Admittedly the Clean Water Act of 35 years ago made some strides in water conservation, but has since been whittled away, making concessions to mindless development and relaxed Corporate polluting enforcement.
Californians are one of the few communities that have stayed aware of wasting water. My husband to this day will say, “Hey, don’t flush that, I have to go too.” He remembers well putting bricks in toilets and being water conservation minded 20 years after his return from California.
Desert communities like Phoenix still have watering restrictions in place. I have seen first hand how these are disregarded, watching sprinklers toss the precious fluid into the sand, in order to make alien grasses grow for the pleasure of equally alien people to this environment. There is little or no enforcement of wasting a resource they import to sustain unnatural communities in an arid land.
This is where it gets dicey, usage is out pacing refreshing of our aquifers. That usage has almost depleted our fresh water supply.
As our world heats up, as pollution increases, as population grows and as our globe’s resources of fresh water are tapped, we are faced with an environmental and humanitarian problem of mammoth proportions.
Demand for water is doubling every 20 years, outpacing population growth twice as fast. Currently 1.3 billion people don’t have access to clean water and 2.5 billion lack proper sewage and sanitation. In less than 20 years, it is estimated that demand for fresh water will exceed the world’s supply by over 50 percent.
The biggest drain on our water sources is agriculture, which accounts for 70 percent of the water used worldwide — much of which is subsidized in the industrial world, providing little incentive for agribusiness to use conservation measures or less water-intensive crops.
This number is also likely to increase as we struggle to feed a growing world. Population is expected to rise from 6 billion to 8 billion by 2050.
Water scarcity is not just an issue of the developing world. “Twenty-one percent of irrigation in the United States is achieved by pumping groundwater at rates that exceed the water’s ability to recharge,” wrote water experts Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute and Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians in their landmark water book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water.
The Ogallala aquifer — the largest in the North America and a major source for agriculture stretching from Texas to South Dakota — is currently being pumped at a rate 14 times greater than it can be replenished, they wrote. And, across the country, “California’s Department of Water Resources predicts that, by 2020, if more supplies are not found, the state will face a shortfall of fresh water nearly as great as the amount that all of its cities and towns together are consuming today,” add Clarke and Barlow.
Demand is outstripping supply from the rainy Seattle area to desert cities like Tucson and Albuquerque. And from Midwest farming regions to East Coast cities.
The US is not alone in this unprecedented use. USA Today reports that China and India have also joined the ranks of depleting their aquifers.
Seventy percent of the food produced in China comes via irrigation heavily dependent on aquifers that are being depleted at an unprecedented rate. (The corresponding figure in the U.S. is 15%.) Water tables on the fertile North China Plain dropped more than 12 feet in a recent three-year period, and the number of water-short Chinese cities has reached 300–almost half of that country’s urban areas. In India, the world’s second-most-populous nation, with over 1,000,000,000 inhabitants, the rate of groundwater withdrawal is twice that of recharge, a deficit higher than in any other country.
Speaking as an American, I can say I have heard Portents of Doom about our precarious water supply since the 1970’s. It is hard to take it seriously, in the Land of the Great Lakes in which I reside.
It occurs to me, as I see timed sprinkler systems run in the rain, and those pumping lake water to irrigate their lawns, that Americans are willfully ignorant at times. The former is such a waste as to be ludicrous, the latter is so blatantly against the enacters’ own interest the mind boggles. That lake water runs directly back into their lake, only full of fertilizers and pesticides. They then wonder why there is so much seaweed, so few fish, and what that ugly brown foam along their lake frontage is.
Removing my blinders a few simple facts have come to my attention that for brevities sake, I will only list these facts:
* From USA Today: The Overpopulation Factor
Postel estimates that the almost 2,400,000,000 world population increase projected over the next 35 years will require the water equivalent of 20 Nile Rivers or 97 Colorado Rivers.
* Global warming causing more drought.
In general, researchers and scientists believe that weather will become much more pronounced in various areas around the world. For example, in dry areas such as the arid Southwestern states of the United States, drought is thought to prevail in the future. That is, in areas where drought already exists, researchers believe that droughts will become more frequent and more intense.
Many researchers believe that some areas will become hotter and may even be dealt massive heat waves for which the population will not be accustomed. This has already been noted in the North American Midwest, where massive heat waves killed dozens of people in the 1990s, mainly young children and the elderly who are the most susceptible to the effects of a heat wave. It is also believed that global warming will bring more severe heat waves in areas where the population is not prepared to handle such heat.
* Global warming Lowering Existing Water Sources
Graphs show recent trends in regional air temperature (red, above), Lake Superior surface water temperature (blue, above), and ice cover (black, below). Straight lines show trends, jagged lines show yearly variations. Note rate of change for water temp is twice that for air temp.
For example the in Lake Superior one inch = 500 billion gallons and it is down 2 feet. That is 12 trillion gallons.
The average water temperature has risen 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1979, significantly above the 2.7-degree Fahrenheit increase in the region’s air temperature during the same period
From ITT Industries, Global reports of Worldwide Water Supply Issues::
Everywhere you look, there are signs that the global water supply is in peril:
* The level of the Dead Sea plummeted more than 10 meters during the 20th century. The relentless sun is one culprit. Another is the agreement in 1981 between Israel and Jordan to increase the volume of water they could take from the River Jordan, which has been reduced to little more than a drainage ditch. In northern Israel the Sea of Galilee, which gives much of the south its water, is shrinking and threatening to turn saline. In Gaza, overpumping is reducing the hydrological pressure, which is letting the sea water in, and the wells are producing water that is less and less potable. Already Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Cyprus, Malta, and the Arabian Peninsula are at the point where all surface and ground freshwater resources are fully used. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt will be in the same position within a decade.
* About 250 million people inhabited the earth two thousand years ago. By 2020 there will be 400 million along the North African shores and in the Middle East alone. And the water supply is shrinking as fossil aquifers are used up.
* Much of Africa sustained a crippling four-year drought in the mid-1980s. Millions died — some of them through evil politics, but many because the crops failed through lack of water.
* The Sahara is expanding. Four thousand years ago hippos played where there are now only stone and scrub.
* Lake Chad–once, it was supposed, one of the sources of the Nile — is shrinking at a rate of nearly 100 meters a year. Already, in dry years, humans can wade across it, safely, if they are wary of crocodiles and hippos.
* Water supplies in the Nile Valley itself — the cradle of civilization — are in peril. Egypt is an efficient user of water, but Egyptians are consuming virtually all the available supply, and the population is growing at more than 3 percent per year. There are a million new Egyptians every nine months.
* In millions of hectares of northern China, the water table is dropping at a rate of 1 meter a year. Irrigation — and its wasteful runoff — is blamed. Beijing can now supply itself only by diverting water from farmers, who give up farming and retreat to the cities — adding to the water demand there. Huge diversion schemes are afoot to bring in water from the water-rich and flood-prone south, but this may not be enough, or may not be in time to match need to supply.
* In the Punjab and in Bangladesh, where there is flooding almost every year, the rate of drop in the water table is even faster than in China. Too many people, too little retained water.
* The water level in the once-pristine Lake Baikal, the deepest fresh-water lake in the world, is sinking steadily. At the same time, the quality of its water deteriorates as effluent from unregulated factories pours into it.
* In the southwestern United States, politicians have notched the rhetoric up and are beginning to view northerner reluctance to divert water southwards as acts of ecological aggression. Not just from northern California, Oregon, and Washington, but from Alaska and Canada too. Some of the grandest rivers of northwestern Canada, in this view, are being wasted — allowed to flow uninterrupted into the oceans, instead of being channeled southwards for irrigating parched farmland. Las Vegas is demanding a greater share of the waters of the Colorado River. Many places in the High Plains are overdrafting the aquifers on which the region’s farmers depend.
Conclusion Part One:
Agribusiness is a huge reason for water depletion, as is global warming, overpopulation and the population of areas without water sources.
We live in places without water, divert water to them draining environs that naturally had water.
We overpopulate areas with rich growing climates, and force the production of food into areas that must be irrigated heavily.
As temperatures rise, evaporation accelerates from both increased water temperature and lack of insulating ice, depleting the sources of that irrigation.
We are ALREADY running low.
Next up? Part Two will cover the diminished quality of freshwater by pollution.
Part Three will be the conclusion that pulls it together and show that our next “Oil Crisis” will be the buying selling, and “ownership” of water.
To those who made it this far:
I know this is a a “dry” essay (sorry had to pun)and information-heavy, but in order to set up my conclusion of why we are going to end up in water wars, I have to show that we are in fact in crisis.