Climbing the Mountain toward Better Water Quality

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Friday, July 5, 2013

On Friday after class, seven of us decided to hike San Giorgio Mountain to the top.  As the air thinned and the incline increased, we started noticing small pipes with running water sticking out of the mountain side.  Do we drink it?  The question was raised several times, but in the end we were too scared of what kind of water was trickling out of these faucets.  There was even a sign to warn us that the water was not safe to drink out of a certain fountain.   With Professor Moomaw’s lecture about water management still on my mind, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of available, clean water, even in Switzerland—the water tower of Europe.

Entering into our third day of the water module, it is evident that the quality and accessibility of water are major social and environmental issues of our lifetime.  How do we begin to solve these huge, interrelated problems?  As I continued to climb up the mountain, I decided the process needed to solve the water crisis is very similar to a hike.

The beginning of a hike is the hardest part.  You have to get used to the steep incline, and your body does not handle the change very well.  The start of a hike can be paralleled to the start of managing water more effectively.  It involves getting information out to the public, engaging both the public and experts in a combined dialogue.  Change is hard, and making sure people understand and care about the problem at hand is only the beginning of a long process.

As you continue the hike, do not forget to watch your feet, one step at a time, so as not to fall.  However, being aware of what is in front of you and what is behind you is equally as important.  Knowing future goals but also learning from what you have left behind is necessary in continuing the process towards a clean, efficient water system.  There will be times when you need to stop to rest, but time is of the essence and stopping to catch your breath only allows more pollutants to enter waterways and droughts to rip landscapes apart.

The issue of clean, accessible water is not an isolated issue in which one country concentrates solely on itself.  Every country is interrelated with others through globalization; therefore, everyone must understand the importance of working together and learning from each other’s mistakes.  Similar to hiking in a group, when someone falls, you help them back up but also make sure not to step on the same slippery rock in front of you.  Along the way, asking for directions from some locals might be necessary because they know the landscape better.  Similarly, listening to the experts, asking for help, and taking advice is an important step in understanding what areas to fix and how to effectively solve the problems at hand.  Being afraid of changing courses halfway through your water management hike is not something to shy away from or avoid.  There are many trails to take that lead to different end goals.  Changing paths, switching directions, but understanding the mistakes made along the way is how the world can address the issue of water quality and accessibility.   Taking on a trans-disciplinary approach through coordination between many stakeholders is needed to resolve the water crisis on this planet.

Guest contributor:  Ashlyn McCurley

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