
  • Communicate with your local elected representatives.  Tell your Senators and Congressional Representatives what you think.
  • Take eco-steps and make minor changes to your diet and lifestyle.  They do add up to make a difference!
  • And above all, never underestimate the power of one. 

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


  1. Yes! Magazine has published some interesting ideas on Water conservation.

    You can check it out here:

  2. back when i was a kid we had to make our own water....YEP we had to smash two hydrogen atoms together with an oxygen atom....
    Seriously, I predict we will see vast caldrons or pools collecting rain water and covered by a petroleum or some other material to prevent evaporation.......this will be a short term effort.....after 2050 population growth will become stable or decline
    Desalination devices on village and family/personal size will also become common

    D in tokyo