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Top 4 Threats to Earth’s Water

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1. Freshwater Supplies

It’s true that we can never actually run out of water. All of our planet’s water circulates in the hydrological cycle as evaporation, clouds, rain and water. But only 2.5 percent of Earth’s water is fresh rather than salty, and only 1 percent of that is available to us in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. And all of those sources are under grave stress worldwide.

Too many people, too much irrigation, galloping urbanization — they’re all depleting water reserves and shifting water away from many places on Earth where it’s needed, even as global warming melts glaciers, an important source of river renewal, and makes weather patterns more unpredictable.

As Ken Midkiff reports in Not a Drop to Drink: America’s Water Crisis (and What You Can Do) (New World Library, 2007), burgeoning Sun Belt cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego are fighting with heavily subsidized corporate farmers in San Diego County and in California’s Imperial Valley over access to water from the Colorado River. In fact, the once-mighty river has been so thoroughly dammed and diverted that it no longer reaches the sea — it trickles away into mud in the deserts of Sonora, Mexico. And climate researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography reported in April 2009 that if even the most conservative global-warming scenarios prove true, the river could fail to meet the demands placed upon it 60 to 90 percent of the time by midcentury.

Our subterranean freshwater is comparably stressed. The great Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies the High Plains and produces most of the water for irrigated agriculture from New Mexico to western Kansas, is being so heavily tapped that its shallower western end may go dry this year, while the middle area (underlying the heaviest irrigation zones) has 40 years left at best. And it may be economically prohibitive to draw water from the aquifer well before that date.

Midkiff notes that food prices are likely to soar if this “breadbasket” region, which produces 35 percent of our food, goes dry. And if significant areas of the desert Southwest go too dry to support their current level of urban life, other parts of the country could see an influx of “water refugees” crowding into less water-stressed urban areas.

What to Do
The first step is to become more informed on the issues, because, as noted, even if vanishing water isn’t directly affecting you now, it’s likely to in the near future. Our next-best recourse is “good law,” says Canadian eco-activist Maude Barlow, author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water (New Press, 2007). Midkiff agrees. He suggests urging our representatives in Washington to end or curtail the massive subsidies that pay the West’s mostly corporate farmers for overproducing on irrigated land. (He also suggests that High Plains and western farmers curtail irrigation as much as possible by using water-saving methods and planting crops that need less water.)

As consumers, we can also help by limiting our own water use, embracing thoughtful conservation methods and teaching our children to do the same. For more good information on water-scarcity issues, visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org.

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

127 comments

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5:16AM PDT on Mar 22, 2013

Seems like a daunting challenge. It behooves each of us to stay informed and each individual accept responsibility for their own waste disposal and water use.

7:16AM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

thanks

12:37AM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Thank You

12:35AM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Thank You

10:58AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

Thanks, very interesting

12:58PM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

I just hope we can get enough people to understand so we can slow down . thank you for the article!

7:40PM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

1- Humans
2- Humans
3- Humans
4- Humans

10:48PM PDT on Jul 24, 2011

thank you

6:58AM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

Thanks you.

2:01AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

Oh Tank you for the info I agree we have to do what we can.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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