There are no alternatives to the lack of clean water. Technology cannot create new water and so we must protect and preserve the water that we have. That means not polluting it, of course, but also conserving it. Our demand for water globally increases not just to keep up with population growth, but also because consumer-based societies use far more water than agrarian ones.
In the “developed” world, most of the water we consume is in the food we eat and the products we buy. The jeans you might be wearing took 2,900 gallons of water to construct; a one-pound steak requires 1,800 gallons to produce! These figures do not account for water pollution from the production of these commodities. On a per capita basis, we in the United States consume more water than anyone else in the world.
Here in the Northwest, consumption (except in some urban areas like Seattle) is increasing–due to overall population growth, “infilling” of once-rural areas with homes and irrigated acreage, and a market-driven shift to “water-expensive”, high-value crops, such as vineyards.
But as our consumption increases, our supply decreases.
Climate change scientists predict that our freshwater resources will decline as glaciers disappear. Melting snowpack seeps into the ground and recharges our aquifers. In the Northwest, 60% of our drinking water comes from groundwater. 100% of the water in our rivers and streams comes from groundwater during the parched summertime.
We have not yet seen the full impacts of climate change. But we are already in trouble.
Groundwater supplies in some critical Washington aquifers have been dropping for decades; we are pumping more water than is recharging the aquifer. No place underscores this problem more than the Odessa Aquifer in Lincoln and Adams Counties of Washington State.
Water levels in the Odessa basalt aquifer annually drop roughly 7 feet per year due to pumping from wells. In the past 26 years, the United States Geological Survey has measured a 180 foot decline in the aquifer that sustains the people, wildlife, and agriculture of Lincoln and Adams Counties. State and federal authorities have planned an elaborate, enormously expensive program to pump water from the Columbia River hundreds of miles to artificially recharge the parched aquifer. This is all before the impacts of climate change truly became apparent in Eastern Washington.
CELP believes that for all children, we have to act now to preserve and protect this most essential resource–water. We can’t wait.
¨“By the law of nature these things are common to mankind –the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.”
¡ – Institutes of Justinian (466 A.D.)