Water crisis in the offing

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    Early this month, a managing editor of a Davao local daily complained of not having water in their barangay for a couple of hours. He complained that water district didn’t inform them ahead of time. He posted his grumble in the wall of his facebook account.

    An award-winning journalist posted a comment that in her area, the drip was so miniscule that she had to wait for a pail to be filled up with water. She called the water district if there was repair being made and the other end answered there was none.

    Perhaps, it happened since there were too many people using water at that hour at the same time. And since location area of the managing editor was situated in an upper portion, there was a tendency that water could not go up.

    Meanwhile, some 75 kilometers away from Davao City, in the town of Bansalan, Davao del Sur, residents of barangay Poblacion Dos were having hard times since for three days already there was no water. It means no water to drink, to cook foods, to be used for bathing and washing clothes. A few considered the situation as a nightmare.

    Most residents of the barangay had to go beg for some water in some areas in town where water was available. “We can’t go on like for this several days,” whined Annie, a mother of three children. “We need water now.”

    At the beginning of the twenty-first century, our planet is facing a serious water crisis. All the signs suggest that it is getting worse and will continue to do so, unless corrective action is taken.

    “Today, we withdraw water far faster than it can be recharged – unsustainably mining what was once a renewable resource,” deplores Janet Abramovitz, a researcher/writer of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute.

    A recent report from the United Nations and the Stockholm Environment Institute said that by the year 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population would be affected by water shortages.

    “World demand for water doubles every 21 years, but the volume available is the same as it was in the Roman times,” observes Sir Crispin Tickell, former British ambassador to the United Nations and one of the organizers of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. “Something has got to give.”

    “A water crisis is likely to hit around the year 2050.” This was the unanimous warning from participants at the first World Water Forum held in Marrakech, Morocco in 1997. The message, however, is nothing new. For years, the problem has been showing us some signs and symptoms.

    Around the globe, water tables are falling, underground aquifers are being depleted, lakes are shrinking and wetlands crucial to the survival or plants and wildlife are drying up. But despite all these, the international community ignored the signs.

    It was not until when “some 80 countries, comprising 40 percent of the world’s population, are already suffering from serious water shortages” that the UN General Assembly in New York decided to give priority to the global water crisis.

    Clean drinking water and adequate sanitation are necessary to protect human health and the environment.

    Some 1.2 billion people – roughly one-sixth of the world’s population – lack access to safe water, and 2.4 billion or 40 per cent of the world’s people lack access to adequate sanitation services. Governments have agreed to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, at the Millennium Summit and Johannesburg Summit respectively.

    “We live in a water-challenged world, one that is becoming more so each year as 80 million additional people stake their claims to the Earth’s water resources,” decries Lester Brown, former Worldwatch Institute president.

    Next to air, water is the element most necessary for survival. You may not know it, but water makes up more than 60 percent of our body weight. Proteins make up only 18% while fats encompass 15%, minerals 4%, carbohydrates 2% and vitamins less than one percent.

    Science tells us that our brain contains 74% water, blood contains 83% water, lean muscle has 75% water and bone has 22% water. A lack of water affects everything from our digestive tract to our immune system. It also helps regulate our body temperature.

    A household of five needs at least 120 liters per day to meet basic needs – for drinking, food preparation, cooking and cleaning up, washing and personal hygiene, laundry, house cleaning, according to the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, a global environmental group.

    A person needs at least 24 liters of water daily or one liter per hour. Even when he breathes, he still needs water. “Our lungs must be moist to take in oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide,” wrote Leroy Perry in a Reader’s Digest article. “It is possible to lose half a liter of liquid each day just by exhaling.”

    As water becomes more scarce, conflict over water rights are inevitable. “Wars will be fought over water,” World Bank’s Ismael Serageldin once pointed out. But wars should not happen.

    In the Hebrew Bible, no less a figure than Moses, whose very name meant “Drawn out of Water,” once erred fatefully in his effort to obtain water. As related in chapter 20 of the Book of Numbers, the people of Israel strove with Moses after he had led them into the waterless wilderness:

    “Why have ye brought us into this wilderness to die here?” Seeing their plight, the Lord then instructed Moses: “Speak ye to the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water.” But instead of speaking to the rock, Moses lifted his staff and smote the rock.

    Water did come forth, momentarily, but at a terrible price. For so transgressing, Moses, along with his entire generation, was condemned to die in the desert rather than enter the Promised Land. The passage concludes with the words: “These are the Waters of Strife, where Israel strove with the Lord.”

    Now, no less than in the time of Moses, more water can be had by speaking than by striking.

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