Tag Archives: Water Footprint

Water The Elixir of Life- Is It the Next Oil?

My better half who is immersed in the markets up ticks and down falls has told me many times over the years that in our life time we may see fights or wars over water, to me it sounded very far fetched 10 years ago, and then I started reading up on it. He send me the link to the Forbes magazine website early this year with an article titled “The Next Oil-Water” The article in reference was from the Mother Nature Network and was published on March 22nd which was incidentally World Water Day. WHO has been celebrating world water day since 2005.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi the Nobel Prize winning Hungarian Biochemist said “Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”

Water- the elixir of life which makes life possible on Earth, and that which makes Earth unique amongst the other planets in our solar system. We are by all estimates 75% water, our brain in itself is 85%water! Without water there would be no life and that is a fact. It is the reason why we send missions to the moon, mars and planets beyond searching, hoping that may be somewhere out there is another place like ours, special because it has water the sustainer of Life.

What really opened my eyes?

I grew up in Cochin a small coastal city in the Southern most part of India. I have lived my life without major issues related to water shortage, there were a few times when there would be a pipe that burst or something and we would go get water from a nearby well. Then I moved to the US and the only issues we have ever had has been when hurricane Ike’s remnants lashed through a couple of years back and brought down trees and power lines along its path… for a couple of weeks we were left without power and potable drinking tap water.

Early this year when I went to India to visit my folks, there were riot like situations happening in some islands adjacent to the city of Cochin and the cause was drinking water. The wells and the water tables in the islands are saline, leaving them dependant on the mainland for potable drinking water. With the city growing in leaps and bounds and the population bursting at the seams whatever water is available gets consumed before it makes its way to the islands. The people in the islands were fuming over the injustice they have been putting up with for decades… I remembered then that this was an issue when I was in school in the 80’s and probably even before that. For us mainlanders as long as it was not affecting us the issue seemed remote and something one the inside pages of the newspaper that we read and forgot.

One of the interesting things that caught my eye on the road in Cochin were the Tankers with “Drinking Water” boldly emblazoned on the sides. There seemed to be so many of them around! Each tanker carries Precious water for the residents who pay premium to get it 3-4 times a week! I was talking to a friend of mine who has always had a well with a never drying water table beneath, who mentioned that wells around were drying up in the wink of an eye without no reason at all… What we concluded was that probably the huge flats around had something to do with it?? Water tables are interconnected and when we break them I feel there must be some repercussion. Anyways so when I got back home and my husband gave me the link to the Forbes article, I started trying to find out how much water I was using in a day. I collected water in buckets to shower with, and kept track of the water I used to cook, tried to minimize use etc and when I triumphantly mentioned my effort to my better half her suggested I take a look at my water foot print a little more in detail. He said remember almost everything that we consume comes in contact with water before it makes its way to us!

So I thought well I need to find out for real how much water approximately I consume or use. On searching I found this website water foot print and I was astounded by the numbers and the realization of how far off my calculation was from reality. For me a cup of coffee was 1 cup of water, where as in reality to make that cup of coffee it takes approximately 140 liters of water! The sheer magnitude shocked me and made me realize like everything else the onus falls on us to take a stand and make sure we are making use of this elixir thoughtfully.

My water footprint was 801 cubic meter per year, what is yours? Find out here

Interesting and thought provoking Water Facts:

  • In the population of around 6billion plus people on our earth, 1 billion plus have no access to drinking water.
  • Around 1000 children die a day due to sicknesses from drinking non-potable water.
  • Oceans dominate the earth but only 1% of that water is fresh, accessible and potable.
  • Dry nations will increasingly abandon agriculture because of water scarcity, as is now happening in the Middle East and North Africa, and will turn to the water-rich countries for grains and other foods. This trade in comestibles—flowing from lush lands to parched places—has earned wheat, rice, and other crops the sobriquet “virtual water.”
  • The World Bank reports that a third of public utilities in developing countries lose up to 40 percent of their water due to poor infrastructure and mismanagement.
  • In 2007 the city of Atlanta was nearly brought to a standstill when Lake Lanier, the area’s primary water supply, dropped to its lowest levels in a century.
  • Every time you open a faucet, remember that you’re doing something beyond the reach of almost 3 billion people.
  • 2005–2015 is the International Decade for Action Water for life, we are half way through it is high time there is action. Like everything else every small step counts.
  • 4 of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking-water.
  • Harvesting rain water is a very sustainable way to save water.
  • Planting local plants and drought resistant varieties helps.
  • Taking shorter showers helps, keeping the tap closed while brushing teeth or shaving helps…
  • The steps we can take are myriad it is just that we need to do it, pay attention to the small things and make sure to follow through when we care about something which in this case is survival.
  • China, with 1.26 billion people, is the one area worrying most people most of the time, In dry Northern China, the water table is dropping one meter per year due to over pumping, and the Chinese admit that 300 cities are running short. Some Chinese rivers are so polluted the water can’t be used for irrigation!!
  • In India, home to 1.002 billion people, key aquifers are being over pumped, and the soil is growing saltier through contamination with irrigation water.
  • Israel (population 6.2 million), invented many water-conserving technologies, but water withdrawals still exceed resupply. Over pumping of aquifers along the coast is allowing seawater to pollute drinking water.
  • Egypt, whose population of 68 million may reach 97 million by 2025, gets essentially no rainfall. All agriculture is irrigated by seasonal floods from the Nile River, and from water stored behind the Aswan High Dam. Any interference with water flow by Sudan or Ethiopia could starve Egypt.
  • Mexico City (home to 20 million people) is sinking because the city sucks out underground water faster than the aquifer can be refilled.
  • In Bangladesh, what’s been called the “largest poisoning of a population in history” has 35 to 77 million people drinking arsenic-laced water.
  • 5 tips from the MNN network
  1. Reduce your current shower time by one minute
  2. Locate and repair silent toilet leaks.
  3. Water lawns on demand, not on schedule.
  4. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.
  5. Smart Dishwashing – If you’re doing dishes by hand, don’t rinse under an open faucet. Buy an in-sink rack, load your soapy dishes, and rinse by pouring hot water over the top or using a handheld spray nozzle. Have a dishwasher? Use the short cycle for all but the dirtiest dishes.
  • In developed nations such as Japan, the USA and in Europe, most water shortfalls arise from politically popular but inefficient subsidies and protections of agriculture, which accounts for 85% of freshwater consumption worldwide.
  • An apple is the result of 70 liters of water! and Wheat uses less water than rice to cultivate, almost 50% less! Can you believe that!
  • Why there can be strife over water? Consider: More than a dozen nations receive most of their water from rivers that cross borders of neighboring countries viewed as hostile.

A prime cause of the global water concern is the ever-increasing world population. As populations grow, industrial, agricultural and individual water demands escalate. According to the World Bank, world-wide demand for water is doubling every 21 years, more in some regions. Water supply cannot remotely keep pace with demand, as populations soar and cities explode.

The reality is that the water we take for granted can and will become not so cheap in a not so distant future unless we wake up to the fact that it is indeed a precious commodity now, not an unending source which will keep on giving. We need to take steps to make sure drinking water shortages do not start the next cold war scenario or unrest world over.

Our first step like everything else starts with ourselves, that small step we take in the right direction… like deciding whether to plant drought resistant vegetation, if guided by awareness that water is a very limited and precious natural resource… To get started check out your water footprint here am sure you will be as surprised as I was. Live Green!

Check out this presentation by professor Scott Fendorf of Stanford University about Southeast Asian water shortage:

Interesting reads and sources for the data in water facts:

Read the Forbes Article here

The UN WHO project Water For Life Booklet a must read

World Water.org dedicated to providing information and resources to help protect and preserve fresh water around the globe.

Arizona Agricultural University website

Why files

Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin

Drinking water and sanitation data

Check out rainwater harvesting here

Interesting Books from Amazon –

Your Body’s Many Cries for Water

Out of Water: From Abundance to Scarcity and How to Solve the World’s Water Problems