Peak Water Has Come and Gone Unnoticed
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When will "Peak Water" hit--or has it already peaked while going mostly unnoticed? Fossil water reserves built up in ancient underground aquifers will run dry, we are being told. In fifteen of some of the world's most populous nations, it is already underway. In the United States the vast Ogallala aquifer was being overexploited. Under the North China Plain and in Saudi Arabia, unsustainable depletion is well underway. Over-pumping of aquifers is happening in Iran, Israel and Jordan, India and Pakistan, Mexico, Morocco and Spain, Tunisia and Syria, in the Yemen and South Korea.
We must ask; when will the water refugees start to migrate? When will the citizens of the cities' toilets and showers run dry? Which water domino will fall first? Is this lifeblood supply of water to be stopped for agriculture and irrigation, allowing it to wilt and die? Will our tap be turned off for the industrial model we have built our economic lives around? Will we feed ourselves or the machines of industry? Lake Chad, once viewed by astronauts from space, no longer appears in their windows, shrinking some 95 percent since 1960. Will it one day need renaming just like the "Snows of Kilimanjaro" or the Glacier National Park in the United States will? The world is incurring not only an economic, but also a water deficit. This deficit unlike an economic one is unable to be resolved by increased productivity, longer working hours, or more capital investment; this is a global threat to sustainable GDP for the developed and developing industrial economies. The economic powerhouse of the largest and strongest is in trouble.
Similarly in India, the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is fast becoming an aspirer to industrial development and home to more than 62 million people, is now facing drying wells with 95 percent of those in the farming community suffering. The International Water Management Institute has suggested that "When the balloon bursts, untold anarchy will be the lot of rural India."
In neighbouring Pakistan, whose population grows by 3 million per year, water tables are falling, with similar problems to that faced by India. And the water balloon isn't any stronger in the developed countries' agricultural bread basket.
On the other side of the world in the summer of 2006, nuclear energy plants in France, Germany, Sweden, and Spain were given a similar water domino push. Nuclear reactors' water cooling supply of 3,776 litres of freshwater needed per megawatt hour sourced from nearby rivers was too warm due to soaring temperatures associated with climate change, leading to reduced output and a restriction of energy supplies.
Will natural gaspowered plants supply any relief, when they too need 2,730 litres per megawatt hour? How will China sustain the construction of two additional coal-fired plants per week and from where will the water come? The water supply problem is also creating concern for nuclear power generation in the United States in 2007. The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant was forced into partial shutdown as the Tennessee River at Athens, Alabama hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit while record air temperatures were increasing demand for its power in Memphis and Nashville. The Union of Concerned Scientists reported that due to drought during the past two years, nuclear power plants in Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois had also scaled back operations, while the U.S. Federal Energy Information Administration was predicting an increasing energy demand by 2030 of 40 percent above today's levels, as population grows by a further 70 million. Where will the water come from? Underground water supplies have fallen by as much as 30 meters in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, America's three leading grain-producing states, writes the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
No developed, developing, or Third World nation across the globe has sustainable water consumption that can survive in the world of the future. The United Nations projections show world population growth under three different assumptions. The medium projection, the one most commonly used, has world population reaching 9.1 billion by 2050, half as many people again than are here today. The higher prediction puts it at 10.6 billion and the lower at 7.8 billion. Even the lower figure, assuming a fertility rate of 1.6 children per couple, provides 1.7 billion more mouths to feed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's population clock, the world's population in 2006 was 6,527,525,419. Every fourteen years, one billion people are added to the planet, agreeing with the medium prediction of 9.1 billion in fifty years. The United Nations projects that by 2050, 7 billion of the world population will suffer water scarcity-that's more than the entire population of the planet today.
Will they be fed? Will the industrial model--growing as projected--demand and compete to supply, a social, economic positive feedback?
As the rivers ran dry, as the lakes and glaciers recede, as water tables and fossil aquifers collapse, as rainfall patterns change from drought to flood, PEAK WATER looks more like being the LAST DROP.