Weather experts have warned recently that the current El Niño phenomenon, which means very little rainfall, may be the strongest on record in the modern era and is likely to intensify and last until middle of next year, threatening our water supplies.
But many Filipinos, particularly those living in Metro Manila, seem to think that water is a limitless resource that they can waste. Taps are left open, people use gallons of water to clean their cars or water their plants. Leaks, no matter how bad, are not fixed.
People often complain about how much they are paying for water but do very little to reduce their consumption. They want the rates lowered but will not take any step to use water wisely.
Occasionally, we hear from radio and television or read from the print media reminders to conserve water. But, like most things in this country, the effort is not sustained. The reminders disappear after a few months, even weeks, and people resume their bad habits.
Just how serious the water problem already is can be seen from an international conference ongoing in Stockholm, Sweden, attended by leaders in water and development. The meeting is discussing water crises, not simple shortages.
The conference is the highlight of the annual observance of World Water Week, which has for its theme “Water for Development.”
In pre-conference documents, it was stressed, “The role of water for development cannot be overestimated. Water is the foundation for all aspects of human and societal progress. While we need it to survive—literally, to quench our thirst, to prepare our food and maintain our hygiene—it is also central to economic and social development, sustainable growth and a prerequisite for healthy ecosystems.”
Essential to life
We only have to remember the fact that in the search for alternatives to our home planet, the Earth, scientists’ main consideration is whether or not there is water in other worlds. They have repeatedly said water is essential to life.
The Stockholm conference, among other things, wants to “find incentives for using (water) more effectively.”
The conference notes that “climate change is to a large extent water change,” its impact felt through water like “increased rainfall variability, less reliable monsoons, prolonged droughts and reduced water storage in snow and ice…” In some cities in California, for instance, they have started to ration water, which has raised food prices.
“Many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (that contribute to climate change) depend on reliable access to water resources. Expansion of renewable energy will, to a large extent, also depend on access to water—on all levels,” it is pointed out.
Water or lack of it can trigger more conflicts. “The World Economic Forum ranks water crises as the world’s biggest risk and underlying driver of global instability,” according to conference documents.
It is estimated that diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene kill more than 5,000 people each day.
Filipino consumers may have reason to complain about high water rates, but they should not just try to get water companies to lower their charges but should also take steps to reduce water consumption and use the resource wisely.
It will not only lower their bills but, more importantly, they can help ensure sufficient water supplies not just for themselves but also for their children.
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