Spain's Pervasive Drought A Crisis
Spain's Drought: A Glimpse At Our Future?
Barcelona is a dry city. It is dry in a way that two days of showers can do nothing to alleviate. The Catalan capital's weather can change from one day to the next, but its climate, like that of the whole Mediterranean region, is inexorably warming up and drying out. And in the process this most modern of cities is living through a crisis that offers a disturbing glimpse of metropolitan futures everywhere.
Its fountains and beach showers are dry, its ornamental lakes and private swimming pools drained and hosepipes banned. Children are now being taught how to save water as part of their school day. This iconic, avant-garde city is in the grip of the worst drought since records began and is bringing the climate crisis that has blighted cities in Australia and throughout the Third World to Europe. A resource that most Europeans have grown up taking for granted now dominates conversation. Nearly half of Catalans say water is the region's main problem, more worrying than terrorism, economic slowdown or even the populists' favourite – immigration.
The political battles now breaking out here could be a foretaste of the water wars that scientists and policymakers have warned us will be commonplace in the coming decades. The emergency water-saving measures Barcelona adopted after winter rains failed for a second year running have not been enough. The city has had to set up a "water bridge" and is shipping in water for the first time in the history of this great maritime city.
A tanker from Marseilles with 36 million litres of drinking water unloaded its first cargo this week, one of a mini-fleet contracted to bring water from the Rhone every few days for at least the next three months. So humbled was Barcelona when prolonged drought forced it to ship in domestic water from Tarragona, 50 miles south along the Catalan coast, 12 days ago, that city hall almost delayed shipment and considered an upbeat publicity campaign to lift morale and international prestige.
The whole country is suffering from its worst drought in 40 years and the shipments from Tarragona prompted an outcry from regions who insist they need it more. For now the clashes are being soothed by intervention from Madrid, and plans to ship water from desalination plants in parched Almeria in Andalusia are shelved until October. But there is little indication of a strategy to deal not just with an immediate emergency but an ongoing crisis. Buying water on an epic scale from France has given the controversy an international aspect as French environmentalists question whether such a scarce natural resource should be sold as a commodity to another country.
As I continue to read daily about this global crisis, it is obvious the pattern that has emerged throughout the world is the one that has been coming and warned about for years. Countries whether rich or poor are experiencing severe repercussions environmentally, and these effects are most pronounced regarding drought and water scarcity.
And once again we are seeing the truth about human nature which knows no nationality, race, creed, or political persuasion: We don't understand the urgency of the situation we are creating by our behavior until it begins to affect our lives. Are we then truly incapable as human beings of conserving freshwater? Of doing the right thing for our future? Of caring for those who live a world away? Has our society worldwide become so consumptive, selfish, and greedy, that even in the face of repercussions that threaten our very lives we will not change?
We are wasting the very substance that sustains our lives as if it will always be there. It won't. And if we as a species are going to ever survive this challenge, we must wake up to the reality surrounding our behavior that is contributing to the global water crisis.
And it will require:
Education. Education. Education.
Then after that:
Global cooperation with water scarcity and waste being one of the main issues covered in any new global climate treaty that also prohibits making water a commodity to be sold at the expense of the right of humans to access to it. To commoditize it will only exacerbate inequality in its distribution which will lead to war.
Finally considering population in the developing world as one of the chief factors in any water policy and looking to educate people about family planning.
Effective water management being mandatory and enforced with particular emphasis on water footprints of nations being used to determine water policy much like carbon caps.
Effective water catchement and conservation techniques being taught to people in countries experiencing the worst droughts.
Agricultural methods such as drip irrigation that allow for the least amount of water to be used to grow crops without waste, with an emphasis on less water intensive crops being planted in areas with more severe conditions so that at least those who farm will still have an income to rely on.
Standing up to corporations that continue to privatize water for a profit, especially in poor countries in Africa, South America, and Asia.
Mandatory clean up of rivers and other waterways required with penalties assessed for those who do not comply. *Corporations must be made accountable for their actions.* Willfully polluting a river or other freshwater resource to save money knowing that such resources sustain humans and other species should be seen as an act of negligence punishable by law.
***All of us coming together to mitigate the amount of greenhouse gases we spew into the atmosphere that are making the conditions that cause drought.***
Declaring access to potable water a human right that is not to be commoditized at the expense of the weak and the poor, with an emphasis on holding companies like Coca Cola, Nestle, and private companies like Thames Water, American Water, Suez, Vivendi and other companies to stringent standards regarding price and quality. There must also be the threat of penalty for gouging customers or using the climate crisis as a vehicle to raise prices beyond what is needed to maintain water infrastructure.
However, can we do this? Are we capable as a species of coming together to do what needs to be done to ensure our continued survival? Is greed truly an overriding quality of human nature that cannot be overcome for the good of us and this planet?
Only through education and action will we know the answer to those questions and they must be answered because time is running out while we continue to look the other way while taking our most precious resource for granted.