Water is humanity’s most important resource — and threat

3 minutes

For thousands of years, we have made some of the most important choices based on how much water we could find at a place. When we settled down, it was often next to a river with access to drinking water that also served to grow the plants we cultivated. Our ancestors knew that they would die of thirst before starving to death and made very careful decisions based on that. On the other hand, we would not build a village too close to a river in a place that was flooded every year. By directly observing our environment, we were able to make extremely successful decisions that helped us survive and thrive.

​That time is over now. It seems like we have forgotten about the importance of water. In many places, for most of the time, water has been easily accessible and contained because of the technology we have developed. Oil has become more important than water. Nevertheless, we can survive without oil but we cannot survive without water. Where oil has led to disaster, it was because of our own doing, not because of natural disaster.

​Today we see our world changing once more. The distribution and movement of water is very unstable, so much that the technology we use to control it is not effective anymore. Wildfire, flood, and drought threaten our environment and human lives. Billions of dollars are lost every year. Our lives and assets are at risk because we made decisions about where to settle down and invest our resources in a past that is gone. Our climate is changing so fast that even observations from today cannot tell us where to go next. It is as if we were blind, randomly sleepwalking into a dangerous future.

No doubt this is an awful situation that causes immense suffering for many people and destruction of the nature we live in. However, there is some good news. We are not blind. Today and more so in the future, we have advanced sensing technology to observe not only what is going on today but even make informed decisions about what is going to happen in the future.

Making sense of that data and deducing the right decisions from it is very complex. That’s why we need the best scientists and engineers who can develop algorithms that help us process all that data. Using this technology can inform effective decisions on where to invest our resources and live our lives in safety again. Perhaps that way we can even make better decisions than in the past before climate change was accelerating. However, some disasters will happen that are determined by decisions we have already made. That’s why we need to act today and make decisions that help us avoid more disasters and thrive in this changing world.