World Water Day

Yesterday was World Water Day, launched by the UN in 1993 to raise awareness about the importance of water both environmentally and for humanity as a whole.

I think our strictly terrestrial species is ill-equipped to truly grasp the significance of water, from its role in generating most of our oxygen, to the fact that most living things that have ever lived have been aquatic or amphibious.

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As a middle class person in a developed part of the world, it is also east to take for granted just how elusive access to clean water is; for most of human history, most humans died or were sickened (sometimes permanently) by diseases related to dirty water.

While we’ve made tremendous progress over the past century alone, well over a million humans still die annually from water-borne diseases (many of them children), and nearly one out of four people lack the access to clean water that most us take as a given. The effects of climate change and overexploitation risks depleting an already strained water supply—making World Water Day’s mission of awareness all the more invaluable.

Below is a big data dump concerning all things water, including the progress we’ve made in expanding clean water access, and the challenges that remain in continuing this development while doing so sustainably.

NASA Confirms Severe Global Water Shortage

Years of documentation and research have shown that many of the world’s underground aquifers — the leading source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — have been depleted, in some instances well below naturally recoverable rates. Now, recent data from a NASA satellite show the full extent of this problem on a global scale, offering the first detailed assessment of its kind. As the following chart from the Washington Post vividly shows, the outlook is dire.

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Huge Water Reserve Discovered in Kenya

The massive aquifer discovered holds 900% more water than all of Kenya’s existing sources — enough to meet all of its needs for 70 years. UNESCO and the Kenyan government — with funding by Japan — had been using satellite, radar and geological technology in a bid to find supplies of water — and will continue to do so in hopes of finding more. Similar endeavors are being undertaken throughout Africa to help other water-stricken nations.

The big question now is how this bounty will be managed: will be reliably nationalized by a government known for its rampant corruption, or will private corporations — no more likely to trustworthy or selfless — be contracted? Is there an alternative? What are your thoughts?