Protecting Our Valuable Resources – Our Waters

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

A lot has been portrayed lately in the media-with a sense of urgency-regarding a possible future food crisis and water shortage due to the increasing demands of emerging economies. The world’s water consumption rose sixfold between 1900 and 1995 – more than double the rate of population growth – and keeps on growing as farming, industry and domestic demand all increase, specially in said economies such as India and China. Yet, every species living in the planet needs water for sustenance and it can’t be consumed by some and on the shortfall for others. Farming, which accounts for 70% of the world’s water consumption, is also essential to the life of all humans.

On the other hand, climate change has brought excessive rainfall to some areas and droughts in others affecting farming practices and the food supply chain. While many people have grown aware of the climate change issue, efficient use of water in our home to industrial and agricultural practices still needs to be taken into account. I recently read an article in The Economist that blamed the problem of a future water shortage on bio-fuels and while it correctly pointed out our that one third of the world’s population could be affected by the scarcity of water by 2025 it offered no real solutions to the issue at hand.

Climate change aside, we have to understand that every day activities also affect our fresh-water supplies. This is not a distant problem, but rather one for which every single citizen is responsible. Erosion from incorrect land use provides excess sedimentation which in turn diminishes our reservoirs accumulation capacity while introducing pollutants that affect not only water quality but ecosystems as well. According to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service soil runoff can impact, directly or indirectly, water quality and water usage. Surface and stormwater runoff from urban activities also impact our rivers and lakes by delivering pollutants into them.

In my six years at EPA I have participated in countless beach, lake and river cleanups. The amount of trash and sediment from illegal dumping that goes into our water bodies might surprise anyone who has not seen it. Large toys, stoves, tires, construction materials and even cars, just to name a few, all have been retrieved from our reservoirs, creeks and rivers. Education is the key to prevent a water shortage in the future. After all water is finite and we all need it.