High school senior Sara Clark shares with Circle of Blue her take on global water scarcity issues, and how American students can change the course of the crisis.
By Sara Clark,
Special to Circle of Blue
Over the past two decades, the global economy has witnessed extraordinary, previously unimaginable technological advances and scientific feats. Money and complicated business propositions change hands virtually. Meanwhile medical science defies death and disease on a daily basis, as the worldwide web enables instant communication across oceans. Despite these tremendous advancements in life and technology, the greatest issue we face is our diminishing water supply.
I believe we are poised to solve the water shortage problem by 2020 if we embrace one of the most abundant resources currently available: our nation’s students.
Fresh, clean water is a priceless commodity that many people live without. According to United Nations-Water, an inter-agency organization that responds to global water shortage, more than one-sixth of the world’s population cannot access freshwater. Incredibly, over 2.5 billion people do not have proper water sanitation systems, a lack of which can lead to widespread disease and malnutrition. More than one million children die every year because of these dangerously unhealthy conditions.
Yet I believe we are capable of resolving water supply and sanitation problems, particularly if we do not ignore one of our biggest assets: an especially powerful population of students.
As a future undergraduate, I view this demographic as a passionate group of young adults that is willing to donate time, effort, and resources to reverse the global water shortage. It is absurd that the value of this active population is overlooked while relief organizations worldwide don’t have sufficient manpower to combat the consequences of water scarcity.
Admittedly, many schools in the U.S. are already working to assuage the impact of the water shortage. But these efforts are isolated and on a small scale. There is a lack of a collective, organized effort on behalf of universities to encourage ongoing remediation. Princeton University’s Davis Projects for Peace recently sponsored two undergraduate students to travel to the small village in Jorit, Ethiopia where they spent their summer building a clean water system for the town. Bigger, more unified efforts are needed to truly instigate change on an international level.
Other institutions such as Georgetown University and Tufts University have sponsored lectures to educate individuals on the severity of this crisis. These events have also highlighted the importance of conservation efforts to prevent water shortage from intensifying. These efforts are a solid starting point, but they are not enough to stop the depletion of the precious resource.
Why can’t universities use their research capabilities to teach students water sanitation methods that they can disseminate across the globe? In turn, as students go abroad to work on these projects, they could receive college credit for their efforts. This idea is not so far-fetched; thousands of college students already assume international internships during the summer. These young adults are eager to explore the world. Let’s exploit their curiosity to find solutions for the global freshwater crisis and foster ongoing commitment to service abroad.
There is much work to be done before this issue is resolved. There are approximately 18 million college students and 17 million American high school students comprising more than 11 percent of the nation’s population. These often active, zealous participants are just what we need to improve, and eventually resolve the water crisis. We can no longer ignore this dedicated, enthusiastic group when discussing the international water shortage.
I would like to see more colleges and universities implement scholastic options that would encourage hands-on work from students abroad, supervised by faculty, building water treatment plants and educating local residents on sanitation and conservation methods. The academic content is interdisciplinary, cutting across the humanities departments as well as the sciences. The student population has great potential. It’s only a matter of tapping into it.
Water is the most vital resource to human life, and the lack of water is the most significant malady currently afflicting the world. If nothing is done to stop this growing disaster entire populations will be forced to survive without the most basic resource that all living things need and deserve: fresh, clean water.
Sara Clark is a senior at Council Rock High School North in Newtown, Pennsylvania, located 20 miles north of Philadelphia. She has lived in Newtown for 11 years. Next year she plans to attend college in the United States, where she anticipates majoring in international relations. Sara plans to incorporate the freshwater crisis into her undergraduate education as well as her work and experiences beyond college.
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