We routinely assume that the collapse of society will be caused by war…or economics…or a major flare from the Sun. Maybe it will be, but something much more mundane, and much more taken for granted, may well mark the demise of the United States.
It’s official: We’re running out of water.
With the global population just touching 7 billion the demand for water has never been greater. According to the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) global water demand will increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050. By the end of that period they estimate that 40% of the people on Earth will be under severe water stress.
Over 3.8 billion people based on the projected population of 9.6 billion in 2050. (source)
Sobering thought, isn’t it? Almost 4 billion people will not have enough water to meet their basic requirements on a daily basis.
Unlike most other things in life there is no substitute for water. We simply have to have it. Contestation over water rights will increase as the situation becomes more serious. Who owns the water in a river? The country at the source of the river, the countries it flows through or the country it ends up in before it finally flows into the sea?
The same can be said of aquifers. The Ogallala aquifer is one of the largest in the world covering approximately 174,000 square miles under parts of Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Who has more rights to the water drawn from it?
Ogalalla supplies drinking water to millions of Americans and provides huge amounts of water for irrigation and industry, but the levels of water it contains are dropping. (source)
Drought and overuse mean it is not being replenished fast enough to keep up with the needs of those who are reliant on it. The water security of millions of Americans is rapidly diminishing, yet it’s something we hear little about.
There has been much written over the last year about private individuals being prosecuted for harvesting rainwater. There has been a couple of prosecutions. Gary Harrington of Eagle Point Oregon was given a 30 day jail term for harvesting rain water on his own land.
Looking a bit deeper at the case reveals why Harrington fell foul of the law. Oregon permits rainwater harvesting. What it doesn’t permit is building of dykes and dams drying up three tributaries of the Big Butte Creek. Harrington had over 13 million gallons of water in his three ‘reservoirs’ and at least one was stocked with fish. (source)
Most websites that claim rainwater harvesting is illegal in certain states cite the Harrington case. According to NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) rainwater collection is legal and actively encouraged in most states. Some even give tax breaks to households and business that collect rainwater and use greywater for irrigation.
The rules vary from state to state regarding the amounts that you are allowed to store and what you can use it for. Those states previously having bans on rainwater harvesting are in many cases reconsidering their position.
“Record droughts and water-supply worries have served as catalysts for state legislatures to consider legislation legalizing the catchment and use of rainwater for use in households and for lawns.” (source)
What is almost universally not allowed is the prevention of rain water reaching rivers by the blocking and damming of streams and tributaries of those rivers. This is in part to allow the refilling of aquifers such as the Ogalalla where much of the water trickles down into it from porous rocks in the river and stream beds that run above it. The NCSL website has a list of laws and regulations relating to rainwater harvesting on a state by state basis and has some good links to other resources.
History is littered with examples of empires and civilizations that fell due to the lack of water. There is no reason to think the United States is immune. Record droughts and low replenishment of aquifers, river levels dropping and the price of municipal water rising all mean that water security is in doubt for millions of Americans and billions around the globe.
This is not a crisis that may arise if the Sun hurls a CME our way.
This is not a crisis that may arise if the bankers aren’t kept in check
This is a crisis that is happening now, that unless we deal with it will hand us death and disease on a platter within a few decades.
4 billion people under severe water stress over the coming years. How many of them will be US citizens?
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Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!