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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Water management needs to improve

    Move over oil, water is about to steal your throne.

    It may seem hard to believe when even here in the bone-dry southwest, water exists in plentiful supply, thanks to technology like water treatment plants, storage tanks and pumps. Water parks guzzle millions of gallons of water a year, and backyard swimming pools are a staple of desert real estate. But the clock is closing in on the hour where oil needs will take a back seat to thirst.

    Unless we do something to stop it, an estimated 3.9 billion people in the world will be struggling to find water by 2030 due to overpopulation, overconsumption, climate change and poor water management, according to a 2008 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. By 2030, there will be an estimated population of 8.3 billion, meaning nearly half of our population will suffer from lack of adequate water supplies.

    Furthermore, the countries affected won’t just be the underdeveloped ones, or those with barren environments. Eighty-percent of the people residing in China, India, Brazil and Russia will encounter medium to severe water stress if nothing is done to prevent the rising needs of water and future shortages, which is only 17 percent higher than today. While some countries like the United States are privileged enough to have abundant supplies of water, the repercussions of these foreign water shortages will be harmful on a global scale if we don’t work now to conserve and manage water supplies everywhere. Less than 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh, and less than 0.007 percent is actually readily accessible to us through lakes, rivers or streams.

    Unfortunately, these sources of water are also the most important for agriculture, which uses up most of that meager 0.007 percent. Fifteen percent of all American food is imported from other countries, so when their streams run dry, our food supply will thin. As agriculture falters in foreign nations, the industry behind it will also suffer economic downfall. This will have major consequences for the world economy, especially for countries that heavily rely on agriculture. In Pakistan, agriculture makes up 21 percent of its gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.

    Pakistan and India stand in a particularly risky situation. The two nations share several rivers within the Indus River basin, and at the moment, a 1960 treaty between the two nations is all that has kept water-sharing stable in the region. A 2011 report by the U.S. Senate argues that hostility may surface in the future over these rivers.

    Yet not all is lost. Like oil, one solution is to simply start drilling. The United Nations estimates that deep underground aquifers all over the world possess 547 times as much water as every river on Earth combined. It wouldn’t be difficult to start drilling either, since the technology to build aquifer pumps already exists from the oil industry.

    While drilling is one process that can potentially alleviate water shortages worldwide, aquifers are only short-term solutions to the bigger issue: distribution. Unfortunately for us, human population doesn’t always crowd around the biggest watering hole. Asia is home to nearly 60 percent of the population, but only contains 36 percent of the world’s water. South America, on the other hand, consists of only six percent of the population, but has 26 percent of the water.

    Therefore, conservation is key. Agriculture uses up around 70 percent of water supplies, so it is crucial for us to assist other countries in conservation. Water storage tools, smarter irrigation and growing crops that demand less water are all methods that can make a real difference in sustaining adequate water supplies for people and not just plants. If we work toward accomplishing these efforts now, the agriculture sector can continue to flourish, billions of people will have access to water in the future and nations will never need to declare water wars. Otherwise, we will all be like fish out of water.

    — Michael Carolin is a junior studying journalism and creative writing. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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