Water, water everywhere…but who owns water?

All people need clean, fresh water because it is what we are made of. The average human is 60% water by weight. Water has an important role in nearly every major function in the body, regulating body temperature, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, removing waste, cushioning joints and protecting organs and tissues. And all of the water in our bodies comes from the environment. So why would we pollute it or waste it?

Free, clean water rains down. It lands on the ground and as it runs off, or percolates through the soil, it dissolves nutrients and carries them along the way. It also carries toxins and other pollutants from man-made activities. The rainwater ends up in streams, rivers, lakes and ultimately the sea, from where it evaporates and condenses into clouds which rain down again.

In this way water seems to defy human boundaries and human ownership – but does it? Many rivers are the borders between countries, but who owns the water? Rivers also run through multiple countries. The River Nile, for instance, flows through seven countries. Each of the sevens countries takes water from the Nile and flushes waste into it. Egypt, the last country downstream, bears the collective burden.

Clean water access, not oil, is the real flashpoint issue in the Middle East. Even Prince Charles recently made the observation that the Syrian Civil War is basically about lack of access to water. As the world’s climate changes most dry places will get dryer. Drought is becoming more common and many millions of people are literally fighting for their lives, to ensure sufficient water for themselves and their families. Even in countries, like New Zealand, where there is plenty of rainfall, water is degraded by human activities.

Whilst there is an enormous amount of water in the sea, people can’t drink it. The sea is becoming more acidic as it absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere. This CO2 is from human activity. The sea is getting more polluted and more toxic every day, from human activity.

Who owns the water in rivers and lakes and in the ground? Who owns the water in the sea? Like the air in the atmosphere, water is a resource that all people share.

People might charge for access to water (which is an outrage for other bloggers to discuss) but that doesn’t mean they own the actual water. The reality is that no-one owns water, we just borrow it from the environment. And what right does anyone have to despoil something they don’t own? None.

We should all cherish and care for the water that is the very stuff of life.

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