Today is the World Water Day, a day aimed at raising awareness to water scarcity.
Water scarcity currently affects about 2.5 billion people, or every third person in the world.
This figure is expected to reach over 2.7 billion people in the coming decade. Also expected by that time is between 24 million and 700 million people all over the world who would be displaced due to water scarcity.
Population growth, agriculture, climate change, urbanization, and mismanagement of water resources all contribute to the growing global water crisis. The global population increased by three-fold in the 20th century but water use increased by six-fold. UNESCO predicts that half of the world human population will be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025.
Already about third of the world’s biggest underground water systems are in distress. And the problem is not just the dwindling water supply but also the quality of the water. According to the WHO, more than 2 billion people do not have access to a safely managed water source, almost a billion people do not have access to even a basic water source, more than 260 million people have to walk over half an hour just to access water that isn’t even clean.
About 2.5 billion people lack access to even basic sanitation services. The majority of these people are forced to practice open defecation, or use public pits or buckets.
The WHO reports that at least 2 billion people worldwide consume water from a source that is contaminated with feces. Fecal contamination in the water supply is a major cause of waterborne diseases such as Hepatitis A, Norovirus, and E Coli. Annually, about 5 million people contract diseases related to waterborne pathogens around the world, most of them children.
Along with children, women are also worst affected by water scarcity as they are the ones who bear the burden of gathering water for their families. In both Africa and Asia, women walk an average distance of 4 miles every day, to carry a 20 kilograms container of water, and from a water source which has the potential to make them sick. According to UNICEF, around the world, women and children spend 200 million hours every day collecting water. And an additional 266 million hours each day are lost because they have no toilet at home.
The impacts of water scarcity affect families and their communities. Children, mostly girls, drop out of school and parents struggle to make a living. Without clean, easily accessible water, people can become locked in poverty for generations.
Water scarcity issues are hardly new, and the World Water Day exists for three decades now, yet the problems are far from being solved, not even ones which it is relatively easy to solve and ones that should have never been caused in the first place.
Water crisis is often viewed as a natural inevitable phenomenon, however water scarcity issues are manmade, even in the cases of very arid areas, since technically clean safe water can be delivered into these places – it is a matter of choice and priorities. And water crisis is definitely manmade in most of the areas of the world which are not naturally arid, yet clean safe water is scarce.
The contamination of water bodies such as lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater, due to mismanaged sewage, oil spills, agricultural runoffs, landfill leakages, and large-scale marine dumping, is manmade. A report by UNESCO from a few years ago shows that over 80% of the world’s wastewater is returned to the environment without any treatment.
The excessive building of dams which prevents rivers from distributing clean safe water to areas in need, is manmade.
Paving the whole world, which seals the surface of the ground and so prevents it from soaking up rainfall and replenishing the underground aquifers, is manmade.
Poor infrastructure, which is a major contributor to the loss of clean water and its contamination (it is estimated that 30% of all clean water is lost through leakage and deteriorating pipes), is manmade.
Water privatization which creates a monopoly on clean safe water that should otherwise be available to everyone who lives nearby fresh water sources, is manmade.
And of course, choosing to waste so much water to produce food, is manmade.
The strongest evidence for the argument that humans thirst each other to death is the fact that they still consume animal products, which is cruel from every single aspect, including toward other humans, especially from water shortage perspective.
Despite that for example:
- The amount of water used to produce a single hamburger is enough for 60 showers.
- Exploiting animals for food consumes more than half (56%) of all the water used in the United States. And it causes more water pollution than any other industry.
- It takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk.
- The production of one kilo of cows’ flesh takes almost 8 times more water than the production of a kilo of Soya beans or rice.
Humanity is not impressed and insists on an animal based diet.
Nonhuman animals are the main victims of this cruel conduct, obviously first and foremost the animals exploited in animal exploitation systems, but also animals who are dried, to a large extent by animal exploitation systems, as well as by the rest of water related human systems and water management.
But when billions of humans lack access to water for drinking and sanitation, and tens of millions of humans are suffering from water related diseases, yet humanity as a whole is relatively indifferent, there is no reason to expect it to care about water scarcity when it comes to other species.
Reflexively, we almost wrote, as is common in this context, that ‘2.5 billion humans are still suffering from water scarcity’. But this formulation is misleading, and unfortunately too optimistic, if not naïve. That is because it implies that this problem is on its way to be solved or that it would ever be solved. But it is not. It is not that 2.5 billion humans are still suffering from water scarcity, but that 2.5 billion humans are currently suffering from water scarcity, and in the future there might be more and hopefully less, but it is never really true to say ‘still’, since it implies that the solution is on its way only for some reason it lingers. It implies that humanity is doing everything in its power to solve the issue, but both implications are wrong.
Water, like food, wars, poverty and etc., is not a natural and inevitable problem but a matter of decision and priorities. And based on everything that happened so far on these matters and many more, there is no reason to assume that these problems would ever be solved. And that means that billions of beings will always suffer from water related issues, as well as ones related to food, poverty, wars and etc. So in that sense, it would be more accurate, and hopefully constructive, to write that many moral people are still placing high hopes on humanity despite its history regarding issues such as water, hunger, easily treatable diseases, wars, poverty, discrimination on the base of gender, discrimination on the base of race, and discrimination on the base of species.
The question is not how is it that problems such as water scarcity, hunger, easily treatable diseases, wars, poverty, discrimination on the base of gender, discrimination on the base of race, and discrimination on the base of species, are still a thing, but how is it still a thing that moral people are placing high hopes on humanity to solve all these problems, despite all the previous experiences with humans, and despite that practically everything indicates the exact opposite of that? How are moral people yet to wake up and realize that all these problems are here to stay as long as humanity is here to stay? How many more dehydrated beings would it take? How many more famished? How many more children suffering all their lives from medical conditions which are easily solvable technologically, but not politically and morally? How many more incidents of misogyny, racism, homophobia, prejudice, ableism, sizeism, and of course the systematical speciesism does it take for you to understand that the thing that hath been, it is that which shall be? Problems only change shapes, prevalence, scope, location, their lingo, their media exposure, public interest, and etc., but they are not solved. They are all here. When will enough moral people realize that if we can’t solve the problems, but we also must never accept them, we need to do everything we can to prevent them?