2020 has been a challenging year for everybody so far as it brought changes to the world that none of us had ever imagined. Life is changing daily and these changes have overshadowed former time-sensitive issues. One such major time-sensitive issue, which I will be talking about today, is the importance of water to life, and what would happen if we were to lose it or it didn’t exist.
There’s nothing more essential to life on Earth than water, and we all know how important water is; to humans and plants. However, its importance to the Earth in general often goes unnoticed. And in order to understand the depth of this issue, we need to first get basic understanding of the role water plays in maintaining the ecological balance of the earth.
Some main roles are discussed as follows:
- Temperature Stabilizer
Water helps keep the temperature of the earth even by cooling it when it heats up and alternatively warming it when it cools down. In the case of occurrences of volcanoes and wildfires, it also cools the heat through moisture released from the burning vegetation by resulting in rain. Without water, the air and earth would fluctuate between extreme hot and extreme cold every day and everywhere.
- Cushioning Effect
Water buried in the earth softens the soil, making it easier for the rain to infiltrate through to refill the aquifer (earth’s underground storage space). This provides a cushioning effect which acts as good protection during an earthquake as the groundwater slows down seismic waves and dampens their effects. If the stored groundwater is drawn up and not replaced, the soil gradually condenses and becomes hard. Consequently, instead of being absorbed, the water slides off the top and the Earth loses its storage place and its shock protector. Without water, the ground would be too hard or sandy to absorb and hold rain and without water storage, droughts would kill, and earthquakes would be severe.
Throughout the earth, water is used to transport both nutrients and wastes. On land, water transports nutrients and rich soils from the mountains to lower altitudes on its way to the sea. In the ocean and sea, water currents are responsible for dispersion of nutrients throughout the world. Humans use waterways as a means to transport goods around the world. Without water transportation of nutrients and wastes throughout the earth would not be possible.
- Cleanser Of Earth
Have you ever wondered why everything smells fresh after rain? The reason is that rain cleans whatever it passes through (air, the earth’s surface, soil), by carrying down dirt, debris, minerals, and toxins, all into the sea. Once in the ocean, algae, and other microbes break the debris down into basic food components that can be used to support life. Without water, the earth would be unable to break down wastes.
- Reproductive Cycle
Water is a key component of the reproductive cycle of all living organisms. Without water, there would be no reproduction; hence there will be no continuation of life as we know it.
- Habitat Existence
The ocean and other water bodies act as a home for more life than what lives on land. Mammals, fish, birds, insects, trees, plants, algae, krill, and many other forms of life either live directly in water or are entirely dependent upon it for survival. Without water, many habitats would not exist.
Water is a key component of plant photosynthesis. Alternatively, humans use it for manufacturing of paper, fabrics, food processing, chemical compounds, and other products essential to modern living. Without water, life would lose its primary food source and nor would humans have developed the foods and industries we have.
Water covers 70% of our planet, and thus, it is easy to think that it will always be plentiful. This is not true. What everyone often fails to understand is that freshwater (stuff we drink, bathe in, irrigate our farm fields with) is incredibly rare. Only 3% of the world’s water is considered freshwater, and two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise is unavailable for our use.
On the other hand, as humans continue to pump more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, patterns of weather and water continue to change around the world. Climate change is constantly altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others. Likewise, disappearance of glaciers and snowpacks in some areas affects the freshwater supplies to those downstream communities. Consequently, these changes combine to make less water available for agriculture, energy generation, cities, and ecosystems around the world.
Water may be a recycled resource, but the increasing world population, improving living standards, changing consumption patterns, and expansion of irrigated agriculture is constantly raising the global demand for water.
At the current consumption rate, this situation is expected to only get worse. It is estimated that by 2025, two-third of the world’s population may face water shortages.
We humans use water to grow crops and livestock, to cleanse and keep ourselves healthy, to stimulate ideas for products, and to transport those products. We use its cycles to remind us that our own lives also work in cycles. The importance of water in our lives cannot be stressed upon enough but somehow we still manage to misuse it.
What to do? (Way Forward)
To conclude, I will use this opportunity to share some thoughts that may serve as guidelines for individuals (aimed at having self-disciplined individuals / homes) and also for the executives / managers (aimed to help organizations in generating policy options and assisting decision makers). These include:-
- For Individuals / Homes
- Turn off the taps when not in use
- Run the dishwasher / washing machine only when full
- Insulate water pipes
- Install water-saving taps / flow restrictors
- Install rainwater tanks
- Reuse wastewater where possible
- For Executives / Managers in Organizations
- Educate to change consumption and lifestyles
- Protecting wetlands
- Improve agricultural practices
- Improve irrigation efficiency
- Increase water storage in reservoirs
- Construct more dams
- Develop water filtration systems
- Develop energy efficient desalination plants
- Recycle wastewater
- Rain Water Harvesting
As humans, it is our responsibility to be more respectful of what water can do and be more careful of the way we utilize it. With water, we thrive. Without water, there is no life. Water is one of the most important substances on earth and we must learn to value and conserve the water we have. If there was no water there would be no life on earth, and there would be no us.