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Let’s celebrate World Water Day

Congress deals with allocation of San Joaquin River water in California, the Tennessee Valley Authority throttles power production from nuclear plants as drought dries up rivers and raises their water temperature, the Texas governor holds public prayer meetings for rain.
Water scarcity is no longer a problem “elsewhere” only, as these few facts might remind us. It threatens much of the world.
More than 2 billion people are impacted even now from the lack of safe water and proper sanitation. One result is that a child dies somewhere every eight seconds.
Thursday, March 22, is World Water Day, commemorated annually since 1994 after the world leaders called for attention to freshwater threats at the United Nations conference two decades ago.
Some simple facts are worth remembering, such as two-thirds of the human body is water, that we can survive for a week at best without it, that the freshwater on which all terrestrial life depends makes up less than one percent of all the water on earth.
Great challenges in preserving a water-secure world result from many factors.
Population tripled during the last century; 2 billion more are expected by 2050, beyond today’s 7 billion.
While people need, for drinking, only a gallon of water per day, the amount of it embedded in food is nearly 500 times as much.
One kilogram of wheat, for example, has taken 375 gallons and the water cost of a like amount of beef is 3,750 gallons.
A world with less fresh water also means a future of food shortages, as Lester Brown warns in a “Plan B” report on mobilization actions needed to “Save Civilization.”
Unwittingly in many other ways, we are living beyond our means in regard to water.
Enormous amounts of it go into the ubiquitous material products we use or surround ourselves with, an automobile, for instance, requiring nearly 37,500 gallons to manufacture.
Through processes of surface mining and cutting down forests, we damage the water- holding and river-forming soils and the green mantle of the earth.
Through technology advances in drilling, we over draw from the underground water reservoirs far beyond the rate at which the water cycle replenishes them.
Water tables falling, rivers running dry and lakes disappearing result from the overpumping, from river engineering for dams whose reservoirs increase evaporation, and from vast water diversions for other purposes.
The Colorado River now rarely makes it to the sea and many a smaller river have disappeared entirely, “Plan B” notes.
The biblical miracle of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, it continues, any mere mortal can now accomplish, its shores having receded so much.
Pollution from industries and households, industrial farming, roads, roofs and other sources add further to the stresses on water bodies, as do disrupted storm and rainfall patterns under changing climate.
To safeguard healthful water for future children, we should celebrate World Water Day and take steps to re-balance the water budget, in our own lives and through government action as needed.