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Water for life

This blog post is an entrant into the The Masdar Engage Blogging Contest. To help me win please vote for it on the contest page and tweet, like and share it as much as you can on the contest page itself before midnight 3rd January 2013. This will not only get me to a massive water conference in Abu Dhabi it will also help spread awareness on vital water issues worldwide.

Humanity’s relationship with water that is both simple and complex. 95% of our bodies consist of water and as well as for  hydration of the body we need it for its psychological, therapeutic and cultural effects. We also use it in industry in energy production, manufacturing processes and extracted from the ground, sky and sea. Our water use affects every ecosystem on Earth, and says a great deal about our attitudes to the planet and to life itself. This article is a broad sweep through three areas where we can transform water use and the change attitudes to this life-giving element.

The most clear and pressing water crisis is the 1.1 billion people without access to clean drinking water. This is a question of economic and social development. Water not only provides the means to life, but raising its quality – stripping it of pollutants and diseases – creates huge impact in health, education and subsequently the economy. Water is not only a provider but also an enabler of health – and healthier people can be more productive in all spheres of activity. The remedies here are very much ground level. Communities need to be given the means and funding to produce their own water as autonomously as possible, and in some cases this can be cleverly tied to entrepreneurship opportunity.
Sujol, is developing clever ways to distribute clean water in Bangladesh where arsenic in the groundwater is said to poisoning the population on a scale “50 times worse than Chernobyl“. Sujol is commercialising filtered water in villages
in a way that is absolutely affordable for villagers, who are accustomed to spending money on tea, and also creates entrepreneurship opportunity. Their intelligence  is to combine health, education and economic factors in one projects leading to a variety of gains for the community. Governments should learn from this by seeing water not as a product, but as a multi-faceted opportunity for community development.

A second area of water use, and one that touches everyone on the planet, is water use in industrial processes. Water is used extremely wastefully in extraction and refinement of raw materials, in renewable and non-renewable energy generation and in agriculture.  In these processes water use not only needs to become more efficient but also considerate – wetlands need to be protected, precious ground reservoirs not overly depleted. At the same time, companies need to account for water use at every level of their product and service cycle. Publishing water footprints would create a lever of consumer pressure and also open up competition between companies seeking to be green. More effectively, water footprints could be capped with huge fines for over-stepping use. Given the number and diversity of ways water is used along the product cycle, this would have a huge, wide-ranging impact on the quantity of water use: with fines acting as an incentive for companies to offer more efficient alternatives use up and down the supply chain. Quality score cards could also be used to balance, for example, wetland protection, with absolute water reduction adding qualitative to quantitative impact.
The third line of action would be to preserve and expand ecosystems that naturally cleanse and re-cycle water, at the same time stabilising the climate to produce more rain, especially in arid regions. This means the preservation and expansion of rainforest, the reclamation of desert and protection of oceans and coral reefs. This is a huge range of activity that can be dealt with via intelligent protection reforms and concerted effort, including funds. Such funds exist and there can be no better way to produce such lasting and multivalent effects as ecosystem preservation and expansion. All it takes is sufficient will.
Word count: 613
Thanks to Joost Notenboom for tipping me off about this competition. His 30,000km Cycle for Water expedition, undertaken with colleague Michiel Roodenburg, is an example of ingenuity and and hard work to raise awareness on  water issues.

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