Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Poll Analyses
Share on Facebook 5 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 4/12/09

Peak Water Has Come and Gone Unnoticed

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages) (View How Many People Read This)   3 comments
Author 27185
Message Bob Williamson

(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA
hat tip

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.

This canary in the coal mine has indeed started to die of thirst over only the last half-century as competition has resulted in a tripling of demand for water. The drilling of millions of wells for irrigation to supplement nature's supplies brings with it another manmade economic driver, for food exports, for growing GDP. The agricultural revolution has preceded its industrial counterpart, but is now competing for its share of this emptying cup. Falling water tables in China are affecting harvests of grain (China is the world's largest grain producer). For water it is now competing with its developing industrial hubs and its agriculture is losing out. In 2001 a groundwater survey of the water table under the North China Plain that produces over 50 percent of the country's wheat and over 30 percent of its corn was found to be falling faster than earlier reports had shown. The water table is dropping nearly 3 meters annually and in some towns in the province falling twice as fast. Yields and production volumes are continuing to fall where irrigation is needed, including rice harvests falling from the 1997 production of 140 million tonnes to 127 million tonnes in 2005. Its growing urban populations as well as its industrial development have been competing for water and are now in conflict.

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.

Australia is gripped by repeated and regular droughts and crumbling agricultural infrastructure. The Murray Darling river system is in crisis--so much so that irrigation for agriculture was not be allocated in 2007. With the drought in Queensland so severe, and with water restrictions for its citizens, the government reduced supplies to coal-fired power stations in 2007. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the United States reports that coal-fired plants use approximately 3,400 litres of cooling water per megawatt hour.

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 gas–powered 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.


Must Read 2   Valuable 2   Well Said 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Bob Williamson Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Founder and Chair of the Greenhouse Neutral Foundation
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Global Warming? Global Cooling? So what is with the weather?

Graduation "Speech" to the Class of 2099 Has Important Message about

Peak Water Has Come and Gone Unnoticed

A Letter From The Future - 2030 AD

Interview with an Activist. Are you one?

The Rise and Fall of Man

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: