We all depend on water. For everyone everywhere, water is life. The many challenges that negatively impact ecosystems and wildlife can have an equally devastating impact of local communities and economies.
Take overfishing, for instance. The problem is largely caused by multinational corporations with the resources to do a lot of damage. When large companies take a lot of fish out of the water, small fishing communities are not longer able to fish for the small amount of fish they need for their communities to survive.
Coral reefs are another hot spot. Though they cover only a small percentage of the ocean floor, coral reefs have an estimated economic value is about $30 billion every year. Not only are they a habitat for many of the fish that local communities depend on for food, but they are also have value as eco-tourism sites. Eco tourism is a valuable source of revenue for local economies--and it's a source with a vested financial interest in protecting the reefs. Perhaps most important of all is the value of clean drinking water. Nearly three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water, but less than 3% of the water is freshwater. Most freshwater is frozen in glaciers and icecaps, leaving a mere 0.37% of the earth’s water okay for drinking--and this number is falling quickly.
The Great Lakes, for example, are among the largest of the world’s remaining fresh water sources—and they are also among the most polluted. Everything from raw sewage to pharmaceutical particulates flows into the Great Lakes. Even when we have access to clean water, we still lose a lot of it—New York City’s pipes are so leaky that they lose up to 36 million gallons of water per day.
But the cities with leaky pipes are still better than the regions with no pipes at all. In rural parts of Africa, most villagers rely on wells several from their homes. In these societies, the burden of retrieving water falls on women and girls who must travel great distances for two whole days each week between their homes and the wells. Not only does this chore increase the likelihood that women will become ill and suffer premature spinal injuries, but it also forces women and young girls to drop out of school.
And in societies where women are forced to drop out of school, they are also frequently forced out of the public discourse and unable to make a better life for themselves and their children.
Worse still is that, in many parts of the developing world, water sources are polluted and local communities don’t have access to filtration. Here, clean water can be literally impossible to come by and indeed, water is as much a part of life as it is a part of death: more people die from waterborn illnesses in unsafe drinking water than all forms of violence.
Without clean, safe drinking water, there is no marine life, sure. But there is also no human life. And keeping our waters clean is essential for global communities and local economies to thrive.
[Mtwara Boats Credit: ©Tim McClanahan]
[Women Carrying Water Credit: http://peerwater.org/apps/16-Drinking-Water-Project-Shivgad-Tanda-hamlet-/attachments/59]