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Water scarcity poses economic and security threat around the world

Water scarcity poses economic and security threat around the world thumbnail

Conflict over scarce water resources is as old as human history, but in the 21st century, rapidly rising demand for water and threats to supply pose nightmarish risks for people around the globe.

The U.S. Defence Department, United Nations’ agencies and the business-dominated World Economic Forum all point to the proliferation of water crises as a major threat to human security and economic well-being next year and in the years to come.

For many leaders gathering for the climate-change summit in Paris on Monday, global warming is a “clear and present danger” that will exacerbate existing water-related stresses and undermine efforts to lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty.

Desertification in sub-Saharan Africa and drought in the Middle East have contributed to conflict and a flood of refugees. Extreme storms and rising water levels threaten to inundate low-lying states and coastlines from the South Pacific islands to heavily populated countries such as Bangladesh. United Nations scientists warn that drought and climate-related natural disasters will cause major crop losses and reduced yields for farmers in developing countries.

Negotiators in Paris will grapple with Third World demands for rich countries to provide billions of dollars to help them adapt to climate change.

But for the people who face the most devastating effects, the obvious strategy – although heart-wrenching and dangerous – will be to leave their homelands.

“The cause of migration is incredibly complex,” said Michael Werz, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank. “But it is clear that deteriorating environmental conditions contribute to decisions to migrate. It’s an ancient human adaptive mechanism.”

Europe is already reeling from the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, while many Asian countries also have growing migrant populations. But the number of displaced people is expected to soar in the coming decades due to conflicts fuelled by water scarcity, natural disasters related to climate change and the loss of livelihood from drought-stricken crops, Mr. Werz said.

Drought also fuels conflict. And climate scientists say some of the most arid regions in the middle latitudes will get considerably drier as climate change disrupts weather patterns.

Peter Gleick at San Francisco’s Pacific Institute has chronicled water-related conflict, starting with the border war between two Sumerian cities in ancient Mesopotamia 4,500 years ago, when the king of Lagash attacked the city of Umma to gain land and water.

Included on Mr. Gleick’s list is the current war in Syria, which has caused the death of more than 220,000 civilians and a flood of refugees seeking to resettle in Canada and elsewhere.

In the years before Syria erupted in civil war, a searing drought withered 75 per cent of the crop in northern regions of the country and forced an estimated 50,000 farm families to flee to the cities, where they found little relief.

The displaced farmers were among the disgruntled Syrian people who demanded democratic reform in the country in 2011, sparking a crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad that ignited the ferocious conflict that has engulfed the country and gave rise to the brutal Islamic State faction.

Mr. Gleick is not claiming drought caused the civil war, but he said it contributed to the conflict, and added that climate change was clearly a factor in the extended dry spell.

Scientists and UN officials worry that climate change will simply compound existing water crises across the world.

Some 750 million people lack access to even minimally treated drinking water, while billions rely on unsafe sources, according to the United Nations water agency. Nearly 1.2 billion people – almost one-fifth of the world’s population – live in areas where water is now scarce, and many of those regions are likely to become even more arid with the onslaught of climate change.

Meanwhile, rapidly melting glaciers in the Himalayas and areas of western North America threaten key sources of water for major population centres.

At the same time, demand for water is soaring with population growth, industrialization and rising incomes that increase consumption of water-intensive food such as meat and fresh fruit. If current trends continue, the world will be demanding 40 per cent more water than will be available by 2030, the UN agency forecast in a recent report.

“Water is really embedded at the core of socioeconomic growth,” said Paul Reig, associate at the Washington-based World Resources Institute, which has created a database of water stress in regions across the globe.

“When you have industrialization and increasing standards of living, that is associated with higher demands for natural resources, including water.”

But strategies exist to reduce the threat of water shortages.

The impact of the drought in Syria was worsened by the regime’s failure to invest in modern irrigation, its hostility toward the rural, northern population, and the history of conflict between ethnic and religious factions.

Governments and water experts are beginning to examine the complex nature of “virtual water trade” to determine the impact of industrial and agricultural imports and exports.

Farmers – who account for 75 per cent of global water use – will have to become more efficient.

California, for example, is a net water importer.

Mr. Gleick said the state needs to rethink whether it makes sense to produce low-value, water-intensive commodities such as almonds.

“We’ve taken water for granted far too long, and we can’t do that any more,” he said.

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33 Comments on "Water scarcity poses economic and security threat around the world"

  1. onlooker on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 12:55 pm 

    Water – Another ticking time bomb and another reason to believe in a mass die-off. The only question is how fast this die-off will occur. Asia above all is standing in the firing range with its humongous population and more and more reports of wells running dry or having to pump deeper and deeper.

  2. Rodster on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 1:00 pm 

    “Asia above all is standing in the firing range with its humongous population and more and more reports of wells running dry or having to pump deeper and deeper.”

    China has destroyed at least 60% of it’s fresh drinking water supplies.

  3. beamofthewave on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 1:33 pm 

    All in the name of plastic pumpkins

  4. Cloud9 on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 3:06 pm 

    The thing that scares the crap out of me is everybody may want to move to Florida.

  5. Rodster on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 4:22 pm 

    “The thing that scares the crap out of me is everybody may want to move to Florida.”

    I live in Florida and Lake Okeechobee can only support so much.

  6. J-Gav on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 4:23 pm 

    Gulp! “Couldn’t ya spare us a drop, Lord, we’re pretty dry down here.” Close to a quote from a Cormac Macarthy novel.

  7. penury on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 5:25 pm 

    Water scarcity? No problem, we have desalinization, we can build pipelines for thousands of miles to get the water, we can tow icebergs from point A to point B. Of course we may need a new way to feed people. And then of course there is that weird, all the nations are bankrupt thing. But we have tech and we are human so therefore we shall overcome.

  8. makati1 on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 8:27 pm 

    I question this map as being spun for some purpose other than fact. How can a country (Philippines) that receives 5-12 feet of water per year be in trouble? Using 8 feet as average, that is 5+ acre/feet per capita. Almost twice that used by Americans per capita where waste is king.

    Rodster, as the ocean rises, the salt water will move into the aquifers. Odds are good that Florida will not have much, if any, fresh water by 2050. You live on a sand dune.

  9. Davy on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 8:39 pm 

    The answer Makster is 100mil people in the space of Arizona.

  10. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 30th Nov 2015 9:55 pm 

    All the ice and glaciers are melting away. So the starving hordes can drink that for awhile..

  11. makati1 on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 12:25 am 

    Davy, no, that is NOT the answer. The amount of water someone ‘needs’ is not dependent on place, but climate and activity. It amounts to less than 1 gallon/per person/per day in most instances. The amount of water one ‘wants’ (to waste) is another story.

    Of course water is needed for agriculture, but again, the Ps has an abundance. The amount used by manufacturing is NOT a necessity. For instance: we (extended family of 20) can live on our farm quite comfortably with just 1/3 or less of the annual rainfall. We are typical of most of the Ps. Not the exception. We will not be raising water intensive food sources like cattle. Our problem will be controlling excess water.

    Yes, the cities will die, but then water will not be the killer, the economy will kill them long before water is a problem and they will die all over the world, not just in Asia. Your own water situation is more perilous than mine as the dust bowl moves East and the climate changes even more.

  12. makati1 on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 12:38 am 

    BTW: Arable land in the Ps is 1/4 acre per person with a year round growing season which multiplies it’s growing capacity. Many sites claim that one person can live on 1/10 acre of garden/farmland.

    “To grow all the food for one person’s needs for the whole year requires, for most people, at least 4,000 square feet, (1/10 acre) though some diet designs are possible that can use a smaller area.”

    So, the Ps can easily support their population on a land area the size of Arizona, because the Ps is NOT Arizona desert but semi-tropcal and the meat is fish, chicken and pork, not beef.

  13. F.F.K.H. on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 2:50 am 

    The end of Western Civilization:

  14. F.F.K.H. on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 2:55 am 

    Big Mak Attack:

    The Philippines is home to some of the most polluted fresh water in the world. The river that flows through the Philippine capital is the Marilao River. Industrial and human waste is pumped into the Marilao including the chemical waste of mills and factories, household waste, medical waste, sewage, dead animals, plastics, and oil.

  15. Rodster on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 3:47 am 

    Saudi Arabia is also running out of water.

  16. Rodster on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 3:51 am 

    “The Philippines is home to some of the most polluted fresh water in the world.”

    Wow, someone actually beat China with it’s neon green and crimson rivers as well as sulphur lakes? Shocking!

  17. Dredd on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 5:07 am 

    “Water scarcity poses economic and security threat around the world”

    So does water scariness (Weekend Rebel Science Excursion – 44).

    With Oil-Qaeda we are doomed …

  18. makati1 on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:03 am 

    F.F.K.H., Reference for your wild claims please. If you drink water that does not come from the commercial “purified” chemical and drug laden sources, but wells and springs, you should have a comprehensive testing done on it. I think you will be unpleasantly surprised.

    It is already a fact that most US ‘city’ water is filled with chemicals and drugs, not to mention brain killing fluoride. Most springs and wells are polluted with farm chemicals and stuff from the acid rain still falling most everywhere. You have no idea what you are drinking.

    Don’t assume that your government is taking care of you. Well, they are ‘taking care of you’ but not in the way you believe. LOL

    As for the water here in the Ps, The city water is no worse than what you drink, probably better. Of course the river that flows thru Manila is polluted. but the drinking water does not come from there. It comes from mountain reservoirs. Would you drink water from the Hudson River or even the Mississippi? LOL

    Most of the countryside springs and wells here are still unpolluted because they have none of the factories dumping waste into them. The only pollution that could affect our farm’s springs is from the air and since the prevailing breeze is from the Pacific Ocean where it crosses ~8,000 miles of open water, it is fairly clean.

    I suggest that you do not try to point out another country as being worse than the ‘exceptional’ country without backup proof NOT sponsored by that same ‘exceptional’ country. It makes you look stupid.

  19. Davy on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:07 am 

    Mak said “To grow all the food for one person’s needs for the whole year requires, for most people, at least 4,000 square feet, (1/10 acre) though some diet designs are possible that can use a smaller area.”

    Bull shit Mak, a garden can only supply maybe 30% of food needs. Theoretically we see all over the internet people saying how a small space can provide all the food for people but it is not the case when one consider all that goes into gardening, farming, food prep, food preservation, and preparing for the next year. When one considers the community and their food needs the whole dynamics of food acres per person changes.

    These actual needs vary greatly per local but is far above 4000 square feet. It involves animals, field grains, and various other forages. Animals will be needed in this equation and they will have to be fed. You are fantasizing about the noble subsistence farmer of the 3rd world. The same is true of the permaculturist in the developed world.

    Your P’s has water contamination approaching China’s levels. Fisheries on which much of the population rely are dying. Your forests have been cut down. You have 100MIL in a small area that are islands in the cross hairs of climate change. That is no situation to brag about just as no American should be bragging about what the US can do.

    Food production will have to be a hybrid affair of industrial agriculture and adapting local production initially or billions will die. These changes will be forced upon us by economic collapse. It is unclear whether this economic collapse process will be long or short but it is in play now. It is human and climate in nature. There is nothing we can do about it but adapt. If we walk away from industrial modern agriculture half the world population will die in short order. Anyone disputing that needs their head examined.

    Mak, you are a big talker about food production but you have never done more than have a garden. You have never done industrial agriculture and if your faux farm is a small permaculture operation you still have much to learn. I have done industrial agriculture and I am doing permaculture grass fed cattle and goats. I have a garden and have 400 acres on which I can forage. I am not optimistic about going it alone and I have all the resources available. How is someone going to make a go of it in an unstable world with 4000 square feet? They ain’t.

    Survival will be a community affair and most of the community will have to be engaged in it. That means so many more square feet per person to support all those other people doing other necessary activities. Quit your flatulence about how well your P’s will be. We are all up the focking creek without a paddle globally. Nearly all locals are at risk some very dangerously. Every single large urban area across the globe is in a very dangerous situation. The rural areas are exposed to mass migrations. Nowhere is safe.

  20. makati1 on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:21 am 

    Rodster, You missed a fact there. F.F. made an unsubstantiated claim, better known as a lie. He obviously has had too much USMSM Koolaid.

    Take a good, close look at any major river in the US or even a stream that runs past or thru small towns. Better yet take a big glass of the water and drink it down. I have seen all of the pollutants he spouted off about, in the rivers of America. You even swim in them at your own risk.

    The ‘treated’ water from every ‘city’ sewage system is dumped into the nearest river or stream only to be pumped out and used down stream by the next town or city. If you live in a coastal city, that water may have been through the guts of 20 or more people before you drink it. LOL

  21. Davy on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:36 am 

    Makster said “Rodster, You missed a fact there. F.F. made an unsubstantiated claim, better known as a lie. He obviously has had too much USMSM Koolaid.”

    Mak, enjoy your own medicine. This is exactly what you are doing to the “T”. Lies and distortions are your “Modus operandi”.

  22. Davy on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:44 am 

    Makster, the water situation in the US is a mixed bag. Some of what you say is true but not all. I am a member of American Rivers and have been for 20 years now. I am a member of Missouri stream Teams I know what I am talking about. Americans have been making a huge effort on our rivers but it is a losing battle with modern life but it is an effort.

    In Asia you are trashing your water sources without concern. In Asia the only concern is growth at any cost. Over population and overconsumption is killing your ecosystem across the region on land and with the oceans. Asia is “THE” worst in this regard no question and Mak you are smack dab in the middle of it.

  23. beamofthewave on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:44 am 

    Rome conquered the world on a vegetarian diet, meat will only be for xmas in the future.

  24. Davy on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:51 am 

    “Typically, the Romans ate three meals a day. Breakfast – ientaculum. The Romans ate a breakfast of bread or a wheat pancake eaten with dates and honey. Lunch – prandium. At midday they ate a light meal of fish, cold meat, bread and vegetables.”

    Roman Food – Primary Homework Help

  25. Davy on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:53 am 

    Beam me up, meat may be my basic diet with fresh fruit and vegies seasonal. That is the nature of my local in collapse.

  26. F.F.K.H. on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 12:03 pm 

    Mak Attack:

    There is a plethora of sources including this article titled, “The Five Most Polluted Rivers in Asia”, which can be found here:

    Simply type into your browser “Philippines Most Polluted Fresh Water in World” and let me know what you discover.

    Many cities like St. Louis and numerous others along the length of the Mississippi derive their drinking water from the river.

    I agree with Davy. Stop presenting the Philippines as Shangri La and the US as some Third World dump. You clearly have a personal axe to grind with the US.

  27. Rodster on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 12:18 pm 

    “I agree with Davy. Stop presenting the Philippines as Shangri La and the US as some Third World dump. You clearly have a personal axe to grind with the US.”

    And it’s a shame really because as i’ve tried to point out we’re all going down together. There are no winners and losers this time. We are tied at the hip with hyper-globalization and massively complex interconnected financial and economic systems.

    You can’t pull the plug on any eCONomy today without having catastrophic effects playing out. The fact that an insignificant country such as Greece was NOT allowed to default should tell you where we are in this endgame. Now just imagine what an eCONomy such as the US or China going tits up.

    Speaking of which here’s a good article on the state of affairs over in China’s eCONomy.

    “China’s veiled economy”

  28. apneaman on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 12:39 pm 

    That is some seriously lame conformation bias Davy. An elementary school in the UK web site? Also they are talking about what wealthy 1%er Romans ate in Britain, which was a tiny fraction of the empire. I guess that’s what you relate to eh? What did the 1/3 of the population who were slaves eat? What did the legionnaires eat? How about a labourer in the 2nd century AD in Barcino or a merchant in Greece in AD 66? Another Google historian.

  29. Davy on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 12:59 pm 

    Ape Man, about time you get out of bed you lazy shit. Please give us the Ape man version along with your usual links that give your lame agenda legitimacy. Is this stupid subject our new salient for battle today? If so get to work and give me something. Your blather is unsupported. I am pretty sure the Romans rich or poor would eat whatever was available and at that time that varied widely per the various locals. That would also depend on the time frame Ape being they had a very long civilization.

  30. F.F.K.H. on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:01 pm 

    Ape is your life so fricking miserable that you are compelled to pick a battle for any nutty reason. Another jaded and highly abrasive person who seeks pleasure by confronting other people over any possible reason……give it a rest.

  31. apneaman on Tue, 1st Dec 2015 7:12 pm 

    Blow me

  32. Kenz300 on Wed, 2nd Dec 2015 9:02 pm 

    Too many people and too few resources……..

    If you can not provide for yourself you can not provide for a child.

    Our World Living With Slums(philiphines)

  33. Kenz300 on Wed, 2nd Dec 2015 9:02 pm 

    China made great progress in moving its people out of poverty…….one reason was slowing population growth…..

    If you can not provide for yourself you can not provide for a child.

    Climate Change, declining fish stocks, droughts, floods, pollution, poverty, water and food shortages all stem from the worlds worst environmental problem……. OVER POPULATION.

    Yet the world adds 80 million more mouths to feed, clothe, house and provide energy and water for every year… this is unsustainable…

    Birth Control Permanent Methods: Learn About Effectiveness

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