Quantcast
Trump Watch
Climate Change
Energy
Food
Science
Animals
Business
Insights + Opinion
Oceans
Politics
Health + Wellness
Adventure
GMO - Genetically Modified Organism
Sponsored by: Amalgamated Bank - Business + Money
Fracking
Renewable Energy
Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

As the clock drags on, a worker anxiously awaits the end of his working day. TerryJ / E+ / Getty Images

By Simon Mair

Climate action is often about sacrifice: eat less meat, don't fly and buy less stuff. These things are essential. But climate action can also be about gain. Many causes of climate change make our lives worse. So transforming our societies to stop climate change offers us the chance to make our lives better.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A scene of Damage from Hurricane Michael at Mexico Beach, Florida on Oct. 17, 2018. Tim Donovan / Florida Fish & Wildlife

By David Berlan

When Hurricane Michael made landfall on Florida's Panhandle on Oct. 10, 2018, as a Category 5 storm it was only the fourth on record to have ever hit the U.S. mainland. The storm surge it brought about, along with 160-mile-per-hour winds, leveled coastal communities from Panama City to the town of Mexico Beach.

Read More Show Less
Biologist releases GMO mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil on Feb. 11, 2016. Victor Moriyama / Getty Images

By Natalie Kofler, Françoise Baylis, Graham Dellaire, Landon J Getz

Every year, around one million people die of mosquito-borne diseases according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is why mosquitoes are considered one of the deadliest living creatures on the planet — not because they are lethal themselves, but because many of the viruses and parasites they transmit are.

Read More Show Less
The Bingham Canyon open-pit copper mine in Utah has operated since 1903. David Guthrie, CC BY 2.0

By Matthew Ross

Modern society relies on metals like copper, gold and nickel for uses ranging from medicine to electronics. Most of these elements are rare in Earth's crust, so mining them requires displacing vast volumes of dirt and rock. Hard rock mining – so called because it refers to excavating hard minerals, not softer materials like coal or tar sands – generated $600 billion in revenues worldwide in 2017.

Read More Show Less
Activists in the Netherlands hold sign that reads "Climate Justice." Vincent M.A. Janssen / Pexels

By Cole Taylor

Storytelling is the heart of activism and community building. Part of my story is standing on the Fred Hartman Bridge and blocking the Houston Ship Channel for 18 hours on Sept. 12. Why did I feel compelled to do something like this? It really comes down to the many stories that make up my life, community and passion.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
UN Sec-Gen António Guterres arrives for a press briefing to mark the opening of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Sept. 18 in New York. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / Getty Images

By António Guterres

On the eve of the September UN Climate Action Summit, young women and men around the world mobilized by the millions and told global leaders: "You are failing us."

They are right.

Read More Show Less
A satirical picture about climate change from the bunkaryudo.com blog. Bun Karyudo / CC BY 2.0

By Maxwell Boykoff

Climate change is not inherently funny. Typically, the messengers are serious scientists describing how rising greenhouse gas emissions are harming the planet on land and at sea, or assessing what role it played in the latest wildfire or hurricane.

Read More Show Less
David Koch at the 2015 Defending the American Dream Summit in Columbus, Ohio. Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

By Ben Jervey

If it feels like the oil industry's attacks on the burgeoning electric car market are well coordinated, that's because they are. The industry is following a blueprint laid out decades ago, and refined ever since, by Koch network insiders.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Green

A handful of multibillion-dollar chemical companies have waged war on our bodies and our environment for nearly 70 years without our knowledge or consent. Although the federal government — tasked with protecting the public and upholding the law — became aware of this chemical assault 20 years ago, it chose to conceal the truth, downplay the threat, and expand the use of a class of chemicals known to endanger the health of present and future generations.

Read More Show Less
Line of soldiers walking. Pexels

By Peter Gleick

War is a miserable thing. It kills and maims soldiers and civilians. It destroys infrastructure, cultures and communities. It worsens poverty and development challenges. And it damages and cripples vital ecological and environmental resources.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored