Have you heard? The world is running out of accessible clean water.
Humanity is polluting, mismanaging, and displacing our finite freshwater sources at an alarming rate. Since 1990, half the rivers in China have disappeared. The Ogallala Aquifer that supplies the U.S. breadbasket will be gone “in our lifetime,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.
By 2030, global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent, a surefire recipe for great suffering. Five hundred scientists recently told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter “a new geologic age” and that the majority of the planet’s population lives within 31 miles of an endangered water source.
Yet in election after election the world over, no one’s paying attention to this urgent issue.
That’s why I’m calling for a new water ethic that places water and its protection at the heart of all policy and practice. This may strike you as far-fetched, but we must do it now. The future of the planet and the human race both depend on it.
And taking our water crisis seriously will change everything.
What would farm policy look like if we understood that the global food system is depleting local watersheds through the export of a torrent of “virtual water”? Vast quantities of water are embedded in apples, corn, and other crops.
How would trade policy change if we understood that global trade deals give global firms the right to claim “ownership” of the water they use in other countries?
Would our energy policies change if we realized that water-guzzling biofuels may be more environmentally dangerous than the fossil fuels they’re supposed to replace?
This new water ethic should honor four principles.