July Featured: Paying the price for water

Wade Graham wrote an article for the July issue of Perspective entitled “Paying the price for water“. The thrust of his argument is that if “we truly value water we must account for the real cost of using it.”

He makes the point that all humans love water and have happy memories of it. Going on holidays, cooling down, seeing sunsets, playing in the sand on the beach and so on. He describes our love of it as a cultural fixation: “It is a cultural fixation: our lyrics, paintings, novels, and selfies prefer a water backdrop. We build around it: not just the Riviera, the Costa del Sol, Capri, Cancun, and Honolulu, but New York, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sydney, Lagos, and Mumbai. Our attraction is not just to the sea; we cluster around rivers, lakes, and, let’s not forget, snow.”

Living by it is good for us. He writes that “proximity to water is a universal index of happiness.” There are a lot of activities we can do that involves water: fishing, surfing, swimming, kayaking, white water rafting. But our love of these waters isn’t saving them, Graham writes. “Our rivers have been systematically dammed, diverted, depleted, polluted, and poisoned, their ecosystems and iconic species degraded or destroyed.”

Graham describes the decline of the health of the waters off California. Through overfishing and warming waters kelp forests have been decimated “and with them entire near-shore ecosystems dependent on them. The shoals of anchovies and sardines that sustain larger animals have become erratic. Starving seal and sea lion pups now wash up regularly on urban beaches. Whales do, too, dead of starvation or hit by ships, or their eardrums blown out by underwater blasting by the military, or the oil companies.”

The future is bleak.

The Solution

He goes on to give three solutions. First, “reject the sleight-of-hand that allows water to be labelled a commodity”. Secondly, “recall that the most senior right to water is ours”. Thirdly, “bring the sharpest knife our culture has to the fight: money. To start with, charge users full freight.”


Current Affairs

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