It’s the end of the world as we know it, right? At least that’s what all the 2012 doomsday cultists would have us believe. And while I find it unlikely that ancient Mayan calendars or magical crystal skulls will have any impact whatsoever on the future health and viability of the planet and its 1 billion+ inhabitants, our global water scarcity crisis continues unabated—and it’s starting to look rather grim.
This week, a new survey from the industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), titled “Water use in Indian Industry”, indicates that access to clean water is becoming difficult and that the problem is “likely to increase in the coming years.” Sixty percent of the survey’s respondents said that “nonavailability of required water was impacting their business today”—an impact that is only expected to rise (by 87%) over the next 10 years.
This combination of inadequate water supplies, and decreasing water quality, is expected to negatively impact Indian industry, including pharmaceutical, food processing, and agriculture. It’s not much of stretch to see the same scenarios played out all across the globe, impacting every industrialized nation and the communities that depend on their products and processes.
And as you already know, it’s not just industry that’s at risk. As we’ve discussed before, water shortages in the magnitude predicted will severely impact regional and international food production. Last June, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) released a report titled “Climate Change, Water and Food Security”, which highlighted the likelihood of water scarcity in the Mediterranean, Americas, Australia, and Southern Africa and the impact that scarcity would have on global food production.
A 2009 study by UNESCO substantiates this claim, revealing “water scarcity may limit food production and supply, putting pressure on food prices and increasing countries’ dependence on food imports.” Other predicted impacts: regional food shortages, increased fertilization costs, increased energy costs, and “possible financial speculation” leading to a steep increase in food prices.
The Water Project lists the health and human safety impacts of water scarcity, including:
* At any one time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from water-borne diseases.
* Over one-third of the world’s population has no access to sanitation facilities.
In developing countries, about 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.
* One out of every four deaths under the age of five worldwide is due to a water-related disease.
* In developing countries, it is common for water collectors, usually women and girls, to have to walk several kilometers every day to fetch water. Once filled, pots and jerry cans weigh as much as 20 kilograms (44 pounds).
So what do you think? When it comes to water scarcity, are we stuck with a one-way ticket to a futuristic nightmare on par with the best Hollywood’s ever come up with? Considering the strong connection between water and energy, can we assume that the impact of water scarcity will actually be magnified and exponentially expanded once power generation and delivery are affected? And, if we are headed towards a “worst-case” scenario, do we have the time and resources to stave off disaster and recalibrate our water use and resource management?
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
January 12th, 2012
Planning & Executing an Effective Pavement Preservation Program
As roadway networks and commercial vehicle loading continue to increase and Municipality taxation power remains limited, the need to effectively maintain and improve our pavement infrastructure is paramount. Join David Hein, V.P. of Transportation for ARA, to explore the key concepts of an effective pavement preservation program, program implementation needs and guidelines, and common roadblocks to successful implementation. Read more…
January 26th, 2012
5 Steps to Creating a Successful Public Outreach Campaign
Change starts with people. Whether your focus is stormwater pollution, energy conservation, pavement restoration, or recycling, a successful public outreach campaign resonates with your target audience and leads to long-lasting behavior change. Join Erica Hooper of SGA to explore a proven 5-step approach to crafting a successful outreach campaign based on real-world examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read more…