A good spring rain shower waters the trees, boosts water in lakes, cleans the streets, and sometimes soothes the spirit. In fact, in many places, spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year, as we behold flowers opening, lawns greening, and the beauty of the Earth unfolding. As a kid, on the rainy spring days, I remember being reminded by my parents not to frown on rainy days because, yes, “rain showers bring May flowers.” This statement was usually followed by “we need the rain!” Without a doubt, water is one of the most basic necessities for life on our shared planet.
Even though most of us know the significance of rain and the need for water to sustain our lives, many of us still view rain as a gift from the sky that will keep on giving. Awareness of the need to sustain this valuable resource often only correlates with drastic climatic or pollution conditions that force us to plan and change our behavior to maintain sustainability. Some environmentalists affirm that we are using water much faster than it is replenished. Other scientists have sounded alarms that global warming is producing profound changes in water availability, quality, and access. Thus, it is not a surprise that in some places in the United States a rainy day is a much appreciated day! Like with many other limited resources, some states and municipalities are planning ahead strategically to maintain vital water resources.
As the USDA drought monitor map illustrates, there are states experiencing significant drought conditions in America. Some western states with desert climates such as California are already engaged in a debate about the future of protecting its water supply. Thus, not surprisingly, there are significant portions of America that employ water strategists and consultants to ensure that there will be adequate water for the citizens in the region. According to some researchers, it is unclear whether droughts in some of the western states and adjacent areas are a new phenomenon or part of a cyclical rotation. Yet, issues regarding clean water possessions have social and economic effects for all of us. Some urban planners project that protracted droughts in some parts of the US can lead to economic imbalances, as companies elect to locate in more verdant states.
As my daughter, a fledgling environmentalist, recently reminded us, there is a great deal of drought in our global community that is literally a matter of life or death. Even with the scarcity of water and drought protocols, many of us in America take clean water for granted. We are usually only inconvenienced by monitoring our consumption and employing our sprinkler system on alternative days. Yet, even with these practices, we function with limited knowledge about how the lives of our neighbors around the world are affected by lack of clean water. Maybe if we knew more, we would engage in broader positive social action about managing water better among the Earth’s global citizens.
Most of us know that drought conditions can be linked to quality of life in many global communities. The Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation monitors drought conditions in various global communities and supports drought relief efforts and water sanitation services through generous donations. According to their Foundation website, drought can be devastating, resulting in barren fields, malnourished families, and starvation for millions of global citizens. Likewise, the lack of clean water kills. The website charitywater.org states that:
“Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses.”
So what does this mean for most of us? As we calibrate our sprinkler systems, and pause to admire our flowers and green lawns, let us be cognizant that for some of our neighbors, even though some may be far away–water is a matter of life and death. Sustaining our natural resources is one of the most important efforts we can engage in to sustain global communities and the well-being of future generations. I have been convinced that access to clean water is a social and environmental justice issue. Helping global neighbors attain an improved standard of living might be viewed as a form of effective diplomacy.
Here are some sources for further reading:
No, California won’t run out of water in a year – LA Times
To read more of Dr. Michelle Howard-Vital work click here!