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Water and life as we know it

2010.03.26

With the most recent World Water Day having just passed on March 22nd, it has struck me just how much focus there will be on water-related issues at TEDxCalgary. This wasn’t intentional on our part, although perhaps it should have been given the number of our speakers who believe this is something we must address going forward as part of our Humanity 3.0: Leadership the World Needs Now theme. Fundamentally, water defines life as we know it, yet only about one percent of the world’s water resources are actually usable to help feed and hydrate some 7 billion people.

National Geographic coverage of fresh water issues

Click to visit the NG site

National Geographic has added some compelling coverage on water issues to a recent focus on World Water Day, and it provides a sobering picture of what we’re up against as a species. Although we Canadians live amidst an apparent abundance of fresh, drinkable water, this is an illusion.

For Alberta in particular, the future of our water resources may come to be more of a defining issue in the public debate than the future of oil. Unfortunately, there is an all too real possibility that we’ve reached or passed our “peak water” point, and that some communities in the more arid parts of the province will be facing increasing challenges to maintaining their water supplies in coming years.

Globally, the reality is that up to one third of the earth’s population — some two billion people — will face severe shortages of fresh drinking water by 2050.  Already, water-borne illnesses and disease take the lives of countless thousands each year, a disproportionate number of whom are children with little protection against these threats when they’re already malnourished or lack access to proper health care.

Beyond drinking water, the lack of water resources in many areas can severely restrict the viability of local food supplies or even the ability to continue developing many of the products that we take for granted today. That cup of coffee I’m drinking as I write this? Add up all the water inputs used to cultivate the beans, process them, and serve the final product, and I’m consuming the equivalent of 140 litres of water with each cup I drink. Visit the Water Footprint Network for other examples.

While it is an obvious call to action to get involved in water-related issues locally, nationally, and internationally, we’re focused on the hope and the impact that better leadership can bring to the issue. From focusing people on undertaking research to help develop cost-effective water retrieval and filtration technologies, to the leadership spirit that drove several of our speakers to start water-related projects in the “two thirds world” that lives in comparative levels of poverty and disease, we’re hoping that our participants at TEDxCalgary take away the message that it IS possible to make a difference on these issues.

Add your voice to our blog through the comments option below, or join our newly-launched TEDxCalgary Community Site. We want to hear your stories, your ideas, and your voice.

Click to visit the World Water Day 2010 site

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Claudette Lacombe permalink
    2010.03.28 21:00

    Herein lies my challenge with the way we talk about water generally in this province. I do not wish to belittle the efforts of people who strive to improve water accessability in other countries.
    I do however hope that these same people are as aware of the challenges we face right here in Alberta and, in particular, the South Saskatchewan River basin.
    I keep saying, “We are fortunate enough to live in a part of the world that has adequate water supply and clean water right in our rivers. So, let’s make sure it stays that way.”
    Alberta, and again in particular the South Saskatchewan River basin, is seeing growth at phenomenal levels. If we are not careful, we will create a future where international organizations will be helping us find drinking water.
    We have Alberta and Calgary based organizations working to preserve what we have, please acknowledge these hardworking folks too.
    Alberta Water Smart/WaterPortal
    Bow River Basin Council (and about 9 other major WPACs and numerous stewardship groups)
    Alberta Irrigation Projects Assocation

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