Water Crisis

February 12, 2016

A comprehensive research article published in Science Advances found that water scarcity is actually worse than first thought. The authors found that fully two-thirds of the global population suffer severe water scarcity at least 1 month per year, and nearly half of them live in India and China. In addition, five hundred million people in the world face severe shortages the year round. Their recommendations: cap water consumption by river basin, increase water-use efficiency, and better share the limited freshwater resources.

However well-intended, their suggestions are just a palliative. What is really needed is a vast new source of freshwater. Barring cataclysmic events such as nuclear war, which cannot be discarded, our species needs to have 2.3 children per woman just to survive. Since it’s not possible to have one third of a child, they’ll have to have a minimum of three, and the population will grow. And that growth will spur a higher demand for mates of both sexes and even more water to satisfy their many needs. It’s not that there’s not enough water on our planet; it’s just that despite our otherwise awesome technological achievements in other aspects of human living (and killing) we still basically collect water the same way ancient civilizations did thousands of years ago. Perhaps one reason for this anomaly is the fact that with a few exceptions, most centers of wealth and power have abundant supplies of water at their disposal. For example, it is difficult to imagine how an occupant of the White House, facing the Potomac and periodic ice storms, would include among his/her most pressing priorities finding ways to improve the city’s water supply. It would be contrary to human nature. Conversely, if they lived in Los Angeles, Phoenix or Las Vegas, undoubtedly their attitude toward water would be vastly different.

Make no mistake, the water crisis is as real as, and will be exacerbated by, global warming. And it is the responsibility of leaders worldwide, regardless of how much water there may be in their immediate vicinity, to solve the problem before it spills over into the realm of war and famine. For example, look no further than Syria, where a devastating drought is said to have sparked the ongoing civil war and its consequences.

We need to manufacture our own water far from any shore to make deserts green with oxygen-producing crops to recycle the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, and the only way to do so is to produce hydrogen in vast amounts from electrolysis of seawater using solar as the primary source of energy. The technology exists; the principle was vividly illustrated in the movie The Martian, and it is further explained here. The missing ingredient is an enlightened, charismatic leader with the ability to rally even the most ardent skeptics before it’s too late.

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