Dry Planet



A Future of Thirst: Massive Worldwide Water Crisis Lies on the Horizon

The next time your throat is as dry as a bone and the Sun is beating down, take a glass of clean, cool water.

Savour it. Sip by sip.

Vital and appreciated as that water is, it will be even more precious to those who will follow you.

By the end of this century, billions are likely to be gripped by water stress and the stuff of life could be an unseen driver of conflict.

So say hydrologists who forecast that on present trends, freshwater faces a double crunch -- from a population explosion, which will drive up demand for food and energy, and the impact of climate change.

World maps showing water resources, energy consumption and regional hydroelectric potentional

/AFP World maps showing water resources, energy consumption and regional hydroelectric potentional

"Approximately 80 percent of the world's population already suffers serious threats to its water security, as measured by indicators including water availability, water demand and pollution," the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a landmark report in March.

"Climate change can alter the availability of water and therefore threaten water security."

Already today, around 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water and 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation. Around a fifth of the world's aquifers are depleted.

Jump forward in your imagination to mid-century, when the world's population of about 7.2 billion is expected to swell to around 9.6 billion.

By then, global demand for water is likely to increase by a whopping 55 percent, according to the United Nations' newly published World Water Development Report.

More than 40 percent of the planet's population will be living in areas of "severe" water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land that runs along north Africa, the Middle East and western South Asia.

Yet these scenarios do not take into account changes in rainfall or snowfall or glacier shrinkage caused by global warming.

- Wetter or drier -

As a very general rule, wet countries will get wetter and dry countries will get drier, accentuating risk of flood or drought, climate scientists warn.

But whether people will heed their alarm call is a good question.

"When seismologists talk about an area at risk from an earthquake, people generally accept what they say and refrain from building their home there," says French climatologist Herve Le Treut.

"But when it comes to drought or flood, people tend to pay less attention when the warning comes from meteorologists."

Water squabbles in the hot, arid sub-tropics have a long history. In recent years, the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile have all been the grounds for verbal sparring over who has the right to build dams, withhold or extract "blue gold" to the possible detriment of people downstream.

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It has been stated many times on this blog and I will state it again: The global water crisis is the most crucial urgent crisis mankind is now facing on our planet. Without water there is no food, no life. As we now see the effects of anthropogenic climate change taking effect upon a greater portion of the Earth this is now becoming known firsthand by people who up until now would never think about water. Water is the one resource mankind has taken most for granted and we are now paying for it.

Aquifer depletion in India, Asia, Africa and right here in the US (the Ogalalla aquifer) is putting our ability to sustain ourselves at risk. Rainfall pattern changes ( places like India, Pakistan etc. have already seen this regarding monsoons as well as much of the world with more extreme rainfall in quicker time spans) amplification of evaporation rates, more severe and prolonged droughts, glacier melt affecting access to water resources for millions, sea level rise as well as increased building of dams and acidification of our oceans are all factors as well as our own wasteful consumptive habits that are now bringing the Earth to a place where the habitability of the human race and other species is clearly in danger.

Case in point: Water Extraction Boosts California Earthquake Risk (San Andreas Fault)

Will our relentless thirst bring on the big one? Also then, would this not also apply to our rapacious depletion of fossil fuels from our Earth as we dig deeper to satisfy our addiction? It has never been more imperative than it is now for all of us to become aware of the reality the global water crisis presents in our lives today and the role we play in it. Like the climate crisis it is not a far flung crisis that we have time to ignore. For the last eight years I have been doing my best on this blog to bring that reality to as many people as possible. Please pass it on. The future is now the present. A world without water (and yes, that is possible when you consider physical scarcity as well as lack of access due to climate change) in places where it is needed most to grow food is a slow death for biodiversity and our oceans. This is real and it is serious.

Also, be wary of the motivations of governments making the water crisis a focal point. Geopolitical advantage regarding water resources (as we are now seeing regarding natural gas) may well also lead to more conflict. I sincerely doubt altruistic motivations on their part in whole regarding this crisis. One need only look at the current situation in the Ukraine and the other regions regarding competing for hegemony regarding natural gas resources and in the Arctic where the melting sea ice is actually facilitating their geopolitical motivations to control the very resource exacerbating this crisis.

Look beyond the barriers we place up in order to prolong facing reality. Conserve, speak out for those less fortunate and against the privatization of our water resources and those dirty energy sources wasting and poisoning our water and above all cherish the lifeblood of our Earth. This crisis like the climate crisis will not be solved without humanity at its core. We truly are running out of time.

Also see:

Facing The Freshwater Crisis

1 In 10 People To Face Water Scarcity If Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue

Global Water Shortages Grow Worse, Nations Have Few Answers

Global Threat To Food Supplies As Wells Dry Up

Source of Life Running Out

Drop In US Underground Water Levels Has Accelerated: USGS

The Root Causes Of Violence In Syria: Climate Change & Water

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Good Blog Posts-Environment

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