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March 22: World Water Day

Lawrence Bush
March 21, 2017
March 22nd was declared "World Water Day" by the United Nations on this date in 1993. The 2017 theme is "Why Waste Water?" According to the UN, 663 million people worldwide still lack developed drinking water sources, 1.8 billion people drink -contaminated water, which causes 842,000 deaths (from cholera, dysentery, polio, and typhus) each year, and more than 2.4 billion people lack sanitation facilities. The global cost of required new investments in water and sanitation infrastructure would be $11.7 trillion, spent over the course of two decades. Shortage of water for agriculture and drinking has been a major source of contention between Israel and its neighbors, among whom only Jordan has a signed agreement (1995) about water use with Israel. The country is, however, an international leader in waste-water recycling and desalination of seawater, which together provide about 50 percent of the country's water resources. "Wasteful farming practices — in particular, flooding a field to irrigate it — are the biggest factor behind the regional water shortage" in the Mideast, writes Seth M. Siegel in the New York Times. "Starting in the 1960s, Israeli farmers abandoned this technique in favor of drip irrigation, which reduces the loss of water to evaporation, gets water to roots more efficiently and, critically, produces crop yields vastly greater than those with conventional irrigation. Israel also treats household sewage as a precious resource, reusing more than 80 percent of it for agriculture." "The Palestinians in the West Bank already receive much of their water from Israel’s national water utility and, sovereignty and symbolism aside, neither a two-state solution nor a continuation of the status quo will change that. Given their proximity to Israel, the Palestinians are likely to be among the few Arab winners in the water race." --Seth M. Siegel

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.