Discussion Guide:

Freshwater for the Future

April 24, 2024

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? 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. 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? This discussion guide invites participants to explore these questions along with contrasting policy ideas and discuss their consequences and trade-offs to gain a broader understanding of the issues and policies related to freshwater.

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