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Peak Water (audio and text)
Virginia Prescott, New Hampshire Public Radio
We heard about the idea of “peak oil” beginning in the 1950s, when scientists predicted a point at which the rate of oil production would reach a climax. After that, supply wouldn’t be able to catch up with demand, triggering a massive energy crisis.
The shrinking availability of water doesn’t grab the headlines in quite the same way. Why panic, when water is only a turn of the faucet away?
But water shortages have long been considered a problem for the developing world
… Matthew Power traveled to three thirsty regions that may be close to “peak water” for an article in the May issue of WIRED Magazine, and he spoke with Word of Mouth host Virginia Prescott about what he saw.
We also listened to an interview aired on the public radio program Living on Earth with Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch about an online water calculator.
(1 May 2008)
Solving Our Water Problems – Desalination Using Solar Thermal Power
Big Gav, Peak Energy
… In this post I’ll look at the Acquasol project and then more generally at water scarcity worldwide and some of the approaches being taken to tackle it.
… Australia’s troubles with water are well known by now, thanks to our recent bout of intense drought and the impact this has had on agricultural production and subsequently on a number of global commodity prices – rice being the most recent example.
The United States has also started to experience issues with water supplies in both the south east and south western states.
Access to fresh, clean water has increasingly become an issue worldwide in recent years, as a number of factors come into play affecting both supply and demand:
* Population is increasing – and most rapidly in drier regions
* People have become wealthier and accustomed to using more water
* Polluted water has become more common, as large swathes of the developing world industrialise
* Ever increasing demand for power (and newer forms of energy like biofuels or coal to liquids plants)
* Groundwater aquifers have been depleted by irrigation for agriculture
* The water industry is mostly made up of public utilities that have often been starved of new investment funds
* Climate change has impacted rain patterns, reducing rainfall levels and increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts
* Melting glaciers have reduced water flows
* Water has been cheap, so there is little incentive to conserve it
These issues have combined to make water a sensitive security issue in some regions, with some experts predicting resource wars over water, with obvious parallels to conflict over dwindling fossil fuel supplies (though thankfully water isn’t actually depleting – it is more of a quality and availability issue).
(2 May 2008)
One of History’s Great Atrocities: The Corporate Theft of the Public’s Natural Right to Water
Ashley Powdar, Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)
… The heightened trend towards water privatization has gone almost undetected by the general public for well over a decade, despite the huge ramifications it is having on many lives. Public water advocates argue that it is a necessity of life and no individual or corporation has the right to seize ownership and place a value on the resource. Water is for life, not for profit. Author Vadana Shiva resolutely states that “water is a commons because it is the basis of all life. Water rights are natural rights and thus usufructuary rights, meaning that water can be used, but not owned.” Water privatization has caused considerable strife around the world, specifically in less industrialized nations. Major water companies, with the help of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), continue to divest communities of their natural right to water, thus undermining the essence of democracy as well as contributing to an insidious form of global deprivation.
(30 April 2008)