Try putting lipstick on this pig: when it comes to safe, clean, and reliable water services, we’re about to screw ourselves (and the world).  According to a new report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), unless the U.S. changes its current approach to domestic and international water policy, the “global water challenge will soon become a global water crisis.”  Unfortunately, they’re spot on.

Dear Mr. President, Madam Speaker, and Mr. Senate Leader: Water is important, and not just because Michael Phelps swims in it!  Though, if you ask his Olympic teammate Ryan Lochte, he’ll agree too, emphatically.  In fact, Lochte used “Beijing’s finest” tap water to brush his teeth and spent the next four days sick and trying to figure out where he’d gone wrong.  Turns out China was willing to spend millions of dollars on fake fireworks, but they weren’t willing to spring for a little chlorine to keep Captain Speedo and the other Olympians healthy.  Classy.

Besides swimming, we rely on safe, clean, and reliable water services for the following:

•Fire suppression – Firefighters use more than spit to extinguish flames, true story;
•Running hospitals – Avoiding things like cleaning surgical instruments, draining bedpans, and washing hands is generally frowned upon by the medical community;
•Cooling computer servers – In case you’re wondering, over-heated servers impact little things like banks, office buildings, and your friendly local FBI field office; and
•Flushing toilets – No additional details needed.

While we don’t have to face the realities of life without reliable water services (yet), unless of course you live in the lower 9th ward, billions of our global neighbors do.  Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to help.  As a nation, we can incorporate a sustained and comprehensive focus on water within our international humanitarian, health, economic, environmental, and security relief work.  Acting through what CSIS refers to as “enlightened selfishness,” the US can best preserve its own water by helping those beyond our shores protect and preserve theirs.  According to CSIS, the following key changes could make all the difference:

•Interdependencies – Recognize the linkages between agriculture, energy, and water.  Major policy decisions will be made at the start of a new Administration in each of these areas, they shouldn’t occur in a vacuum;
•Expansion & Partnership – Expand the Office of the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs to include a new “Bureau for International Water Policy.”  Then send a memo to the Bureau’s Chief mandating immediate action to strengthen the government’s relationship with NGOs.  Seriously guys, NGOs are not the devil.
•Commitment – Create a politically durable long-term agreement that provides financial resources for tackling water issues.  We give money for hippies to poop on canvases and call it “art,” why not try paying to help Ethiopians conserve enough water to grow sustainable crops and call it “moral?”

That’s it, my rant is done, you’ve got the answers to the test, share them with your neighbors.  I’m off to drink a nice cool glass of water.  I’ve got to act now, while supplies still last…

L. Vance Taylor has worked to advance the mission of homeland security on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. One of only approximately 250 people in the nation with a Master’s degree in Homeland Security, Mr. Taylor combines specialized educational training with real-world experience to leverage successful outcomes for clients and stakeholders. Read More