The global water crisis and how the U.S. can pave the way to a solution.
In this VoiceYourself essay, “A Water Strategy for the USA,” Thebaut addresses the need for a comprehensive global water policy. It’s a multi-faceted approach to a problem that cannot be solved with a single silver bullet. So read on, learn more—and don’t leave the tap running.
Today, the world is faced with a serious water crisis. It’s urgent that a multidimensional strategy be implemented by the United States in order to confront this emergency. Such a strategy would be important not only from a moral perspective but it would also have significant international security ramifications, and would enhance the image of the United States throughout the world.
When it comes to water, the planet is in serious trouble. Currently 1.2 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water and twice that many don’t have access to sanitation. Every year 1.8 million people die from diseases caused by water pollution and the vast majority of these are children.
Worldwide, a child dies every 20 seconds from water related illnesses. These quiet, preventable deaths hardly receive any attention. According to United Nations sources by the year 2020, as many as 76 million people could die from polluted water. These projections indicate that by 2015 nearly half the world’s population—more than three billion people—will find it hard, if not impossible to get pure drinking water.
This is an emergency of momentous proportions. Compounding this reality are profound international security considerations. Hunger, disease, poor education and poverty are conditions which produce terrorists. Consequently, United States foreign policy must devote attention and resources to those dangerous and distressed regions in the world where terrorism breeds.
This includes Africa, the Middle East, vast portions of Asia and locations within Latin America. These resources could become part of the recently-passed Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.
The effort to deliver clean drinking water and sanitation to impoverished environments should be led by the U.S., working with the entire international community.
But such U.S. leadership requires global credibility, particularly in poor, geo-politically tense environments that breed terrorists. The only way the United States can assume global leadership is to set an example—by solving its own clean drinking water issues.
Because of over-consumption, climate change and significant population growth the United States is now beginning to experience the effects of what will become an extreme water crisis. Currently, the water crisis is affecting almost every region within the U.S. and exposing the fact that there are Third World conditions within the United States.
Our domestic water crisis can be seen most clearly in the American Southwest. Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are all experiencing significant and intense droughts and water shortages. At the center of the crisis is the Colorado River.
Due to climate change, this river is at the lowest level ever recorded. This important river is the primary water source for the 30 million people who dwell within the American Southwest. Due to projected population growth and other demands, the Colorado River is going to out-strip the amount of water supply that will be available within the region and this could lead to chaotic conditions in the not-too-distant future.
The community with the greatest vulnerability is that of Native Americans. On the Hopi and Navajo Reservations there are Third World conditions and concerns that in the very near future water resources will dry up. In reality, there is no physical infrastructure to get water to many of the dwellings on the reservations.
Compounding the problem, there are also serious water quality problems and lack of adequate sanitation, causing birth defects and illness among members of the community.
The water crisis in the U.S. will get worse unless the country implements important policies at all levels of government. The centerpiece would be the creation of a National Water Policy and it must include partnerships and coordination between the Federal Government and cities, states and Native American Nations. This is essential in order to implement environmentally sensitive reuse programs, as well as national efforts involving conservation and land use planning.
This effort to establish clean drinking water throughout the U.S. will give the country credibility in its international efforts. It will demonstrate that the U.S. has the moral capacity and fiber to clean up its own backyard. It will demonstrate U.S. leadership in facing the security consequences of the global water crisis.
When it comes to drinking water, the planet is clearly at a crossroads. Making sure that everyone has access to clean water is a humanitarian mission, it will assure a safer world and it will avoid an environmental calamity.
President of The Chronicles Group, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) public information and education film production company, Jim Thebaut is dedicated to providing visual and educational records for the general viewing public about profound issues facing the 21st century.