FRESH WATER SHORTAGE
Are we running out of fresh water? Seventy five percent of our earth is water and only 3% is fresh water. One out of 6 people, over one billion don’t have enough fresh water. By 2025, over one half of us will lack water, and by 2050 seventy five percent of our earth’s population could be short of water.
What are we doing to prevent this forecast? Not acting will have political consequences, as well starvation, disease, and wars. Dry areas with large populations near the rivers Nile, Jordan, Ganges and Yangtze are now overtaxed. Even our lakes Mead and Powell which are fed by the overstressed Colorado river keeps falling on their tall canyon walls.
Our water sources today have faulty waste disposal, they release industrial pollutants, have fertilizer runoffs, and have an influx of salt water into the ground water. All this is depleting our fresh water.
There is more demand on our water as our populations grow and become richer. Intense irrigation of farmland has led to increased pressure on service to waste water treatment plants. The farmers will need by 2050 twice the water to meet our food demands.
As i ncome rises in poorer countries as India and China, so does their demand for water. We must think about ways to provide better water delivery systems. Since water seems almost free and so cheap here in the U.S., no one worries about wasting water. We don’t fix leaks until water mains break.
ncome rises in poorer countries as India and China, so does their demand for water. We must think about ways to provide better water delivery systems. Since water seems almost free and so cheap here in the U.S., no one worries about wasting water. We don’t fix leaks until water mains break.
With water prices now rising we are beginning to think about recycling water, reusing used water for nonpotable applications, and building reclamation water systems. It will cost over 3 trillion dollars over the next 25 years to fix our water systems.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Arizona and California are now looking at some simple solutions as stopping the water leaks early and storing water for farm crop irrigation. By lining leaky irrigation canals with waterproof material we could save a lot of water.
Put water for used from crops in underground storage and keep the surface water behind dikes till the growing season would prevent evaporations. We need to find large reservoirs under the surface that can be refilled and returned to the surface when needed for irrigation.
Let water seep slowly from the surface soil so it can sink into plant roots. Picking the right crops that can tolerate low water levels would help. In short, improve irrigation efficiency and crop yields.
Supply virtual water to irrigation water supplies. Virtual water is the amount of water needed to produce food or commercial goods. Water could be shipped and even exported to a dry region so it would not need to use its sparse water supplies. Virtual water could be transferred to the recipient site when needed. Jordan and Israel import virtual water to each other. This reduces conflicts. Globally using virtual water would result in 800 trillion of shipped water, the equivalent of 10 Nile Rivers.
Using dry use devices as dry composting toilets with urine separation systems. The urine can be used for the farm irrigation and the remaining waste put into an organic compost to enrich the soil (like garden composts). Aerobic bacterial break down the human waste into rich nutrient non-toxic substances. Less fertilizers and fossil fuels would be needed.
With 97% of all water salty, membrane reverse osmosis systems could be used. Two chambers with semi permeable membranes are used. The salt-water chamber is pressurized and forces water molecules into the fresh waterside. They would supply potable water for ocean coastal cities. Tampa Bay is now trying a desalinization plant on a large scale.
To conserve water, it will take $1 trillion dollars each year to apply these existing technologies and construct sanitation systems. The last 20 years half of the countries quit investing in water facilities. India and china are now addressing their water needs but what about Africa? Its one billion people can’t afford to spend such money and are suffering now from fresh water shortages.
We don’t need to come up with new te4chnologies. If we use the ones that exist, we can conserve and enhance our water supplies. If not, our world will become very thirsty.
See my related medical blog 8.08.8, “China attacks water shortages.
Your comments are always appreciated
Sources; Scientific American, Aug 2008, Water Crisis, book Rogers, 2006
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