Consensus has it, if you and I have not been affected by the prevalence of drought and water shortages yet, we will be very soon. In May of this year (2022) to mark Drought Day at the 15th Conference of Parties/the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, a call went out for a total global commitment (196 countries) to make drought preparedness the top priority.
At the conclusion of COP15, a number of facts and figures, were released to help us understand why a state of emergency is being issued at this time. For example, since 2000 the number and duration of droughts worldwide increased by 29%; droughts represent 15% of total natural disasters (1998 – 2017) yet they resulted in the largest numbers of deaths; finally this year to date (2022) more than 2.3 billion people face water shortages.
So much for a few generalizations.
State of Emergency: Italy Drought conditions have worsened in the northern districts of Italy, mainly in the region of the Po Valley. The Po River is the largest water reservoir in the peninsula. To help its’ citizens affected by drought, the Italian government has delegated funds in the amount of 36.5 million euros. It has also initiated ‘extraordinary means and powers’ to help insure public safety and compensation for losses. There are other regions under duress. These include the areas known as Verona, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont and Trentino. People there have been subjected to water rationing with heavy fines set up for those who disregard the restrictions placed on drinking water, watering gardens, washing cars, and filling swimming pools. In the municipality of Milan the decorative fountains have been shut off in an effort to conserve water. Hotter than normal temperatures caused the collapse of a glacier in the Italian Alps which in turn caused the deaths of nine people. Water shortages are responsible for the closure of hydroelectric plants in the north of Italy, plants which provide 20% of national energy. The rule is to use water for necessities only those being hygiene and food. Finally, no rain has fallen in some villages, such as Bajardo since the fall of 2020. No water comes from the mountains any more.
State of Emergency: Somalia The rains are not falling in Somalia for the fourth year in a row. Never before have so many millions of people gone without water and food. Farmers have lost all their livestock. Families have left their homes and have made their way to cities only to end their lives as beggars. Conflicts over water and grazing land are the norm. Russia and Ukraine have blocked the import of wheat leaving millions without grain and what little they manage to find from elsewhere is sold at exorbitant prices. Even though famine is at its’ door, Somalia has received humanitarian aid for only 28% of its’ needs. The next rainfall is not expected until October 2022. Children now are suffering from severe malnutrition. In areas, such as Baidoa, Lower Juba, Gedo and Galgaduud there is no access to regular water which in turn causes inadequate sanitation besides the many deaths from dehydration. Cases of measles and Acute Watery Diarrhoea are on the rise.
Right now, July 2022, 44.3% of the United States is in drought. This continued dryness has resulted in swarms of crickets and grasshoppers. Unfortunately, while hurricanes and tornadoes receive a lot of attention, droughts are rarely covered by the media yet it is a stressor on society that is now approaching historic levels. A lack of rainfall is at the source of the increase in wildfires. Since January, 19,226 wildfires have been recorded by the National Interagency Fire Center. That number far exceeds the 10 year average and the outlook for this summer is ominous. The planet, our home Earth, has approached a critical threshold. It is obvious to many that current conditions are being exacerbated by water overuse. More and more people are being forced to rely on stored water and groundwater.
Water conservation is a priority. Each one of us must make an effort to develop sustainable measures to manage our natural resource of fresh water so that our future demands can be met responsibly. Some conservation tips include:
- Try using less water while brushing teeth. No reason for running water while brushing.
- Check for leaks. Largest water user inside home is the toilet.
- Use low flow showerheads.
- Fill dishwasher before use.
- Store drinking water in refrigerator rather than letting tap run every time we want cold water.
- Remember every drop counts and we can all make a difference!