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Water on the Brain

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Walk down most streets on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on a weekday morning and you’ll find yourself dodging the watery spray kicked up by dozens of hose-wielding doormen cleansing the pavement for the daily parade of designer shoes and custom running sneakers.

“Sixty-three hundred people in the world die every day from lack of water,” says Regina Birchem. She’s president of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom Congress…but I don’t know if her building has a doorman.

Your typical human being is 66 percent water and could survive roughly a month without food…but only a week without water. The 2004 UNICEF report on the State of the World’s Children found that one in seven of the world’s children had no access to safe water. It’s not a shortage…there is the same amount of water on Earth today as there was 3 billion years ago.

“Not only is there the same amount of water on the Earth today as there was at the creation of the planet, it’s the same water,” write Canadian activists Tony Clarke and Maude Barlowin write in Yes Magazine. “The next time you’re walking in the rain, stop and think that some of the water falling on you ran through the blood of dinosaurs or swelled the tears of children who lived thousands of years ago.”

Only 3 percent of the Earth’s total water is freshwater. Of that, only 1% is available for human consumption. Do the math and you’ve a grand total of 0.01 percent of the Earth’s total water being usable.

Still, as reported by the New Internationalist, “Even this would be enough to support the world’s population three times over, if used with care.”

Care…?

“The growing scarcity of potable water stems from a variety of causes,” Clarke and Barlowin write. “Per capita water consumption is doubling every 20 years, more than twice the rate of human population growth, which itself is exploding. Technology and sanitation systems, particularly those in the wealthy industrialized nations, have encouraged people to use far more water than they need.”

Such “personal water use” accounts for 10 percent of water use. Another 20 to 25 percent of the world’s fresh water supplies is used by industry. But, as Clarke and Barlowin explain, “the real water hog, claiming 65 to 70 percent of all water used by humans” is irrigation. “Increasing amounts of irrigation water are used for industrial farming,” they write.

Case in point: One pound of hamburger requires 2,500 gallons of water, which could instead have been used to grow more than 50 pounds of fruits and vegetables. Fifty percent of all water consumed in the U.S. is used to grow feed and provide drinking water for cattle and other livestock.

“In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival,” Rachel Carson wrote some four decades ago, “water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference”

Here in the home of the brave, men hired for the primary purpose of holding open doors for the affluent spend each morning dousing the sidewalks with gallons and gallons of the wet stuff to clear cigarette butts from prime real estate.

Closing thought: 75 percent of the human brain is water.

MICKEY Z. is the author of several books, most recently: “There is No Good War: The Myths of World War II” (Vox Pop). He can be found at: http://www.mickeyz.net .