Thursday, March 10, 2005

Fiddling While Rome Burns: Water

From the Wall Street Journal article today subtitled: Water is "the oil of the 21st century."

  • In the past century world population has tripled but water use has increased sevenfold.
  • The Aral Sea in Central Asia, tapped relentlessly for agriculture, has 60% less water than it did 30 years ago.
  • Lake Chad in West Africa is 1/20th its 1970s size.
  • The Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Indus in India and Pakistan and the Yellow River in China no longer consistently reach the sea.
  • The World Commission on Water predicts water use will increase 50% during the next 30 years
  • Two million tons of human waste are released into rivers and streams around the world annually.
The article closes with this:
Yemen is a poor country with near 20 million people, close to half of whom live in poverty. Its population is growing rapidly; by 2045, projections show it will have nearly as many people as Germany will. Most of its populace lives too far from the coast to make transport of desalinated water practical; most of its water is drawn from an underground aquifer that is likely to be depleted within a couple of decades. ... Yemen uses fully half the water it draws from that reservoir to grow qat, a habituating stimulant.
Author: David Wessel.

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