Water: a necessity we all tap differently

By Hailey Rile, ’12

How did civilizations come to be?  Irrigation systems. How have civilizations survived? Water. These are the questions that were discussed by Terje Tvedt, this year’s Wang Symposium’s second keynote speaker. Tvedt addressed the history of water and its relationship to the development of human civilization.

Humans have done one of two things throughout history, Tvedt said. Either they have moved themselves toward the water or have made the water come to them. He spoke of a current project in Egypt, where a new Nile valley is being built. The old Nile valley is overpopulated, so people have decided to pump water from the Nile River over to their newly-created habitat.

“The biggest engineering project in the history of mankind is happening there,” Tvedt said.

On the other hand, other people around the world have no choice but to go to the water. For the Borana people in Ethiopia, according to Tvedt’s documentary, A Journey in the History of Water, there is no river for the population to get water from. It is so dry there that they receive no rain for a good portion of the year. Their only option is to travel to a well and spend all day working together to collect water.

Although different people have different accesses to water, it’s one things that everyone needs to survive.

“Water binds together all people, of all ages, in a unique way,” Tvedt said, and added that water is “essential to all societies.”

I think it is amazing how sometimes we fail to recognize the things that we depend on so much. Water fuels every facet of our lives. I’ve never thought as deeply about how water had created the world that we live in today, until now. Water allowed the human race to endure the test of time and now we can’t look anywhere without seeing water being used in some form.

I have two feelings as I walk away from this year’s symposium. First of all, I feel blessed to live in a region and a country where I have ready access to water, 24 hours, seven days a week. If I need to wash my hands, I go to a nearby sink. If I want a glass of water, I grab a cup and fill it up at a faucet. Not everyone around the world has the luxury of having water on-hand nearly all the time. Many people in other parts of the world, such as the Borana people, have to work for their water. They have to travel, work, break a sweat; just to collect this priceless resource.

Second, we as the human race owe it to ourselves and to water itself to start conserving now. It is water that has granted us life. The least we can do is protect it.

“All this water gives the planet its special identity,” Tvedt said.

Water is one of our most precious resources and has made us who we are. If we want the human race to continue and thrive with this treasure, we need to protect and conserve it before it’s too late.


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