Water for Sale: You Will Have to Pay Dearly

A couple of years ago, I did a good news piece:

Being a Futurama fan, I’ve always wanted to say this but could not find the propitious moment. Writing about water scarcity & food shortages is taxing and angers me at times particularly when I come across disheartening news caused by blatant greed and callous disregard for our planet.

Well, I wanted to do another one. I searched and searched for some good news on water and became depressed. The water news are grim. Let me show you in a few sentences from around the world how dire the situation is:

Fresh water supplies are going to run out, so what can we do to make the taps keep running?

A fellow environmentalist, Brian Fagan, asked this question and wrote a book, a must read book titled A HUMAN HISTORY OF WATER (Bloomsbury)

A billion of us currently go hungry because there is not enough water to grow food. Much of the world’s water is still unpriced, but it is now the most valuable commodity in the world. To compound the problem, 60 per cent of the world’s people live in crowded river basins shared by several countries, often with daggers drawn

Water use in China and the Middle East is an environmental Ponzi scheme

writes Damian Carrington from the Guardian. He drives the point home with these facts:

Find water and you find life. This simple maxim guides scientists searching distant planets for aliens. But if the astrobiologists were to reverse their telescopes and look at our own globe, they would find a conundrum: billions of people living in places with little or no water.

That unsustainable paradox is now unravelling before our eyes in the Middle East and north Africa. The 16 most water-stressed states on Earth are all in that troubled region, with Bahrain at the top of the ranking from risk analysts Maplecroft. Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria follow not far behind.

All are built on an environmental Ponzi scheme, using more water than they receive: 700 times more in Libya’s case. The unrest of the Arab spring of course has many causes, but arguably the most fundamental is the crumbling of a social contract that offered cheap water – and hence food – in return for subservience to dictators.

Water shortages threaten renewable energy production, experts warn. Indeed. Reading this report from Suzanne Goldenberg is even more depressing.

The development of new renewable energy technologies and other expanding sources of energy such as shale gas will be limited by the availability of water in some regions of the world, according to research by a US think tank.

The study shows the reliance on large amounts of water to create biofuels and run solar thermal energy and hydraulic fracturing – a technique for extracting gas from unconventional geological formations underground – means droughts could hamper their deployment.

“Water consumption is going up dramatically. We are introducing all kinds of technology to reduce the carbon impact of energy, without doing anything to reduce its impact on water,” Michele Wucker, co-author of the report, told a seminar at the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington.

A poster remarked in one of my water diary that France was sitting pretty, with 0ver 85% of its energy coming from its plethora of nuclear reactors. Sure, that is true. But water plays a major role in cooling off those reactors, doncha know? I almost missed this report – the French don’t publish much on the state of their reactors:

Water Shortages Threatening France’s Nuclear Reactor Complex:

The 11 March 9.0 Richter scale earthquake that rattled Japan saw its shoreline structures survive, but the 50-foot waves generated by tsunami that followed less than an hour later destroyed many Japanese coastal installations and knocked out power to Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) six nuclear reactor complex at Fukushima, instigating a crisis that has yet to be resolved.

Now, half a world away, a shortage of water is threatening France’s nuclear reactor complex, as the region’s worst drought in more than a half-century drains rivers and free-flowing water to cooling reactors.

Most French rivers have seen a significant drop in their water levels because the drought has affected half of the country’s counties, which farming unions maintain is the worst in 35 years.

Another writer I read is Dr Alison Bailey, who runs the Department of Agriculture, University of Reading. She writes:

With less than 20% of normal rainfall falling over large parts of England during March and April arable farmers, particularly in the southern and eastern regions of England, are facing serious problems. Yield losses and increased disease pressure are going to be inevitable.

Water shortages – CropWorld Global 2011 to consider the implications

The only sliver lining I see about Climate Change is that it has triggered a universal wake-up call that we all hear, and some, though still too few, are beginning to heed. The usual suspects, the skeptics, are driven by greed and graft taken from the multinationals, and by idiots like Murdoch whose special-interest-press publishes rubbish and false stories, relentlessly, about environmentalists.

What the world needs now is a huge dose of human ingenuity and human creativity. I have great faith in humanity and this post is dedicated to those out there bursting their synapses coming up with novel ways of making the world less dependent on fossil fuels, working out solutions to feed the planet and generally trying to make this earth a better place; if you look at the human brain from say, 150,000 years ago, you will not see much difference when compared with today’s brains. Yet the drive to learn, as well as our ability to communicate and work collectively, has lifted our human potential to unimaginable levels.

This entry was posted in Desertification, Ecology, Environmental Issue, Water and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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