Avoiding a world without water

How We Can Avoid a World Without Water is an interview of Dr. Peter Gleick by Tara Lohan. Dr. Gleick is one of the world’s leading water experts and what he says in the interview has implications for all of us.

Excerpts (emphasis mine):

Tara Lohan: …For example, the glaciers that supply much of China’s (and other Asian nations’) drinking and irrigation water are melting fast and some portion of them will be lost forever. What is China doing to prepare for the impacts of these and other developments?

Peter Gleick: Nothing. The glaciers are melting. In China, and in general, nobody is doing anything different.

TL: Since the Tibetan Plateau is a source of drinking and irrigation water for an estimated one billion people — one out of every six people on earth — how will this impact other Asian nations?

PG: For China, the international ramifications of their water policies are vast and under-appreciated. Just about every major Asian river originates in the Tibetan plateau — the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra — there are almost no major rivers that don’t derive some of their flow from water that comes out of Tibet. That means whatever happens in Tibet doesn’t just affect China, or the Tibetans. And yet there is very little public discussion about the international nature of those water resources. With climate change it will be a growing source of tension in the future.

TL: What should they be doing?

PG: The same as everyone else. We need to do two things, broadly. We need first to slow the rate of climate change. The second thing is that we need to start adapting to the climate changes we can’t avoid. And the best way to say it is that we need to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable. We need to avoid the kinds of climate changes that will, in the long run, be catastrophic. And we need to start managing those climate changes that we know we aren’t going to be able to avoid because of the gases in the atmosphere and the inability of policy-makers to deal with the problem.

I love that quote: And the best way to say it is that we need to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable.

A great piece of insight that you get from the interview is that not all water is the same. Potable water should be separated from water used for flushing toilets because using the former in toilets is a waste of a precious resource. One way is to prevent this is to figure out a way to use waste water that we generate in our homes (dirty dish water or run off from washing machines for example) to flush toilets.

The full interview is worth reading.


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