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Global Environmental Catastrophe Part 1: Fresh Water

Updated on November 24, 2016
Sam Wickstrom profile image

Sam realizes we're fucked if we don't alter business as usual and face the monumental environmental challenges humans have created.

The Importance Of The Water Cycle

Water is life. It is the universal solvent that all biological processes on earth need to continue. The human body is made of 60% water. As I write wars are being fought over water. As we continue to pump the air with methane, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, the air continues to warm up. As the earth's atmosphere warms, it can hold more water vapor, allowing more water to evaporate. As more water evaporates, groundwater that is essential to decent survival is rapidly becoming a scarce and immensely valuable resource.

Without easy access to clean running water, economies begin to collapse. With the collapse of economies we tend to find an exponential increase in tensions, political or otherwise, leading to civil wars and disputes over water sources. When a problem like this grows large enough, we'll begin to see terrorism over access to water.


Water Shortages And Drought

India is in the midst of a severe drought. This transforms the way people live their lives, if they cannot farm they must move into the cities to find a new way of living. This problem has been seen in Syria as well. More than a million Syrian farmers have had to leave their farms due to ongoing drought, upon entering the already overcrowded cities they are unable to find work or stability in a region torn apart by ongoing conflict.

Wars are being fought for control over fossil fuels, while extreme droughts drive refugees to search for new homes. In Somalia the same thing is happening, people are ripped from their way of life because of a combination of conflict and the increase in food prices and lack of water caused by drought. In Zimbabwe we see a familiar crisis, drought and its effects on the economy leading to political tensions.

In the western half of the U.S. we're beginning to see there are effects because of our actions not just in developing nations, but at home as well. With business as usual the U.S. can be expecting the worst mega-drought in over a thousand years, lasting at least 35 years. Cities like Las Vegas are already feeling the effects, needing to ship water for hundreds of miles to quench the thirst of the desert city's populace.

"Even when selecting for the worst megadrought-dominated period, the 21st-century projections make the megadroughts of the past seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden," study co-author Jason E. Smerdon of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said in a statement.

Among the EU nations water demand is exceeding water availability. Droughts are damaging crop yields and leading to a sense of urgency in the EU. But the crisis is mild in comparison to developing nations closer to the equator.

NASA Groundwater Drought Data U.S.

U.S. Groundwater Drought
U.S. Groundwater Drought

Land Subsidence And Desertification

So you see that this is very serious and the complications are much worse than just the loss of water itself. We're also beginning to see cities and various regions actually sinking from the excessive pumping of subterranean aquifers. In California there is very astonishing rates of sinking land otherwise known as subsidence. Some parts of the San Joaquin Valley in California are sinking as much as 2 inches per month. Because of the droughts agricultural regions are needing to pump water more aggressively than ever, unable to allow time for the natural cycles to replenish the aquifers. If the land does shrink too much, it will permanently lose it's ability to effectively store groundwater which leads to permanent desertification.

As water under Beijing is eagerly pumped for the ever growing population and booming economy researchers notice intense land subsidence happening there as well. The shrinking of land underneath Beijing is happening at around four inches a year and is slowly increasing, this is a very serious threat to public safety in the densely populated urban areas. Not to mention the lack of water, which leads to increased food and water prices. But, developed areas can hold out a little longer than the severely impoverished areas such as India, Somalia, Syria, and many more.

Introduction To Desertification

Increasing Wildfires

Higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snow-melt typically cause soils to be drier for longer, increasing the likelihood of uncontrollable wildfires due to a longer wildfire season, particularly in the western United States.

From TheEconomicCollapse:

In the past couple of years we have seen giant dust storms known as "haboobs" roll through Phoenix, and six of the 10 worst years for wildfires ever recorded in the United States have all come since the year 2000. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, "the average number of fires larger than 1,000 acres in a year has nearly quadrupled in Arizona and Idaho and has doubled in every other Western state" since the 1970s.

Wildfires in the western United States have been increasing in frequency and duration since the mid-1980s, occurring nearly four times more often, burning more than six times the land area, and lasting almost five times as long (comparisons are between 1970-1986 and 1986-2003).

Today, November 24 2016, tens of thousands are being evacuated from various areas across Israel in their worst wildfire since 2010.

The extensive warming of the atmosphere, combined with disruption to the water cycle is causing wildfires to burn like never before.

Canada Wildfire

Wildfire in Canada
Wildfire in Canada

Water Pollution

Never before have fresh water sources been so exploited and polluted by human activities.

In the state of North Carolina pig shit from factory farms turns the rivers into disgusting flows of animal sewage. Not only is the stench noxious, but the bacteria content of the water is killing off all the wildlife in the area which relies on the many precious rivers for their own survival.

The Yangtze river in China accounts for 40% of China's freshwater resources, more than 70% of the country’s rice production, 50% of its grain, more than 70% of fishery production, and 40% of China’s GDP. Over the last 50 years, there has been a 73% increase in pollution levels from hundreds of cities, in the main stem of the Yangtze River. The annual discharge of sewage and industrial waste in the river has reached about 25 billion tons, which is 42% of the country’s total sewage discharge, and 45% of its total industrial discharge.

In India the Ganges river and its tributaries provide a constant source of irrigation to an extensive area. The major crops cultivated in that area include rice, lentils, sugarcane, potatoes, oil seeds and wheat. Along the banks of the river, the existence of swamps and lakes provide a rich fertile area for crops like legumes, chillies, sesame, mustard, sugarcane, and jute. There are also many fishing zones along the river. It provides water to about 40% of India's population across 11 states, serving an estimated population of 500 million people or more, which is larger than any other river in the world. The river flows through 29 cities with population over 100,000; 23 cities with population between 50,000 and 100,000, and about 48 towns. A large proportion of the sewage water with higher organic load in the Ganges is from this population through domestic water usage. Industrial effluents are about 12% of the total volume of effluent reaching the Ganga. Water in the Ganga has been correlated to contracting dysentery, cholera, hepatitis, as well as severe diarrhea which continues to be one of the leading causes of death of children in India.

In the U.S. communities up and down the river use the Mississippi to obtain freshwater and to discharge their industrial and municipal waste. More than 50 cities rely on the Mississippi for daily water supply. More than 12.7 million pounds of toxic chemicals such as nitrates, arsenic, benzene and mercury were dumped into the Mississippi River in 2010, according to a report released today by the advocacy group Environment Missouri.

In Southeast Asia the Tigris and Euphrates river systems provide irrigation to thousands of farms and water to hundreds of millions of people. Since 1975, Turkey’s extensive dam and hydro-electric power construction has reportedly reduced water flows into Iraq and Syria by approximately 80 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. Low flow rates in Iraq have allowed salt water to infiltrate nearly 150km inland from the Persian Gulf. Turkey has accused Iraq of poor water management practices, which, it says, are exacerbating Iraq’s water crisis. Tensions between these countries remain high because of the issue of water management.

Polluted River
Polluted River

Infographic On California's Drought

California's Drought Facts
California's Drought Facts


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    • Sam Wickstrom profile image

      Sam 12 months ago from Nelson, BC, Canada

      Well most people must know that. But if you eat a pound of beef its as if you've just showered every day for six months. Thats usually ignored

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 12 months ago from Tasmania

      My favourite demonstration of quantity is to show someone a "wheelie bin."

      A 120 lt (approx 26 gal) one. If you shower for 12 minutes, that is the amount of water you are likely to be using, maybe more.

      Or more than half a 44-gal oil drum.

      It's usually a wake-up call, they had no idea.

    • Sam Wickstrom profile image

      Sam 12 months ago from Nelson, BC, Canada

      Thankyou Jonny :) lol

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 12 months ago from Tasmania