Global Poisoning and a 40% Water Shortfall… If Only this Global Water Crisis was Sci-Fi
Last month’s record “king tides” on both coasts, documented by the Washington Post and nearly every coastal paper, provide a visual reminder of climate change. They are a stark contrast to the West Coast drought and fire pictures that have been in the news in recent months.
As startling a contrast as these pictures present, neither the floods nor droughts sufficiently convey the impact our actions have had on our planet.
Clean Water Act of 70s Wasn’t Future-Proof
The reason I say this is that I’ve spent the last month immersed in the water business – a world I thought was second nature to this girl who grew up on Water Street in Watertown. Wis., and lived along the Rock River. I gave speeches on water pollution in the state conservation corps competitions in elementary school and naively assumed the water crisis ended with the Clean Water Act of the 70s, when I no longer saw the 30-ft-high by 60-ft-wide pile of pollutants below our Rock River dam.
Grim Reality Necessitates Revolutionary Action
I was awakened to a stark reality on Sept. 29, 2015, when I walked into Chicago’s McCormick Place for the world’s largest gathering of water quality experts, WEFTEC 2015. The keynote speaker, Rob Stewart, producer of The Revolution Movie, shared the grim reality on our dying oceans and coral reefs, documented in his movie. He then called on all of us to spread the word to help our planet avoid the mass extinction of marine life the UN has predicted by 2048, assuming we continue on our current path.
In the next day’s tour of UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, I learned that commercial fishing in the Great Lakes has already met its demise due to inadequate fish stock in those bodies of water. The Great Lakes, by the way, represent more than 80% of the United State’s fresh water resources (Wikipedia).
40% Water Shortfall Predicted in 15 Years
Seeking a more promising outlook, I turned to Rich Meeusen, chairman and CEO of Badger Meter and founder of The Water Council in Milwaukee, recognized by the UN as the the world’s leading freshwater research center.
When asked whether we should be concerned about global warming or a global water crisis, Meeusen showed me a report by the Water Resource Group and McKinsey Consulting, predicting a 40% shortfall between water supply and demand by 2030.
As troubling as it was to realize how little I comprehended the impact of global warming, those living north of the 40th parallel will appreciate the fact that “warming” could easily be dismissed as a concern by those facing record low winter temps year after year.
New Terminology Needed for Climate Change
The truth is that global warming also means ocean acidification or what one might more accurately describe as global poisoning, so let’s call it that, and not risk the possibility that it could be dismissed.
I don’t say this to sensationalize the topic or to arouse fear. I am an eternal optimist and believe we have the talent and technology to address present and future challenges.
Talent, Technology Exists
A large number of government and non-government entities, water technology researchers and businesses are already working together to raise awareness and innovation. Here’s a quick sampling:
- The World Economic Forum, in its Global Risks 2015 Insight Report, cites the Water Crisis as the #1 Risk in terms of global impact. The report also identifies steps to increase water security.
- The Global Water Port was launched earlier this year by the Milwaukee Water Council to enhance global connectivity within the water technology sector and among those interested in finding solutions to water-related challenges. The online research and collaboration tool is powered by the innovationExchange™ and enabled by its affiliate inno360™, a cognitive intelligence and predictive research engine equipped with IBM Watson™. The Port can be used by individuals from any water-related industry, organization or enterprise to inform, accelerate and evolve water technology innovation.
- Building on the success of NYT’s Best-Seller, “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solutions for a Water-Starved World,” the Jewish National Fund is hosting 10 public Water Summits, showcasing Israel’s water technologies and conservation practices, which have created a water surplus in that nation.
- The UN’s “Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform” invites all to support its 17 sustainable development goals. “Safe Drinking Water” is #6 on their list.
Again, the talent, ideas and technology exist. The reality is that we have a very short time horizon – less than 15 years to bridge the 40% gap between water supply and demand.
Does that make you thirsty? It sure does me. I’m hoping that our combined thirst will help us spread the word and, together, reverse the ocean acidification to which we’ve all contributed. With a more educated public, we can align global efforts and quench the thirst of the predicted 9.5B people with whom we will share the planet.
Help Water Work for All Future Generations
Join our Global Water Works Facebook Group to stay apprised of the technology, resources and people who are helping to ensure water works for all future generations.
I welcome your questions and your contributions to this important topic, and I look forward to raising a glass of water with you in 2030 to toast the success of our collaborative efforts!
Mary Conley Eggert is Vice President of the Global Impact Fund, dedicated to providing affordable drinking water through sustainable business models, http://www.gifinternational.org. Follow Mary on LinkedIn or Twitter@maryeggert