Rivers are the lifeline of human history. They have sustained agriculture as we know it through irrigation, tributaries, and aquifers. In developing countries, rivers determine where people settle, what trade specialties thrive, and the shape of cities. Did you know that in the U.S. today, if you purchase one gallon of milk you’ve indirectly consumed 880 gallons of water? Can’t believe it? Well, think about the water required to raise and graze cattle, then process and bottle the milk. If you’re feeling queazy with that stat, you probably shouldn’t check out National Geographic’s interactive tool to see how much water it takes to produce one pound of beef.
Rivers are gaining increasing attention as individuals and organizations realize how destructive development can be for the rivers who are just trying to go with the gravitational flow. Today, it’s not uncommon to hear about plans to divert a river to a place more convenient for business or urban development, or to supply water to people where there is none. Take China for example – there is a $60 billion project underway to transfer water from the Yangtze River Basin in the south to the north where water supplies are low. Upon completion, they will have transferred a volume equal to half the Nile.
The International River Foundation, World Rivers Day, and National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative are just a couple of the biggest players in the fight to protect the planet’s freshwater supply, and particularly rivers. World Rivers Day is today, September 25! How will you get involved? Teachers, consider conducting a water audit at your school in conjunction with a green building lesson. We humans indirectly consume more water than we ever imagined possible. Read Nat Geo’s list of ten things you can do to reduce your consumption. Happy World Rivers Day!