Water is now a key concern worldwide. A billion people lack access to safe supplies, and every year an estimated 5 million die from water-related diseases.
In this article, Peter H. Gleick of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, in California, United States, welcomes the 'soft path' solution to meeting 21st-century demands for water. The 20th-century approach — building massive infrastructure such as dams — benefited billions, but at the cost of freshwater species loss and human displacement, as happened with China's Three Gorges Dam project. Cheap, efficient, small-scale and ecologically sound projects are, Gleick says, a real possibility.
The challenges are immense. Aside from demand, investment in water projects is down worldwide, and conflicts over water are increasing. More money, recycling, and protection for our freshwater resources are needed — as is decisiveness. We cannot follow both paths, says Gleick.
Reference: Science 302, 1524 (2003)