Today, October 31, 2011, the world’s population is estimated to surpass 7 billion people. I remember being a kid and learning that the world’s population was about 3.5 billion. So in my lifetime, we’ve added another person for everyone who was alive in the late 1960s. That’s amazing.
There are a lot of people who argue that more people means more minds working on solving the environmental and social problems the world is facing. But those minds need food to grow and learn, and producing food in most parts of the world requires irrigation water. And since the average “water footprint” of each of those 7 billion people grows as global lifestyles become more like ours in the US, we have the makings of a crisis.
Indeed, many parts of the world are already unable to produce enough food due to lack of available water. Droughts, which are growing in intensity and duration, are exacerbating this. Even here in the US, the Southern Plains experienced its driest summer on record and the dry period is expected to stretch well into 2012. We are fortunate that other regions have been able to make up for the loss of food production from that area. Conversely, flooding has also been a problem, both in the US, and most recently in Thailand, where several thousand Kohler Co. associates work.
While it’s helpful to our communities to reduce our use of water in our homes, we also recognize that the water/food connection dwarfs anything we can expect to accomplish with water-efficient plumbing. We need to save water at home, but also understand how our consumption of food and other goods impacts water supplies. I recommend learning what your water footprint is and what you can do to reduce it. We’re all in this together…all 7,000,000,000 of us.