By Danny Mejia ’18
What a comeback story. In the past few months, California went from being deep into an unprecedented 5-year drought, to now having less than 20% of the state facing any drought conditions according to the latest US Drought report. However, California isn’t the only state with good news. Maine was recently declared to be drought-free after having almost 70% of their state experience drought conditions as reported by Press Herald.
One might even believe that water scarcity and the threat of drought is at an all time low, especially when you consider the fact that USA Today claims that a report released by the National Drought Mitigation Center has stated that currently, only six percent of the US is in a drought.
However, what we should take away from the extreme weather phenomenon that single handedly replenished California’s reservoirs, is that the reason for this extreme weather pattern is climate change. Prolonged dry seasons caused by climate change can easily put America back into a drought in the near or distant future.
However, the next drought might not just cause a significant drop in crop production or the loss of jobs, it may very
well bring us closer to a dire future where billions of people around the world have limited access to clean freshwater. In fact, the United Nations predicts that by 2040, climate change will have caused one in four children in the world to be living in areas with limited water resources.
It may sound like another crazy doomsday scenario, but current events may indicate that this scenario is becoming a reality.
Right now, the UN fears that 17 million Yemenis may enter a famine brought about by drought and human conflict as already 2 million children suffer from malnourishment.
Just like Yemen, the New York Times reports that combined with South Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia a total of 20 million people are living in areas where the threat of famine is extremely high. The UN fears these four countries are on the brink of becoming one of the biggest humanitarian crisis ever seen which is evident by the fact that the UN has asked for $4.4 billion to provide aid and prevent the catastrophe.
However, while the UN tries to help these countries, other parts of the world, have been trying to fight their own water problems.
Cuba is taking a hit from a prolonged and intense drought that has dried up reservoirs and has impacted almost one million people as of April 30 when Telesur, a South American media news outlet, last reported on the issue.
In Southern India, The Hindustan Times reports drought conditions are leading to many people, especially in rural areas, to go hungry and thirsty as crop production declines. At the same time, however, residents are digging water wells to satisfy their thirst while simultaneously contributing to India’s groundwater depletion. As water scarcity brings out a lack of care for the environment, organized crime in India has entered the business of supplying freshwater to citizens and charging them for it.
However, this isn’t the only case of water scarcity bring out survival mode in people. As Somalia continues to deal with an impending famine, Newsweek reports that after a 5-year absence, pirates have once again began to attack vessels off the coast of the country.
Meanwhile, Bolivia is struggling to escape the clutches of a devastating drought that has led to rationalizing the drinking water to only allow three hours of water use for every three days, reservoirs and glaciers drying up, and conflict between farmers and the mining industry over the use of aquifers according to The Guardian.
Similarly, in Peru and Ecuador, mining companies are being accused of polluting the country’s water supplies.
While, it may seem like a no brainer to regulate the fossil fuel industry and prevent pollutants from entering the water supply, as recently as March 28, did West Virginia’s House and Senate do the opposite.
The state government passed a bill that will allow industrial plants to discharge more pollutant into the state’s waterways according to US News. What appears to be a clear win for the fossil fuel industry will ultimately lead to water contamination and maybe even a health crisis.
Also, since President Trump proposed a federal budget that drastically reduced funds for several water conservation programs, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, it becomes clear that water preservation isn’t a top priority for the current administration. Afterall, why else would the President propose to cut a Department of Agriculture program budget nearly in half; a program that improves the water services of small rural areas according to the National Resources Defense Council. Had his proposal been accepted, the Great Lakes would’ve been kicked to curb since the Obama administration consistently gave funds to the initiative which was a major factor in controlling invasive species population, preserving the wetlands, and removing contaminants. Without the millions in government funds it used to receive, the Great Lakes would’ve been in major trouble.
It’s boggles the mind doesn’t it? At this point in human history, shouldn’t we already know that water must be conserved and kept clean especially if we hope to sustain an exponentially growing population.
However, the answer isn’t as simple as regulating the agricultural water use or putting in place rules for water pollution for industry. It takes action from all sides. Along with regulations, consumers should begin to reduce their water footprint seeing as everything they wear, buy, and eat requires large amounts of water typically not included in the price. By taking small steps like reducing shower time and buying less clothes, anyone can reduce their water footprint.
The global water crisis will continue for years to come, but it may reach a tipping point soon if our leaders and everyday people don’t begin to treat water as the scarce and important resource it is. Afterall, with no water, humanity as a whole would cease to exist.