Valuing Our Water: World Water Week Should Make Waves

IMG_4570World Water Week (early September) is already behind us, and I was struck by a headline soon afterward which read:  “World Water Week Just Passed – Did You Notice?”  It’s a great point.  How many of us really did notice?  In Industrialized countries, most of us take water for granted, yet we immediately realize how precious it is when forced to do without it for even the shortest period of time.  When our water supply is disrupted, we immediately react and do whatever is needed to restore it.  Yet we quickly revert back to assuming it will always be there once the temporary crisis has passed.  That thinking is flawed.  Water is a finite resource, and we need to value it accordingly.  There are strong parallels to our thinking and actions related to our food.  FAO notes that over 800 million people (1 in 8) currently go hungry, yet the world wastes more than 1 billion tons of food annually.  Similarly, Water.org notes (along with other key facts) that 780 million individuals around the globe lack access to clean, safe water.  Yet many in industrialized nations continue to consume water as if it is limitless in supply.  And, since Agriculture is the largest user of water, when we waste food, we waste vast amounts of water.  As with food, we need to alter our behavior and move away from a mindset based on a culture of abundance.  Water security is a critically important theme for all nations – both industrialized and those in developing regions.  Safely feeding 9 billion people by 2050 requires adequate supplies of clean water, and there is a role for everyone to play in achieving water security.  Innovation to reduce usage and prevent losses should be encouraged, corporate efforts to reduce usage should be rewarded, and government efforts to protect declining aquifers should be supported.  As with food waste, awareness and educational efforts are key to drive behavior change and action to ensure sustainable water supplies.  So when World Water Week arrives, we should notice and not only reflect on how we value water, but we should advocate for policies that minimize water use and loss along with investments that safeguard future supplies.  It should “make waves.”

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