As we celebrate World Water Day, it is important to recognize the vital role clean water plays in the functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems and to our economy. The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Water and Jobs,” and never has that focus been more critical.
Our waterways are facing more threats than ever before and the problems of water scarcity and pollution seem to touch every corner of the globe. By the middle of next century, it is predicted that over 40% of the world population 3.9 billion people could be living in areas under severe water stress as climate change adds to the pressure from economic and population growth.
Water pollution threatens drinking water resources, tourism dollars and commerce and is a major contributor to economic water scarcity. Economic water scarcity is the result of a lack of investment in water infrastructure and is impacted by a population’s lack of monetary means to utilize an adequate source of water. The tragedy that unfolded in Flint, Michigan is emblematic of just how much this type of crisis can cost a community, with economic damages alone predicted to exceed $10 million.
As we look at how we continue to jeopardize our precious water bodies, it’s also as important to look at solutions, solutions that create jobs as well as a clean water future. In the U.S., every $1 billion invested in water infrastructure is estimated to create more than 20,000 new jobs. Investment in water infrastructure programs creates these jobs through the replacement and upgrade of pipelines and treatment plants and the installation of green infrastructure projects.
Another effective way to give our waterways a voice is to grow a clean water army. Building the presence of vigilant advocates or groups focused on clean water issues to “watchdog” our communities’ precious water resources is the best way to protect them from unequal distribution of resources and political and ethnic conflicts that lead to some of the most egregious forms of pollution. For example, there are currently 934 advocates employed by 277 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide working to protect 2.3 million square miles of waterways so that people have clean water to support a vibrant and healthy community. And your local organization, Inland Empire Waterkeeper, is proud to be one of them.
In the Inland Empire, we are working to protect the Upper Santa Ana River Watershed from pollution that affects the water quality of the waterway. A healthy river is achieved by our programs of advocacy, education, research, restoration, and enforcement in order to maintain the livelihood of the flora, fauna, and citizens of the Inland Empire. This World Water Day, as we reflect on our most pressing water related issues, we should also look toward the future. Investment in jobs that create solutions is essential for preserving our most precious resource and bettering our society for generations to come.