Contrary to what some parties would have us believe, water,
like air, is a human need and a human right. Water and air represent common
denominators of all life on this planet. Indeed water and air are part of the
common heritage of humanity. The level of responsibility governments will
shoulder for protecting these rights remains to be seen. We recognize pollution
levels of air. Groundwater and aquifers have been called a ticking chemical
time bomb. The freshwater crisis is clear and well documented. Avoiding this
crisis will require accountable governance with an international legal
framework focused on conservation and long-term sustainability of water
The issue at hand is how water rights will be treated in the
future. Will governments protect or relinquish them? Will water rights be protected
as part of the global commons or, like oil, be relinquished? What are the
advantages and disadvantages? How might they be protected? How might they be
relinquished? What are the short- and long-term implications? If they are
relinquished, will special interest and lobbying be taken to a whole new level?
While concern over this issue may or may not be warranted,
one thing is for sure: Point-of-use (POU) water purification has a solid
future. The relatively new POU industry will have to shoulder tremendous
responsibility. Serious issues of water quality as well as quantity are
apparent. Pollution is contaminating available natural sources of water, and
growing dependency on groundwater and aquifers is depleting these resources
faster than nature can replenish them. (In fact, per capita use of water is
increasing at more than twice the rate of human population growth.) Growing
awareness by consumers will demand that the POU industry accept increased
responsibility for both the quality and quantity of water supplies.
It has become painfully clear that a sustainable economy
without a sustainable environment is just not possible. The POU industry can
support a sustainable environment by providing technology that does not produce
wastewater or non-reusable plastic containers. Desirable approaches of the
future may include the following.
will proactively enact legislation to protect water rights and water resources
from further contamination and support reclamation projects.
companies will provide watershed management and water transport services.
water will be purified at the point of use.
and municipal utilities will treat water for all uses except drinking water.
The right of every human to water must be proactively
protected if an acceptable quality of life for future generations is to be
reasonably assured. This will not happen until it becomes a high priority
political issue. It won't become a political issue until it becomes a popular
issue. Elected officials simply do not address unpopular or conflicting issues
head-on until they are left with no other choice. Unfortunately, because
current economic models emphasize the principals of profit with minimal concern
for environmental issues, governments throughout the world have primarily
responded to the protection of this right by passing the buck.
As long as water contamination is not a highly visible
issue, it is unlikely that voters will force the issue. But the scientific
community, educators, international agencies and news media are rapidly making
this issue a much more visible one. This growing awareness on the part of
consumers likely will result in intensifying political pressure on governments
as well as increasing expectations for the POU industry.
Regardless of the outcome, the POU water purification
industry is assured of a solid future.