Always good to see coverage about the importance of fresh water. Check out “Where America Stands on Water”, a 7-minute CBS video piece about water shortages in the U.S., and the accompanying article. It is part of the “Where America Stands” series, which looks at a broad spectrum of issues facing the U.S. in the new decade.
Not only is the water crisis a worldwide problem, but it is vital for more than direct human health. Water also sustains freshwater ecosystems, which in turn provide food and livelihoods for millions. The ecosystem services provided by freshwater systems, including fisheries, drinking water, and flood regulation, have global economic value estimated at trillions of dollars annually.
Some facts about the water crisis:
- Water is our most valuable natural resource and water security is widely agreed to be the primary natural resource challenge. We are already at a tipping point according to some, with water being the next oil crisis facing our planet
- Water is central to how all of our terrestrial and inland aquatic ecosystems function, and how they provide related services for people.
- Changes to the water cycle through direct water and land use and climate change, have potential impacts on terrestrial ecosystems, and in many cases this is already happening.
- Changes to terrestrial systems (in particular deforestation) have feedbacks to the water cycle—all of these changes result in less available clean water for people.
- Climate change also alters the water cycle, contributing to increased droughts and floods.
- Climate change adaptation means water management, whereas climate change mitigation means forest management.
- Water is central to human well-being and forges some of the strongest links between biodiversity and development.
- The indirect drivers of water use, and the impacts of land based activities upon water, are considerable and rapidly escalating due to population growth and changing consumption patterns.
Tracy Farrell is the Senior Director, Freshwater Conservation Program at Conservation International.