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70% of the world's population disposes of their waste in water, without treating it. Sewers, dumps, industrial and mining discharges make rivers and groundwater unsafe. But the scarcity of potable sources is gradually leading to a need to ensure that what is discharged upstream is limited and properly treated.

Water quality is only one facet of water management; the volume of water use by agriculture, industry and cities is at least as problematic. In many countries so much is drawn from groundwater and streams that surrounding lakes, rivers and wells are emptying and even cities are sinking.  Only then do we begin to think about how to use water better and promote recharge.

In a warming climate, the dynamics of water are changed: the warmer atmosphere can absorb more moisture and water also evaporates faster. Thus, droughts are more frequent and rainfall more intense. Excess and shortage, from one year to the next, sometimes one after the other. Soil reclamation (removing asphalt and concrete), reservoir construction, drainage diversion, floodplain restoration, and reforestation are all low-tech and affordable solutions. Managing water well is a given, all life needs water, so the subject is fast becoming political and international and offers the opportunity for exemplary neighborly agreements.

In "The Secret Life of Trees" we learn that the first 60 kilometers of coastline, if covered with trees, ensures regular rainfall over huge areas. If the forests are cut down near the coasts, the interior regions dry up. The Romans practically desertified the entire Mediterranean basin by cutting down coastal trees to build their ships for centuries. The methods of water management are not only technical, they also involve nature and life itself. Schools and universities are doing their best to raise awareness of the problems and seek practical solutions. Water management is on the side of vital priorities.

Denys Lamontagne - [email protected]

Illustration DepositPhotos - psnoonan

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