“It has been said that water will be “the oil of the 21st century,” or “liquid gold,” and that it will cause wars between nations.” CBC article at this link.
There are several water related emergencies in the world and two within the United States. The concept of Peak Water, as with Peak Oil and Peak Lifetime, simply states that per person we are faced with the impossibility of using as much water as we presently do. In the face of both climate change and global population increase this rate of freshwater usage is simply not sustainable.
In the Middle East there are several countries which presently use all available freshwater resources. An example of the scale of engineering required for such countries to maintain high availability of water resources without those resources can be viewed in Saudi Arabia, where projects costing in excess of a $1 billion are required for desalination technology.
“Tractebel Engineering has been awarded the Owner’s Engineer mission for the construction of a combined cycle plant (2750 MW) and a large sea water desalination facility of 800 000 m3/day capacity, making it the largest in the world. The plant will be erected in Jubail, an industrial town in the northeast of Saudi Arabia.
Tractebel Engineering was involved from the outset in the project design, permitting to develop innovative solutions. As a result, 27 identically-built units will produce the water at a very competitive price, while combined cycles will generate the electricity.
This project accounts for some 10% of the power installed in Saudi Arabia, whose energy needs are growing fast. It is also a significant source of fresh water supply for the country. Start-up is scheduled in July 2009.”
Water conflict has become a significant motivation for regional tension between countries and between states in the United States. The number of examples is large enough to be documented in full length text books, although rarely reported in a careful or thoughtful way by the newsmedia. Each water dispute case is presented, briefly in the press, and then forgotten with no connections to the global nature of this problem.
There is no coherent national water policy within the United States. This lack of national policy has resulted in two large scale water disputes, in the southeastern and western United States. In each region states have begun long legal actions against each other.
Here are a few links, including an excellent Cambridge University Press book focused on water conflicts:
The southeast has become a political joke. Here is an article where the Gov. of Georgia admits that the states of Florida, Georgia and Alabama have failed totally. He calls for (everyone sitting down?) Congressional and Federal action. Here is the AJC article. The situation is beyond stupid because of earlier irresponsible actions taken. Why is this all happening?
“A federal judge in July ruled that metro Atlanta is not congressionally authorized to take water from Lake Lanier. Under Judge Paul Magnuson’s ruling, Georgia, Florida and Alabama have three years to work out a water-sharing arrangement — or else Atlanta’s allocation of water from Lanier would revert back to 1970s levels.”
The city of Atlanta will run out of water. Here is the article.
The present generation will have to sort these issues out; they may become the most important to be solved. These shortages also highlight the critical responsibility of safeguarding water resources from pollution.
The world bank has realized that global climate change is a direct threat to the welfare and economic activity of hundreds of million activity and in this article describe what actions should be taken.
This news article from the conservative Anchorage Daily News shows how serious this all is becoming with respect to climate. Here is a story that is quite terrifying.
I say terrifying because of the Clathrate gun hypothesis. Here is a link explaining this important model.
From a geological perspective the most interesting extinction event is the Permian event. This is well covered in this book. I have worked in two regions where there were excellent outcrops of the Permian extinction units. There is an obvious signal of massive extinction, almost complete removal of land plants, and acidification of the ocean, it’s quite striking. No one is predicting such an event in our future, so relax, but read the book, it’s an interesting story of when life nearly died on Planet Earth.
A readable book looking at climate change, firmly grounded in science is “Six Degrees”, by Mark Lynas. A review can be found here.