We think about it when it’s hot, they forget it when it’s cold. The problem with water is everything here: solving the problem requires constant commitment, we have attention that comes and goes. And the result is there for all to see.
Glaciers surrender: their retreat dries up rivers. Spring doped by early summer increases evaporation. Po is dry, the worst in 70 years. From the Adriatic, the brackish water conquers the hinterland and winds up to 20 kilometers. The landscape comes to terms with the agricultural choices that were made when it was thought that everything could be solved with irrigation, which now lacks the raw material. Preparedness for water rationing, which seemed limited to pockets of backwardness in a difficult south, reached 125 Piedmontese and Lombard municipalities along with tankers.
This is the list of facts that dominate the news these days. Who can honestly call themselves surprised? It is the logical development of trends that has long been under everyone’s eyes. With increasing consumption, the demand for water increases. And again, these would mean that you have to spend for these processes.
Complaining about what has not been done is useless, but we could deal with what is happening. And it is the dramatic deterioration of the situation which, in the absence of corrective action, has already been written into the forecasts of the same research bodies which, 20 years ago, had foreseen what is happening now.
According to estimates of the structure that unites the countries in the area, 250 million people in the Mediterranean will live in areas affected by water scarcity in 20 years. On the southern coast of the Mediterranean, it means a social destabilization that would multiply migrating waves. On the European side, this means choosing whether to supply water to houses or fields, to tourists or to industries. They are not alternatives to a dystopian novel. In California, farmers have struggled with city dwellers for years to determine how many almonds can survive and how many showers are allowed (gardens are the first to run dry). In Canada, the death toll peaked when the thermometer hit 50 degrees. In Australia, droughts and fires have had such a disruptive impact that they have sent Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Conservative government home, known for coming to Parliament with a lump of coal in hand to praise its virtues.
However, it is still possible to reduce the problem by intervening across the board. The most obvious delay is in the modernization of the aqueducts, which lose a third of those they carry. However, the highest consumption does not relate to housing (responsible for about one tenth of the total consumption), but fields (seven tenths of the total consumption globally). This is where the change needs to be more radical.
According to UNESCO data, 38% of the irrigated land in the world takes water from underground groundwater reservoirs, which are suffering from rising pollution and which in some cases are running out. Too much water is used, as the UN report reminds us Groundwater that makes the invisible visible, it pollutes too much: “In the EU, 38% of water bodies are exposed to significant pressure due to agricultural pollution; in the US, agriculture is the main source of river pollution; and in China, agriculture is responsible for much of the nitrogen pollution of surface- and groundwater ”.
To really save on water, you really need to think about what we eat: It takes about 3,600 gallons a day for a meat-based diet, while vegetarians need about 2,300. A hamburger costs 2,400 liters of water. Half a kilo of Florentine 8 thousand liters (as much as 200 3-minute showers). 518 is enough for a kilo of garlic and 1,543 for a kilo of grain. But to munch on a pound of pistachios, you need to invest 10,864 gallons of water.
And to ensure a future for water, we must first and foremost look at how we heat it: the more fossil fuels we use, the more the climate crisis will worsen, the less we will have.