Adequate availability of water, food and energy is critical to global security. Water, – the sustainer of life and livelihoods, – is already the world’s most exploited natural resource. With nature’s capacity for providing renewable freshwater lagging behind humanity’s current rate of utilization, tomorrow’s water is being used to meet today’s need.
Consequently, the resources of shared rivers, aquifers and lakes have become the target of rival appropriation plans. Canada, which is the Saudi Arabia of the freshwater world, is fortunate to be blessed with exceptional water wealth. But more than half of the global population lives in conditions of water distress.
The struggle for water is exacerbating effects on the earth’s ecosystems. Groundwater depletion, for its part, is affecting natural stream flows, groundwater-fed wetlands and lakes, and related ecosystems.
If resources like water are degraded and depleted, environmental refugees will follow. Sanaa in Yemen risks becoming the first capital city to run out of water. If Bangladesh bears the main impact of China’s damming of River Brahmaputra, the resulting exodus of thirsty refugees will compound India’s security challenges.
The future of human civilization hinges on sustainable development, with water at the centre of that challenge. The world can ill-afford to waste time, – or water, – to find ways to avert a thirsty future.
Image: A young boy walks for miles in search of drinking water in western Kenya. The precious liquid is in short supply, forcing many children and grandmothers to walk for miles. Photo by Felix Masi, Voiceless Children