Posting in Cities
Population and climate change will put a strain on our water supply.
It takes so much water to make everything we produce and own. The hidden use of water is known as virtual water. Nearly 90 percent of the consumption of the world's fresh water supply is used for producing food and energy.
You might not realize this but it takes 1.5 tonnes of water to make a computer and six tonnes to make a pair of jeans. So it's not surprising that the annual global virtual water trade is the equivalent of 10 Nile Rivers.
Sadly, our unsustainable use of water is running in short supply. The Dailymail reports on recent studies that found that the water demand will exceed the water supply by 40 percent in two decades.
Why is there such a poor outlook for our global water supply, exactly? Well, there are two reasons: blame population growth and climate change. In 20 years, a third of the global population will only have half the amount of water we need, which will put a strain on industry and agriculture.
Water supplies will be sought after like oil is.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. Fortunately, there are some things we can do to conserve water. One of the major things we need to change is how infrastructure is designed to manage our water supply. Currently, most of our products around the house and water systems were built with the idea that water is limitless and abundant.
US EPA researcher Nicholas J. Ashbolt said in a statement, "water conservation could easily reduce demand from households by 70% compared to today's usage in countries like the USA, through innovations available that radically reduce water used to flush toilets, wash clothes and irrigate gardens."
But managing water use around the house can only get you so far. Fortunately, scientists are developing better tools to understand the interplay between water systems and the environment. The scientists are developing genetic tools that can assess the water quality to check for any microbial life that happen to be lingering in the water supply and to control the spread of water-borne diseases.
American microbiologist Rita Colwell, Chief Scientist at Canon US Life Sciences, said we are starting to feel the impact of extreme weather events. The unpredictable weather changes put a strain on our water infrastructure and cause it to fail and further spread infectious diseases in cities.
Experts warn that more disasters like the floods in Pakistan and Australia will happen more frequently. The historical 100 year floods are now expected to occur every 20 years. From water shortages to water-borne diseases to water pollution, our water problems aren't going away - especially as more people move into cities.
John Matthews, director at Conservation International, said there are ways to manage water for sustainable development. Matthews wrote about the issue in a document:
The development of complex, agro-industrial, energy-intensive societies globally over the last two centuries has deepened our connection to ever-more extensive water management. The intensification of water use has come with a rapid expansion of water infrastructure on a massive scale; over 40,000 large dams exist in the USA alone, most built within the last century. The rapidly developing nations of South America, Asia, and Africa are now entering their own era of rapid water infrastructure development, fueled in part by the push for low-carbon energy sources. As a result, few large rivers still flow free and unobstructed to the sea.
The global hydrological system is in danger. However, if we manage the water supply better, we can adapt to the changing climate conditions. Considering most infrastructure has been engineered for a single climate, future development should be designed to adapt to the changing environment.
Matthews reminds us that "managing water is not new to human societies. In many ways, we are a water engineering species." But if we continue to build and use water in an unsustainable way, then we will only be putting more stress on the environment and be unprepared to deal with unexpected ecological disasters.
Photo: Hans Schreier, University of British Columbia
Source: AAAS meeting
More from World Water Day on SmartPlanet:
- Startup Rentricity recovers energy from water systems
- Water's energy potential highlighted on World Water Day
- American scientist wins 2011 Stockholm Water Prize
- 10 ways to cut water consumption
- Without sustainability, 'severe' water scarcity by 2050
- New irrigation system helps farmers conserve water
- Invention uses sunlight to produce clean water
- Why we're running out of water
Feb 28, 2011
Thanks for the explaination of desalination processes. It is good that you pointed out the problem in a plain sense; hopefully more people will understand the hurdle to go from where we are now to what is probable in less than a generation. Most Americans either do not understand science or flat out do not believe science. Ironically, Americans are big on technology as a way to solve problems; not understanding that science is the foundation for most technology. I live in western US and there are problems with distributing water between cities, agriculture and wet lands. There have been water wars over how much water can be removed from upstream; like the Colorado river that winds through four dry states and ends up like a trickle into the pacific ocean. Population pressures on natural resources keep increasing but the natural resources are not infinite.
What a joke coming from a state that is more than 50 percent inhospitable. If they did not strong arm their way into water sources several hundred miles away the entire LA basin and most of central and southern California would be one giant dust bowl. The people who are the greatest example of living an unsustainable life style should have no say in telling the rest of us how to live.
Desalination is very energy intensive. Current desalination methods consume around 14 kw/h for 1,000 gallons (3800 liters) of desalinated water. And that's the best we can manage so far. Guess what? Energy and oilprices are continuing to go up. The typical Australian uses somewhere in the region of 100 gallons a day for various purposes (about 400 litres). USA consumption is pretty much the same. So we are not just talking about that half a gallon or 2.5 liters a day that a human needs to survive. Transport costs per cubic meter is on average a dollar. A 100 m vertical lift is about as costly as a 100 km horizontal transport (if you're thinking of pumping up groundwater, which takes long to replenish, some areas will not replenish in the foreseeable future). Water production costs are roughly distributed as: 38% capital investment, 21% energy, 21% labor, 16% maintenance and 4% chemicals. 1,000 gallons of desalinated seawater already costs around $3 to $4, and the prices aren't dropping. More and more countries are looking towards desalination as a last hope when their groundwater has been used up. Australia is in the process of building a $3.1 billion dollar desalination plant which will cost $140 million dollars a year to run. And then there's the environmental impact of these plants. Marine life is threatened due to the water intakes and salt deposits (take a look at the Aral lake). Desalination plants can destroy 90% of plankton and fish eggs in surrounding waters. And fish is already diminishing in many parts of the world. So, you multiply about 7 billion people with these figures for every day of the year, every year, with no interruption, and you have an equation that can't be solved. And then there's also the industy's needs. And agriculture, you cant grow much in salt water. Are you beginning to get the picture? It doesn't matter if there's a climate change or not, the problem is already here, regardless. Someone wrote that there will be changes to eliminate the problem. Yes, there will, and chanses are 100% that none of us will like them. (Also, water will and does escape from earth in the form of hydrogenloss, so our watersupply is not eternal).
Boonsri, Why would you trade education for media? You have a degree in chemical engineering and you write this dribble?
Did everyone read the "red herring?" I refer to the comment describing our inability to repopulate because the UN states that by 2050, fertility rates will decrease to where it will only be possible to traumatize 2.1 newborns. This inability to plop out 2.2 or more will create a depopulation of catastrophic results. As to extinguish the human race. WHAT THE F**K. OVER? Okay, let me put my thinking cap on...So, the catastrophic overpopulation will reach critical mass by 2050, thus forcing Nature to counter this destructive population explosion reducing the chemical reactivity of sperm with an egg. This oh so gentle brush of nature will cause life to return to its desired homeostasis? Oh no, why God, why would nature do that to us. Why? Nature and humans, thriving together? What hell is foretold? The end is nigh! I am sorry, again. I actually thought all of you were intelligent. No offense, Ma'am. I am sure that you really believe that U.N. document to be of pure, unbiased, and logical conclusions. Just as pure and unbiased and rational as the U.N.. I mean if the U.N. wrote it. It must be scientific fact. Lady, the U.N. is not a source to prove your stance on procreation. The United Nations is like a larger, darker, and less intelligible version of U.S Presidents after Eisenhower--Kennedy does not count. If it is lucky to be elected president. His luck ran-out after his oath? I could have flipped a coin and made better decisions. Even the Pope uses bullet proof glass. Man, he either broke all the mirrors in the White House or just couldn't believe his own government would humiliate and murder him. He was sure to be a great Martyr, but they could not have that either. Right...the UN...They are moronic, soul less, puppets. And if they disagree with what we want. We kill them. With a gun to your head, what would you write? P.S. Don't you think that we have clearly plopped out at least 4 offspring over the last 50 years that we already have enough people to repopulate....lol..the earth. So, if every heterosexual couple produced 4 replacements over 50 years that would make 2 extra replacements. Carry the 1....2050 we produce only 2+2extra is four minus the dead parents equals 2!!! We did it, we can successfully replace ourselves. Am I the only human apalled by another's ability to create a username and password and logon to "SmartPlanet.com." And, then interject her irrelevant, irrational, and deformed delusions. Are there no defenses for these viral pathogens. I don't intend to be coarse, but this is inexcusable. If believe you have something to contribute, at least make it relevant. The article is about water and something about we die and its our fault and blah blah blah....It is not about the population or procreation. I expect relevant retorts of a questionable nature. But, please go to some other site to plant your seeds of intellectual dissemination. Thank you for letting me get that out. No offense, Ma'am. Please fire back at will. I love intelligent debate. It helps advance my own cognitive ability and I need to learn more. Conflict is necessary. Just don't take it personal. And, when you realize you are wrong. Admit it. Use it. Grow. You feel the love, don't you? Hasta...
at how many people here express their opinions without a shred of understanding or research. Just look at our world. Does it look ok to you? Is everything fine? Is the air clean? Can you drink water directly from a stream or lake? Can you walk in any american city at night without getting mugged or killed? Are oil and foodprices low? Do millions in africa, india and asia have the food they need, or do they starve to death? Does everyone have all the resources they need? Just because a select few of you have it good (at the expense of others) it doesn't mean that everyone is as fortunate as you. I totally agree with WSHBaker. We need to stop having so many children, and that applies to everybody, not just people in overpopulated areas. We only have one earth. There are already four billion people too many on the earth. Four billion! Hardly anybody can even imagine how many that is. Stop having so many children, before we all die. It's one family, one child for the next 500 years. This applies to everyone. As for finding a new earth I recommend reading or listening to Stephen Baxters "Ark". It was an eyeopener for me, with the real horrors of real spacetravel.
Did everyone read the "red herring?" I refer to the comment describing our inability to repopulate because the UN states that by 2050, fertility rates will decrease to where it will only be possible to traumatize 2.1 newborns. This inability to plop out 2.2 or more will create a depopulization of catastrophic results. As to extinguish the human race. WHAT THE F**K. OVER?
BULLSHIZA. Censor that. This is all fear-based. No real evidence. This is a persuasive argument filled with fallacies. Let's be intelligent for once, shall we? What is th intent of the author's message? To inform us? To empower us? Not even. It is written to scare us. To render us more hopeless. And the most clever...to stunt our intellectual growth with magic tricks. I know he doesn't have my nose, okay. Why would you fall for this nonsense, over and over. Imagine you fired up that super computer, that limitless cognitive arsenal and used it. Think. Don't react. Think...research...test....and choose what is best from your results...should you act? or remain calm? Well, if you are asking yourself that, you already defeated the intent of this worthless pattern of pursuasion, called a News Article. Only a fool reacts. It is not called a reaction of kindness, generosity or humanity. It is an ACT. Actions are the result of human thought. Reactions are without thought or humanity. Choose to act, or not, but, please think about it. I am sorry for my reaction. I just read your comments and I am humbled by your intelligence. Thank You for being human.
I think we need to have 2 water sources feeding the homes and businesses in the coastal areas, the 1st is the 1 we have now and the 2nd sea water used to flush the toilets. We need to have 2 sewer systems also, the 1st is the 1 we have now except it would be the black water sewer and the new 1 for the gray water, everything else.
There are just a few facts that we should not overlook but many of the writers here are willing to take the position of "don't confuse me with the facts" kind of reasoning. We are in deep trouble environmentally and not recognizing it, or denying it as at least one writer above does, is dangerous. There are already islands that are gone due to the rising sea. It takes a lot of energy to desalinate the ocean and even more to transport it to where it may be needed. But don't forget the bottom line, and that is the basic laws of thermodynamics. There is no magic bullet here. It takes energy to manage our lives and moving things around to fix one thing here causes a problem somewhere else. Entropy a.k.a. disorder, rules the roost. Deny it all you will, we can't catch up. B.D. thanks for a nice article. Here in Michigan we are familiar with water and protective of it. The move to southern California and desert states, water subsidized, will no doubt be reversed as the stress gets greater. Buy your real estate here now!
Another kool-aid drinker article using made up facts from someone else to come to a false conclusion. Climate change is political science to redistribute wealth. There is nothing science about it. None of the facts used to built the whole theory hold water is tested. If people are motivated to take action, which may the the point of the article there is an unlimited source of water. We just have to learn how to use it is reconstituted after use. Matter is not destroyed it just changes form.
It is not a shortage of water. It is an oversupply of people. The prediction is that world wide non-Islamic people will be far outnumbered by Islamics who will be the ones who will have to solve the problem for themselves.
Water is not and will not be in short supply on this planet. If any resource is recyclable, water is at the top. It goes in one end and out the other - in every system known to man! The problem for humans is - where do you reside in relation to your source for drinkable water? What percentage of the planet's surface is covered by water? Well, there may be several estimates. Again, the problem for humans (and most animals) is how to make sea water drinkable? The technology is here ... yes, it is expensive for large desalination systems but if comes to the point made in this article, I am sure we will find a way or live with it. Just look at what we live with now for the price of gasoline ... was $0.21 (thereabouts) and it is now $3.39 (again, thereabouts).
Until we get an alchemist to convert water to gold we will continue to only use that water. 1 gallon flushed down the toilet, 1 gallon used to wash the dishes, 20 gallons used for a long shower or bath is 100% returned to the same lake it came from. If I over water my lawn or wash the car it runs into a storm sewer that in 500 yards drains directly back into the lake/river. My slightly used water from the shower actually benefits the sewer system by increasing flow rates and diluting the "SEWAGE" that flushed down the toilet. A 1 gallon flush or an old 3 gallon flush still contains the same volume of human waste, it is more diluted in the 3 gallon flush of old. Water we use on the lawn mostly evaporates or soaks into the ground water back to the lake. Evaporation will eventually come down as reain somewhere to replentish the aquafer somewhere. We are not depleting our supply of water, we are only temporarily using it.
I should add a point aimed at this claim of 100 year storms every 25 years. This claim that warming seas (key point of the Global Warming hoax) will lead to an increase in tropical storm creation is a lie that tries to deny the physics of the event (easy to foist upon a near science illiterate population). Extensive studies have shown that warm oceans strengthen a storm only to a point. Once surface temps, say in the Gulf of Mexico, reach about 82 degrees F, any further temp increase does not feed the storms' size or intensity. AND even with surface temps at this maximum support level, only a few storms will accomplish such ferocity.
Not to say we shouldn't be doing something about water because we DEFINATELY SHOULD because it's the right thing to do. But let's be careful about where we lay blame. A 2003 report issued by the United Nations Population Division warned that ?future fertility levels in most developing countries will likely fall below 2.1 children per woman, the level needed to ensure the long-term replacement of the population. By 2050, the UN document says, three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be experiencing below-replacement fertility, with all developed countries far below replacement level as well.?
First of all, the pretense of this "new" catastrophe as a result of the "Global Warming/Climate Change" based on the East Anglia hoax is getting a little worn. Is the "Carbon Credits" money making potential waning? So what will it be now, "water credits," bought from another set of poor third world countries? In the US the eco-terrorists' reign has been breaching water sequestering dams claiming that fish have exclusive rights to the water and that will continue. Claims of impending water shortage and droughts seems to contradict claims of increased typhoons killing tens of thousands. The only valid discussion is about weather, not further investment in the proven bogus "Global Warming" theory. Judging by the "Warmists" claim that the oceans are rising and are going to drown us all, it doesn't seem the planet is going to have this water shortage in the near future. But, it is clear that every solution that inventive mankind will offer for this impending "water shortage" which would might entail extracting fresh water from the sea or pipe near-coastal freshwater from river mouths, will be met with another "destroying the environment" or "killing the fish" claims. Don't know why there is claimed concern about deaths of people due to "global warming caused increase in tropical storms!" Isn't the object, as touted by all the eco-terrorists, to reduce the world population and "devolve" us to a pre-industrial- revolution level of civilization? With the current influence of these eco-terrorists we will be starving to death long before a "natural" drought occurs. A drive down the central valley of California will show you were we are going, but artificially caused by eco-terrorist influenced politicians and judges, not by an over exploited water supply. Cries of oil shortage, global cooling, global warming, drought and water over-use are not aimed at recognizing or implementing pro-growth solutions. The intent appears to be one of terrorizing and demands of limitation of the human species and created guilt with tear-streaked faces whimpering "we are destroying the planet," and "we have no right to exploit Mother Gaia!" May be the reason we are graduating so few engineers these days is they see little value in their ability to solve problems. Whatever their solution, it will be rejected by some influential eco-terrorist group.
You must live on the East Coast if you think scrapping over fresh water supplies is weird; here on the West Coast development has always been limited by water. Look to Los Angeles, a onetime collection of cattle ranches transformed (briefly) into a vast agricultural paradise by "redistributing" water from much of Southern California through aqueducts and shady dealings. Search "The Rape Of The Owens Valley" -- outright economic warfare fought in the name of watering orange groves. (Though of course the citrus groves were just the first phase of municipal development; they justified the grid of roads and aqueducts, after which grove by grove they were bulldozed and subdivided for human industry and occupation -- the original Sim City.) Population always expanded at the ragged limit of water supply in the Southwest, and present growth is bought entirely by efficiency and conservation measures. The gains in conservation and efficiency in the past fifty years have been radical, but at the cost of much human pain. When does anyone change unless they have to? As the world hurts so change shall follow...Ow! Stop that! You're not getting my last square yard of lawn! Leggo!
"Experts warn that ... 100 year floods are now expected to occur every 20 years." What "experts"? Saying that 100 year floods will occur every 20 years shows that you don't understand what a 100 year flood is. The term "100-year flood" denotes a flood that statistically has a 1-percent chance of occurring in any given year. You can have a "100-year flood" every year without increasing your chances of having another one. For more background, check out the U.S. Geological Survey website at http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/100yearflood.html.
This will only be true if nothing else changes. Change is inevitable though. We cannot predict the weather, so how can this prediction be any better?
The importance of the article can't be overstated because there is no life without water and our waste is off the charts. People take their resources for granted and future generations will pay the price for all we do. Groundwater is considered nature's hidden treasure and here is a link to show advancements in finding the hidden treasure. Professionals seeing their objectives will allow us all collectively to get the job done. http://www.thermoguy.com/groundwater.html Real estate will be worth less without water available, we need to pay attention and recycle resources.
This is an old and continuing problem. The city of Reno, NV is expected to have shortage of water by 2020. The city of LA has a large watershed to redirect to the city; this water is also needed for agriculture and for fish habitats. There are some things that can be done to reduce the demand for water. Water allocation for agriculture tends to be a set allotment that would be shrunken the following year if the full allotment is not used. A change would be to encourage the agriculture business to use less water without the threat of losing the full allotment or allow them to sell the unused water. Households use drinking water for everything from washing clothers/dishes, watering the lawns and a small portion for cooking and drinking. One way would be to collect rain water for use to flush toilets and for washing. The more that water can be reused the longer we can put off shortages in the future. The West has a history of droughts that have forced populations to move; the Anasazi were not able to survive in the conditions in the arid west and disappeared after living in the area for centuries.
Ethanol, at it's heart, is the product of converting solar energy into chemical energy. Whether you extract ethanol from crops or refine crude oil, you have to spend energy to get a usable product. Migration from rural areas that have supplies of groundwater to cities without adequate infrastructure is mostly happening in the developing world. Here in the USA, people are moving away from cities with existing infrastructure to suburbs that need new infrastructure - and then commute back into the cities. Therefore the push for smart growth. It's easy to be complacent when you don't live in 1 of those places that's short on food or water.
Oh My God! It's the end of civilization! Remember the Population Bomb in the 70's. It predicted that mankind would be starving by the year 2000 because of the population growth. Good sense household water management including grey water in the landscape are sensible measures we should and I'm sure will implement in the near future, but these doom and gloom scenarios are always overblown. Thankfully, there are 40,000 dams just in the US alone that you can throw yourself off of in order to avoid this calamity!
1) " Nearly 90 percent of the consumption of the world?s fresh water supply is used for producing food and energy." - The why do we make ethanol which consumes massive amounts of water to create a product that takes as much enegy to make as is provides? 2) "our water problems aren?t going away - especially as more people move into cities." - Then why all the smart growth nonsesense where our government officials want everyone to move to the cities?