Friday, 21 August 2009

Water, water everywhere ...

... and, increasingly, not a drop to drink.

Having just spent a couple of weeks in Kenya and seeing the ecological, political AND humanitarian effects of lack of water, this piece by Brian Richter, director of the non-governmental Global Freshwater Program at The Nature Conservancy, is very alarming.

The front pages of Kenya's newspapers are still dominated by the Mau controversy over the near-total destruction of one of the country's key forest 'water towers' that has left the nation's capital. Nairobi, facing severe water shortages and power black-outs, with a dry summer undoubtedly about to lead to crippling food shortages. And that's just one country, a single country that technically shouldn't be facing a water crisis - if only politicians hadn't handed out publicly-owned forest to ordinary people, which they understandably then converted into farm land.

And the world is only going to get thirstier ...

Let us start with our global population, expected to rise from nearly seven billion to nine billion in just a few decades. That is why more than half the world's population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030.

At the same time, in populous nations such as China and India, improvements in living standards and personal incomes are linked to greater consumption of clothing, meat, and water.

It takes 140 litres of water to produce one cup of coffee; 3,000 litres to make a hamburger; and 8,000 litres to create a pair of leather shoes. All of these processes require a vast amount of water to grow crops, feed cows, or produce leather.

On top of that, climate change will bring less rain to many regions, and cause it to evaporate more quickly almost everywhere.

Accordingly, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that "the proportion of the planet in extreme drought at any time will likely increase".

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