A World of Thirst
Poor sanitation. Pollution. Wasteful irrigation. The planet's freshwater supply is terribly managed
The world, it seems, is drowning in water problems, but experts say there are also reasons for hope. New technology and practices like drip irrigation show promise. In India, entrepreneurs are making money with pay-and-use pit latrines that are cheap and sanitary. South Africa is making a massive financial commitment to deliver basic water services to its poor, even writing a guarantee of a human right to water into its constitution.
Water expert Rogers believes technology breakthroughs are rapidly making the expensive prospect of desalination-cleaning salty or brackish water enough to be drinkable-cheap enough for even the poorest cities of Africa. Others believe the planet's crust holds far more fresh water than previously imagined. Robert Bisson, a commercial geologist who founded a water exploration company called EarthWater Global, employs the same methods used to find oil, much to the delight of clients in Trinidad and Tobago, and elsewhere.
"We have a moral and fiscal responsibility here," Gleick says. "We have the brains, we have the money ... to solve water supply and sanitation problems, but we're not meeting those responsibilities." And for millions of people, the luxury of time is evaporating.