This week’s phoneography challenge is to freeze a promise of things to come. As we celebrate UN World Water Day, March 22, 2013, I am advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Sealed in amber, my phone photos represent a peek at our future of water, unless we take steps to conserve, reuse, and manage our freshwater resources responsibly.
Lake Cocibolca is at record lows. Fishing boats are stranded in mud flats. To complicate matters, we have not had any running water in our homes for four days.
Our beach resembles a moon-like surface. Although we are surrounded by a sweet sea, our water is poorly managed and becoming increasingly scarce.
Without running water, we are forced to wade beyond the shallow, warm, algae infested water to bathe, wash clothes, and perform other necessities of life.
Aquatic midges, known locally as chayules, feed on the algae. When the wind blows from the lake, they swarm our house blanketing everything in a dust of carcasses and an odor of dead fish.
We are the fortunate ones. We can dig a well, buy a pump, and build a tower to hold a large water tank. But, most of the locals don’t have the means to buy an alternative water source. They continue to haul water, sometimes for miles with babies clinging to their backs.
Water facts in Latin America and the Caribbean
1. 32 million people without water access in Latin America and the Caribbean
2. Sewage from less than 14% at houses is treated at sanitation plants.
3. Major financial constraints restrict the abilities of national and local governments to address all of the water needs simultaneously.
4. Many major lakes and river basins are under great strain from growing populations and decades of agricultural run-off, including Lake Cocibolca, the 11th largest freshwater lake in the world.
5. The periodic effects of the changes in the Pacific ocean current, known as El Niño, alternately brings large-scale droughts and more severe storms. ( We are in a drought period, now. Two years ago, we had severe storms that flooded the lake.)
6. Transboundary water issues require diplomacy and management models that can provide rational water allocation, while respecting country sovereignty. Costa Rica and Nicaragua have battled over water rights to the Rio San Juan for decades.
Take action, spread the word, and create an awareness of the future of water.