March 1st’s collaboration between the World Interest Club and the Project Extra, “A Thirst for Change,” successfully raised funds and awareness for the Georgie Badiel Foundation and the issue of water scarcity worldwide, however such efforts highlight an important question; exactly how valuable is water?
When access to water is taken for granted, it is difficult to see how the benefits of water do actually trickle down into nearly every aspect of our lives. Conversely in areas that are stressed due to their lack of access to clean water the negative consequences trickle down as well; overtime that trickle swells into a current so powerful that the people in these areas are powerless as they struggle against it.
Access to clean water drastically influences economic development. In fact, landlocked nations (those not bordering bodies of water) generally experience great difficulty in industrial growth as reflected by their low status on the Human Development Index. Additionally, the water industry continues to grow with almost a 15.7% gain in the past year, however despite this growth, at about $1.50/1000 gallons, water is one of the most under-priced resources.
Several areas are desperate for access to water, even in the United States California suffers from an almost decade long drought, however water prices still remain unreasonably low. At the moment, water is largely priced based on transportation costs, but if this mechanism was altered to account for marginal utility, water would be more expensive than diamonds.
While seemingly harmless, under-pricing water has severe economic and cultural repercussions. On the economic end of the spectrum, under-pricing water allows major industrial powers like Nestle to buy huge supplies of water and control the pricing of water in foreign industries, a detrimental reality previously covered by Julia Woods. This is especially dangerous as they not only monopolize access to water, but have the power to make bottled water unaffordable at the expense of people’s lives .
Under-pricing water also has adverse cultural effects as it encourages our society to undervalue or waste water. Georgie Badiel, the guest speaker at the WiC/Project Extra Collaboration Event, reflects that access to a stable source of water was the only thing standing in the way of her and an education. Had the government of Burkina Faso been able to invest more in water, she might have been able to reap the benefits of an opportunity that most American citizens are naturally entitled to.
We, as students of this high school can even relate to water insecurity as the new bright red signs in almost every lab remind us of the lack of potable water. While it may have been foolish to ever drink out of those faucets, this was a wake-up call that maybe the water in our community isn’t so safe after all.
While water may be cheap, its values are infinite. Water has the potential to radically change the standard of living for many individuals. Moreover, in the coming years, over half the world will live in areas of “water stress.” With this looming threat, water conservation is vital. If that didn’t doesn’t impact you then consider that water is the cheapest today that it may ever be; would you be so quick to leave that faucet running if it were diamonds running down the drain?