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Water ,water, every - where are you?

By Colin Ricketts - 26 May 2013 19:7:25 GMT
Water ,water, every - where are you?

This gentleman has the history, the knowledge and the enthusiasm to conserve water. Have the rest of us the ability to survive after the profligate use we've made of it? - Water image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Energy generation and agriculture, people and storage, along with a great loss of groundwater are all causing reductions in water supply over most of the earth. The common attitude is neglect, as wetter countries would rather have less water in many cases. Water robbery (by dams) and several other political acts have made this a UN issue and a very hot and dry potato!

Ban Ki-Moon stated his objection to the status quo "Business as usual will mean demand for freshwater outstripping supply." He may be thinking about the future but several countries are living in the future in that case. So many water sources are being lost.

The Bonn Declaration on Friday believed that the handicap of water shortages is, "entirely avoidable." Our impact on freshwater resources means that a third of our population has restricted access. Soon, possibly within a generation, most of the 9 billion maximum population that we will have by 2040 will be between a rock and a dry place. Charles Vorosmarty is co chairman of the Global Water System Project, "flying the red flag," to attract attention to the perils we are laying in for ourselves. He believes it is (relatively) easy to change the politics now, but it will be impossible to turn around the water shortage, once it has been established.

The main focus is on:

  • two-thirds of river deltas that sink after the extraction of ground water;

  • 10,000 large dams that distort flow so that ecosystems are forced into unnatural change (and often disorder);

  • pollution from sewerage and fertilizer, plus the deadly effects of pesticides on ecosystems that are far-distant from their application.

    These problems alone cause a billion people to have a rapidly declining supply of water at the moment. Dr. Vorosmarty is of the opinion that we need, "observational networks and satellite systems that can measure the state of water." "Increasingly, we are flying blind and finding it very difficult to figure where we are and where we're going and whether the things we are doing are making a difference."

    UN-Water is an organisation that coordinates groups trying to correct the water shortages. 35 million cubic km (or 8 million cubic miles) is our sum total of available freshwater. It is locked in ice or in permanent snow, or stored underground naturally as groundwater. This last source has 97% of our currently-available freshwater. Lakes and rivers may seem important but they have very little quantity, as many people realise when the authority removes much of your local river's flow for its own use!

    With variable and extreme weather conditions, there is a trend for agriculture to use more water than before and storage of natural water is also hindered. Last year's UN report wanted up to $19.2 billion of the Green Climate Fund to be allocated to the water sector. Flood management has been expensive recently and shortfalls in supply have been corrected. The effect of water on biodiversity might seem trivial.

    It is left to Ban Ki-Moon, who was able to state with assurance that, "Ecosystems influence the local, regional and global availability and quality of water. Forests help regulate soil erosion and protect water quality and supply. Wetlands can reduce flood risks. Soil biodiversity helps maintain water for crops. By integrating nature-based solutions into urban planning, it can also help us build better water futures for cities, where water stresses may be especially acute given the rapid pace of urbanization."

    It's nice to be so confident, given the state of the building water shortages. Let's wait and see - or alternatively, let's make sure this dream at least must come true.

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