Like Water for Oil


I attended a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course in Kenya for a portion of my last year of college.

I learned more about fresh water during those four weeks than at any other time in my life.

From collecting water in Mt. Kenyan streams to visiting African towns that had unreliable water systems, I realized then that fresh water is the new oil.

That was in 2001, and if anything has changed, it’s that the situation has become more dire for fresh water: Experts predict over one-half of the world’s population will face water shortages within the next 50 years.

That’s why global leaders, scientists and NGOs — including The Nature Conservancy — are meeting in Istanbul this week to discuss how to manage this dwindling resource for people and nature at the world’s largest meeting on water: The World Water Forum.

The forum is an opportunity to shape the debate over how water is managed, and the Conservancy is sharing its expertise on two innovative ideas: Water funds and water stewardship certification programs.

We’re also helping to coordinate and lead discussions on how best to manage water for people and nature.

The Conservancy hopes — as do I — that NGOs, governments, communities and private organizations can better learn to sustainably manage our shared water resources.

On an individual level, however, thousands of people take water for granted everyday. We watch it go down the drain as we do the dishes, brush our teeth, take 20-minute showers, water our lawns so the grass is greener than our neighbor’s…because we can.

We won’t learn to appreciate fresh water until we’re forced to make a change, until the flick of a wrist produces nothing and the faucets run dry — forcing us to rethink how we manage and use this precious resource.

Or will we? I hope we learn faster than that. Because water as the “new oil” paints a very ugly picture. If we fight wars over oil — a resource we definitely can live without — what will water wars look like?

What do you do to conserve fresh water on a daily basis?

(Photo: View of Istanbul, site of this year’s World Water Forum. Credit: Argenburg via Creative Commons license.)

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.

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