Water, water everywhere… right?

Maybe I’m just a bit slow on the uptake, but it was a staggering realisation that all the water we have is ALL the water there is, and it just constantly gets recycled by nature.  It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that there’s an infinite supply of water, especially during our long rainy winters here in Wellington!  But the sad and scary truth is that only a tiny fraction of the planet’s water is accessible to us as freshwater.  And despite its importance, water is one of our most poorly managed resources.

If you live in New Zealand, you could be excused for not realising that it was World Water Day this week, since it received very little press coverage.  I’m curious, did it get much coverage in other countries?  I was planning on doing a blog post on water sooner or later, so it may as well be this week in honour of World Water Day.

They have a lot of interesting facts on the World Water Day website, such as:

  • 55% of food is produced in irrigated or drained areas
  • agriculture uses 70% of all water withdrawn from aquifers, streams and lakes
  • it takes an average 3,000 litres of water to produce the food needed to feed one person for a day

So, since water is such an important resource, what can we do to better manage it? The way I see it, the most important step would be to raise the price of water so that it more closely reflect its true value.  If we do that, it should also have the knock-on effect of discouraging water waste, because water would be too expensive to waste.  And it would hopefully also mean that it’s no longer feasible to do silly things like growing water-intensive crops (eg lettuce) in arid or semi-arid areas (eg California’s Central Valley).

While water is priceless, if we don’t start putting a price on it, we will no doubt find out soon enough whether people are willing go to war over it.

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