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Feeding a Thirsty World

About two weeks ago, I attended the Feeding a Thirsty World: Harnessing the Connections Between Food and Water Security event at the Wilson Center. Speakers from Winrock International, Water Global Practice of the World Bank, Environmental Change and Security Program at the Wilson Center, Sustainable Water Partnership, and Corteva Agriscience led discussions on the linkage and the overlap between water security and food security. I learned that the relationship between water and food security is a complex because you can’t have food security without water security. If we are only providing water solely for drinking purposes than we are only solving half of the problem. We are not developing self-reliance or empowering communities to take care of their water or agriculture systems.

More than 70 percent of global water use is for agriculture while more than 25 percent of the global population lives in areas facing severe water scarcity and more than 820 million people are food insecure. Water consumption for food production will need to increase by 70 percent before the year 2050 in order to meet the demand for a growing population. In addition, we have to consider the environmental stressors that also affect food and water availability, like the increase in floods and droughts due to changes in climate patterns. Many countries are lacking in safe access to drinking water. 3 out of 10 countries lack safe drinking water in their home globally. There are serious consequences such as political instability, economic decline, and increase in conflict and insecurity. So how can we feed a thirsty world?

There were three takeaways from the discussions: Nutrition Is More Important than Calorie Intake, The Development of Child’s Brain in Relation to Human Capital and From Relief and Recovery to Growth and Resilience. I go into greater detail on each topic below.

Nutrition Is More Important than Calorie Intake

Water scarcity has long term effects on food access which leads to poor nutrition and poor health. Total agriculture productivity needs will have to increase by 50% to meet the current demand for nutrition. We can produce enough food and calories but the water demand is very massive. The demand for water and food don’t always overlap with each other. We have the capacity to produce calories but nutrition is different than calories met. Nutrition requires a more complex diet. For a nutritional diet you need access to foods like nuts, animal sourced protein, fruits, and vegetables, but the production for these food sources tend to be more localized. Both water security and food security are contextual issues therefore a universal solution cannot be applied.

Water is important for nutrition but it hasn’t been a major topic in the food security development community. Neither has food security in relation to the water security development community. One of the reasons is that these development communities have been isolated from one another both financially and administratively, and as a result there can be a hesitancy to combine them perhaps out of the fear of less funding. Some of the greatest needs are in governance and management improvements where there can be a lack of policy coordination.

Possible Solutions

There are two basic trends linking water and nutrition security in policy development: building policy and funding linkage between food security and water security efforts are very important but still an evolving discussion about how they can relate in the future. Another is increasing the focus on supporting small-holder farmers specifically their ability to irrigate and to manage their water effectively. They are largely responsible for food security in many parts around the globe because they dominate the food production system. In some places in Africa, small-holder farmers produce up to 90 percent of the food. Irrigation is a strategy that can be used as a solution, but small-holder farmers need a different set of irrigation tools than larger scale systems.  Small scale irrigation farmers are a part of a broader development program. We should encourage the support and improvement of existing practices of small-scale irrigation farmers by focusing on their potentials rather than building centralized systems that are managed by national governments.

The Development of Child’s Brain in Relation to Human Capital.

Water security is an underlying driver of healthy child growth. Malnutrition can stunt the growth of a child’s brain. Stunting is a red flag for physical and cognitive challenges faced later in life. Early investments in children brain growth lay the groundwork for the development of human capital. The World Bank started the Human Capital project last October which includes a human capital index that measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by the age of 18 given the risks of poor health and education in the country where he or she lives. The distribution of human capital across the world is imbalanced and many countries are projected to have a lower index. If we fail to invest in solutions that unlock food security and nutritional gains today, these future generations may fall short of their potential.

Possible Solutions

The World Bank has developed a framework for demonstrating linkages between water security, food security, and nutrition which is an important determinant of human capital outcomes. There are four basic pathways: production, income, water supply, and women’s empowerment.

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The World Bank developed six nutrition sensitive enhancements to the types of irrigation investments that the World Bank supports as seen below. Two examples of countries, Uganda and Somalia, were mentioned where they have begun to incorporate these nutrition sensitive enhancements. Both countries face chronic food shortages and water insecurity.

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From Relief and Recovery to Growth and Resilience.

We need to move beyond relief and recovery to growth and resilience. Not only making sure that farmers have enough food for survival but moving towards a surplus to assist in livelihood.

Possible Solutions

There are ways to provide stability and opportunities to increase livelihood: empowering more young men and women to have a platform to create innovative solutions, increasing access to data and information and providing an understanding of the data, and pushing for more responsibilities at the community level enabling households, local leaders, and organizations to take charge. Improving water use by making it more sustainable and productive and improving disaster risk management are efficient objectives to these approaches.

I hope these summarized points will cause you to reflect on the current inefficiencies of our global food and water systems and the ways that can support us in to moving towards a more sustainable and equitable future. For more information visit https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/feeding-thirsty-world-harnessing-the-connections-between-food-and-water-security where you can have access to view the full footage of the event.

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner and Urban Designer  from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Architectural Design, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.

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Imagine a Day Without Water

 

Imagine a day without water.

 

Just imagine. Without water, how can you perform the daily routines in your life such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, using the toilet, cooking, cleaning, drinking, or washing clothes and dishes. What about water usage in communities for public use like restaurants, parks, hospitals, car washes, or in relation to farming and firefighting? Believe me I thought about it, but it’s kind of hard to fathom. The average person uses about 101.5 gallons of water per day. Many Americans tend to take water for granted while many communities around the country have already experienced a day without water.

 

Water Use 1

 

Water Use 2Philadelphia Water Department

Clean water is one of the key components to an adequate quality of life. Unfortunately, proper water access is inequitable in terms of geography and cost. There are over 1.6 million people in the United States that are affected by water insecurity with a lack of complete plumbing facilities. That figure does not include the millions of people accessing unsafe tap water despite the benefits of modern plumbing. Imagine being homeless with no access to water, or being part of a family that either can’t afford water bills or has such shoddy water infrastructure, water insecurity would be your daily reality.

We are facing a bigger challenge than most people think or want to admit. When we think of water, we think of this infinite supply that is a gift of nature to mankind. If nearly 70% of the earth’s surface is made up of water then what is the problem? Why is there an on-going push for awareness to conserve water? Well, out of the 70 percent figure just mentioned, less than 1% of that total is actually freshwater suitable for human consumption and usage. When considering the threats to this precious 1 percent of fresh water, such as population growth, climate change (increase in natural disasters, drought, flooding, and wildfire), outdated infrastructure, and pollutants from impervious surfaces, and many other threats not listed here, one can only conclude that this will lead to increased costs for environmental remediation, health hazards, food shortages, and other unforeseen issues.

There is an ongoing nationwide movement by the Value of Water Campaign to spread awareness about threats to clean water and infrastructures. Imagine a Day Without Water takes place on October 10, 2018 for its fourth annual day to raise awareness and educate America about the value of water. Anyone is able to participate! Environmental organizations, water and wastewater providers, public officials, business leaders, labor leaders, community based organizations, schools, engineers, and others are encouraged to be a part of this national education campaign to engage stakeholders, public officials, and the general public.  You can find examples of ways to participate here.

Here are a few tips on how you can conserve water throughout your day:

 

Brushing your teeth. Don’t keep the faucet running.

 

Showering. When running the faucet while you’re waiting for the water to warm,  place a container underneath the faucet to collect the cold water. Use the collected water to water your plants and lawn. Also, decrease the duration of your showers. You can purchase a shower timer to encourage shortened showers of 4 to 5 minutes.

 

Flushing the toilet. With every flush, older toilets can use from 3 to 7 gallons of water. Newer toilets reduced this amount to 1.6 gallons of water. Place a water bottle in the tank to reduce the amount of water needed to fill it. There’s also a tool called the Tank Bank which clips onto the side of the tank and displaces about 0.8 gallons of water with every flush.

 

Shaving. Fill the bottom of the sink with minimal water and use the water to clean your razor.

 

Cooking. Don’t let your faucet run while you’re cooking. Wash vegetables and fruits in a large bowl filled with water instead of using the faucet. Boil food in as a little water as possible.

 

Washing dishes/clothes. Wait for a full load to wash your dishes in the dish washer or your clothes in the washer machine. Consider a front-end loader washing machine to not only reduce water consumption, but water utility bills. The upfront higher costs will pay for itself after a few short months.

 

Your efforts can go beyond Imagine a Day Without Water. We should strive to become more conscious of our water consumption and become advocates for this precious supply that is essential to life. If we continue with our current trends then eventually there will be far more than 1.6 million people that won’t be imagining a day without water but living days without water.

 

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner, Urban Designer, and Architectural Designer from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.

US Government Works

Just Leave It In the Past!

My grandmother used to tell me, “Some things just need to stay in the past.” As I have gotten older, I tend to agree with her.

Rolling back and weakening environmental regulations that protect human health and the environment shouldn’t become the norm; yet, over the past year, we have become bombarded with changes or threats to regulations in the name of business profits and/or potential job creation. Practices that further exacerbate health issues and pollute our environment should remain in the past. As a former facilities engineer and current business owner, I completely understand how regulations can increase operating costs for businesses. While in some cases profit margins may take a hit, health risks decrease, and the quality of life increases when we are good stewards of our environment.

US Government Works

US Government Works

Environmental protections were put in place because all businesses don’t operate with the protection of air, water, land, and people at the center of their operations. The United States of America is one of the world’s most developed nations and should be leading the pack when it comes to yielding new technologies that minimize pollution; but, for some reason, we are looking towards the past instead of the future.

Certainly, we don’t want to revisit a past where we witness places like Love Canal, which helped start the SuperFund Site program or incidents like the Cuyahoga River fire which was the catalyst for the Clean Water Act.

Over the past months, I’ve seen a number of headlines that caught my attention regarding the repeal or weakening of regulations related to asbestos, fuel economy standards, clean energy, and climate change. I could go on, but I won’t.

This is certainly not the path that we should take. I believe that we are better than this and we have to advocate for better policies while moving forward to reduce pollution, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and do our best to protect human health despite anyone enforcing us into good business. The health of our people and our precious resources have to take precedence over our profits.


Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.





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