As director for The Nature Conservancy in Texas, Laura Huffman heads a team of 80+ scientists, conservation experts and support staff whose work protects the integrity of some of Texas’ most iconic places. An Austin native, she is one of the Conservancy’s most trusted national voices.
Water is, quite literally, our lifeblood. It affects every living being on the planet and without it, businesses cannot function, families cannot cook a safe meal, economies cannot grow and nature cannot flourish. But issues surrounding the health of our oceans are quickly reaching a tipping point.
- The Gulf of Mexico’s economy pumps $234 billion every year into our national economy and supports more than 20 million jobs. It produces more than a third of the seafood Americans eat, including 60% of our oysters and more than 80% of our shrimp.
- The Mississippi River alone deposits more than 3.3 million gallons of water into the Gulf every second, contributing more than 90% of the fresh water entering the Gulf.
- Oyster reefs and wetlands are natural buffers against rising sea tides and hurricanes, but the Gulf is losing these natural shock absorbers at an astonishing rate: 50% of its oyster reefs, nearly 50% of its wetlands, 60% of its seagrass beds and more than 32% of its mangroves are gone.
The story is much the same with our freshwater supplies, especially in Texas, where record heat, record drought and wildfires ravaged much of the state in 2011. With the summer of 2012 upon us, we are faced with many of the same issues:
- The World Bank reports 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies, and 40% of the world — more than 2 billion people — have no access to clean water or proper sanitation.
- Texas has 4,697 community water systems — as of June 6, a little over 1,000 of those systems have water use restrictions in place, due to drought or other water shortage issues.
- If policymakers in the Lone Star State do nothing to guarantee future water supplies, the state estimates that the cost to businesses and workers in Texas will be nearly $116 billion per year by 2060.
To learn more join Stephanie Wear — the Conservancy’s director of coral reef conservation — and me for a Twitter chat about the intersection of reliable freshwater supplies and the health of oceans. Follow #TNCH2O on July 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST and submit your questions in the comments section below or to @nature_org.
Ensuring our water supplies for the future isn’t just about saving nature for nature’s sake. It is ultimately about safeguarding our standard of living and a future for our children.
What would you like to ask Mark? Post your questions below and be sure to follow the chat using #TNCH2O.
[Image: A glass of fresh drinking water in front of a West Virginia waterfall. Image source: The Nature Conservancy and Kent Mason]