We must stop wasting water

We must stop wasting water

Something extraordinary happened recently. 

The Whanganui River, which is sacred for the indigenous Maoris of New Zealand, has been granted a “living entity” status and now has the legal rights of a person. The rights of the river will be represented by one person each from the Maori clan and the royal family in court. Some $80 million will be allocated for compensation and another $30 million for the cleaning of the river.  

“Some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a legal personality to a natural resource. But actually it’s no stranger than family trusts, companies, or incorporated societies,” said New Zealand’s Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson. 

In Turkey, last weekend Atlas magazine and WILO Pump Systems organized an event in Istanbul to draw attention to the significance of water resources. We “walked for water” on the shores of the Durusu (Terkos) Lake outside the city. 

As I was walking through nature during this event, I thought about the issue in New Zealand. Nature, to which we owe everything, can never defend itself; it has no mouth or tongue with which to speak. Especially at a time when neoliberal politics destroy almost everything they touch, we should applaud the fact that a natural feature has been given legal status - especially when the matter is water. 

During the nature walk, we constantly talked about how water resources were becoming scarcer with each passing day and how access to water was becoming increasingly difficult. 

Since we in Turkey are quite far away from the civilization level that grants legal status to rivers and lakes, we should first simply start changing some of our habits regarding water. That goes for both individual and collective practices.  

On Feb. 2, World Wetlands Day, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) emphasized that the loss of wetlands not only endangers living creatures but also increases the risk of natural disasters. The WWF stressed that the frequency of natural disasters worldwide has more than doubled in the past 35 years, with experts estimating that 90 percent of natural hazards are water related. 

“Wetlands absorb extra water at times when there is extreme precipitation, almost like a sponge, and thus reduce the effect of floods. At times when precipitation is scarce, they release the water they have absorbed and become a solution to draught and water scarcity,” said Sedat Kalem, conservation director at WWF Turkey.

In other words, wetlands, in the regions where they are situated, act like measures against natural disasters. By making their region more humid, they make a positive contribution to the local climate, preventing seawater from moving inlands and thus preventing the salinization of the soil. 

The protection and good management of wetlands is therefore necessary in order to be prepared for possible natural disasters, especially for floods and draughts, and to reduce their effects. 

But when we look at our country, 73 percent of the water is used for agriculture. Meanwhile, a major part of agricultural watering is done using traditional methods, meaning that excessive amounts of water are wasted. 

Unsustainable infrastructure works, pollution and illegal fishing all add to this negative picture.  

Things cannot go on like this. Projects for water saving should be immediately prepared and introduced. We have no more time to lose.