Blog: The parallel between COVID-19 and the global water crisis
Updated: Mar 29
World Water Day 2020 is upon us, yet the world finds itself (understandably) distracted by the coronavirus pandemic. My thoughts naturally wander into questions as to why there isn’t a comparable amount of panic behind the global water crisis.
It’s not difficult to draw a parallel between the COVID-19 pandemic and the water crises. For many governments, COVID-19 was taken seriously after it became too late to get ahead of it enough to retain enough control over the situation and to calm the public. For example, Italy didn’t issue quarantine orders until after COVID-19 had already penetrated its dense urban areas. Elsewhere, the USA did not expand its physical capacity nor its institutional capabilities to handle COVID-19. The Trump Administration eliminated its Pandemic Response Unit in 2018, and President Trump downplayed the threat and stated that “Americans should stay at work” barely a week before realizing the gravity of this situation. Most American state and local governments did little to stay ahead of the curve, as well. Many world governments deal with threats too late, and they tend to point fingers at whom is to blame after threats such as COVID-19 takes lives and wrecks economies. Water-related disasters will dwarf the damage that this current pandemic is inflicting upon us in every way, yet not enough has been done.
People don’t know that something is a crisis until it's already a catastrophe. The financial crisis of 2008 was fueled by an unsustainable American housing market and by its associated toxic debt commodities that consequently melted down the American economy. Yet, very few cared about that particular house of cards until October of 2008, including industry leaders and elected officials. A positive example of leaders reacting proactively to a global threat is the creation of the 1987 Montreal Protocol to ban the use of chemicals that were leading to the depletion of the ozone layer. World leaders understood the science behind the threat facing the Earth, acted accordingly, and the result of those actions was the greater health of our ozone layer.
Similar to the COVID-19 pandemic; water crises will continue to worsen in stages, and they will either become catastrophes by the time people realize the magnitude of their threats, or; governments, nonprofits, and the private sector will orchestrate smart responses to these challenges before they inflict incredible hardship on those whom they do not outright kill. Freshwater supplies are running low from India to Australia to North America. The world can’t afford to ignore shortages of water due to inefficient utilities, outdated paradigms of plumbing, and shrinking freshwater supplies that are agitated by climate change. More Day Zeros similar to what Cape Town is facing are coming, so actors can’t afford having the same mentality that locked much of the world into late quarantines while national economies spiraled into recessions.
My thoughts further wander into what can be done in order to combat the world’s water crisis. Graytec AB and Graytec USA are working to bring their system to market, so to update the modern paradigm efficient plumbing and water reuse in a similar vein as to how LEED Architecture reshaped the standard for energy efficient building design. INTEWA, the Graytec Companies’ partner in Sweden, features world-class rainwater harvesting products. Oribital Systems, another Swedish company with a water-conserving shower system has made excellent headway in the fight to rethink water use within buildings. The list of enterprising companies with great solutions to fight the current water crises goes on, but those efforts will be nullified if said companies are unable to properly coordinate with nonprofit and governmental entities. My hope regarding the good that can come from the COVID-19 pandemic is that the masses will learn about the benefits of cooperation between governments, the private sector, and nonprofits when fighting to prevent catastrophic losses from threats ranging from diseases to water inaccessibility.
A big thanks goes out from Graytec AB and Graytec USA to people worldwide whom understand the inescapable threat of the global water crisis. Water crises will still be here when COVID-19 is dealt with, so let’s not wait until South Asia loses its first city to drought, Cape Town succumbs to a Day Zero, or the Western world experiences the same.
New viruses entering populations are not preventable, but much of the suffering following COVID-19’s poorly fought spread could have been. Let’s not make that same mistake with the impending water crises unfolding throughout the planet. On World Water Day 2020, let’s remember that the misery that COVID-19 has inflicted on so many people is only a fraction of the suffering that the impending water crises will bring. But hope persists to mitigate much of that damage if we act quickly, keenly, and with enough passion to keep us vigilant….I know this because I’ve met folks up to this challenge like the ones reading this article. Yes, you!
In short – let’s not let water challenges get too far ahead of similar to how COVID-19 has. We have time to prepare for what’s coming, but not much of it left, so let’s make it count!