Sunday, January 2, 2011

Global Water Shortages

There was once a time - and not too long ago either - that if a person were to come across a body of fresh water he or she could feel quite certain that it was safe to use in the way God intended and designed humans to use it. This is no longer true.

And yet every drop of water that was ever created still exists in some form or state somewhere on this planet or in its atmosphere. The water lost by the human body through various avenues must be replaced. One rule of thumb is that 8-10 glasses of water per day will do the trick. But that is just the human hydration part. One source I found says that, " the average [American] person uses 60 to 70 gallons of water daily for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and dishes and flushing toilets." Even with that leap in usage amounts (10 glasses to 70 gallons), when you take into account all the water on the planet in all its forms there is still probably plenty to go around. The global population will have to increase to an incomprehensible degree before there is an actual water shortage.

Technically, the water "shortages" aren't really shortages - they are fresh water access problems. And big problems they are! There are four basic fresh water access problems.

The first problem is that fresh water, through industrial, agricultural, or domestic carelessness and apathy, becomes polluted and therefore useless and even toxic until it is purified.

The second is that fresh water all too often becomes salt water and therefore useless to humans until it is desalinated - either naturally or through some man-made desalinization processes.

The third is the problem of insufficient catchment and delivery systems. Having all this potential fresh water is fine but, if you can't collect and distribute it efficiently, it might as well just evaporate!

Finally, and related to the delivery aspect of problem number three, is the problem of human greed and the struggle for political power. Even if we solved the first three problems, we would probably find people all over the globe who would want to use the new water abundance as a vehicle for their own monetary gain or upward mobility. This they would do by seizing control of the means of production and delivery and manipulating them to serve their own ends.

These are truly daunting problems. However, we could choose to look at them as a way of boosting the global economy by creating new jobs and new markets. We could use our collective scientific know-how to turn water into a much more renewable resource. Organic farming and/or the development of non-polluting fertilizers would be a good start. Then we could move to regulate industrial polluters. This could be followed by getting creative and knowledgeable people together into think tanks to come up with ways of creating conservation incentives for the average 60 gallons per day American water consumer. We could develop bigger, better, and more efficient ways of treating and purifying polluted water, of desalinating ocean water, and of temporarily holding and ultimately distributing the potable product. All of this would add up to many entirely new jobs that would have to be filled.

The marketing of these systems internationally would boost both the American economy and the global economy. It could also go a long way toward improving diplomatic relations among the various countries of the world, minimize the occurrence wars and conflicts, and maybe even make a contribution to streamlining our international commerce in energy.

Water for oil anyone?

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