New study concludes that water shortages may be a bigger problem than we thought.
Fresh water supplies are under assault on multiple fronts. We are seeing the continuing fallout from the droughts in the Western U.S. and Brazil – both are incredibly important areas to the global food supply.
At the same time, corporate hoarding of fresh water is on the rise. Nestle’s former CEO clearly stated that water supplies should be privatized and that the right to fresh, clean water is not an essential human right.
Knowing that both the climate and corporate influence are converging to restrict and/or dramatically increase the cost of fresh water, two new reports reinforce that there isn’t much time left to find solutions. In fact, for an increasing number of people, water might not be available at any cost.
Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today. It is a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand. Behind the research is a group of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the US.
The team of researchers conducted their research focusing on four different case studies in France, the United States, China and India respectively. Rather than reviewing the situation on a national level, the team narrowed in and focused on specific utilities and energy suppliers. The first step was identifying the current energy needs, and then the researchers made projections as far as 2040, and most of the results were surprising. All four case studies project that it will be impossible to continue to produce electricity in this way and meet the water demand by 2040.
“If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage – even if water was free, because it’s not a matter of the price. There will no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing today. There’s no time to waste. We need to act now”, concludes Professor Benjamin Sovacool. (emphasis added)
It is becoming impossible to say that it is fear-mongering to suggest a near-term calamity, and that the way our water supply is currently managed is a guaranteed-to-fail system. However, these new reports focus purely on the failures of the energy sector; recommendations from the researchers highlight the need for increased investment into wind and solar, while increasing energy controls:
- Improve energy efficiency
- Better research on alternative cooling cycles
- Registering how much water power plants use
- Massive investments in wind energy
- Massive investments in solar energy
- Abandon fossil fuel facilities in all water stressed places (which means half the planet)
While it is true that wind and solar do not require cooling cycles and would reduce power consumption and overall water usage, these industries have other deficiencies, as well as being susceptible to the same level of government control and corruption. On a mass scale they are still centralized systems prone to manufactured shortages and extreme inefficiency.
The reports’ conclusions actually wind up highlighting the problems of regulations and control, rather than making a strong case for new regulations and even more control.
Perhaps it is time to quickly seek out local solutions, such as the ingenious model being developed in one of the world’s most permanently drought-stricken places: Ethiopia. Inventor Arturo Vittorini calls his device Warka Water. It is easy and fast to assemble … and inexpensive. Each tower can provide 25 gallons of water per day harvesting water directly from the air.
Singapore is another place that was presented with unique challenges and could be a microcosm of solutions to the greater problem.
In the ’60s and ’70s, Singapore was heavily reliant on imported water from Malaysia and faced urbanisation challenges such as polluted rivers, water shortages and widespread flooding.
They instituted the following 4 measures, which highlight how the situation might be handled in heavily populated, modern urban environments. While these might not be permanent solutions that could apply everywhere, such measures have certainly extended the timetable for Singapore, giving them time to develop even better technological solutions with the goal of complete self-sufficiency.
- Local catchments – With separate systems for drainage and sewerage, Singapore’s rainwater is collected via a comprehensive network of drains, rivers and canals, and stored in 17 reservoirs.
- Recycling – NEWater (or recycled water) is produced from treated used water that is further purified using membrane technologies (microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection).
- Desalination – Desalination is the process of treating seawater with reverse osmosis. Last year, Singapore’s second desalination facility opened – Tuaspring Desalination Plant. Boasting a combined capacity of 100 million gallons of water a day, the two plants meet up to 25 per cent of the current water demand.
- Importing – One of the earliest solutions to Singapore’s water problems was to import water from nearby Johor in Malaysia. To facilitate this, two bilateral agreements were signed in 1961 and 1962 and, since then, water has been piped in via the Johor-Singapore Causeway. While imported water once comprised a significant portion of Singapore’s water supply, by the time the second agreement runs out in 2061, it is expected that Singapore will have progressed significantly towards self-sufficiency.
Read entire account here.
In another study, 1200 experts in 80 countries offered their solutions to water scarcity (read here). Predictably, many focused on regulations, mitigation of climate change, and population control, but other solutions focused on grassroots local community organization with a heavy emphasis on new technology.
Water scarcity is an alarming prospect for all of us. The extended droughts, cumulative aspects of general human pollution, and corporate hoarding are just some of the challenges creating a global problem in the coming decades. With each new report coming from disparate sources, we can all at least agree upon the need for a solution. Please tell us yours in the comment section below.
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