The Climate Cycle is the Water Cycle

Today, March 22nd, is World Water Day, an international observance that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Worldwide, we see an abundance of water problems. We also see an abundance of solutions.

On this World Water Day, thousands of people, mostly children, will die from preventable water-related diseases. Thousands have died every day since World Water Day last year. This daily tragedy is the result of the world’s failure to provide adequate drinking water and sanitation to everyone. We know how to meet basic human needs for water, but we have failed to make this a priority. It is time to take the necessary steps to prevent this needless suffering.

In 2007, it is also clear that global climate change threatens our water resources. Extreme weather, sea level rise, and hotter and hotter temperatures threaten to alter water supplies everywhere. The climate cycle is the water cycle, and attacking and adapting to climate change requires the focus of all of our political and business leaders.

The good news is that a lot of involved, smart, people are today coming up with solutions to our water problems. Instead of fruitless searches for the single silver bullet, they are developing many solutions to our many problems. There are lots of things that work, and they work in different places in different combinations at different times. The challenge now is to understand what those solutions are and where to apply them.

A sustainable world, with clean water for all, is attainable. On World Water Day 2007, whether you’re a conservative, a liberal, or a fence-sitter, let’s agree to the goal of meeting basic water needs for all, and let’s commit the resources needed to reach this goal.


Peter H. Gleick

Listen to a radio interview with Dr. Gleick now.

Dr. Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security and editor of “The World’s Water,” a biennial book series that celebrated its tenth anniversary in November. He is a MacArthur Fellow and member of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2007, the Pacific Institute celebrates twenty years of providing research for people and the planet. Founded in 1987 and based in downtown Oakland, California, the Institute provides independent research and policy analysis on issues at the intersection of protecting the natural world, encouraging sustainable development, and improving global security. Learn more about the Pacific Institute and its research on the state of the world’s water at and

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