Imagine, for a moment, a dinner party. You've enough food for ten guests, but you only have five guests present. You've more than enough. However, if you were to have twenty guests, the food which was so abundant before is now hardly enough, if enough at all. This problem is kin to the problem facing us today with our supply of water. We are not losing water per say, but we are increasing in the number of people requiring it. As mentioned in Kingsolver's article, the same water that was here for the dinosaurs remains here today--but the demand is dramatically increasing. There are two basic components to the solution to this problem. The first is that we must preserve our current supply by preventing and, as best we can, reversing the effects of pollution on our water sources. The second is actively seeking to distribute water in a way that that allows needs to be met while ineffective or abusive uses of water are minimized.
Water here in the past is water still here today. However, if we are to use it we must maintain the integrity of our water sources. Returning to the dinner party analogy, polluting our water sources is the equivalent to setting out a portion of the already limited meal to rot. We cannot seek to successfully meet our water needs without ensuring we're maintaining our water sources. Hottam makes note that the sources of the pollution may come from a variety of sources as it does for the Ganges river, including refuse, as well as corporate and human waste (2010). It is not a situation where any one is the sole party responsibility. Instead, the polluting was a group effort, as will need to be the correction.
In addition, the results of pollution are not simply directly into water sources, but also in affecting climate. Moving weather patterns and adjusting water flows have significant impact on those who reside in places where the water will no longer go. Humanity's role in these changes is a topic of research and debate for another time. However, it is important that we recognize that at the very least, we may play a part in it, and that we certainly have reason for concern over it. Again, we must act as a society in a direction that minimizes our impact on the environment.
We all need water. We all want water. Where these to divide is an important place to mark. If we all are to have the water we require, we must be able to distribute and share our limited resource amongst ourselves. Kingsolver mentions the example of cattle ranchers sharing a pasture. Without self-imposed, agreed upon limitations to grazing, the resources of the pasture are quickly lost as it is over grazed. Limiting use is the key to maintaining the resource. In the same way, if unchecked, use of water without consideration of the whole of society leads to overuse in some areas, limiting its availability in other areas. An example of this is present in Beijing. As noted by Zhang and colleagues, in 2003 Beijing's population overcame it's water supply with demand from a growing population. While currently making do, it was not without some adjustments being made to the operations and use of water that the city was able to do so (2010). Applying this principle on a global scale allows one to begin to appreciate the potential problems we are facing. Likewise visible is that it can be addressed in a way that it can be managed by public law and policy concerning the appropriate distribution and use of limited water resources. This may be on local, national, or global levels, but are necessary whatever the path they take.
Water is a building block of life, and it can be difficult because of this to think of it as limited in more than a personal sense of sprinklers and water supplies, but in a broad, global way. Water can only be spread so far, and we must act in a way that allows what resource is available to be used effectively and equally between all of us. By addressing concerns of pollution and taking action to keep track of and effectively control water use we can address this issue in a way that allows needs to be met. In short, ten plates can be enough for twenty guests.
Kingsolver, Barbara. "Fresh Water. (Cover story)." National Geographic 217.4 (2010): 36-59.
Hottam, Jyoti. "How India's Success Is Killing Its Holy River." Time 176.3 (2010): 28-33.
Yingxuan Zhang, Min Chen, Wenhua Zhou, Changwei Zhuang, and Zhiyun Ouyang. "Evaluating Beijing's human carrying capacity from the perspective of water resource constraints." Journal of Environmental Sciences. Volume 22, Issue 8, August 2010, 1297-1304.