Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hard Rain Journal 3-22-07: Sustainability Update -- World Water Day -- What Would You Do With Your Last Seven Drops of Water?

World Water Day

Hard Rain Journal 3-22-07: Sustainability Update -- World Water Day -- What Would You Do With Your Last Seven Drops of Water?

By Richard Power

When you turn on the faucet, you assume the water will flow. When you go to the store, you assume it will be stocked with bottled water. You do not expect the toilet to fail or the shower to run dry. You never wonder where it comes from or where it goes. It is just like the gasoline for your car, or the electricity for your appliances, or the dial tone for your telephone. You take it all for granted.

Imagine what it would be like if you had only seven drops of water left for yourself and your children. No rain, no relief workers, no drinkable well within walking distance. What would you do? How would you survive? And for how long? What awful decisions would you have to make? Difficult to think through isn't it. But, for many among us, too many, dying of thirst is not a mental exercise, it is a dire circumstance.

Even without the planetary emergency brought on by global warming and climate change, water, like overpopulation, deforestation, peak oil and other sustainability issues, would demand our urgent attention.

Today is World Water Day.

Here are some big picture facts and some specific examples you should share with your friends, colleagues and loved ones --

Over one billion people suffer from a lack of safe water. For over three hundred million of them, the problem is aggravated by armed conflict.

Indeed, there is a stark, undeniable correlation between drought and violent civil conflict.

Over two and a half billion people lack adequate sanitation.

Ten of the world's longest and best-known rivers are drying up.

Throughout the Sahel region of Africa, particularly in Niger, desertification, drought and food insecurity have brought a glut of disease and death.

Unless a lot of progress is made, sub-Saharan Africa will not meet the Millennium Development Goals of sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation will not be met either by the 2015 deadline.

In Sri Lanka, with its infrastructure destroyed by the 2004 tsunami, rain water collection is the lifeline for many families.

It does not have to be this way.

Furthermore, you may think you are safe, you may think that Sri Lanka and the Sahel are far away -- but you are wrong.

Disruption and distress are only a few bad decisions or a couple of bad breaks away at any moment; the infrastructure is fragile, brittle and over-stressed. And even without such mishaps, wherever you live, dire necessity is only a decade or two down the road -- unless these issues are dealt with.

What can you or I do individually and collectively?

We can understand the issues involved globally and regionally.

We can demand that our elected representatives and news media personalities understand the issues, and that they act on them too.

We can do whatever is appropriate in terms of personal conversation.

And we can prepare ourselves, our loved ones, and our organizations for emergency situations.

Here are excerpts from seven stories that highlight some of these issues. Think of them as drops of water. Imagine they were your last seven drops of water.

"Over one billion people worldwide lack access to safe water, in particular the poor. For some 300 million of these people, the problem is exacerbated by armed conflict and internal violence," said Robert Mardini, head of the water and habitat unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 3-21-0

A strong link between droughts and violent civil conflicts in the developing world bodes ill for an increasingly thirsty world, say scientists, who warn that drought-related conflicts are expected to multiply with advancing climate change.
"Severe, prolonged droughts are the strongest indicator of high-intensity conflicts," said Marc Levy of the Centre for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University's Earth Institute in New York. . . . Such conflicts tend to occur about a year after a "severe deviation in rainfall patterns", he said.
Levy and colleagues used decades of detailed precipitation records, geospatial conflict information and other data in a complex computer model that overlays all this onto a fine-scale map of the world.
"Major deviations from normal rainfall patterns were the strongest predictor of conflicts," he said. "I was surprised at how strong the correlation is."
Stephen Leahy, Thirstier World Likely to See More Violence, Inter Press Service, 3-16-07

Safe drinking water and sanitation are key to global public health, yet across the world 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion—more than one-third of the earth’s population—lack adequate sanitation. Combined, these two problems kill between two and five million people a year—or a population the size of the city of Los Angeles—and sicken billions more. Panelists will discuss how individuals from all walks of life are expanding efforts to address this challenge.
"Diseases spawned by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation can be prevented. The world knows how to do it. What is lacking is funding and political will. Clean drinking water and basic sanitation underlie every aspect of development—from good health and education to economic growth and environmental sustainability." said David Douglas, President of Water Advocates.
U.S. Leaders To Speak Out On World Water Day, Water Advocates, 3-18-07

Some of the world's largest and best-known rivers are at risk of drying up as a result of climate change, pollution and bad planning, a report warned today.
The study by the environment group, WWF, focuses on the ten rivers most danger of drying up or dying, and warns that, without action, the world faces "a freshwater emergency".
Five of the 10 rivers listed are in Asia, including the Yangtze, the Ganges and the Salween, highlighting the profound problems facing the region.
Europe's Danube, the African Nile and South America's Rio Grande are among other rivers under serious threat.
Hilary Osborne, Eco group warns of freshwater crisis, Guardian/UK, 3-20-07

Halfway to 2015, the year when the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are supposed to be reached, the crisis in water and sanitation as well as in water resources management remains among the great human development and environmental challenges . . ."The state of the world's waters remains fragile," stressed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Available supplies are under great duress as a result of high population growth, unsustainable consumption patterns, poor management practices, pollution, inadequate investment in infrastructure, and low efficiency in water-use." There is enough water in the world for everyone, but only if it is properly managed, according to the U.N . . . If the present trends are allowed to continue unchecked, UN-Water warns that regions such as sub-Saharan Africa will not meet the MDG of halving, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. The MDG target of halving the proportion of people without basic sanitation will not be met either. Mithre J. Sandrasagra, Key Development Goals Stagnating, Inter Press Service, 3-19-07

The vast landlocked West African country of Niger faces an increasing demand upon its scarce water resources, the lack of which - when added to poor sanitation and hygiene - results in high levels of death and disease among its 13 million inhabitants . . . Niger is one of the countries that form the Sahel Region which has seen recurring drought, food insecurity, and increased desertification over the last 30 years, a result - at least partly - of global climate change and overuse of scant natural resources . . . During the last two years, food insecurity and drought reached abnormally high levels, prompting a response from the international community and an intensive food security operation undertaken by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Robert Fraser, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), 3-21-0

Dr. Juergen Clemens, Senior Desk Officer Sri Lanka of Malteser International: 'The access to clean water is a basic need and basic right of every single person. By means of collecting and filtering rain water from their own roof, we can sustainably improve the quality of life of the families, especially of women and young girls who play a key role in ensuring the water supply of their families. The system provides up to 20 litres clean water per person per day.' On the one hand, the rain water harvesting system serves as a supplement for the water supply that had been destroyed by the tsunami at many places. On the other hand, these tanks collect 5,000 up to 8,000 litres and, thus, help to bridge the seasonal water supply shortages the population in the south of Sri Lanka has to face each year after the monsoon.
The staff of Malteser International also trains the families in the proper use of the rain water harvesting system, especially how to clean it, and informs the population on general questions concerning health and hygiene. They distribute so called H2S test kits that enable the families to test their rain water on bacterial contamination.
Rain water harvesting - because every drop counts!, Malteser International, 3-20-07


Hard Rain Journal 1-13-07: UN Millennium Goals and Sustainability Update -- Does Burkina-Faso Offer a Glimpse into Our Urban Future?

Hard Rain Journal 11-10-06: Sustainability and Climate Change Update -- Water, Its Unhealthiness and Its Increasing Scarcity, Demands Urgent Attention

Hard Rain Journal 9-29-06: Sustainability Update -- Freedom to Flourish and Water to Survive, Both are Vanishing...What Will You Do?

Hard Rain Journal 9-18-06: Update on Sustainability -- There is Peril Ahead, Whether Water is Privatized, Militarized or Simply Ignored for Too Long

Hard Rain Journal 8-18-06: Water, Water Nowhere, & Only A Few Drops to Sell --- An Update on the Water Aspect of the Global Sustainability Crisis

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

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