Boston Globe - January 6, 2002 By Jeffrey Rothfeder
For those of us who can turn on the faucet confident that there will be steady stream of clean water for bathing, drinking, cooking, washing dishes, the thought that the world could go dry seems incomprehensible. But the reality we face is sobering: water -- nature's most essential element -- is becoming dangerously scarce. A freshwater crisis has already begun that threatens to leave much of the world dry in the next 20 years, without enough water for a minimum of life.
Nearly 2.2 billion people in more than 62 countries, one-third of the world's population, are starved for water. The worst conditions are in places like Haiti, Gambia, and Cambodia, where residents subsist on an average of fewer than six liters per day.
Imagine having fewer than three large bottles of Poland Spring as your entire daily water ration. And while richer countries like the United States have been able to cover up water shortages with engineering sleights of hand, this strategy is backfiring: southeast Florida, Southern California, and Atlanta are all likely to be dry within 20 years if their growth patterns and mismanagement of water aren't sharply altered.
Water scarcity is reaching crisis proportions now because of skewed supply and demand. But it was man's ill-conceived attempt to control water almost solely for commercial means rather than protect it -- repeated over and over since the first dams were built on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers thousands of years ago -- that led to the problem's urgency today.
Global population has tripled in the past 70 years while water use has grown sixfold due to industrial development, widespread
irrigation, and lack of conservation. If, as expected, the number of people on earth increases by more than a third, to more than 8 billion, by 2025, 40 percent more water will be needed.
And while the...