"All the water that will ever be is, right now.”
Many years ago I remember reading this simple, yet powerful, sentence in National Geographic and I realised that we often take this resource for granted. Yes, of course, we all learn at school about the cycle of water: evaporation-clouds-rain-and then oceans-rivers-water springs. But how much are we really aware of the threats facing this unique resource?
We are still polluting our rivers and influencing the climate with heavy consequences on the role that the water cycle performs on our planet. Not only are we overfishing our oceans - changing the balance of marine life - we’re polluting them with all of the chemicals we put into our rivers.
Life on earth is a successful story of water. Two thirds of the human body is made of water, and while we can survive many days without food we can hardly stay more than 24 hours without water.
Young girls play with a boat made of pomelo fruit on the river banks of the Citarum River, Bandung, hoping that in the future they can still play in its waters. © Yudhi Mahatma / Greenpeace
We definitively have good reasons – survival reasons - to be concerned about the current status and the future of this resource. Unsurprisingly, the increasing demand for clear water together with the access conditions – too easy for a few and often unjust for many - have led a few analysts to predict that the wars of the future will not be about oil but about water.
The UN has water issues on its agenda, the International Panel on Climate Chance dedicates particular attention to how climate change affects water and the FAO considers water a top priority for food security - as all the food we grow and produce requires water.
Astronomers get totally excited every time they discover even just historical evidence of water existing on far away planets. To them water means life or at the least the possibility of it. But each time you pour yourself a glass - do you think about how important this stuff really is?
Our rivers, our precious water, is being polluted by hazardous chemicals in many places all over the world. We can’t let this happen when history has already showed us how difficult, and often impossible, total decontamination is. Once these persistent and substances are released they accumulate inside living organisms and never really go away.
Dilution is not a solution. We can waste it, spoil it, contaminate it but we are not really able to “clean it” or to produce more of it later. Because “all the water that will ever be is, right now.”
Children play with homemade boats on the banks of the Moskva river in Moscow. The boats include messages of hope calling upon policy makers to protect vital waterways in Russia and create a post-toxic world. © Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace
In addition to dealing with the threat to our water from toxic chemicals - we are on the other also having to deal with the consequences of climate change on our water - notably severe droughts or floods. While I am writing this blog - the Dutch news is reporting about an unprecedented drought here in the Netherlands - which is among other problems also threatening the safety of the Dutch dam systems. And in China, the Yangtze is suffering its worst drought in the last 50 years.
We can’t keep doing the same things we’re doing - without jeopardizing the true source of our life. We all know we need to act on climate change but some of these actions will take time to have an effect. One thing governments and companies can do quickly with fast results is commit to the total elimination of hazardous chemicals. It’s completely possible for industry to remove the use of them and the only reason they aren’t cleaning up their act is because governments are letting them get away with it.
The possibility to change - to choose a toxic-free future for our water - exists now. Greenpeace is campaigning to save our planet’s rivers this year - with even more determination than before.
You can read more about our Water Campaign by flicking through our new "Hidden Consequences" online magazine. Use the sign up form at the end to receive emails from us about this campaign and how you can get involved.
Top image - A child holds a Krathong, a ceremonial float made of water hyacinth, as she pays respect to the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. © Athit Perawongmetha / Greenpeace