Why The Earth May Be Running Out Of Clean Water
Earlier this month, officials in the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu had to confront a pretty dire problem: they were running out of water. Due to a severe and lasting drought, water reserves in this country of 11,000 people had dwindled to just a few days' worth. Climate change plays a role here: as sea levels rose, Tuvalu's groundwater became increasingly saline and undrinkable, leaving the island dependent on rainwater. But now a La Niña–influenced drought has severely curtailed rainfall, leaving Tuvalu dry as a bone. "This situation is bad," Pusinelli Laafai, Tuvalu's permanent secretary of home affairs, told the Associated Press earlier this month. "It's really bad."
So far Tuvalu has been bailed out by its neighbors Australia and New Zealand, which have donated rehydration packets and desalination equipment. But the archipelago's water woes are just beginning — and it's far from the only part of the world facing a big dry. Other island nations like the Maldives and Kiribati will see their groundwater spoil as sea levels rise. Texas, along with much of the American Southwest, is in the grip of a truly record-breaking drought — even after days of storms in the past month, Houston's total 2011 rainfall is still short of its yearly average by a whopping 2 ft., or 60 cm. Australia has experienced severely dry weather for so long, it's not even clear whether the country is in a state of drought, or more worryingly, a new and permanent dry climate that could forever alter life Down Under. "Climate-change impacts on water resources continue to appear in the form of growing influence on the severity and intensity of extreme events," says Peter Gleick, one of the foremost water experts in the U.S. and head of the Pacific Institute, an NGO based in Oakland, Calif., that focuses on global water issues. "Australia's recent extraordinary extreme drought should be an eye-opener for the rest of us."
(See photos of the world's water crisis.)
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Water is being used as a commodity by those who do not understand its true intrinsic value. We need to stop fracking it, stop polluting it, stop disturbing its flow, stop wasting it, stop damming it and stop thinking it will last forever.
Tuvalu is a lesson.