Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Facing the freshwater crisis

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The Scientific American has a good collection of articles on the coming dearth of freshwater. The introductory article at the link (with other links on that page) begins:

  • Global freshwater resources are threatened by rising demands from many quarters. Growing populations need ever more water for drinking, hygiene, sanitation, food production and industry. Climate change, meanwhile, is expected to contribute to droughts.
  • Policymakers need to figure out how to supply water without degrading the natural ecosystems that provide it.
  • Existing low-tech approaches can help prevent scarcity, as can ways to boost supplies, such as improved methods to desalinate water.
  • But governments at all levels need to start setting policies and making investments in infrastructure for water conservation now.

A friend of mine lives in a middle-class neighborhood of New Delhi, one of the richest cities in India. Although the area gets a fair amount of rain every year, he wakes in the morning to the blare of a megaphone announcing that freshwater will be available only for the next hour. He rushes to fill the bathtub and other receptacles to last the day. New Delhi’s endemic shortfalls occur largely because water managers decided some years back to divert large amounts from upstream rivers and reservoirs to irrigate crops.

My son, who lives in arid Phoenix, arises to the low, schussing sounds of sprinklers watering verdant suburban lawns and golf courses. Although Phoenix sits amid the Sonoran Desert, he enjoys a virtually unlimited water supply. Politicians there have allowed irrigation water to be shifted away from farming operations to cities and suburbs, while permitting recycled wastewater to be employed for landscaping and other nonpotable applications.

As in New Delhi and Phoenix, policymakers worldwide wield great power over how water resources are managed. Wise use of such power will become increasingly important as the years go by because the world’s demand for freshwater is currently overtaking its ready supply in many places, and this situation shows no sign of abating. That the problem is well-known makes it no less disturbing: today one out of six people, more than a billion, suffer inadequate access to safe freshwater. By 2025, according to data released by the United Nations, the freshwater resources of more than half the countries across the globe will undergo either stress—for example, when people increasingly demand more water than is available or safe for use—or outright shortages. By midcentury as much as three quarters of the earth’s population could face scarcities of freshwater.

Scientists expect water scarcity to become more common in large part because …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2008 at 11:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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