Places like Cape Town, South Africa are running out of water due to inadequate rainfall. The problem is it won’t just be Cape Town it will be many, many other places over time. At some point the rain will return to that area and replenish their dam, but how do we solve all these crises in the meantime? Not everywhere has the resources to do a large scale desalination, especially if it potentially becomes obsolete when the rain does fall again. That could be next week, next year, or in 15 years.
I believe the solution involves converting old tankers or cruise ships into a portable water desalination stations. If the United Nations would fund a humanitarian project such as this and had a fleet of water desalinators around the world, we could better handle upcoming water crises and emergencies (at least in the major coastal cities).
If anyone knows how to retrofit the existing diesel engines on these ships to burn hydrogen fuel that would make this type of project itself more green and sustainable. The solution isn’t just putting a band-aid on the problem, like temporarily delivering water to places like Cape Town. They need to also agree to make changes that will avoid putting them into constant crisis.
Orange County in California hasn’t run out of water. The reason is Orange County purifies their waste water and returns it to the water table. That is a sustainable solution that the world needs to learn from. Cape Town or any other city that faces water shortage needs to identify its natural water tables and start to refill them with purified waste water to create an underground reserve. The replenished underground water will then eventually allow them to be able to pull water out in an emergency such as this. I would go so far as saying temporary water aide needs to be contingent upon cities becoming more sustainable. No one tanker or ship is going to be able to permanently dock anywhere unless that city pays for it exclusively.
Coastal cities need to re-establish their close by natural water tables to use as an emergency reserve. If we can’t count on the traditional rain patterns then places need to be re-establishing any underground water to help survive potential droughts better.
This isn’t some third world problem Traditionally drier and rocky Mediterranean places like Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Albania will run out of water quickly without consistant adequate rainfall.
The other component that is necessary is the planting and conserving of trees to help hold moisture into these environments and provide slightly cooler and moist areas that will encourage the rainfall naturally. Trees will also help naturally bring up the water table closer to the surface. We need to learn from what has already worked in water sustainability so fresh water doesn’t run out in the future. This is a global problem because people that run out of water probably won’t stay in place; they will migrate and become refugees. So even places that have more secure access to water need to understand that they will be in crisis if hundreds of millions of people flood to their area.
Chris Madsen is a writer and activist based in the great state of Hawaii. He frequently writes from the unique perspective of his Pacific home. His opinions are his own.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.