Water is essential to life and human civilizations have always developed around rivers and water sources. The city of Syracuse in Sicily, for example, is linked to some myths which originated from its rich water supply. The myth of Arethusa and Alfeo tells the story of the nymph Arethusa, who wanted to escape from the unrequited love of the young Alfeo, so she asked Artemis for help and the goddess transformed her into a spring. Alfeo was so in love with the nymph that he decided to jump into the sea and turn into water. In this way the spring water and the sea water merged forever. The Arethusa spring is located in the isle of Ortigia, and it used to be an important source of freshwater for the population in ancient times. So the myth makes us reflect upon the importance water has had in the history of the town.
However, during the last 100 years global water consumption has increased dramatically and according to UN experts it will continue to increase. Every 22 March since 1993 the World Water Day has been celebrated, an anniversary created to raise awareness of this vital resource for the planet. This celebration can also help achieve two goals of the 2030 agenda, more precisely the sixth and twelfth, namely “clean water and sanitation”, “responsible consumption and production”. Just to make an example, the Italians consume an average of 245 litres per day, not counting consumption in all other parts of the world, whereas in some very large and poor areas lack of drinking water have caused large migrations and even wars. Over the last decades, conflicts, often armed, triggered by the control of groundwater and waterways have multiplied all over the world. Constant population growth and the worsening of climate change make it difficult to prevent them from happening. For example, in the long Syrian conflict, alongside the most well-known causes (religion, ethnic groups, power) the drought must be considered a triggering reason, since in the previous years the lack of rain decimated the crops, forcing one and a half million people to move to the inhabited centers. The same scenario along the Jordan: one of the points that led to the failure of the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians is precisely the supply to the river.
The way out of this crisis is marked by small and large projects born in recent years on the water theme. On the occasion of World Water Day 2021, UNEP – the United Nations environmental program wants to remind us of those young innovators who fight every day to protect this precious resource. Just one example for all: Max Hidalgo Fifth, the founder of Yawa, a startup that builds portable wind turbines that collect water from atmospheric humidity and fog. We don’t necessarily have to go far to find projects and good practices to protect our blue gold. An example of this is PRIMA (Partnerships for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area), a research program that aims to promote innovative solutions in the food, water management and sustainable agriculture fields.
We can also do something in our small way: individual citizens can reduce the waste of this finite and irreplaceable resource in daily habits. Turning off the tap while brushing our teeth, preferring a shower to baths, continuously overhauling the plumbing system to avoid leaks and collecting rainwater, are all actions that can help. In conclusion, if we all do something in our small way, we can make a big contribution. We can do it!