Human Journey

Water Is Life-Let’s Share It

Welcome to the world of water. As National Geographic’s freshwater fellow, I’ll be sharing with you ideas and stories about water in all its facets–from the big global challenges of water scarcity and intensifying droughts and floods to how we as individuals and communities can take part in solving water problems in our own backyards and across the globe.

For more than 25 years now, I’ve never strayed too far from one simple question: Can we human beings use and manage water in ways that not only meet our needs but that allow the rest of life on this planet to thrive too?

I believe we can. But today, things don’t look good. A lot of life is at risk. More than a billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water, and several million die each year as a result. Many species of fish, frogs, insects, and mussels may blink out in our lifetimes. Here in North America, 40 percent of freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction. The fraying of the web of life means our own social fabric is at risk, too. It’s all connected, even if we can’t always see the threads.

On the heels of National Geographic magazine‘s special issue on water, the National Geographic Society is embarking on a large effort to motivate more of us to care about and conserve freshwater. The average American lifestyle takes 1,800 gallons (6,814 liters) of water a day to support–twice the global average.

Fortunately, there are many ways to live well while using less water. We will be offering stories, photos, online tools, lessons from the field, and more to highlight the problems and solutions–and inspire action.

We also plan to work with partner organizations and scientists to help foster preservation of freshwater species by restoring the natural patterns of flow that life within rivers needs to survive.

In National Geographic’s recently released book, Written in Water, I wrote about my search for honest hope that enough water can be provided for all people and living things to thrive. Here’s an excerpt:

As the plane lowered its landing gear, I strained my neck to watch the edge of Lake Mead recede. A few seconds later, a lush green golf course came into view. With late afternoon temperatures pushing 107 degrees, there was scarcely a golfer in sight. Downtown, on the strip, the dice-rolling gamblers had no idea how high the stakes were becoming…. Read the essay.

Water is life. Water is finite. All the water that’s here now is all there ever was–and ever will be. It’s all about sharing it–with nature and each other.

We’re on a critical mission–and we hope you’ll join us.

 

Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project and lead water expert for National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative.  She is the author of several acclaimed books, including the award-winning Last Oasis, a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, and one of the “Scientific American 50.”

[This post has been reformatted for Water Currents.]

Sandra Postel directs the independent Global Water Policy Project and lectures, writes, and consults on international water issues. She is also Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and serves as lead water expert for the Society's freshwater initiative. Sandra is the author of several acclaimed books, including the award-winning Last Oasis, the basis for a PBS documentary. Her essay "Troubled Waters" was selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing. Sandra is a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, and has been named one of the "Scientific American 50" for her contributions to water policy.
  • John Comito

    Thanks to NG for highlighting this global problem with its usual sensitivity and respect for the issue and the reader.
    It’s an issue that is beginning to garner some long-due attention here in Southwest Florida where we are finally realizing the impact our human activities have on the delicate and cyclical ecosystem.
    I’ve made it a personal issue, and I’ve also made it a business issue. My company, which began in the field of natural stonework, now offers innovative rainwater storage technology solutions. We work closely with the University of Florida Extension Service in the nearby counties to experiment with sustainable water storage systems and educate the public about responsible water use and environmentally protective practices.
    Congratulations again on your continuing fine coverage of issues of global importance. We hope it will encourage people to seek and use alternative and mindful water-use practices in their daily living.
    Sincerely,
    John Comito
    Elemental Stone and Waterworks, Inc.
    Fort Myers, Florida

  • Julia

    Our planet is in trouble! Almost every day we seem to hear of yet another problem affecting the environment – and what a list of problems! – pollution, acid rain, climate change, the destruction of rainforests and other wild habitats, the decline and extinction of thousands of species of animals and plants….and so on.
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    “Water is life. Water is finite. All the water that’s here now is all there ever was–and ever will be. It’s all about sharing it–with nature and each other.”
    Investing in one another is the one true investment. We as people are good at forgetting this. Let us share, share, share….and love.
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  • leo12

    I think, nothing can compare with water. It is life. I completely agree with the author opinion. I am giving my hands in this great movement. Regards Hearing Aid

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  • Linda

    I should thank the author for investing time and effort on this public issue. As soon as this celebration of World Water Day commenced, there had been a lot of new ideas put forth for saving the water resources. It is really nice to feel!!
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  • jhein

    Sandra,
    Thank you for all of your work on educating us on water management. I wanted to let you know that we will be incorporating your teachings into our homeschool curriculum. Our curriculum is used by hundreds of thousands of students around the world.
    Are you available for speaking engagements? We would love for you to do a session with one of our virtual school partners.
    J Hein

  • sandra34

    I think some people fail to realise just how important water is, we need to educate people, and I thinks its a great idea that you plan to work with partner organizations and scientists to help foster preservation of freshwater species, by restoring the natural patterns of flow that life within rivers needs to survive.
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  • chrise

    I agree entirely with the views of the author. The need to share water has recently been highlighted by the new Nile agreement which has been signed by a number of countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and DRC. For their part, Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign the new regime arguing that it would inhibit their unfettered access tot he Nile waters handed to them by some lop-sided colonial agreements. The rest of us are saying “let us share the Nile water.” Very well put! Lake Victoria | Kenya lakes

  • arwansp

    unfortunately, it’s now water are for sale…it’s not free anymore, who have the money than they can buy it, what a poor!
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  • freakout

    just read your essay, and it’ so sad and true, but there is still hope and some projects around this planet are doing well!
    it was a pleasure reading your thoughts and experiances.
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  • adam

    Of course Water if lIfe ,Water is Everything , Without water there can nothing be possible.
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  • Sussib

    Very interesting article. Without water there is no live, so we better start learning how to manage it.
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  • bradr

    Water is the essence of life, thanks for your article.
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  • LisaV

    The earth is a closed system, similar to a terrarium, meaning that it rarely loses or gains extra matter. The same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still present today.
    The average person in the United States uses anywhere from 80-100 gallons of water per day. Flushing the toilet actually takes up the largest amount of this water.
    Approximately 85 percent of U.S. residents receive their water from public water facilities. The remaining 15 percent supply their own water from private wells or other sources.
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  • Colin

    We use and manage water in ways that not only meet our needs but that allow the rest of life on this planet to thrive too as we only have one earth.bearing

  • dan0203

    You know I get so angry when people selfishly don’t bother about these things, they think life is short lets enjoy it. Little do they think of the generations to come, conserving water and electricity for them. I am glad there are people like you who still care and are spreading the word. Thanks Deb Legitimate Work From Home Jobs

  • lucy43

    “Water is life. Water is finite. All the water that’s here now is all there ever was–and ever will be. It’s all about sharing it–with nature and each other.” Investing in one another is the one true investment. We as people are good at forgetting this. Let us share, share, share….and love.
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    I think that many people in America just can’t comprehend what it would be like to not have safe water available. Education and proper water purification systems is key. Without it, we will encounter more people affected unfortunately. Thanks. Jim from mortgage refinance rates

  • maselakone

    Water is life , that’s true . Though at present for polution in lots part of the world water is becoming a second name of death , as poluted water contains a lots of severe disease viruses and bacterias . So we should look forward to keep water from polution .
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  • Greg

    in the environmental debate. too many fail to remember or realize that fresh water itself may be in short supply sometime in the near future.. everyone always talks about fuel sources.. but there is more to worry about than fuel.. water is everything
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    Water is Life and that’s true. Life wont be that easy without it. I can’t imagine how life would be without water. We must conserve water. Make it cool, make it clean. lice

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    Water is essential for life. No living being on planet Earth can survive without it. It is a prerequisite for human health and well-being as well as for the preservation of the environment
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    Beyond meeting basic human needs, water supply and sanitation services, as well as water as a resource, are critical to sustainable development.
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    One thing that bothers me is seeing all those golf courses burning up the water supply. Must be a better way. If we all do our part on conserving water there will be lots we could share with those that are suffering. Kelowna Hotels | Kamloops Hotels

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    Water is finite. All the water that’s here now is all there ever was–and ever will be. It’s all about sharing it–with nature and each other.” Investing in one another is the one true investment. We as people are good at forgetting this.
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  • floor3

    Water is simply the only reason that we still excist. This article very well proves it, very well written by the way. Peter from Spil

  • jasonkoila

    Well many people fail to realise just how important water is, we need to educate people, and I thinks its a great idea that you plan to work with partner organizations and scientists to help foster preservation of freshwater species, by restoring the natural patterns of flow that life within rivers needs to survive.
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    Its universal truth that “Water is Life”. Life wont be that easy without it. I can’t imagine how life would be without water. We must conserve water. Make it cool, make it clean. Wer need pure water .
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    Folks have to understand that water pollution has always been a major problem to the environment. With industrialization in major areas and urban cities growing the water around them just keeps getting polluted. The sad part about the whole ordeal. voiture thermique

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    I’ve made it a personal issue, and I’ve also made it a business issue. My company, which began in the field of natural stonework, now offers innovative rainwater storage technology solutions. We work closely with the University of Florida Extension Service in the nearby counties to experiment with sustainable water storage systems and educate the public about responsible water use and environmentally protective practices. Hotels

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    For more than 25 years now, I’ve never strayed too far from one simple question: Can we human beings use and manage water in ways that not only meet our needs but that allow the rest of life on this planet to thrive too? Hotels

  • Haseboljone

    At present , The need to share water has recently been highlighted by the new Nile agreement which has been signed by a number of countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and DRC. For their part, Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign the new regime arguing that it would inhibit their unfettered access tot he Nile waters handed to them by some lop-sided colonial agreements .
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    Water is Life and that’s true. Life wont be that easy without it. I can’t imagine how life would be without water. We must conserve water. Make it cool, make it clean. download the sorcerer’s apprentice | download get him to the greek | download killers | download marmaduke

  • inter4522

    I could not have said it better then this. I cannot understand why we do not share water better then we do. This drives me crazy.
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  • leo12

    Safe drinking water is fundamental to healthy lives and prosperous communities. Every person needs 20 to 40 liters of freshwater per day for drinking, cooking, and sanitation needs alone. Yet some 1.1 billion people world-wide do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. As a result, many people become sick, some lives are shortened, and some die. exercise bike workout

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    In developing countries, 80 percent of all waste is discharged untreated, often because of lack of regulations and resources. As populations and industry expand, they add to that equation new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean water. Human and environmental health suffers as a result, and future agricultural and drinking water supplies are put at risk. monthly flower delivery

  • SheilaS

    It’s almost hard to believe the statistics about water in the world when you actually hear them. You’ve probably read most of these a dozen times, but here are just a few that stick out:
    -Over half of the world’s illnesses are due to diseases caused by unsafe water.
    -One billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water.
    -By 2025, this number could be 1.8 billion, unless we act.
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  • JohnAnderson

    People really don’t realize that water itself is going to be in scarce supply. I’m not sure the general public is able to fathom that. PLNDR Couponsmannequin

  • Carl Foster

    i think you’re right about that John.. we need to get out some education and fast.. this one is a hard one for people to grasp though. unique antiques

  • Freshers123

    Our most essentials thing to live is water this is correct that water is life, Nobody can’t live without water beacause Water is basic needs of person.
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  • james lee

    People just take advantage of water all the time. We have to stop this in the future. We have to conserve water and take care of it for the future. Lets do the right thing.
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  • daily-sudoku

    water is getting more polluted everyday, sadly I think the only time people will wake up is when its to late
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  • daily-sudoku

    water is getting more polluted everyday, sadly I think the only time people will wake up is when its to late
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  • cristianx82

    Water should always be for free, a shame that natural water is not so good for drinking anymore
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  • Jonathan

    3 years ago we had a major drought in our town and the city implemented a water rationing program that is still in place today (even though water levels are now fine) – it has been wise of them to keep the rationing program since residents were already comfortable with the process.
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  • Sagolikt

    Well it most likely depends on the country if the natural water is drinkable or not. There are many countries that have taken care of their nature and have many clean water sources.
    Too bad they are not filled with unlimted volume of water 🙂
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  • juliechen

    Its sad to see that once again, people are suffering because of other people’s greed! Forests and other natural resources like lakes are being sacrificed for golf courses & factories just for profits!
    Even now, in some countries, its not safe to drink water from the tap that they have to buy bottled water! Julie country review

  • coachlikeapro.com

    So disappointed in the BP Oil spill. Now the Gulf of Mexico is just one big cesspool. We must fight BP. We at http://www.coachlikeapro.com at trying hard to help with the cleanup. Our water system is everything.

  • thomasolsen

    You’re right. I mean this BP thing is a different topic because we’re talking about freshwater here.. but still, this is an absolute atrocity. It looks bleak, but I’m trying to be confident that we can recover in good time. We need all the resources and dedication we can get from all walks (private and public). We can do it.. I hope..
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  • jessicamorris

    Water really is life. We had a drought years back where I lived in Arizona. It was really bad to be honest. The sad thing is, there isn’t much we can do as humans to avoid it. But hey, we can only hope, right? I live in New York now though, so I don’t think I’ll be seeing a drought for a while.
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  • adi12

    There are a lot of articles around the web which are talking about the importance of water in nature. One of the most important things is that humans need water because half their body weight is water.
    I was wondering how did water first come to Earth?
    and another one
    Are there more species living in water than on Earth? How many in total?

  • JakeRogers

    Many celebrities protect and engage in projects to protect nature but sadly there are to many people that are uneducated or just don’t care. And companies that care more about profit that preserving the earth.

  • upperclass09

    i definitely agree with this post. we cant afford to waste water. motoculteur

  • awwalia

    yeah water it our soul. composition our body mostly is liquid. our metabolist so need water, without water we will die,
    thank for your share. this very good posting. 😀

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    I always check the root zone of my lawn and garden for moisture before watering using a spade or trowel. If it’s still moist two inches under the soil surface, I still have enough water.
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    In coming years we are going to face a very big problem and most importantly this problem is globally. we are now going to face a shortage of water.Everyone needs water and is essential for our lfe
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  • John

    As soon as this celebration of World Water Day commenced, there had been a lot of new ideas put forth for saving the water resources. It is really nice to feel!!
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  • khanmecail

    Its true that Water is life . Though at present for polution in lots part of the world water is becoming a second name of death , as poluted water contains a lots of severe disease viruses and bacterias . So we should look forward to keep water from polution .
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    Eighty percent of all waste is discharged untreated in developing countries , often because of lack of regulations and resources. As populations and industry expand, they add to that equation new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean water. Human and environmental health suffers as a result, and future agricultural and drinking water supplies are at risk.
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  • Haseboljone

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    We also plan to work with partner organizations and scientists to help foster preservation of freshwater species by restoring the natural patterns of flow that life within rivers needs to survive.
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  • yaeger

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  • Reggie Tarbon

    People and government really need to start using their heads. We are falling further and further behind in this game. It’s like procrastinating school work.. put it of a day or two and you can catch up.. put it off for half the semester and you’re in a lot of trouble. You might never catch up.
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  • Wychwood Forestry Tree Surgeons

    Water is recycled and is all a fundamental part of the nitrogen cycle. We are not taking water out of the equation and surely if the ice caps melt we’re gonna have more than enough!
    Now until we can manipulate weather and cloud formations and create a sky based water director much akin to oil pipelines – but hopefully more sophisticated – afterall water travels in many forms! There is no easy way of transporting this vital commodity to devasted areas of drought in the third world.
    The problem isn’t that there isn’t enough water in the world – the problem is that it is distributed unevenly!
    Taking into account the Nitrogen cycle – water is a vast part of this…this is what we should be watching! Humans are tampering this by polluting and changing the ratio of gases present in the atmosphere – coupled by this we are still destroying trees in the rainforest thus affecting the nitrogen and water cycles of the skies. Maybe we can control this more using large scale plantations?
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    I agree entirely with the views of the author. The need to share water has recently been highlighted by the new Nile agreement which has been signed by a number of countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and DRC. For their partdomains

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    At present , The need to share water has recently been highlighted by the new Nile agreement which has been signed by a number of countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and DRC. For their part, Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign the new regime arguing that it would inhibit their unfettered access tot he Nile waters handed to them by some lop-sided colonial agreements .
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  • marc

    Water is life. Without this element of life on earth would be unimaginable. Water belongs to the daily lives of all. We come into contact with water every day, whether during brushing, washing, rinsing, drinking, bathing, etc. So we should have an eye on the water resources!
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  • marc

    The Greek philosophers of antiquity described the nature of the “four-element theory” and in art, the elements often portrayed as gods, because without earth, fire, water and air, there would be no life. From: LR World

  • Desktopper

    We must also reflect and draw the correct conclusions. Thanks for original pic. I might make it my wallpaper collection.

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  • skep.tees

    You know I get so angry when people selfishly don’t bother about these things, they think life is short lets enjoy it. Little do they think of the generations to come, conserving water and electricity for them. I am glad there are people like you who still care and are spreading the word.
    Can we human beings use and manage water in ways that not only meet our needs but that allow the rest of life on this planet to thrive too? Christening Gifts | Online Poker Room Reviews

  • stevengerad

    Forests and other natural resources like lakes are being sacrificed for golf courses & factories just for profits! Even now, in some countries, its not safe to drink water from the tap that they have to buy bottled water .
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  • jibran_pcc

    Water is life. Water is finite. All the water that’s here now is all there ever was–and ever will be. It’s all about sharing it–with nature and each other. Cheap Hotels

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  • prosch

    Thats very true @jibran_pcc. “Water is life. Water is finite.”
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  • tommywebster7987

    “We’re on a critical mission–and we hope you’ll join us.” Well, I for one am with you all the way! Thank you for such an informative blog – if we all do our bit then we are some way there.
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  • lizaforst

    isn’t it funny how the simplest things in life are now so important again.. like taking care of water.. being care of your dog diets. We try to recycle at Schrottplatz best we can to do our part also.

  • lizaforst

    by the way.. bad water can also affect dog diets.. so that’s just another reason to preserve your drinking water… for the love of your puppy 🙂

  • tommywebster7987

    I really like that puppy analogy – fitted in nicely with your link. I guess really I should say that bad water can affect your beer when you are celebrating your 21st birthday.
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  • James

    Even though our environmental conscious has grown, more and more fresh water sources are being polluted today. In some countries like Israel & Dubai, people had to start implementing the use of desalination plants to win fresh water from sea water. Thanks for the informative article.
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  • nicoduc

    The Philippine archipelago, made up of 7,107 islands, is located in southeastern Asia, between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam. The Philippines has a population of 91,077,287 and an adult literacy rate of 92.6 %. Only about 85% has access to safe drinking water, the remaining 15%, which constitutes the 40% who are under the poverty line, does not. The median age is 22.7 years and the Infant Mortality Rate is 22.12 deaths per 1,000 live births. The Average GDP growth is about 5% between 2002 and 2006.
    Energy conservation is an essential environmental policy. While water has no calorie, it is, practically speaking, a form of “energy”. Water conservation is taken very seriously in the well developed countries like the United States and in European countries, where restaurants no longer serve water automatically but on request, and where hotels encourage water saving measures besides electrical power conservation, with a sign requesting unused towels be left on the shelves, etc. Desert cities, like Las Vegas, and those in other parts of the world, water conservation consciousness and practice are part of children’s education and the daily life of the people. It only makes sense. Why waste water or anything valuable at all?
    There are “three main plans to institute, which include water conservation, water justice and water democracy,” according to Maude Barlow, co-founder of the Blue Planet Project and a vocal advocate of clean water for all, “in order for our planet to avert a catastrophe regarding this crisis that, according to the United Nations, should be our top priority.” In her book, entitled The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for Right to Water, Barlow points out that “access to clean water is a human right,” and exhorted the global community “to see beyond the borders to the moral courage necessary to conserve and share this precious resource, as well as working on a treaty like the one we hope to see regarding the climate crisis that sets goals for conservation, sharing of resources, providing technology necessary to developing countries that helps them with conserving through agriculture, infrastructure, and basic education.”
    Water crisis is already a reality and a nightmare among 15% of all families in the Philippines who do not have access to safe drinking water, 28% of them also do not have sanitary toilets. As a result, waterborne illnesses are a major cause of infections in the country. Other countries around the world are also in potential peril.
    Water harvesting and conservation are already a practical and beneficial technology in a few rural areas in the Philippines. One of them, the “WaterPartners” program in the Baranggay Villahermosa near Cebu, on Camotes Island, started in 2003. The local government and the townspeople share the cost of running and maintaining the program. The 278 households (1368 people) in that town are among the pioneers in this field and are very happy with the system.osts
    Simply put, rainwater could be harvested from rooftops, from land surface or rock catchments and collected in pots, jars, barrels, etc., or in a more sophisticated reservoir like underground check dams, for future use.
    Water harvesting was practiced in the 9th or 10th century in the rural areas of South and Southeast Asia, and for almost 2000 years in Thailand. According to UNEP, 1982, “about 40 000 well storage tanks, in a variety of different forms, were constructed between 1970 and 1974 using a technology which stores rainwater and storm water runoff in ponds of various sizes. A thin layer of red clay is generally laid on the bottom of the ponds to minimize seepage losses. Trees, planted at the edges of the ponds, help to minimize evaporative losses from the ponds.”
    This centuries-old technology used by ancient civilization still offers our modern world of today a simple and practical way for almost every household or town to minimize the adverse effects of the predicted water crisis. Needless to say, water conservation (the wise and judicious use of water) is an essential part of the solution. The Filipino ingenuity in improving on this technology might even open up great business opportunities for the our own engineers.
    The popular systems have three major components: the catchment area, the collection device, and the conveyance system. An inexpensive filtration device is a fabric sack, used to remove particles before water enters the storage reservoir. A small chlorine dosage pump may also be used to sterilize the water. While rain-water linked illnesses have been reported to be few and insignificant, a treatment and filtration system may be added to ensure the water is safe for drinking. Boiling rainwater, and throwing away mineral sediments, is certainly a practical alternative, as a resort.
    Crisis or not, rainwater harvesting and conservation today is a prudent and easy way to collect water for general use, help in protecting our environment, and, at the same time, save on our water bills too. Water is essential to life. Why waste it?
    With the looming water crisis, it behooves governments and private sectors of all countries around the globe to formulate national policies to address the issue before an actual crisis dries up our wells and annihilate all living forms on earth. An intelligent, well-structured, pre-emptive, and prompt strategy today might spell the difference between survival and extinction of all life on this planet tomorrow.
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  • yaeger

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  • Fred

    Great article, as usual.
    Keep up the good work Sandra.
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  • stevengerad

    Well yeah water it our soul. composition our body mostly is liquid. our metabolist so need water, without water we will die,thank for your share. this very good posting.
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  • jibran_pcc

    On the heels of National Geographic magazine’s special issue on water, the National Geographic Society is embarking on a large effort to motivate more of us to care about and conserve freshwater. The average American lifestyle takes 1,800 gallons (6,814 liters) of water a day to support–twice the global average. seo marketing

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  • MikeT81

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  • Emanprinting

    Water is essential for life. It is a prerequisite for human health and well-being as well as for the preservation of the environment. It is a major source of energy in some parts of the world. No body live without water thanks for share it.
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  • CodyDemmer

    I really hope people start respecting our gift of nature more.. I think I see it coming around.. the depressing part is knowing that the large (still industrializing) nations like China and the such aren’t really doing their part. That is a real problem. -Cody with hunting knives & 1911 stag grips

  • KellyPilla

    yes, I’m hopeful as well.. but what you said about China and such is to be heeded. US is but a drop in the bucket, even adding EU is still a difficult battle against the likes of China.. we are doing what we can though. –Gothic Kelly from strony internetowe lodz

  • Euroknife

    We need to make sure or water supply is safe for the future generation to drink, we dump so much pollution to are future drinking water! Time to wake up and go more green!
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Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

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