Sunday, August 28, 2005


One might be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be about the liquid gold that is on most people’s minds these days….oil! As the price of the stuff we apparently cannot do without, rockets to nearly $70 a barrel. But there is another liquid far more important to all of us. Just ask the residents of Africa, Middle East, Portugal & Spain what that fluid is? WATER Of course this is nothing new. We all know that we cannot live without water for more than a few days. Yet we treat this precious liquid very badly, wasting millions of gallons of it every day. Even the inhabitants of that excessively greedy city, Las Vegas, are slowly coming to the realisation that the Nevada desert which surrounds it has finite amounts of water flowing through its rocky terrain. Environmentalists and water engineers are warning that the city must curb its excessive and largely unnecessary use of water. Only 30% is currently used in the home for washing and drinking. The remainder being used to provide water parks, spectacular fountains and swimming pools etc. That must seem pathetic to those of us who are dying of thirst in Africa, or in current danger of being burnt out of their homes (and perhaps lives) in Portugal and Spain. Even the oil rich states in the Middle East, long ago realised that water was much more precious than the black ‘gold’ the west craves. A bottle of water in Saudi Arabia is more expensive than a bottle of oil and the longest continuous pipeline in the world carries water not oil. Unfortunately, like most problems associated with the environment, governments and people do seem to have buried their heads in the sand. We all know that water is the most precious commodity save only for oxygen. Yet we treat it with scant regard in the west. Millions of litres leak from badly fitting and broken pipelines. We waste more in the home – when was the last time you turned off the tap while shaving or brushing your teeth? Like oil, water is drying up in many areas. We are witnessing the not-so-slow desertification of the Iberian Peninsula. In other parts of Europe sudden torrential downpours flood large swathes of land because the drainage is unable to cope and we lose another opportunity to store the precious liquid. One gets the feeling that most people are aware of the environmental dangers that face us. Yet they feel they are powerless to do anything about it – so best not to even think of it. That is folly in the extreme. We are all responsible for the protection and proper usage of the earth’s natural resources, be it finite, like oil or seemingly endless - as water appears to be. We can all do something about it and one day we will have to address these problems seriously and vigorously – because all our lives will depend on it, as the inhabitants of Africa, Iberia and the Middle East will surely verify.

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