Water shortage is the logical consequence of climate change, which Angela Merkel calls “the question of survival for mankind”.
In Central Europe we are not suffering from thirst – not yet! In Africa, however, 15 million people are currently on the run for the nearest water hole. 1.1 billion people worldwide have no access to clean drinking water. It could be over 3 billion by the middle of the century, according to a United Nations estimate. Water is becoming more precious than gold – according to a study conducted by the UN about the future of water. In 40 years there will be 9 billion people. The world is facing a historic water shortage.
Global warming is also changing water cycles globally. Last summer the USA, Russia and South Asia had no rain for months. Millions of Africans pray: “Give us our daily water”.
Even today about 10,000 people daily are dying of water shortage, among them 5,000 children, due to infectious diseases caused by unclean water. The issue of hunger is primarily related to water. The 20th century was a century of war refugees. The 21st century will be one of environmental and water refugees. There is no life without water.
Water is our elixir of life – our victual number one, vital to life. Without food a man can survive up to 70 days, but without water not even 70 hours. We have to make our peace with water.
Many people think that water flows in abundance and it is continually raining in Germany, in summer and winter, in spring and autumn – at any time of the day or year. We drink it, wash ourselves with it and go swimming in it – quite naturally.
75% of our planet is actually covered by water. Appearances, however, are deceptive, because only 2.6% of water resources worldwide are freshwater and only 0.6% can be used. 2% are bound in glaciers and polar caps and in “eternal” snow.
The absolute amount of water on earth is “eternally” constant. It is always the same water we have at our disposal. In case the saurians shed tears about their extinction 65 million years ago, we are possibly using the same water today in our cappuccino cups. And the water of Lake Galilee that Jesus walked on 2,000 years ago may serve as a soft drink today. In the meantime Konrad Adenauer could have used it to brush his teeth.
Between the seepage of rainwater through the ground and its spouting from a lively fountain centuries may have gone by. The deep groundwater from a depth of up to 4,000 meters that is more and more being used in Germany is often thousands or even tens of thousand years old. We only have one water. The very word wastewater means that we continually repress the fact that there is only one water. We cannot increase the amount of water nor can we – unlike any energy sources – replace it by anything!
Yet: Water consumption worldwide has tripled over the past 50 years and is presently growing twice as fast as the world population. Without sustainable handling of water we will face wars over water, water disasters and widespread deaths of men, animals and plants. (More on that in the following issues.) Everyone consumes about four liters of water each day in some form or other – but the production of our daily food takes at least 2,000 liters – 500 times as much. Future wars over water will also be waged on the wheat markets.
Water is a masterly performance of nature and a unique act of creation of our planet. Water is life and elemental power and our constant companion – from the womb to our last second. In former times people of all civilizations regarded water as something special, even as sacred, that is holy and healing. Seas, rivers and lakes were inhabited by good and evil spirits. Our forefathers offered sacrifices to the good spirits before they crossed a river or went on a journey.
Today we smile about such “superstition” and throw our garbage and whatever we have plenty of into streams, rivers and lakes. US citizens alone dump 40 million tons of toxic waste into the lifeblood of their planet, water. We almost lost our respect for the elements. Business, technology, science and their agents, politicians, have taken control of water. Our planet cannot be cured without new water consciousness, new water policy and new water ethics.
Part 1: Water is becoming more precious than gold 1/4
Part 2: So water is more than H2O 2/4
Part 3: Water in trouble 3/4
Part 4: Ways of a new water policy 4/4
Franz Alt 2013 | Translation: Peter Reif 2013