The case for water conservation

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The Framers of the Constitution probably didn’t consider Americans’ rights to water, but it is now becoming an issue that the country is going to have to address.

As with most things here in West Virginia, people don’t care about this issue because it doesn’t appear to affect them. Yet.

As California goes through its worst drought in 1,200 years most of us here in West Virginia sit comfortably by with access to clean water at our fingertips. However, the United Nations reported in 2009 that two-thirds of the world’s population will face a lack of water in the next 20 years (now 14 years and counting).

The U.N. also says that a majority of the world’s population already lives within a 30-mile radius of stressed water sources. A recent NASA study warns that if we don’t change our current behavior, the United States could see “mega-droughts” that would include most of the west and Midwest, hitting close enough to home that even those in Huntington could feel the impact. The price of water has risen 41 percent in major cities since 2010.

The U.N.’s projection gives us 14 years to right the ship, but first we’ll have to convince millions of Americans who do not believe they’re impacted by a drought.

Sure, water is easily accessible for most of us on the east coast and it’s hard to be concerned about something when the effects aren’t obviously seen.

It’s also hard to convince people that weather patterns aren’t anything more than natural occurrences. But if there’s one thing many in this area can identify with, it is how important the right to water is.

After going through a major water crisis last year and another minor one this year, West Virginians should know more than any other what it’s like to not have clean water. That daily struggle has become a reality for many in California the last few years and if the predicted mega-droughts happen, it will become a reality in the Midwest, too.

The wider the drought spreads, the larger the impact will be in West Virginia. Food products grown largely throughout the Midwest and beyond will become much more expensive, or at worst, gone.

Most importantly, though, it’s about everyone’s right to have access to clean water. It’s not a Constitutional thing – the U.N. declared in 2010 that all humans had a right to clean water – but saying everyone deserves doesn’t mean everyone will get it.

The people that will be and are being hit by the droughts the hardest are the poor. Some residents in Fairmead, California have walk a mile a day for water and hours transferring gallons of clean water back to their home.

As water bills rise across the country, some cannot afford to pay the bill leading to their water getting shut off. Such is the case in Detroit, sparking the debate over the right to water and whether water should be privatized.

One thing is for sure, though. It’s time to start taking water consumption and access seriously.

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