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Global Water Crisis: Too Little, Too Much, or Lack of a Plan?

Science & Tech  (tags: conservation, climate-change, climatechange, globalwarming, weather, water, world, science, Sustainabililty, environment, climate, science, scientists, study, interesting, investigation, discovery )

- 1998 days ago -
The global water crisis - caused by drought, flood, and climate change - is less about supply than it is about recognizing water's true value, using it efficiently, and planning for a different future, say experts.

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JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 2:43 pm
Global water crisis: too little, too much, or lack of a plan?

The global water crisis caused by drought, flood, and climate change is less about supply than it is about recognizing water's true value, using it efficiently, and planning for a different future, say experts.

By William Wheeler, Contributor / December 2, 2012

Global water crisis: This article is part of the cover story package for the Dec. 3 issue of The Christian Science Monitor Weekly magazine. A girl looks at water from the Nile flowing from a pump in the Manshiyet Nasser shantytown in eastern Cairo in this file photo.

Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters/File
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For most of history, thirsty humans made do with what moisture fell from above: The sun warmed the salty seas, pure water evaporated into the air and then cooled and fell to the earth as precipitation. There it clung to glaciers, froze and thawed in lakes, was absorbed by plant roots, coursed through fractured bedrock, and seeped slowly through soil, into aquifers. Most of it returned to sea and sky all over again. There is as much of that water on the planet today as when the first amphibian flopped ashore; as much as when the ancient Greeks divined the future in the babble of brooks.

Source: World Resources Institute; Global map data courtesy of the Coca-Cola Company

Rich Clabaugh/Staff
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So why do experts in science, economics, and development warn that a "global water crisis" threatens the stability of nations and the health of billions?

RELATED: 5 books to understand and prepare for natural and man-made disasters

From space, the idea of a global water crisis may seem perplexing: 75 percent of the planet's surface is blue. But usable fresh water is a tiny fraction of what we see only 2.5 percent of the water on Earth. And two-thirds of that fresh water is locked away in glaciers, icecaps, and permanent snow. Of the stock of accessible fresh water, 99 percent is in underground aquifers some are nonrenewable; and in some that are replenishable, ground water is slurped up faster by a growing population than it can be replaced.

But even so, say experts, the problem is perhaps more an issue of recognizing water's true value, using it efficiently and planning for the lean times, than it is a lack of overall supply.

The ongoing historic American drought, with its cascade effect on food and utility prices at home and food costs abroad, is an example of scarcity's effect.

But superstorm Sandy's deluge and flooding, says Geoff Dabelko, an environmental expert at Ohio University in Athens, is an example of how the term "global water crisis" can be misleading. It tends to imply that there's just one kind of crisis a water shortage.

"The kind of dead-cow-carcass-in-the-desert image that global 'water crisis' evokes is very real for some people," Professor Dabelko says. "But there are so many dimensions." Too much water whether from flooding, sea level rise, or more extreme storms can be just as deadly as too little.

While the balance between water supplies and the demands of a burgeoning population are further complicated by the effect of climate change on delicate hydrological margins, there are those who say there is enough water, if nations learn to plan for a different future one in which past abundance is no guide.

The growing thirst for water

Water is a part of everything we do: It feeds crops, powers cities, cools computer servers, and is key to the manufacturing of everything from clothes to cars. The billion more people expected on the planet by 2025 will increase water demand for all of those functions. And just to feed those people, water withdrawals for agriculture are expected to increase by about half.

But it's not only about the additional mouths to feed; it's also the growth of new appetites. Much of the growth in demand will emerge from the swelling sprawl of bustling, slum-pocked metropolises across the developing world. For the first time in history, the share of the global population living in cities recently surpassed 50 percent on its way to 75 percent expected by 2050.

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jan b (5)
Monday December 3, 2012, 2:48 pm
OVER- population is the most destructive thing humans do. We already have lack of jobs and automation have taken jobs away forever. Even the greedy-wealthy may eventually regret the policies they persue to gain power and wealth.

Kit B (276)
Monday December 3, 2012, 3:10 pm

So far the only discussions that seem relevant are the few that speak directly about how to better conserve and reuse our water supply. This is one resource that we must demand not be allowed in private hands, though for the most part that is one issue that may be too late to address. Population increase does indeed mean a greater demand and need for water and food. We worry about things after the fact, no matter how many warnings and proof we have before the disaster.

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 4:56 pm
Thank you Janice and Kit for fleshing out some of the related issues and context for this vital issue! Wish I could send you both emerald constellations but: You cannot currently send a star to janice because you have done so within the last week. You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.

Terry V (30)
Monday December 3, 2012, 5:28 pm

Earth Cry

Planet Earth is Dying

Eve of Destruction

JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 5:29 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 7:23 am
Everyone can set an example by proper management use of this precious resource it is very valued in countries with scant amounts.

Roger G (154)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 12:08 pm
noted, thanks !

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 2:21 pm
Excellent reminder Mark!
You are welcome Roger.

Missy O (8)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 8:11 pm
I admit I take water for granted, we have so much clean water were I live that I use more then I should and I will try now to be more aware of my water usage, thanks for reminding me.


JL A (281)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 8:25 pm
You made my day Missy! Thank you!

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 8:42 pm

Robert O (12)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 12:50 am
I suppose it depends on where one is located and what their water usage habits are like, but I believe for most on this planet there is a serious crisis that must constantly be addressed and worked on otherwise we're all headed for certain doom...a long, dry and painful one. Thanks.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 3:41 am
Noted, some intersting new ways are being developed to obtain usable water, let's hope that continues an that we become better at limiting what we use.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 7:54 am
Excellent observations Robert and John! You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week.

Melania Padilla (122)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 1:24 pm
Overpopulation and bad use of our resorces, that is all I have to say! Thanks for posting.

Aaron Bouchard (158)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 2:07 pm
Noted thanks for sharing

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 2:19 pm
You are welcome Aaron.

Christeen A (369)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 2:28 pm
Good post. Conservation is greatly needed. Thank you.

Sue Matheson (79)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 6:56 pm

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 9:11 pm
You are welcome Sue
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