Friday, July 24, 2009

The Water Crisis: Local To Global

The summer is the rainy season in Mexico. I was warned that I should never forget my umbrella because each day in July and August, it rains very hard for an hour or so, filling the cobblestone streets with rivers of water. Since I arrived on July 3rd, we've had only one heavy rainstorm two nights ago and 2 or 3 afternoons of light rain. ¿Que pasa? San Miguel has been hot, dry and dusty for 18 of the last 21 days.

There is a growing water crisis in San Miguel de Allende.

I have been told that the Independencia Aquifer, the aquifer that provides water to San Miguel de Allende and surrounding area, will be dry in 20 years! There are also a host of other water-related problems.

According to Ecosystem Sciences, deforestation, over-grazing of livestock, soil degradation, and diminishing groundwater have created a serious threat to local water resources in San Miguel de Allende. Moreover, "much of the surface water in the area is contaminated with human and industrial waste.

In addition, as the groundwater level drops, the concentration of naturally occurring salts and minerals is increasing. Studies show that the fluoride levels in the groundwater in certain areas of San Miguel de Allende are above acceptable concentration (Ecosystem Sciences). To read more, go to their website:

The Global Water Crisis

Water scarcity is not just a local problem in Mexico. It is a global problem. One of the topics covered in my course, Global Social Change, is the the crisis of water scarcity worldwide.

Here are some facts:
  • While 70% of the earth's surface is covered by water, 97.5% of the world's water is salt water and 2.5% fresh water.
  • According to the World Health Organization, less than 1% of the world's freshwater is readily available for human world consumption. 70% of the earth's freshwater is used for irrigation.
  • Out of 191 nations in the world, 10 nations share 65% of the world's annual water resources.
  • 1.2 billion people - or almost 1 out of 5 people in the world - are without access to safe drinking water and half of the world's population lacks adequate water purification systems.
  • 2.4 billion people, or 40% of the world's population, do not have access to adequate sanitation.
  • In 1998, 31 countries faced chronic freshwater shortages. By the year 2025, 48 countries are expected to face shortages, affecting nearly 3 billion people - 35% of the world's projected population.
  • Residents of developing nations pay on average 12 times more per liter of water than those getting their water through municipal systems.
  • According to the UN and the World Health Organization, 80% of diseases in developing nations stem from consumption of and exposure to unsafe water, which kills more than 25,000 people each day.
  • The UN estimates that in less than 25 years, if present water consumption trends continue, 5 billion people will be living in areas where it will be impossible or difficult to meet basic water needs for sanitation, cooking and drinking.
According to UNICEF, 4,000 children die each day because they lack access to clean water.

The global water crisis must be tackled on both local and global levels.

In San Miguel de Allende, a number of local organizations have started rainwater collection efforts, mostly in rural areas where water contains dangerous levels of fluoride. I mentioned last week that the Rotary Club is involved in helping to fund these efforts.

Another, "Todos por el Agua" (Everyone for Water), is a local initiative in San Miguel de Allende for restoring, conserving and protecting the area's water resources and the environment. Funding from federal and state conservation programs, as well as funds collected from water users can help farmers and landowners implement watershed restoration projects. "Todos por el Agua is currently developing a coalition of non-profit organizations, government agencies and citizens that are interested in participating in "Todos por el Agua".

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a report, The Right To Water. It examines the issue of water as a human right.

World Water Day 2009 was held this past year on March 22nd. You can visit their website to learn more about some of the global efforts to help solve the global water crisis.


Garnell said...

Those facts are astounding! 1 out of every 5 people don't have access to safe water. This fact is not only sad, it is a sign that something must be done. Hopefully we can help organizations such as WHO & others.

Marilyn Kulik said...

Thanks for your comment, Garnell. You correctly point out the urgency of this crisis. I wrote this post last summer while teaching the same course from Mexico. Just as there was very little rain here last summer during the rainy season, I have observed too much rain this winter, which is actually the dry season. Although there are many variables that help explain this, one is global climate change. One has to wonder what's up with the weather when the rainy season is dry and the dry season is wet. Anway, thanks for your interest in the subject we are discussing this week on Blackboard. Dr. Kulik

Cristina Rodriguez-Paz said...

Wow.Reading this makes me realize how we here in the United States waste water in such simple ways like by taking extra long showers and leaving the water running when brushing our teeth, while there are so many people without water to drink. Very sad indeed.

Yonnette Jackson said...

This made me realize that I take something like fresh water for granted each and everyday and it make me really sad and I will think about these people every time I drink water and be thankful to have it.

Marilyn Kulik said...

Thank you for sharing your reaction to this blog post, Yonnette. We don't often stop and think about water scarcity around the world because it is so easy for us to get all the water we need. People in some areas of the Western U.S. are much more aware because they have dwindling water supplies.

anthony sancilio said...

water is something that most people take for granteed on a daily bases. It hurts to see that we can not do more as a nation to help those who are without water get some. I never thought that water would be a scarcity around the world. Water can almost be compared to gold after reading this article. It has a way higher value then gold when it comes down to it.

Nogah said...

Wow Mexico, right in our backyard. Water scarcity is something that can effect even the biggest countries. Doctors tell us that we need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day but if there are people out there in the world not even getting one glass that makes me feel so bad. How can we make a change professor? How can we, so small of an individual be a hope for someone else?

Marilyn Kulik said...

Thanks, Nogah, We can use a water filter on the sink faucet and use a refillable.water bottle. And, Berkeley College has installed hydration stations on campus where students and staff can refill their bottles with filtered water. Check out this website:

Marilyn Kulik said...

Thanks, Anthony. Yes, and water is becoming as valuable as oil!