Is the Future of Water Blue gold?
We can live without oil. And we can live without water.
For about three to four days, a week at the very most, depending on the outdoor temperature and exposure to direct sunlight.
Our bodies are made up of as much as 65% water and every body part and function relies on it.
Water is basic to all life.
While 70% of the earth is covered by water, only 2.5% of that is freshwater. But like oil, water and water rights are being purchased for private use.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, although privately owned water systems in the United States declined in 2007–14, the trends are reversing. This was done in part due to Trump’s encouragement. The infrastructure is crumbling and repairs are in the billions.
The problem is, private companies’ main concern is to return profits to their shareholders. For now, they have been unable to expand access to clean water or provide new investments.
Harvard University is one of those investors, buying large tracts of farmland and the water rights attached to them. So yes, people do expect to make money from their water stocks.
What does this mean? Will water be rationed? Will it go the way of healthcare with the rich getting the best and most?
It’s frightening to consider.
The United States consumes more water per capita than any other country: three times as much as China and 12 times as much as Denmark.
Arizona residents use 147 gallons a day, this does not include agricultural use or water used to generate power. Wisconsin residents use 51 gallons a day, for the most part by filling swimming pools and watering their lawns year round.
“When water is bought and sold more freely, its value begins to match its importance.” ~ Liquid Assets, by Abraham Lustagarten, ProPublica.
When I speak of water use, drinking water is only one. Water is used for cleaning, agriculture, entertainment, and maintaining property. There may be enough to drink, but not to support large estates with gardens and swimming pools.
People will not willingly let go of these luxuries. Those with money may be able to purchase more water and water rights than those with less money. And this might mean that there’s not enough water to go around and we will have to do without it.
Except we can’t.
Your recommended daily water intake should equal at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, or about two liters.
And this is just the average. We are constantly losing water through sweat and urination. Mild dehydration occurs when we don’t replace it and it affects brain function, mood, concentration, and headaches. If you exercise, you need more. There isn’t a cell in your body that can function without water.
The Agricultural Issue
And what about agriculture?
Water is number one on our basic needs list, but we need to eat as well.
Farmers can decrease their water use by 50% by switching to drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a method of delivering water and fertilizer through veins spread over fields. It is more efficient than flood plain irrigation because water is distributed directly to the roots. Two additional bonuses are that it also uses less power and, because less water is available to them, there are fewer weeds.
The cons are that the initial investment per acre costs more than other systems. It depends on the quality of equipment, type of soil, and landscape. Maintenance is higher and it is subject to damage by rodents, insects, and humans. This damage would result in leaks.
But that 50% savings per farm is a lot of water.
Jay Famiglietti, a senior scientist at NASA has warned, that the water table is dropping and, “there’s not an infinite supply of (fresh) water.”
Add to this the fact that the world population is increasing by 82M people per year, and you can see that we have a problem. The increasing population and the limited supply of freshwater means one thing: water shortage.
And what would people do to get water?
Look what we’ve done for oil. Can you imagine what kind of war or wars could break-out worldwide if we have to start fighting for drinking water?
I don’t want to be around to see it and I fear for our children and their children.
The documentary, Blue Gold Water Wars, examines the political and environmental impacts of the our decreasing freshwater supply. Happily, it also documents the success of water activists. It’s worth watching.
But more than any documentary, I trust my mother. Back in the early 1960’s, she made three predictions, two of which have come to pass.
1/ The oil companies will become too powerful.
2/ We will run out of room for all the plastic we’re producing
3/ The next war will be over water.
And it appears we might be getting a bit of forewarning on this.
But, like oil, we can conserve it. If everyone makes an effort, we can make sure that drinking water is available for generations to come.
Here are some ways to save freshwater.
- Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Wash only full loads of laundry.
- Position sprinklers to water the lawn and garden, not the sidewalk or driveway.
- Allow your lawn to go dormant for a few months in the summer.
- Plant native shrubs and ground covers rather than grass. They hold the water better.
- Switch to water-efficient showerheads.
- Install a dual-flush toilet. A normal flush uses approximately two gallons of water for solid waste and one gallon for a lighter or liquid waste.
- Keep your existing toilet in good working order. If it’s running a lot, hire a plumber.
- Collect and reuse rainwater from your roof in rain barrels and reuse the water in your garden.
- Rinse vegetables in a dish of water and then dump that water in your houseplants or garden.
Maintaining your toilet or installing a new one can save between 11 and 35,000 gallons of water a year. That’s a savings of 55–77% from one simple upgrade.
Swapping a showerhead manufactured before 1992 to one manufactured after, can save 27,00 gallons of water annually for a family of four. This will also put an additional $260 in your pocketbook.
The writing is on the wall and each individual needs to do his/her part to conserve this precious resource.
The alternative is unimaginable.
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