Water is the common denominator of life.
All around the world, water is a precious resource, the common denominator of life. When it’s reliable and clean, people tend to take it for granted. When it’s the opposite, it can become the crucial fact of a person’s existence, something that, if left unaddressed, prevents anything else from happening.
Roughly 2 billion people don’t have reliable sources of clean drinking water and one child every minute dies from preventable waterborne diarrheal disease.
By 2050, demand for fresh water is expected to grow by more than 40% and around a quarter of the world’s population will live in places where water resources are endangered, according to the United Nations.
But the management of water isn’t always so vexed and, in many places, its delivery is a miracle of modern engineering.
More than 90% of New York’s tap water reaches the city through the sheer force of gravity as it courses downhill from upstate aquifers.
Throughout the sprawling streets of Mexico City, buildings sit atop aquifers so depleted they’re sinking into the Earth. That means that water sometimes fails to flow reliably to houses and trucks have to bring water to people out of reach of the municipal pipe system.
In 2014, China completed one of the biggest engineering projects of all time to ship water nearly 1,500 miles to Beijing, averting a water crisis that had loomed over the country for years.
South Africa’s capital Cape Town, meanwhile, could become the world’s first city to run out of water. For the city’s poorer residents, the water crisis is nothing new.
Same goes for many people scattered throughout Nigeria, where more than 57 million people do not have access to safe water.
Residents of Flint, Michigan, know all too well how devastating a polluted water system can be after extreme iron levels were first reported in tap water in 2014.
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