Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink

A quarter of the world’s population across 17 countries are living in regions of extremely high water stress, a measure of the level of competition over water resources. The report from experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI) paints a worrying image of water risk and warns of other social and political problems attached to water shortages. Around the world, stress on water supplies can exacerbate conflict and migration, threaten food supplies and pose risks for water-dependent industries, including mining and manufacturing,

It warned that increasing water stress could lead to more “day zeroes” – a term that gained popularity in 2018 as Cape Town in South Africa came dangerously close to running out of water. A similar situation is now facing Chennai in India. The level of water stress in India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people, was striking, experts noted.

The recent water crisis in Chennai gained global attention, but various areas in India are experiencing chronic water stress as well,” said Shashi Shekhar, former secretary of India’s ministry of water resources, and senior WRI fellow.

Water matters,” said Betsy Otto, global director for water at WRI. “We’re currently facing a global water crisis. Our populations and economies are growing and demanding more water. But our supply is threatened by climate change, water waste and pollution....The picture is alarming in many places around the globe, but it’s very important to note that water stress is not destiny. What we can’t afford to do any longer is pretend that the situation will resolve itself,” said Otto. “With respect to climate change we know that in many places what we’re going to be seeing is more erratic, more unpredictable hydrology, precipitation. Either too much or too little, often in the same places.”

In the US a number of states such as New Mexico and California were found to be facing significant strains on their water supplies that will only intensify with global warming. New Mexico was found to have “extremely high” pressure on water availability. The state’s score is on par with the United Arab Emirates and Eritrea. In 2012, two-thirds of the US experienced drought, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the Agriculture Department.California, which experienced a drought in 2011 that did not subside until a couple of years ago, is expected to see huge population growth, while facing temperatures up to five degrees warmer and rising sea levels, said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the California Water Resources Control Board.

Around the world, fresh water is fast becoming a dangerously scarce resource, driving a surge in fights to secure supplies and fears over rising numbers of deaths in water conflicts. Growing populations, more farming and economic growth, climate change and a rush of people to cities all are increasing pressure on the world's limited water supplies. About 70% of freshwater used each year around the world goes to agriculture, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The fact is this. There more than enough water to support life on this planet and several times over. There is not enough water to support the industrial scale consumption and pollution of the same. Drawing up water from the Earth so that desert areas can be greened to grow food, using and polluting fresh water as happened to the Flint River, using water for fracking and returning it to the ground as poisoned are all wastes of a precious resource. Added to this denuding lands of forests, blowing up mountains to get at coal, destruction of wetlands so as to plant crops or build homes or to get at tar sands underneath wastes yet more of that water as natural processes of retention of the same are destroyed. Then we got smokestacks emitting toxins so even the rain that falls from the sky is contaminated. Aquifers are not refilling because agriculture and industry uses the water before it can get to the aquifier. Water evaporates on falling due to lack of tree cover. Water washes away in rivers and streams because of hardened and compacted soil not allowing it to be absorbed into the ground. Water is wasted on things like golf courses and people are moving in great numbers to areas that do not have the rainfall to support their numbers. It is poisoned by industrial practices such as fracking. It is used to flush away sewage and all manner of toxins and chemicals.

None of this a scarcity issue. It all an issue of misuse and of consumption for things not really needed. If it was truly scarce society would not treat it with such a callous disregard. It is important to recognise the difference between scarcity and misuse. There an agenda to privatise the world's stock of fresh water. Those in power use the meme of scarcity so as to advance the notion that if a financial cost be assigned to the consumer for use of water the market will help allocate that water in the most efficient manner. 

Capitalism itself is predicated on churning profits through scarcity. The scarcer a resource in demand the more profit to be made. We must by all means address the issues of water misuse. We must NOT use the market and privatisation as a cure. While water was not distributed equally around the globe there was more than enough to support all of that life as there is today. It is not scarce. It can support life in its abundance. It is misused by industry

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