Many of us blithely go about our day thinking water scarcity is the problem of countries like Africa. Even droughts in the US – well, as long as we alternate days using water sprinklers, we’ll be fine.
But we aren’t fine. The dwindling fresh water supply is becoming somewhat alarming. We need fresh water for our food supply and with an increasing population, food shortages will eventually become the norm. California provides 50% of all US grown produce and is facing the worst drought in history. Just as an example, California continues to plant almond farms – producing about 2 billlion lbs of almonds this year alone, roughly 3 times the amount of just 14 years ago. Each almond takes 1.1 gallon of water to produce. Yes, I did say EACH almond, so image 2 billion lbs of almonds!
Just to get us started, here are some remarkable statistics:
- While 70% of the Earth is covered by water, only 3% of that water is fresh water. And, about three quarters of all fresh water is taken up with glaciers and ice caps.
courtesy creative commons
- 100 years ago, Americans used about 7 gallons of water per day. Today, Americans use about 145 gallons of water per day. http://realtruth.org/articles/435-edws.html
- 1 ton of produce requires approx 1,000 tons of water
- Agriculture accounts for about 70% of US water pollution.
- California’s draining aquifers have caused parts of the San Joaquin Valley to sink by 11 inches a year. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/25-shocking-facts-about-the-earths-dwindling-water-resources
- The Colorado River no longer runs all the way to the ocean. Nestle is taking anywhere from 250-500 million gallons of water a year from the Colorado River Basin so it can bottle and sell its water. In 2012, while Nestle made over $4B in water sales, the Colorado River Basin has lost over 53 million acre feet of water since 2003. (NASA and the University of California at Irvine)
- Desalination, while creating fresh water from salt water, only transforms about half of what is put into desalination. The other half? It becomes twice as salinated and can only be put back into the oceans at a safe salination level. If it can not be returned to the ocean, it is lost.
- A US government report states that global demand for water could actually exceed supply by an amazing 40% by only 2030. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/25-shocking-facts-about-the-earths-dwindling-water-resources
- “Hello Ball” (Norton in the Honeymooners) – US golf courses use about 750 billion gallons of water per year
- Enter fracking – fracking uses a minimum of 4-6 million gallons of water per well. (Fact Checker: Does fracking use a lot, a little water? –http://www.rgj.com/story/news/2014/06/14/fact-checker-fracking-use-lot-little-water/10532315/
That is just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended) of horrifying statistics. Below is a map showing groundwater withdrawal in the last three years:
And that is not even as horrible as the Ogalalla aquifer being used to grow corn in the high plains. The withdrawal of this groundwater has far exceeded its ability to replenish itself. Since 1950, the Ogalalla aquifer has lost about 9% of its acre feet.
Next week, we can look at some of the things we are starting to do to arrest this situation that could eventually be our downfall.