This UN declared holiday is meant to focus the world’s attention on our most precious resource. This year’s theme is water and food security. We can think of the number of ways that these issues are tied. For one, the surest way to get a plump tomato growing or a leafy chard plant producing all season is to have regular rains. And since many parts of the world are facing the biggest droughts they’ve seen in 70 years, the luxury of regular rains is becoming more and more elusive.
Communities are going to have to make tough choices about how they will produce as the weather becomes more and more unpredictable. Some parts of Texas, for instance, are facing their lowest reservoir levels in decades, and farmers’ interests are pit against homeowners’ needs, although both are already rationing their use. As climate change makes rainfall more unpredictable, water will become scarcer in patterns like the ones we’re already seeing. This beautiful photo essay captures the diversity of our needs and ingenuity in the ways we use water. Ultimately, we’ll have to leverage that diversity to pave a way for a better infrastructure that is adaptable to the climate.
Luckily, we know that a motivated citizenry can build a better resource network when pressed to do so. We can find reason to be optimistic by learning about the history of the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. This article charts the history of how the town went from considering oil spills to be normal and from allowing the river to catch fire to forging a better way, treating the river as an end in itself where everyone pitches in to do the cleanup effort. Such initiatives will become common as people renegotiate their water needs in our changing world.