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The Global Water Crisis: How Businesses Like Pine River Capital Management Have Made an Impact Through Philanthropic Endeavors
You’ve probably had it drilled into your brain since elementary school that the earth’s surface is mostly water, and if you were lucky enough to grow up in a developed country you also probably never had to give much thought to when and how you would access it. When you’re thirsty the sink can fill your glass, a toilet is available for sanitary disposal of waste, and your shower can keep you clean at any time of the day. As a result, it can be difficult to imagine that access to clean, safe water would ever be difficult, but for nearly one billion people on this planet that is their daily reality. In actuality, only three percent of the world’s water is freshwater, and two-thirds of that is either frozen in glaciers or otherwise unavailable.
Climate change has only served to exacerbate these difficulties, altering patterns of weather and water around the world resulting in both droughts and floods. Scientific estimates show that 64 percent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900, and our rivers, lakes and aquifers essential to human life since the beginning of civilizations are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. Additionally, our agricultural practices see us consuming more water than any other single source, but much of that is being wasted due to inefficiencies.
Although clean water is the most basic essential need for life on Earth there are billions of people worldwide who are struggling to access the quantity and quality of water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing, handwashing and growing their food. This is the global water crisis. When people acquire the ability to quickly and efficiently gain safe water they are better able to practice good hygiene and sanitation. The arduous time that was previously spent gathering and collecting water is freed up for other activities such as work and school, and communities that were once struggling begin to thrive.
The solution to the global water crisis is a straightforward one: create access to safe water for the communities that are lacking it. Thankfully there are charities out there that are fighting daily to do just that. One of the nonprofits which is significant in this field is charity: water, which finds organizations that provide long-lasting water services and uses donations to fund their projects to provide clean water. In particular, charity: water is known for its transparency, committing to ensuring that 100 percent of its public donations go exclusively toward funding water projects.
Nonprofits like charity: water have the ability to make a huge impact on millions of people, but only if they receive the funds to do so. In this way, individuals and businesses can truly be a driving force behind fighting the global water crisis. For example, the asset management firm Pine River Capital Management (‘Pine River’) has been funding projects for charity: water for at least eight years, and has contributed to at least 69 projects to date. Pine River has been committed to charitable giving since its inception in 2002, believing that lasting change can be made through giving back to its local and global communities.
Pine River’s belief is backed up by results, as water nonprofits such as charity: water have been able to make significant headway in the global water crisis over the past decade and a half. Below is a more in-depth look at the global water crisis, and how the work of these charities are impacting it.
Water scarcity is the problem
At its heart, the global water crisis is due to what is called “water scarcity” or “water stress.” The simplest example of this is when an area or community experiences demand for clean, safe water that exceeds its supply. The majority of the world’s freshwater—around 70 percent—is used for agriculture. Around 19 percent goes toward industrial uses, and the remaining 11 percent is attributed toward domestic uses which includes drinking water. As for the sources of water, they are divided between surface waters such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs and groundwater which is accessed through aquifers.
There are two main factors that cause water scarcity: physical scarcity which is a shortage of water because of local ecological conditions such as drought; and economic scarcity which is caused by a lack of water infrastructure such as wells or piped water systems. While both factors can together cause water stress, the drinking water and sanitation issues faced by many are more often caused by economic factors such as a lack of political or financial means to create the necessary infrastructure. In the United States, for instance, while the southwest region has a physical scarcity due to its arid landscape it has the infrastructure to get the millions of people living there clean water daily. Conversely, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan was not due to a lack of physical accessibility to water, but to economic issues and poor governmental response.
Global warming is expected to heighten the physical water stress of affected regions in the coming years, and the number of water-stressed areas is expected to grow. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent comprehensive assessment of climate science reported that as global heating continues over the next two decades droughts will become more common, and both wildfires and flooding along with them. As droughts become more frequent and last longer, rainfall will in turn become more intense and lead more quickly to floods.
The impact of philanthropic efforts
Understandably, water stress can be a huge detriment to both public health and economic development. Lacking access to safe, clean water—especially when that means lacking sanitation—can spur the transmission of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, polio, hepatitis A and diarrhea. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone. When water is scarce agriculture suddenly becomes much more difficult, threatening a community’s access to food and potentially leading to acute and chronic hunger. Malnutrition-related conditions such as stunting or wasting can occur as a result, as well as other chronic illnesses caused by poor diet such as diabetes. Even if a community has accessible clean water, members will often have to travel far distances and wait in long lines to gain such access. Women and children are typically the ones who are expected to do this work, and as a result miss out on valuable time that could be spent at work or school.
Every day, women and girls spend 200 million hours walking to collect water for their families, which significantly impacts their ability to attend school or otherwise make an income. Women in particular face difficult challenges when living in water-scarce communities, and will often drop out of school once they begin menstruating due to lack of clean water, latrines and sanitary supplies. When this extends to the home it can make childbirth even more difficult, and contributes to high rates of diseases and death among mothers and newborns.
Thanks partially to nonprofits such as charity: water and consistent donors such as Pine River Capital, headway has been made on the global water crisis. The number of people lacking access to clean water decreased from 1.1 billion in 2000 to 785 million in 2017, This decrease, in part, has been impacted by the efforts made by water-focused charities and their donors.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the management of EconoTimes