My intent when I created this blog was to provide as much information as possible to help people live safer, and more enjoyable lives thru being prepared to handle crisis situations, man-made and Nature made. I feel its also my obligation to forewarn readers of potential dangers that may lurk ahead that don’t get much advertising, shall we say. The subject of running out of water is one such subject.
When we hear someone say they are running out of water, we immediately think their bottle of designer spring fed water supply is nearly exhausted or their canteen is running low, an inconvenience maybe, but rarely life threatening. That’s how spoiled we have become in industrialized, perhaps especially in the USA, countries. The issue of running out of water, something we will all die within 4 days max without, is treated as an inconvenience.
Hopefully changing our warning to “our global supply of water is in danger of running out,” will lend more weight to the issue. Unfortunately, we still have world leaders, specifically the moron who holds the US presidency, who don’t believe in climate change. So holding hope of taking this problem seriously will most likely be dashed. However, we must try.
Where’s the Water?
Let’s look at a few facts in order to set the stage.
A small child can look at an atlas and derive the fact the earth is mainly covered in water. So what’s the water shortage? For the non-believers and those who wish to just be argumentative, allow me to clarify. When I say we’re running out of water, I mean we are running out of drinkable fresh water. Of all the water on earth, freshwater makes up just 3% and less than 1% is actually freely available. The rest of the water is tied up in icebergs, glaciers, ice and snow-caps.
This means that all the water that makes up all the rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater that nearly 7 Billion people (and rising) count on for life is less than 1% of the total water on earth.
You can further break down the pending crisis another step. For some people in certain parts of the world, the issue isn’t so much lack of water, but lack of clean water. In Africa, especially, millions of people die each year from diseases that are totally preventable if they had access to clean water. Although there may be adequate water available from the nearby river, it is so contaminated with animal feces, human waste and industrial organisms from the city located 300 miles away, it’s literally a slow death sentence to drink it. What choice do they have?
There are many factors that effect the reducing amount of potable water, but one reason stands above all others. The ever increasing global population boom. As populations grow so does the demand on water, not only for drinking but for agriculture and livestock. In industrializing countries industry requirements demand more water, for instance nuclear power plants demand huge amounts of water for operation. In other words water is essential for maintaining life, the basis of economies and the maintaining of society.
Historical records show the last massive war fought over water was in Mesopotamia 4500 years ago. Based on that information you may assume that a war over water is unlikely. Is that so?
2003 Darfur Sudan, a diminishing water supply provoked an armed conflict that resulted in 400,000 Africans being killed. Depends on who you’re talking to, but I’d call that a war.
Can’t happen to us. Why not? The Darfur conflict began as a local issue but quickly grew to encompass an entire region in war. I may or may not go to war with you if you have a vast deposit of gold in your country and I have none. But … the huge difference with water is it knows no geographic boundaries. The lake or river can be located or flow through several countries. Who owns it? As supplies of water diminish these water sources that caused no problems for centuries, all of a sudden results in severe animosity or hatred. Especially if one country perceives the other country is consuming more than their fair share.
Can’t Happen Here.
If anything the last 2 years of political upheaval and trashing of American norms should teach us is we are not immune to terrible things happening to us just because we are Americans.
In October 2007, a 20 year old water dispute, nick named the Water War, broke out into near open hostilities between the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. A severe drought in the region created the possibility of Atlanta and its 4.5 million residents, could run out of water. The state’s National Guards were placed on alert, but fortunately only fiery rhetoric and not bullets were exchanged between the parties.
In 2007 the town of Orme’s, Tennessee water supply dried up leaving its 145 residents without potable water for drinking or bathing. The nearby town of New Hope, Alabama not only allowed Orme to bring trucks to take water back to resupply their water system, but allowed them to run a 2 mile pipe line in order to tap into New Hope’s water system. What would have happened to Orme had New Hope refused to offer help? Would Orme simply collapse becoming a ghost town? Would armed conflict breakout between the 2 towns? Would each state take up arms to protect their citizens. Sometimes things can quickly spin out of control.
This is not an uncommon issue. The states of California, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado have experienced economic pressures due to shared water that resulted in a formal water sharing agreement between the states. Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois are disputing water usage of the Great Lakes. I’m not insinuating a pending war or anything like that over water. I’m just trying to demonstrate this is a problem that effects all Americans.
Water is inequitably dispersed on a global level both by supply and the ability to retrieve the water. Developing nations scramble to provide their populations with water and usually end up paying more for it because they must pay for infrastructure to gain access and treat the water.
Quickly drying out
Developed countries can afford infrastructure that can deliver water cheaply and effectively to residents thus creating the illusion water is not that valuable. Digest this: it takes about 12 gallons per day to sustain a human (this takes into account all uses for water, like drinking, sanitation and food production), the average American uses about 158 gallons. Why? What do we waste that much water on?
Can Technology Save the Day?
Hopefully technology will play a huge part in addressing the Running Out of Water crisis. Agriculture uses 70% of the water consumed by people, but 42% of all that water is lost because of bad and inefficient irrigation techniques. Advances in computer and satellite technologies have helped farmers to increase production by not over watering certain areas of crops, plus water savings. Drip-irrigation is also becoming more popular and will increase as costs drop.
Desalinization plants have proved capable of removing salt from seawater making it potable and are currently in use world wide. However, the facilities are very expensive to currently operate, but with anticipated reductions of costs thru technology it could have a huge impact on water supply.
Running Out of Water has created essentially two views of the current water crisis: optimism and pessimism. As water supplies diminish, conflicts may emerge, illness and death may take place. But while some may fight, the struggle to maintain or create a viable water supply has also encouraged cooperation and innovation between governments. From water crisis also springs hope.
There is another option than the two views and unfortunately requires mentioning. That of being an idiot.
- You don’t solve the world over-population problem by wiping out a few billion people through a nuclear war or even a conventional war. Besides, you may be one of the billion they decide must die for the greater good. Change your mind?
- No, global warming and the melting of glaciers and ice shelves will not solve the running out of water issue. In ice form the water remains potable, but once it melts into the sea it becomes seawater and can’t be consumed.