GROUND Water scarcity

This is a LONG post. It’s an BIG issue.

Nearly 20 years after the World Bank began warning of a looming water crisis, the combination of a surging population, a growing global middle class and a changiwater scarcityng climate is straining water supplies

“Humankind is running out of water at an alarming pace,” Peter Brabeck, chairman of Nestlé, says. “We’re going to run out of water long before we run out of oil.”

Water scarcity is a far more pressing problem than climate change, he says, but receives much less political attention than it should. “We have a water crisis because we make wrong water-management decisions,” he says. “Climate change will further affect the water situation but even if the climate wouldn’t change, we have a water problem and this water problem is much more urgent.”

Just over 97 per cent of the world’s water is in its oceans. Of the 2.5 per cent (11 trillion cubic meters) of freshwater, almost 70 per cent is locked away in glaciers and ice caps and less than 1 per cent is in lakes, rivers and other surface water sources. The remaining 30 per cent is groundwater, some of it so ancient and hard to replace it is known as ‘fossil water’. [1]

Groundwater, population and agriculture

Population growth and groundwater depletion present the two most significant dangers to global water stability. In the last century, the human population has increased from 1.7 billion people to 6.6 billion people, while the total amount of potable water has slightly decreased. … Water usage per person doubled, even as the total population tripled [8] … Much of the population growth and economic development experienced in the last fifty years has been supported by subterranean water reserves called groundwater. These non-renewable reserves, an absolutely essential aspect of the modern world, are being consumed at an unsustainable rate. [2]

A  2012 intelligence report prepared for the US State Department highlighted the risk to global food markets from the rapid depletion of one crucial source: groundwater. [1]

Developing countries use 90% of their water for agriculture, 5% for industry, and 5% for urban areas. Developed countries use 45% of their water for agriculture, 45% for industry, and 10% for urban areas.

The agricultural sector, by far the largest consumer of freshwater resources, accounts for 70% of global consumption. Irrigation consumes most of the water in the agricultural sector, and has become an integral part of modern civilization because of access to groundwater aquifers. Once farmers were freed from relying on rain to water their crops, highly efficient commercial farming became increasingly common. … Unfortunately, water is being drawn from many …  aquifers faster than it is being replaced. [2]

An estimagroundwater agricted 2bn people rely on groundwater for drinking and irrigating crops but its use is often unregulated and poorly monitored. This means more is pumped out than can be replenished quickly when it rains. [1]

Industry and urbanisation 

The industrial sector accounts for 22% of global water consumption; this number will grow in the coming decades as the developing world industrializes.The needs of industry tend to take precedence over agriculture for simple economic reasons. 1,000 tons of water will produce 1 ton of wheat, which is worth $200. 1,000 tons of water in the industrial sector, however, will generate $14,000 worth of goods. On a per ton basis, industry creates 70 times more wealth. Despite its economic benefits, intense water use by industry has led to serious pollution that is beginning to create problems worldwide.

The residential sector uses the remaining 8% of the total water supply. Although this sector only accounts for a small percentage of overall use, it always takes precedence over industry and agriculture. [2] By 2030, the global population is expected to have increased from today’s 7bn to 8bn. The global middle class, meanwhile, is likely to have surged from nearly 2bn to 5bn, according to the OECD, largely in fast-growing Asian economies. Like their predecessors in developed countries, they are likely to want a hamburger, not just a bowl of vegetables, and the UN has calculated it takes 2,400 litres of water to produce a hamburger compared with less than 30 litres for a potato or a tomato. They will also want flush toilets, showers, and washing machines, air-conditioning, televisions and other devices requiring electricity, on top of family cars and overseas holidays, all of which require more energy.

Water is needwater loss industryed for almost every aspect of energy production, from digging up fossil fuels to refining oil and generating power, and the amount of water consumed by the sector is on track to double within the next 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency.[1]

Pollution

The companion of modernization has always been pollution. In developing countries that are just entering the industrial age, water pollution presents a serious problem. According to United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), “in developing countries, rivers downstream from major cities are little cleaner than open sewers”. The UNEP also reports that 1.2 billion people are being affected by polluted water, and that dirty water contributes to 15 million child deaths every year. In recent years, scientists have become aware of the problems involved with the contamination of groundwater. Aquifers move very slowly, so once they are polluted it takes decades or centuries for them to cleanse themselves.

Food production contributes significantly to water contamination. When nitrogen fertilizer is applied to a field, the water runoff will contain excess amounts of nitrates. Nitrates have been shown to have a very harmful effect on plant and animal life, can cause miscarriages, and can harm infant development. The industrial livestock business also presents a serious danger to water systems. The disposal of vast amounts of animal feces destroys nearby ecosystems and is very hazardous to humans.

food contamination

Water pollution is reaching epic proportions. In the U.S. 40% of rivers and lakes are considered too polluted to support normal activities. In China 80% of the rivers are so polluted that fish cannot survive in them. In Japan 30% of groundwater has been contaminated by industrial pollution. The Ganges River, which supports around 500 million people, is considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world. And the list goes on…

Food markets

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), if current water consumption trends continue, by 2025 the agricultural sector will experience serious water shortages. The IFPRI estimates that crop losses due to water scarcity could be as high as 350 million metric tons per year, slightly more than the entire crop yield of the U.S. This massive water crisis will be caused by water contamination, diverting water for industrial purposes, and the depletion of aquifers. Climate change may also play a part. The Himalayan glaciers, which feed the rivers that support billions of people, are shrinking in size every year. Their disappearance would cause a major humanitarian disaster. [2]

A  2012 intelligence report prepared for the US State Department highlighted the risk to global food markets from the rapid depletion of one crucial source: groundwater.[1]

Aquifers are an essential source of water for food production, and they are being overdrawn in the western U.S., northern Iran, north-central China, India, Mexico, Australia, and numerous other locations. Additionally, many aquifers are contaminated each year by pollution and seawater intrusion.

Despite their importance, data on underground water reservoirs remains imprecise. There is little evidence regarding how many aquifers actually exist, and the depth of known aquifers is often a mystery. However, it is clear that water from these sources takes centuries to replenish, and that they are being consumed at a highly unsustainable rate.[2]

Conflict

The number of water-related conflicts reported worldwide has surged in the past 15 years, according to the Pacific Institute, a water research group. While a global water crisis has the potential to tear international relations at the seams, it also has the potential to force the global community into a new spirit of cooperation.

Solutionshands of govit requires policies such as better regulation of irrigation groundwater or more intelligent use of wastewater.

Some states have shown how this can be done. Israel and Singapore have water recycling and management measures widely regarded as models. But such examples are relatively scarce.
The 2030 Water Resources Group is a body trying to highlight the dimensions of the water scarcity problem and the least costly way of tackling it. It has produced sobering reports, including one showing demand for freshwater is likely to outstrip global supply by about 40 per cent by 2030 unless more is done to improve supply and stop inefficient use.

Some types of action make much more financial sense than others, according to another report from the group last year by Arup, the engineering consultancy. Plugging leaks at an existing water supply system, for example, can address water scarcity 50 to 100 times more cost effectively than building an expensive water treatment plant. [1]

Drip irrigation technology offers a far more water-efficient way of farming. Drip irrigation techniques involve using a series of pipes to distribute water in a very controlled manner. By using this method farmers have the ability to give their crops the exact amount of water needed. Despite its many benefits, drip irrigation is not being widely implemented. While the technology is not sophisticated or expensive, it is beyond the means of the poorest farmers who need it most. It is also not being used by many farmers in water-rich countries because the potential savings are less than the cost of implementing the technology.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          desal          Desalination technology transforms the vast amount of salt water in the Earth’s oceans into freshwater fit for human consumption. Desalination is an expensive and energy intensive technology, and currently only wealthy countries with serious water shortages consider it a viable option. However, a recent innovation using nanotechnology has the potential to decrease the cost of desalination by 75%, making it a more viable option.

Finally …

In the coming decades, water crises will likely become increasingly common. If the population continues to grow at a rate of 1 billion people every 15 years, the Earth’s capacity to support human life will be severely strained. Population growth notwithstanding, the current supply of water is being degraded by pollution, overdrawing, and climate change. [2]

Solutions to water scarcity … are known and do not need to be that expensive. The risk a growing number of … leaders fear, however, is that such steps will be deferred until the last minute, forcing a costly scramble for action.

It is not too late to guarantee a safe supply of water for everyone alive today and for all future generations; although to do so would require an unprecedented level of international cooperation, trust, and compassion.

References:                                                                                   1. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/8e42bdc8-0838-11e4-9afc-00144feab7de.html#slide0      (July 14, 2014)

2. http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org/wbp/global-water-crisis/441 (April 2007)

SAVE WATER                                                                                                                       I ONCE HAD A CHAP WHO HAD BEEN IN THE KOREAN ARMY STAYING WITH ME, HE SAID THEY HAD ONE MINUTES WORTH OF WATER FOR A SHOWER. THEY’D GET IN AND WET THEMSELVES, TURN OFF THE TAP AND SOAP THEMSELVES, APPLY SHAMPOO TO HAIR AND THEN TURN THE WATER ON TO RINSE. I TURM MY SHOWER WATER ON AND OFF NOW!  WHEN YOU CLEAN YOUR TEETH TURN OFF THE TAP AS YOU SCRUB, PUT MULCH ON YOUR GARDEN AND WATER IN THE EVENING TO REDUCE WATER LOSS THROUGH EVAPORATION, INSTALL A RAINWATER COLLECTION TANK.

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