Now, my mother reads a newspaper every day, the Baltimore Sun. She listens to NPR. Most mornings she watches the Today Show, and every evening she watches at least one TV news program. Every Sunday at 9:00 AM she watches CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, followed by 60 Minutes in the evening.
And she doesn't know that there is a global water crisis.
It seems clear that the media is doing a singularly bad job of getting this story out. Yet 12 million people die each year due to lack of access to clean water. A child dies every six seconds for lack of access to clean water. The WorldWatch Institute has called water scarcity "the most underappreciated global environmental challenge of our time." No kidding.
Pollution, climate change, and population growth all contribute to a problem that, if left unchecked, will result in water scarcity for two thirds of the world's population by 2025. By 2030, according to the UN, more than half the population of large Third World cities will have no access at all to water or sanitation services.
But this is not just a Third World problem. Huge swaths of the United States are currently facing severe water shortages. Maude Barlow writes in Blue Covenant that in 2007, " Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake, dropped to its lowest level in eighty years. . . . California has a twenty-year supply of freshwater left. New Mexico has only a ten-year supply. Arizona is out: it now import all of its drinking water."
Barlow also notes that the U.S. Geological Survey found that "the parched Interior West is probably the driest it has been in five hundred years." This is more than a drought. We are running out of water.
The water crisis is complex and of vast proportion. I'll be writing more about it in the coming weeks, both about the effects that are being felt around the world, and what we can do about it. In the meanwhile, Google "global water crisis" and check out one or two of the 44 million hits you'll find there. And, for heaven's sake, stop letting the water run while you brush your teeth.