Happy World Water Day from the Climate Relief Fund
World Water Day is a day that brings much media and Internet attention to water. Organizations of all kinds raise awareness about our most precious resource and for sustainable development, and the Climate Relief Fund is proud to take part.
Yet for many people around the world, water takes their full attention every day of the year. Access to clean water is a constant struggle: walking miles to fetch it from the nearest well, keeping crops and livestock alive with it, hoping their drinking water doesn’t make them sick. This excellent video by the nonprofit charity:water puts water in a human perspective:
(I Am Water from charity:water on Vimeo, you can donate to their campaign here.)
Water and Droughts
The lack of water has shaped human history. Drought is defined by Wikipedia as “an extended period when a region receives a deficiency in its water supply, whether atmospheric, surface or ground water”. Civilizations have thrived where water was plentiful, and civilizations have died off because of droughts. Past "megadroughts" have lasted hundreds of years or more, and could be happening again. It very well could be “the next global crisis”.
Happening Now - California
California is experiencing the most severe drought in 1,200 years of recorded history. Northern California is reliant on snowpack (for water and not just for skiing), and this year is the fourth year well below normal snowfall. In the Central and Southern regions of the state, wells are tapping in to groundwater that’s 20,000 years old, with worries of overpumping a resource that took eons to fill. In some cities like East Porterville in Tulare County, wells have run dry leaving hundreds of households without water:
Because of the extreme drought, California is again facing severe wildfires in 2015 (half of the state's largest wildfires on record occurred since 2000). In early February, well out of the “normal” wildfire season, a fire burned 7,000 acres and 40 homes. This happened above what the normal snow line would be for that time of year. California may be facing a year-round threat of wildfires.
Happening Now – São Paulo
São Paulo, Brazil, home to 20 million people suffering through a severe drought. With their taps running dry, residents of the city have taken to drilling through their basement floors in hopes of finding groundwater. The city’s main water reservoir there is 90% empty, and despite recent rains the city may start to force rationing down to water availability only one or two days a week. Some lessons for other cities can be learned from São Paulo as they struggle with this disaster.
The Climate Connection
Research has begun to reveal the correlation between these droughts and climate, notably in California. While droughts have been happening throughout history, anthropogenic induced climate change is likely to be triggering these abrupt and severe droughts. We here at the Climate Relief Fund consider the droughts in California and Sao Paulo to be examples of "slow moving disasters" that are made worse by climate change.
We’re all in this together
These droughts make people appreciate water more than a global day of celebration. Humans are excellent at adaptation - and many of us are looking for solutions. There are many ways to conserve water, we can change our consumption to reduce our water footprint and modify where things are grown. Perhaps California shouldn’t support rice paddies in a natural desert, or grow all of the almonds (the most water intensive nut) for the whole country. Technologies such as desalinization and many other efficiency projects could be part of the solution solve. At the same time, politics, economics, and other challenges complicate the prospects of bringing real long-term solutions. State, local and federal governments play a key role in making decisions on tackling these issues, with the challenge to plan for the long-term while valuing immediate public and private interests. We must work together to help each other in this changing world.
Every day is World Water Day.
Director, Climate Relief Fund