Sunday, April 22, 2007


Water, Water Everywhere...

You probably know the rest from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The fact of the matter is that the global outlook for our growing population's access to water for drinking and sanitation is gloomy. Three articles in the last week on this topic caught my eye. When multiple media outlets with vastly different targeted readers are writing about the same thing, it seems like a topic that crosses a few boundaries.

The first article, part I of a series examining challenges and opportunities facing the water industry appears in the industry publication serving one of Thornton's markets, Ultrapure Water Journal. UPW focuses narrowly on the professionals working in water related industries. The second, appearing in Vanity Fair's Green Issue entitled, "The Rise of Big Water", looks at the global trend toward privatization of developing countries' drinking and wastewater treatment industries, and the third at Sustainablebusiness.com, examines the investment opportunities in the water sector. There are three publications, one of which is clearly talking from and speaking to the left, one that is left-leaning (only because it covers "environmental topics"), and one on the right (since it is a business publication), addressing world water issues.
Here's an excerpt from the Sustainablebusiness.com article that summarizes the situation:
A third of the world's population live in water stressed areas (expected to increase six times in 20 years) and over a billion people lack access to water supplies (expected to double in 20 years). one billion people drink unsanitary water; three to four million people die each year from waterborne disease - the single largest cause of illness and death worldwide.

In the U.S. and other industrialized countries, 15-20% of the water is lost to leaks in the pipe network. In developing countries, the figure rises to 20-40%, due to illegal withdrawals as well as leaks.

Agriculture is the world's largest water consumer, using 70% of the world's water supply, extremely inefficiently. Industry is the biggest consumer in developed countries, but is more and more moving to the developing world, which is already water stressed.
What I take from this cross-cutting topic is that the yawning difference we are lead to believe exists between environmental issues and sustainable development are perceptions based on outdated beliefs. We have for so long equated economic growth and prosperity with pollution and environmental degradation that it is considered conventional wisdom. We are intellectually lazy when we accept these old assumptions. With the creativity released in the industrial world daily to sell everything from gourmet dog food to automobiles, you would think (and hope) that we would come together to solve a much bigger issue that threatens us and future generations.

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