Thursday, January 22, 2009

NOW, PEAK WATER

Leo Lewis, Times UK - A swelling global population, changing diets and mankind's expanding "water footprint" could be bringing an end to the era of cheap water. The warnings, in an annual report by the Pacific Institute in California, come as ecologists have begun adopting the term "peak ecological water" - the point where, like the concept of "peak oil", the world has to confront a natural limit on something once considered virtually infinite. . .

Humans - via agriculture, industry and other demands - use about half of the world's renewable and accessible fresh water. But even at those levels, billions of people live without the most basic water services, Dr Gleick said.. . .

David Zhang, a geographer at the University of Hong Kong, produced a study published in the US National Academy of Sciences journal that analyzed 8,000 wars over 500 years and concluded that water shortage had played a far greater role as a catalyst than previously supposed. "We are on alert, because this gives us the indication that resource shortage is the main cause of war," he told The Times. "Human beings will definitely have conflicts over this."

Although in theory renewable sources of water were returned to the ecosystem and their use could continue indefinitely, Dr Gleick said, changes in the way water was exploited and how its quality degraded meant that methods of processing it would become more expensive.

UN calculations suggest that more than one third of the world's population is suffering from water shortages: by 2020 water use is expected to increase by 40 per cent from current levels, and by 2025, according to another UN estimate, two out of three people could be living under conditions of "water stress".