Water is life. It is within and all around us. It connects, sustains, heals, and transforms us—and the entire natural world. Humans need it to live. Industries need it to function. Entire ecosystems need it to thrive. We use it to move goods, grow food, generate energy, purify ourselves, and clean the environment. We are even searching for it in nearby planets. Water is perhaps the single most essential element for our existence and all living things around us and, yet, how often do we think or talk about water?
Now imagine that the drinking water in your community becomes contaminated. Who or what is responsible for providing clean drinking water? What counts as clean? What can be done to promote water quality and regain public trust? What kinds of rights might we have or want when it comes to water? What kinds of needs for water might we have as a society? What are the planetary needs for water? How might the need for water affect domestic and international relations? How has water and sanitation shaped cultures, including gender roles and public health? What role will science and technology play in water conservation for the future? What of choices might we make for our future needs for freshwater?
In this discussion guide we invite you to explore these questions and many more. We also invite you to review the contrasting policy ideas and discuss their consequences and trade-offs. By the end of this discussion guide, we hope that you will have a greater, broader understanding of the issues and some of the policy ideas related to freshwater.
The Six Policy Possibilities in this Discussion Guide:
A. World Water Quality
B. Water for the Heart, Mind, and Soul
C. Deepen Cooperation and Coordination
D. Empower Local Water Governance
E. Fair Distribution of Water
F. Help the Market Manage Water
Generally outside the scope of this discussion guide are–
- maritime issues and law of the sea, naval security issues,
- water as an energy source, and
- the physical public works of dams, levees, jetties, harbors, canals, aids to navigation, and so on—except insofar as they relate to the other freshwater dimensions described above.