Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: What we should about the water crisis

Cape Town, South Africa is going to run out of water on June 4. It’s a crazy thing to wrap your head around; I couldn’t imagine this ever happening in Boston. However, with the world population rising to approximately 7.6 billion people, being wasteful and not searching for cheap ways to reuse water is no longer an option.

With that being said, there is no doubt that the world will eventually run into a problem with its water supply. No, this is not a conspiracy theory based on the futuristic movie “Interstellar.” Countries like Qatar are already using five times the amount of groundwater that gets replenished each year, and the amount of water usage goes up as the population does. Experts suggest that the Qatar will be out of water sometime between 2020 and 2030. Desalination plants and other ways of cleaning previously undrinkable water will have to make extreme progress in order for nations to feed their people.

Approximately one quarter of the world relies on groundwater for drinking. When water gets contaminated, one of two things happen. In countries like the United States, the contaminated water can be used for plants, which convert it for humans to use. But in third-world countries, a lot of the population has no other option but try to clean it themselves. This rarely works. An example of a water crisis that resembles a third world situation is that in Flint, Michigan.

The terrible thing is this — Flint is not a third-world country. If cities in the United States, a leading first-world country, cannot support their own people, I don’t have much hope that something will be done before this problem is staring us in the face. But starting the conversation is an important step.

And for those who don’t like to talk about the future and where we are heading, we have to remember that the water crisis affects other sectors as well. When the ground water starts to run out, food prices go up. These prices rise because the famers in the country cannot make enough food to feed the population, resulting in people importing food from other areas of the world. These prices are dictated by the country that you are trading with and fluctuates depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, if you really need the food, you’re going to have to have to pay more than you’d like. This is an economic force that definitely impacts the day-to-day lives of everyone.

The draining of the aquifers often lead to the changing of the landscape above it. We have seen it happen in California, where some farms have sunk several feet because the aquifers have been drained so deeply. The United States uses over two-thirds of its own ground water on agriculture. Most of the crops grown are used to feed the plethora of cows, pigs and other domesticated animals that we use and eat.

I propose that waste fines should be implemented in countries all across the world in order to alert the population to this issue. It may seem a little silly to talk about the world running out of water, when most of it is covered in water.

Making yourself a little less wasteful goes a long way. If everyone started to do this, the problem may not be as devastating in a few years. I know that I’m going to start being a little more conscious of wasting something so basic and essential as water.

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