Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is Water the New Gold? Part 3

Can we solve the global water shortage?

As for piping water to newly expanding cities, finding adequate supplies is a big issue. Asia contains 61% of the world's population but only 36% of its fresh water supply. China is even worse off, with 21% of the world's population but only 7% share of the fresh water.

The money pump

Alex Prud'homme warns of the troubled fate of fresh water in his new book, “The Ripple Effect.” The idea originated from a conversation with American chef Julia Child (his great-aunt) on the French obsession with bottled water and how that obsession was spreading to the U.S. From that light conversation, Prud'homme uncovered the dark future outlined in his book.

The book boils the problem down to this simple fact: The Earth holds all the water it always has, "but the number of people using it, how they use it, and where they use it has dramatically changed." We abuse water. We take it for granted, pollute it and price it too cheaply. And we take too much of it from underground reservoirs too quickly.

The Ogallala is the third-largest aquifer in the world. It supplies nearly 30% of all of America's fresh water and the vast majority of the supply to grain-growing states like Kansas, Texas and Nebraska. But it's running out. At current consumption, the aquifer will be pumped dry in as little as 20 years.