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Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Royal Flush

“Water is the new oil,” is a sobering phrase we’ve been hearing more often recently.  Future world conflicts, we’re told, may not be over scarce mineral or fossil fuels as much as over access to enough of this precious liquid, a priceless gift most of us take for granted. Already countries like Yeman are facing rapidly worsening water shortages, and for centuries millions of people around the world have had to walk miles every day to carry the bare minimum of water they need for their survival.

Steven Solomon, author of the book "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization," describes an experience in which he walked alongside a young child carrying several gallons of water on her head to provide for her family’s needs, a tiring and repetitious task that prevented her from doing other things like furthering her education or helping out with some of her family’s other pressing needs. He reflected on the fact that the precious cargo she was carrying on her head was roughly equal to the amount of good drinkable water Americans use to get rid of a bit of human waste and some toilet paper with a single flush of their commode. That water is thus rendered unfit to use, of course, and is routed to a waste water cleaning facility where it is processed, usually with heavy chemicals like chlorine, then processed once more to remove the chemicals that were used to decontaminate it. Then it is dumped into our rivers from which some of it is drawn to be re-purified and made available as our tap water, used in part to flush even more toilets.

So we take perfectly good drinking water, make it toxic and then doubly toxic, clean it and then dump it into the environment. Does this make sense?

In a January 2009 Washington Post article,  Imam Johari cites none other than the prophet Mohammed as saying, “Do not waste water even if you are beside a river.”

Or, in today's world, especially if you are beside a river.
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