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Affecting 4 Billion People, Water Scarcity Far Worse Than Thought, Study Finds


Affecting 4 Billion People, Water Scarcity Far Worse Than Thought, Study Finds

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A new analysis reveals that global water scarcity is a far greater problem than previously thought, affecting 4 billion people—two-thirds of the world's population—and will be "one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century."


Aside from the US's (and many other nations, I'm sure) need to work much harder at water conservation, I sincerely believe that human population growth rate must be slowed. At some point, without slowing, even minimal water needs simply will not be able to be met by what the planet can provide.


Be sure to brush your teeth using no more than a thimble full of water so that the developers can build more units. More, more, more!


The fact is this. There more than enough water to support life on this planet and several times over.

There is not enough water to support the industrial scale consumption and pollution of the same.

Drawing up water from the Earth so that desert areas can be greened to grow food, using and polluting fresh water as happened to the Flint River, using water for fracking and returning it to the ground as poisoned are all wastes of a precious resource.

Added to this denuding lands of Forests , blowing up mountains to get at coal , destruction of wetlands so as to plant crops or build homes or to get at tarsands underneath wastes yet more of that water as natural processes of retention of the same are destroyed.

Then we got smokestacks emitting toxins so even the rain that falls from the sky is contaminated.

None of this a scarcity issue. It all a issue of misuse and of consumption for things not really needed.

If it was truly scarce society would not treat it with such a callous disregard.

Now there a reason I think it important to recognize the difference between scarcity and misuse. There an agenda to privatize the world's stock of fresh water. Those in power use the meme of scarcity so as to advance the notion that if a financial cost be assigned to the consumer for use of water the market will help allocate that water in the most efficient manner. Capitalism itself is predicated on churning profits through scarcity. The scarcer a resource in demand the more profit to be made. We must by all means address the issues of water misuse. We must NOT use the market and privatization as a cure.


Yes, yet this can be done through natural means by lifting peoples out of poverty. Many of the nations of North Europe have zero or negative population growth. These very same nations a few centuries ago when there WAS poverty had higher population growth.

Now those same nations in Europe are concerned about that lack of population growth as under the systems in which they operate (The growth model) there has to be a surplus of workers to provide wealth/taxes for non workers and the continuance of the consumer economy. To address that in addition to alleviation of poverty that economy which is predicated on endless growth and consumption has to be replaced.

All of this will be resisted by those in power who champion the concept of "The Free market" and endless growth.


This is not true. This is dangerously false information. It's late at night here but I'll start by describing just one of countless situations caused by prolonged drought around the world.

In the winter I live in Southern California. The water loss here has been staggering. The impounded water, the water behind dams throughout the state has dropped to just a fraction of what it once was. This is caused by increased use while not being replenished by enough runoff from significantly diminished rainfall. As a result of there not being enough surface water for agriculture and residential use ground water, water taken through existing and new wells has significantly reduced the water table and the water available in the aquifers.

So much water has been removed from most of these aquifers it has lead to loosing the use of these aquifers forever. When too much water is removed the ground "subsides" or compresses which crushes the interstitial spaces between the grains of subsurface materiel ie sandstone, sand, gravel, whatever. This means that the aquifers can never be recharged either naturally by absorption of rainwater or by water injection through wells.

I could go on. This is just one area of the world that has lost a significant amount of available water. Then there is the Tibetan Plateau which feeds at least seven major rivers that supply 2 billion people with water from Pakistan to China. The glaciers there are melting and eventually there will be little to no water to feed these rivers. In the meantime people in many of these areas such as India are "mining" their groundwater, that means taking out more than what is being replaced, to the extent that many, most of the aquifers in question are undergoing the same process of depletion as the aquifers in California described above.


Thank you for the insights-- See "Great Waves of Change"- Summers.


There is the same amount of water on this world as there was 20 million years ago.

Those drained aquifiers, the inability of the same to refill due to development are as I stated. They are due to misuse not scarcity.

In the United States of America lower 48 states total rainfall has actually climbed since 1900. Total water consumption in the US per day is some 355 billion gallons. Total rainfall in the USA in a year is 1430 cubic miles. This is some 1,574,597,521,000,000 gallons.

365*355 billion is 129,575,000,000,000 gallons yearly consumption.

Thus exponentially more times as much water falls on the uSA in the way of rain each and every year then is consumed in sum total.

The issue is not that it scarce. the issue is that which is available as stored water is misused. Aquifers are not refilling because agriculture and industry uses the water before it can get to the aquifier. Water evaporates on falling due to lack of tree cover. Water washes away in rivers and streams because of hardened and compacted soil not allowing it to be absorbed into the ground. Water is wasted on things like Golf courses and people are moving in great numbers to areas that do not have the rainfall to support their numbers. It is poisoned by industrial practices such as fracking. It is used to flush away sewage and all manner of toxins and chemicals.

To those melting Glaciers, that is directly due to human activity but even at that the Earth has gone through periods of glaciation and deglaciation many times before. The water that melts did not just vanish. It is recycled over and over again. The Glacier can be seen as a storage facilty for water much like that which is behind a damn , but the Glacier did not create that water. It was always there. It came from rain that fell as snow in that colder place. When that Glacer melts the water that is not intercepted flows down to the sea, It evaporates and falls as rain once more very often in that now warmer place where the Glacier once was.

The total mass of LIFE on this planet measured in the way of its plants, fish animals birds and every other living species is not much greater today then it was before Industry appeared on the scene. While water was not distributed equally around the globe there was more than enough to support all of that life as there is today.

It is not scarce. it can support life in its abundance. it is misused by Industry and the Human species. That can be addressed.I suggest that were issues of overconsumption and misuse of water were addressed in Countries that abuse the resource, water usage can be cut by a factor of 20 times and more. Couple this with those rainfall numbers I gave and those aquifiers would refill in due course.





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The drought in California is over because it rained for a couple of weeks. At least that's what people tell my son who works with the public. Now they can water their sidewalks again.

Water was still being abused though during the great drought. Fracking continued. The bottled water companies continued to abuse the scarse water supply. The rich were still building mansions with swimming pools - they just paid a little fine.

So the person you are responding to is right in that respect that people do abuse water left and right. You are also right that global warming is responsible for a lack of water.


Global warming, or climate change. Two aspects of the same problem.

Climate change includes the southern portion of the USA west of the Mississippi River becoming a desert as precipitation patterns shift. Present day problems caused by overpopulation, overdevelopment, and misuse will only worsen.

A drought exists somewhere between a typical annual weather pattern, and the long term weather trends described by climate. The conditions that existed before the rains began will very likely assert themselves once the rains cease. In fact, the conditions will likely become rapidly worse as the water deposited by the short term precipitation gets used up.

Tell your son the effects of the drought haven't disappeared; they've only been lessened for a short time.


When I point out that the annual rainfall in the USA exceeds that consumed by a factor of 10 , it to show that the issue is misuse. NATURE provides. Water is not being destroyed.

The basic and underlying issue is that the human species with its technologies and industry acts as ever as if it in a war against nature. We have to learn to adapt to her rather than battle against her. The most populous state in the USA is California, also a state that consumes some of the most water per capita even as it receives less rainfall than most other states.

In States like California live evolved around the fact that water less plentiful than in other regions. As such those same species numbers and types adapted to the environment around them in order to thrive. All of those reservoirs under the Earth were filled and remained so even through droughts.

Man came around and said "we can turn this desert into a garden and have 30 million people move here because we are smarter than nature".

This does not suggest to me a scarcity of water as much as it suggests a scarcity of common sense.


The right-wing attack on a woman's right to choose has a planned and obvious effect on population control.

The MIC demand for a substantial and expendable supply of cheap, dumb, subservient labor and abundant cannon fodder comes at a price, since ever-increasing Profit is Undisputed King,......the health and well-being of everything else on earth, not so much.


nottheonly1, well said.


I just quickly perused the document you referenced. This home of ours of over 25 yrs is served only by a cistern. There is no public water, sewer, or natgas supply here, only electric and telephone. We moved here with no experience away from municipal water. Me, my wife and two sons learned how to live with a very limited water supply. Every day we are aware of our water usage and we have all adapted to this reality. The original cistern here was approximately 3000gal and that is barely sufficient for a family of 4. That cistern has failed and I replaced it with a 6000gal precast concrete one.

There is very much involved using a cistern as the sole source of home water. Here in Ohio and specifically in this eastern region the historic average is about 40in/year of rainfall. The State guidelines suggest a minimum of 10000gal for a home of even this limited size and the catchment area has to be sized for the anticipated annual rainfall. Also, there is no health jurisdiction anywhere in any country that "allows" the use of untreated rainwater for human consumption. Consequently a roof-washing system that rejects the first say 20-30gal of rainfall from any rain event (to divert away the accumulated dust and bird dropping contamination away from the collection system) and a pre-filter that is intended to filter the collected water before it enters the cistern. Additionally the Ohio State Health Department requires some sort of continuous treatment of the cistern water before it is consumed within the house. Approved systems are continuous chlorination systems, ozonation systems, or in-line UV filters to treat the water. As you can imagine none of this is cheap and requires constant maintenance and repair.

If you are suggesting a cistern to supplement a municipal water supply, there are parts of the country where you will find that cisterns are illegal. Within the last year I believe there was a piece here that prompted an exchange between myself and a resident of Fort Collins, Colorado. An arid region of the country, rainfall runoff is considered public property and thus residents are prohibited from collecting and holding rainwater for their personal use. Also, if those 1000gal cisterns you suggested are for non-human consumption and for those uses that possibly should be curtailed anyway, they could hardly be cost-justified. Add in the co2 input associated with the kilning of portland cement and it really becomes problematic.

Despite all the cost and the maintenance I really like our rainwater fed cistern system (and when rainfall is insufficient to replenish it, a potable water hauling service fills it.) Why didn't I just drill a well? This area has been extensively deep and surface mined and I am leery of investing a similar amount of money on a water source that may eventually become contaminated. Also, less than a mile from here is the now-closed municipal dump which was in operation before the codification of modern lined landfills. In essence it was an old strip mine pit that they dumped the garbage in an covered over. I have never investigated the dip and strike of the subsurface strata to see which way the groundwater may flow, but I'd just as soon not take a chance on it.


yohocoma, How do you propose to accomplish this "reduction"? and which population would you reduce?


Nonsense. They are due to both. More people equals more water used. Also, there is less water from rain and snow melt available in given areas then there used to be. Southern California for example.

Obviously, you have developed and idea with you want to defend with false information and half-truths. In science you go with the facts and not with what you wish was true.

The water crisis is real. Water shortage is real. Aquifers being permanently destroyed due to over withdraw, mining, is a fact. Melting glaciers that are the source of many of the world's greatest rivers is a fact. Two billion people without fresh drinking water is a fact.

We have to address this problem just as we have to address other aspects of global climate change and an exponentially expanding human population. Both are threatening our chances of surviving on this planet. I am not interested in theories but in facts and solutions based on those facts. I suggest you read Maude Barlow and so many other writers who have written extensively and knowledgably about the growing water problems of the earth.

My information comes from the fact that I am a hydrogeologist and I am intensely interested in the problem of shrinking potable water availability.


Even if it were true, which I doubt, it doesn't follow that all of this water is available for human consumption. A great deal of water that falls as snow and rain is lost to runoff which ends up in the oceans before it can be utilized by man. Also, a great deal of fresh water that has been held in glaciers is now being lost through massive melting and runoff. Much of this melt is going into the oceans of the world. And in case you think desalination is a viable answer to our problems think again. It isn't. It is grossly energy intensive, expensive and it leaves behind mountains of heavily mineralized deposits. Much of it is hazardous waste due to salt and chemical content.

NATURE provides. What does that mean? It sounds more like a religious mantra. Nature seeks to balance and move back to equilibrium. Nature is certainly not mandated to provide us with drinking water regardless of how we abuse the natural systems that have previously provided water to life. Your opinions seem to be more based on idealism than fact.

To summarize: When impounded (surface water held in a basin) water dries up and aquifers are drawn down and the subsurface material which previously stored underground water is compacted and no longer available to store water you have a problem. This is certainly happening in Southern California and in many other places of the world. The amount of rain that is falling is not as important as the amount of water from that rain that can be utilized. And anyway rain patterns have significantly shifted so that the areas that need the rain the most often go without. While other areas are being flooded with huge amounts of rain. That water too is lost because it can't be properly used. Much of it is highly contaminated and otherwise unfit for use.

Water that falls on the earth generally speaking either gets evaporated, soaks into the ground, and runs off as surface water which eventually reaches the oceans. Much of this water is not being utilized. So rain fall levels do not directly equate with water available for use.


If we don't come up with a way Nature certainly will do it for us. Which would you prefer?


Excuse me. It remains a fact that the total amount of water on this earth has not changed one iota.It is not being shot off into space. there no process breaking H2O into hydrogen and oxygen.

Again more freshwater falls on the USA than is consumed. That it runs off to the sea or is not "usable" is you suggesting that it waste unless it is USED by man. My point is MAN overconsumes and in particular not of water needed for personal use but water used in industrial processes.

30 million people do not belong in California. All of that irrigated land and those industries are man made entities. They are misusing a resource. THEY are creating this "scarcity". Were those 30 millions not living there this drought would do nothing to deplete the reservoirs.

Claming water is scarce is like the US Government claiming there not enough money to pay for health care even as they spend 1 trillion a year on the Military. It a question of priorities. The US Government would rather spend more on the Military than on the citizens because it makes a small segment of people richer.

In California the priority is Agriculture and Industry when it comes to water. They use up an inordinate amounty of water because it makes a small group of people richer.

I would just use one example of what I am getting at and that the country of Haiti as compared to the Dominican Republic. They share the same Island. They were once part of the same ecosystem , an Island covered in tropical forests. Both are about the same size. Both have around 10 million people.

Haiti has a freshwater crisis. Compartively speaking the Dominican Republic does not. If you look at a map of the island from a satellite you can see that virtually all the forests in Haiti were removed. Those in the Dominican Republic remain. They both receive about the same rainfall.

Haiti's water crisis is not because water scarce. it because they have denuded their island of its forests which helped to retain that water, replenish reserviors and keep that water clean. The Dominican republic has since looked at the example of Haiti and out of concern for their own future invests funds into restoring ecosystems so as to protect that supply of freshwater,

Throwing up a 40000 acre farm in the San Fernando valley to grow lettuce for export to Japan is not protecting the ecosystem and is a misuse of the water that is available.