The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a large, science-based organization with a mission “to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.” The organization focuses on what they term “urgent global challenges,” one of which is water. They are working to “achieve a water-secure future by mapping, measuring, and mitigating global water risks.” Those of us who are residents of the Great Lakes region, the largest body of fresh water in the world, might take freshwater resources for granted. Unfortunately, many people around the world do not have the same easy access to fresh, clean water.
Nearly a billion people live in areas of the world that are classified as water-scarce regions. This number might rise to 3.5 billion by 2025 since stresses on freshwater are imminent and many. They include climate change, rising populations, increased waste, and chemical contamination. The most recent information compiled by WRI through their Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas shows that 17 countries, which even includes areas in the Southwest US, are experiencing “extremely high water stress.” The consequences of water stress include diminished health, food insecurity, financial instability, conflict, and migration. The good news is that the compiling of this information can lead to better water management and new ways to provide fresh water.
Respectful use and management of water should be addressed in all areas of the world and begins by the universal recognition of the value of clean, freshwater. In the United States, the lawn is now the most irrigated “crop,” and this signals a problem in the way many Americans view freshwater. The lawns in the US cover an area greater than the size of the state of New York, and massive amounts of chemicals and water are used to make them green. Excess watering and heavy rains can wash a significant amount of the lawn chemicals into creeks, rivers, and lakes and contribute to lower quality surface water. The purpose of excessive watering is for the creation and maintenance of a perfect looking lawn, but this is not environmentally responsible or sustainable and not the manner in which grass naturally grows.
The world’s water resources are shared through the remarkable, natural phenomenon of the water cycle. It is more important than ever to remember freshwater is a resource on earth that should be treasured and used in a responsible manner, especially as more people live under water-stressed conditions. “The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity.” (Pope Francis)
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.