While the world as a whole will never run out of water, many local regions and communities face the issue daily.
Climate change and population expansion are high on the list of contributing factors for water shortage. Still, the risks of running out of water can be mitigated with the aid of changed public attitudes and apt water infrastructure planning.
Gizmodo’s article, “When Will We Run Out of Water?” recently interviewed water management experts to gauge the best ways to prevent water shortage.
Some notable comments include:
“Water resources engineers, managers, and policymakers face a conundrum. Water insecurity and hazards are expected to increase in the future, which makes it increasingly important to develop infrastructure to manage these risks. However, there is uncertainty regarding the future nature and costs of these water risks. This uncertainty contributes to underinvestment in critical infrastructure.”
“We’re increasingly living with old water infrastructure and antiquated institutions created in the 19th and 20th century, in a 21st-century world of changing climate. In short, our water system is out of balance. We are not living within the natural constraints of our most precious renewable resource and more communities and ecosystems will face growing water scarcity, shortage, contamination, and disruption if we fail to move to a more sustainable approach.”
“I think the bottom line is that — people have to change their attitude about water and realize it’s a precious resource… Maybe valuing water differently than we do today is the ultimate answer.”
As the old saying goes, “when you have to carry your water, you learn to value every drop,” water is a precious resource. The citizens of affluent countries who honestly haven’t given it a second thought would benefit highly from education on this issue.
Without romanticizing the past or how pre-industrial people lived, it is becoming increasingly clear that working with the environment is much more sustainable than setting up infrastructure that defies the environment. Sustainability is the key to managing any natural resources – especially water.
To help us truly understand the value of water, the United Nations released “Valuing Water” in March 2021. It was a timely release because people are facing water scarcity due to population growth and climate change worldwide.
The UN report says that:
- Water is the “blue gold” that we need to protect.
- Our “inability to recognize the value of water is the main cause of water waste and misuse.”
- The world is growing thirstier and water-intensive due to economic growth, demands from population growth, agriculture, and industries.
- Valuing water should go beyond its cost price; instead, its true value is much broader and includes social and cultural dimensions.
According to the report valuing water can be approached through different perspectives:
- Valuing water source – natural water resources and ecosystems;
- Valuing water infrastructure – storage, treatment, and supply;
- Valuing water services – drinking water, sanitation, and health services;
- Valuing water as an input to production and socio-economic activity; and
- Valuing socio-cultural aspects of water, which includes its recreational, cultural, and spiritual value and attributes.
As society increasingly recognizes the value of water, the need to manage this resource and required investments will also increase.