It is projected that by the year 2100, the number of megacities in the world will rise, with the population of the largest reaching up to 88 million. On the other hand, we are experiencing a mass extinction of species and the water crisis is reaching alarming thresholds in major cities across the world.
Cape Town will be the first to indefinitely shut off their fresh water supply, leaving four million people without running water. They’d instead get water rations and have to line up in city stations to get it. Sao Paolo, Melbourne, Jakarta, London, Beijing, Istanbul, Tokyo, Bangalore, Barcelona and Mexico are also in danger of losing water in the next few decades, unless their water use radically changes.
Though the world is comprised of over 70% water, only 1% of it is suitable for consumption. According to the World Resources Institute, by 2040, most of the world won’t have enough water to meet their demands. As one of the most vital needs for survival, the thought of losing access to water is horrifying and unimaginable. How could we have possibly built a world where we can’t sustain its most valuable resource?
As this crisis continues, what might the new world look like?
Aboard the International Space Station, astronauts drink recycled urine and condensate, the collected breath and sweat of the crew, processed through an advanced filtration system. On Earth, local governments have resorted to recycling wastewater but psychological barriers persist among citizens. However, psychologists have found that when cities reintroduce purified municipal wastewater into natural streams or lakes for later withdrawal, public acceptance of the fact that the water was recycled improves. Since 2008, Orange County has recharged a local aquifer with billions of gallons of recycled sewage via the largest potable water reuse facility in the world.
In light of the ongoing planetary crisis, how could a society thrive entirely on its citizens’ byproducts? How might it become a pleasurable experience rather than a compromise?
Today, the consumption of water is typically done in private. Would taking it to the public space make people feel more accountable for using the resource responsibly?
Let’s imagine the possibilities.
… by the year 2100, recycled water becomes our main (actually, only) source of water?
… household water supply was cut off worldwide and instead the act of bathing was brought to the public space?
… technologies such as NASA’s filtration systems was brought to the mainstream, allowing citizens to drink and bathe in their own recycled urine & condensate via communal water fountains located in city centers?
… citizens were required to regularly contribute to their communities’ water supply for utilities to remain sustainable and regulated (urine, condensate contributions)?
… water became free again?
Could this be the sound of megacity centers of 2100? However, the issue of mass extinction remains.
What might the future be like if we overcame the water crisis?
Abundant in water, vibrant in social activity, though lacking in biodiversity, the roaring sound of fountain water overlapped by roadside conversations and playing children, without the sounds of meowing cats, barking dogs, chirping birds and other miscellaneous natural sounds that we’re used to, remains oddly unsettling rather than utopian.
Let us rekindle our relationship with our most valuable resource by imagining a world without it.
Audio: Sound of the Future Public