Each year, we approach World Water Day (March 22) through the framework of a particular perspective or theme.
This year’s theme, “Water and Climate Change,” could not be more relevant to the current experience of so many around the globe.
We have grown accustomed to thinking that clean water provision is simply a matter of access, distribution or technology.
Donate the money and the well will be dug (or borehole drilled), hydro-ram installed, surface dam constructed.
If necessary, renewable resources and appropriate technology like wind or solar power will be used to extract clean water from the depths to where it is needed on the surface.
On occasion, it may need to be filtered, demineralized or otherwise purified. We have numerous, if often expensive, solutions for that too.
Today, however, the reality of climate change has indeed changed the game. More than ever, water is becoming a double-edged sword.
Apart from the fact that direct pollution from our over-consumptive habits is threatening the quality of our water – in some cases turning this life-giving resource into a life-draining poison – we are increasingly experiencing too much or too little water at inopportune times.
The effect is devastating as nature responds to the degrading of our atmosphere, the result of human-induced activity.
One-hundred-year floods have become an annual event, as has crippling drought. My own native East Africa is a case in point.
Typically benefiting from two rainy seasons a year governed by the seasonal movement of the intertropical convergence zone, polar melting from global warming has caused jet stream alterations that compromise predictable weather movements.
Farmers don’t know when to plant as rainy seasons are delayed or come early, and the amount of rain is often too little or too much. The intensity of both rain and drought has increased dramatically.
This year at a project site in western Kenya, rain fell so heavily that landslides resulted in numerous deaths and much of the road and pedestrian bridge infrastructure in the region was devastated.
An abnormal cyclone formation in the Indian Ocean that brought these record levels of rainfall to the region has also facilitated the extraordinary breeding of locusts and driven them uncharacteristically from Yemen and Somalia into the agricultural lands of Kenya and Uganda.
Currently, locust swarms the size of major cities are threatening to decimate crops, leaving an ever-expanding population at risk of critical food insecurity.
Certainly, there have been floods, droughts and locust swarms in the past – never, however, with such frequency and intensity and upon such resilient and averse environments.
One may be tempted to shrug off such events that happen “over there.”
Until, that is, successive hurricanes land here and the 100-year flood happens three years in succession while wildfires continue to burn with excessive intensity.
No longer can we deny that human-induced climate change is weaponizing our water.
The longer we continue to rely on fossil fuels, practice unsustainable extraction and pollute our natural environments, the greater will be our collective grief.
Let it not be “water, water every/nowhere and not a drop to drink!” Rather, let us embrace healthy limits for the sake of our water and the whole earth.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week for World Water Day (March 22). The previous article is:
Associate Coordinator for Global Missions with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A long-time advocate of environmental stewardship, Harrell leads “Kutana Kenya,” an immersion experience for graduate and seminary students that CBF hosts in partnership with Africa Exchange, a non profit founded by the Harrells and operating in Kenya.