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New World Water

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Dawn of a thirsty century

By Alex Kirby

BBC News Online environment correspondent


The amount of water in the world is limited. The human race, and the other species which share the planet, cannot expect an infinite supply.


Water covers about two-thirds of the Earth's surface, admittedly. But most is too salty for use.


Only 2.5% of the world's water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers.


Of what is left, about 20% is in remote areas, and much of the rest arrives at the wrong time and place, as monsoons and floods.


Humans have available less than 0.08% of all the Earth's water. Yet over the next two decades our use is estimated to increase by about 40%.

Water shortages set to grow


In 1999 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that 200 scientists in 50 countries had identified water shortage as one of the two most worrying problems for the new millennium (the other was global warming).


We use about 70% of the water we have in agriculture. But the World Water Council believes that by 2020 we shall need 17% more water than is available if we are to feed the world.


  • Growing populations
  • Inefficient irrigation
  • Pollution

So if we go on as we are, millions more will go to bed hungry and thirsty each night than do so already.


Today, one person in five across the world has no access to safe drinking water, and one in two lacks safe sanitation.


Today, and every day, more than 30,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthdays, killed either by hunger or by easily-preventable diseases.


And adequate safe water is key to good health and a proper diet. In China, for example, it takes 1,000 tonnes of water to produce one tonne of wheat.

Inefficiency behind water crisis


There are several reasons for the water crisis. One is the simple rise in population, and the desire for better living standards.

  • In China it takes 1,000 tonnes of water to produce one tonne of wheat.


Another is the inefficiency of the way we use much of our water. Irrigation allows wastage on a prodigal scale, with the water trickling away or simply evaporating before it can do any good.


And pollution is making more of the water that is available to us unfit for use. The Aral Sea in central Asia is one of the starkest examples of what pollution can do, to the land as well as the water.


Increasingly, governments are seeking to solve their water problems by turning away from reliance on rainfall and surface water, and using subterranean supplies of groundwater instead.


But that is like making constant withdrawals from a bank account without ever paying anything into it.


Looking for solutions


And using up irreplaceable groundwater does not simply mean the depletion of a once-and-for-all resource.


Rivers, wetlands and lakes that depend on it can dry out. Saline seawater can flow in to replace the fresh water that has been pumped out.

  • Pumping groundwater is like making constant withdrawals from a bank account without ever paying anything into it.


And the emptied underground aquifers can be compressed, causing surface subsidence - a problem familiar in Bangkok, Mexico City and Venice.



There are some ways to begin to tackle the problem. Irrigation systems which drip water directly onto plants are one, precision sprinklers another.


There will be scope to plant less water-intensive crops, and perhaps desalination may play a part - though it is energy-hungry and leaves quantities of brine for disposal.


Climate change will probably bring more rain to some regions and less to others, and its overall impact remains uncertain.


But if we are to get through the water crisis, we should heed the UNEP report's reminder that we have only one interdependent planet to share.


It said: "The environment remains largely outside the mainstream of everyday human consciousness, and is still considered an add-on to the fabric of life."

Story from BBC NEWS:



Published: 2000/06/02 09:30:01 GMT



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surely it would not be difficult for governments to make plants where water is sperated from the salt, it only involves boiling the water or letting it evaporate.

the sea salt which is left behind could be sold to make the whole thing worth while profit wise

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Rattleytins is gonna get some "fuckin wack" props if he keeps posting lame uneducated garbage in crossfire.

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gettin' that water straight from the sewer line....purify it, sell it for a dollar ninety nine....

you better watch out for the new world water....

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I disagree. Water is more or less infinite as long as we don't use too much at once or pollute aquifers.


We use, esp in the USA, water way too inefficiently. Las Vegas recently pased a law mandating dry desert lawns, cuz everyone was obsessed with green lawns.


We have too much agriculture in the USA that rely on irrigation. Farming certain crops in the wrong climate etc etc...


if we just changed farming practices worldwide we could solve any potential water problems...


(besides the pollution of potable water sources too)

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hahhaa you guys are hilarious.

back in the nineties the UN issued a report that stated most wars in this century will be over water.

they have already started




Scientists Say Risk of Water Wars Rising


SWEDEN: August 23, 2004!!


STOCKHOLM - The risk of wars being fought over water is rising because of explosive global population growth and widespread complacency, scientists said.



"We have had oil wars," said Professor William Mitsch. "That's happened in our lifetime. Water wars are possible."


Scientists at the World Water Week conference which began on Sunday in Stockholm said that ignorance and complacency were widespread in wealthier countries.


"I don't know what will shake these regions out of complacency other than the fact there will be droughts, pestilence and wars that break out over water rights," said Mitsch, professor of natural resources at Ohio State University.


Mitsch told Reuters potential flashpoints included the Middle East.


"Continuing on our present path will mean more conflict," a report by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said.


With the world's population growing at exponential rates there was extreme pressure on water supplies to provide drinking water and food, said scientists at the Stockholm gathering.


"In 2025 we will have another two billion people to feed and 95 percent of these will be in urban areas," said Professor Jan Lundqvist of Stockholm International Water Institute.


The answer was sustained investment in infrastructure.


An estimated $80 billion was invested each year in the water sector, but this needed to at least double, said Professor Frank Rijsberman, the IWMI's director general.


"I think if I look at the numbers I can't immediately see a way out over the next few years," said IWMI report co-author Dr David Molden. "I think we will reach a real crisis."



never heard of Bechtel Cor? they bought the rights to all of bolivia's water, inlcuding their rainwater!! bolivians had to revolt to change the situation




1) A War Over Water (February 4, 2000)

2) In The Andes - Echos Of Seattle (March 23, 2000)

3) Bolivian Protesters Win War Over Water (April 7, 2000)

4) Bolivia Under Martial Law (April 8, 2000)

5) Bloodshed Under Bolivian Martial Law (April 9, 2000)

6) Protests Continues As Sides Seek Agreement (April 10, 2000)

7) Bechtel Says Its Staying (April 11, 2000)

8) Blame Bechtel For Bolivia Uprising (April 12, 2000)

9) Bechtel Speaks - We Respond (April 29, 2000)

10) Behind Globalization, An Old Demand, Democracy (May 4, 2000)

11) The World Bank Speaks - We Respond (June 6, 2000)

12) Bechtel Corp. Vs. Bolivia's Poor (December 18, 2001)


Bolivia's War Over Water


In early April the often-forgot country of Bolivia, tucked away in he Andes, grabbed the world's attention when the city of Cochabamba erupted in a public uprising over water prices. In 1999, following World Bank advice, Bolivia granted a 40 year privatization lease to a subsidiary of the Bechtel Corporation, giving it control over the water on which more than half a million people survive. Immediately the company doubled and tripled water rates for some of South America's poorest families.



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