The future of water post-pandemic world…Although it is difficult today to divert attention from the dramatic situation we live in, it is even more important to get closer to our primary needs. Without water, our lifespan would be 14 days. Our entire existence is closely dependent on one single, exhaustible resource.
Even without the pandemic (Mr. Gleick speaking) we have a whole series of very difficult water-related problems, perhaps the worst is that it is now the 21st century and there are still 800 million people worldwide that do not have access to safe and affordable drinking water and over 2 billion people worldwide that do not have access to adequate sanitation services. And again, even without a pandemic even without a public health crisis, there are very serious water-related diseases. They are associated with the failure to have safe and affordable water and sanitation. Cholera, dysentery, typhoid, malaria are the whole series of difficult diseases that we should have gotten rid of many decades ago, but we have not.
And even in the developed world, there are populations without access to safe water. Furthermore, one of the things the pandemic has revealed is that water is critical for protecting public health. One of the first things that we were told to do was wash our hands more. What do you do if you do not have access to safe and affordable water? What do you do if you are in sub-Southern Africa and you or your children have to walk miles to get a minimum amount of “questionable” water? Now we are faced with a pandemic, and it has raised some awareness about that.
I think both of those are possibilities and I think we are probably seeing both of those occurring. We are seeing enormous distractions where people are having to deal with economic dislocations. People are having to deal with air pollution problems, employment issues, unresolved racial issues, as we recently saw in the United States and social issues, etc.… That of course distracts from our ability to deal with other kinds of environmental problems like water or climate change. On the other hand, we are seeing some positive signs, we are seeing some growing attention to environmental issues, also growing attention to the issues of fresh water and I am hoping that will continue.
Probably the most important lesson to learn is that we need water for everything. We need it for our economies, for our public health. We also need it for our individual health and the health of our ecosystems. This is why the more we figure out how to move toward more sustainable management and use of water resources, the more we make a transition from where we are today. Which we know is not a sustainable system for a good future. We have to solve not just water problems. But energy problems and poverty problems, conflict problems, economic problems.
These things are all tied together and that’s a critical lesson that I think we are learning, we have been learning it in recent years, we are learning it again, because of the pandemic – the idea the public health is related to the economy and to the environment and to our institutions, though those are critical lessons to learn and again if I am going to be optimistic then we are going to move out of the pandemic but we are not going to forget those lessons.
In the middle of a pandemic, our ecosystem is presenting us with a challenge. It is everyone’s personal responsibility whether to accept it or not. Are we able to preserve our main source of life? The answer is – we HAVE to. Because if we do not if we distract from this matter because of the pandemic we are all doomed. It is simple- if there is no water, there is no life, so as Mr. Gleick says in this interview article – “the water is tied up with everything we love”. It is up to us to pay more attention to this issue. Also to change our lifestyle, stop wasting our most important source of life, and we have to do it fast.