Skip to main content

Six Essential Reads in Honor of World Water Day

A reading list to inform our readers on the human element of the global water crisis — and inspire them to action.

A child collects water at a drinking water point on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte as eight municipalities of Mayotte are hit by water cuts. (Photo: Ornella Lamberti/AFP/Getty Images)

In 1993, the United Nations declared March 22nd as World Water Day. The annual event was created with the express purpose of focusing attention on water crises around the world and encouraging water-management activism.

The U.N. also uses the day to highlight some sobering water-crisis statistics—for example, that some 663 million people are currently living without a safe supply of water close to their homes; or that over 1.8 million people frequent a water source contaminated with human waste; or that 80 percent of the Earth’s wastewater returns to the ecosystem without being treated or recycled.

Here at Pacific Standard, we thought we’d tip our hat to the day by looking back on the stories we’ve published over the past few months that distill the crisis to human terms. The following list reflects how the contemporary water crisis has triggered human migration, emboldened ordinary citizens, and threatened the future of American farming.

Drowning has been a common cause of death since the Middle Ages. How do we prevent it when humans were likely never meant to swim?

A probable human carcinogen has been found in water systems throughout California. Farm towns are fighting the state and chemical companies for remediation.

Oxygen-depleted oceans have preceded many mass extinctions in Earth’s past, including the worst one of all 252 million years ago. Are hypoxic dead zones from California to Namibia a harbinger of the next extinction?

What happens when climate change causes Californians to migrate north to Oregon and Washington?

How an esoteric piece of farm equipment created America’s breadbasket — and threatens to destroy it.

Can Martin Riese teach us how to value water by charging big prices in high-end restaurants?