Although World Water Week comes by like clockwork every year, the message remains. The world must continue to use water more efficiently rather than using up invisible underground water supplies and turning to “virtual water” to stave off a global water crisis that would weaken energy and food systems, Fred Boltz, a leading conservation expert on water has cautioned.
According to Boltz, the leader of The Rockefeller Foundation’s work on science and environment, more than a third of mankind is water stressed either every year, or every season, and periods of droughts are on the rise from California, United States (U.S.) to Ethiopia as the earth continues to warm.
“We are really facing a global crisis”, he stated, and acknowledged that the demand for water is set to outstrip supply by a whopping 40 per cent by 2030. He also added that while more people are aware of the risks pollution poses as well as the overuse of water from lakes and rivers, not many know of, or comprehend, the steady exhaustion of finite underground water.
“Because we don’t see it and we don’t measure it accurately, we’re not aware of the state of decline of groundwater resources,” he explained. “Water is an almost invisible asset.”
According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, the water expert has also said that “water is undervalued, wasted, and being depleted too fast,” especially as it is usually seen as a “free” human right.
“We need fundamental shifts in the way we manage water socially and economically,” Boltz said to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, adding that a shift would be incentives those whose upstream activities affect the quality of water downstream to manage the resource well, he added.
For instance, crops in areas afflicted with water stress can be irrigated more efficiently by bringing water directly to the plant roots though drip systems, a system that would reduce the amount of water needed for the crops.
At the same time, attitudes to water are changing even as cities use up more water than their surroundings can afford, Boltz stated. For example, Mexico City, who has found that their land is sinking due to over-pumping its underground water supplies, is now working with The Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank to completely overhaul its water system, which takes up to a third of its water from surrounding rivers and valleys.
Since its addition to the ranks of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which are due to be fulfilled by 2030 – water scarcity and quality have steadily been gaining more attention, with the aim of reducing the number of people without access to clean, potable water and using the resource more efficiently. However, according to Boltz, water is at the core of the 17 global goals, as they are all interconnected.
“It’s certainly possible to make great gains…to chart a future in which sustainability can be achieved,” Boltz said. “But that has to be founded on an understanding of what are the vital underpinning resources that will enable that sustainability.”
Source: Thomas Reuters Foundation