Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As climate changes, is water the new oil?

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - If water is the new oil, is blue the new green? Translation: if water is now the kind of precious commodity that oil became in the 20th century, should delivery of clean water be the same sort of powerful political force as the environmental movement in an age of climate change? And, in another sense of green, is there money to be made in a time of water scarcity? The answer to both questions, according to environmental activists watching a global forum on water, is yes. The week-long meeting in Istanbul ends Sunday, which is International World Water Day, an annual United Nations event that began in 1993 to focus attention on sustainable management of fresh water resources. The yearly observance recognizes water as an absolute human need: people can live as much as 30 days without food but only seven without water. How long can a person live without oil? More than a billion people lack access to clean water, and 2.5 billion are without water for sanitation, with 80 percent of all disease borne by dirty water. This may seem ironic, since Earth is literally a blue planet when seen from space -- most of it is covered in water. But what humans need is water that is fresh and clean, and most of Earth's water is salty or dirty.

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