By 2025, water shortage will become a major issue for many countries, possibly ours as well. How do we respond to such an occurrence?
This week’s Earth Day feature elaborates on this statistic and finding ways to reduce water consumption.
by Bianca Brais
On a hot summer day, what sounds better than ice cream? I think a milkshake sounds even better. Treat in hand, sitting by the pool, absorbing the sunlight, you hope for nothing more than to get a golden tan. But once you chug down that chocolate milkshake, you get thirsty, so you figure that a glass of fresh water would do the trick. However, while you waited for the tap water to get cold, did you ever think about all the water that was going down the drain, water that will never be used again?
How many of you take 50 minute showers or leave the tap running while you brush your teeth or shave? Did it ever cross your mind that you could possibly be wasting water, or do you simply take it for granted?
“When I take a glass of water, I never finish it. I throw half of it away for no reason,” second semester Cin/Vid/Com student Alexandre Guay said. “It’s not something that I do on purpose, water has just always been there, and it’s hard to imagine living without any.” This is a common attitude for most people. They don’t realize how much water they waste. When someone is given clean water, they over use it and take it for granted. Most individuals assume that water will always run out of the tap just because that’s what they are used to.
Will it always be here? Water is essential for survival, but what is society going to do when there is no more on earth? A human requires at least 50 litres of water per week to survive, which is an extremely hard amount to find in countries where water is scarce. The poorer the country, like Haiti and Africa, the less water is available to the citizens, which means they are forced to drink untreated water. Untreated water is filled with infectious bacteria, viruses and parasites. Other examples include Cuba, Northern China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Scotland that are highly populated countries but are severely impacted with inadequate drinking water.
Do you remember the days where oil was the most expensive substance on earth? Well, now scientists are beginning to worry that the price of water will increase like it did with oil, “People already pay as much as $US 5-10 dollars for a cubic metre of tap water in some countries in Europe (including treatment of waste) and up to several hundred US dollars for a cubic metre of bottled mineral water,” Erik Denison, CBC investigator reporter said. With this kind of trend, fresh water, not oil, will probably become the most expensive substance on earth.
The population is growing at a high rate, which leads to the augmentation of water consumption. In 2002, the world’s population was at 6.2 billion people. By 2015, it is expected to increase to 7.2 billion. Will there be enough water for everyone? “I think there will,” Aly Lalji, fourth semester Pure and Applied student said. “A lot of ice caps are melting which gives us more clean water to drink. How we manage the water is a different story.”
Presently, out of six billion people in the world, one billion lack access to fresh water. Most live in poor, undeveloped nations. However, Director of the Institute of Water Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Danilov-Danilyan explained that rich nations like America will also be affected by the lack of water. The signs of shortage are already beginning to show and something will have to be done in order to stop it. He stated that “about 1.1 billion people living on the globe already suffer from a serious lack of fresh water. By 2025, this number will increase to three billion — over 40 percent of the entire population.”
By 2025-2030, approximately half of the world’s population will face serious water shortage. This prediction dramatizes that hundreds of cubic kilometres of water are lost every year because of all the modern technologies used to pump it through pipes; it pollutes about half of the available fresh water.
The increase in population is only one of the problems facing the rising demand of water. Water electricity and the inefficient use of water are also to blame. Thermal energy is a huge water user and power production facilities such as coal or natural gas use a lot of water in the production process. “Nuclear Energy production uses tremendous amounts of water to cool the super-heated uranium rods,” Institute for Agriculture and Trade senior policy analyst Shiney Varghese said. “This demand is only likely to rise with politicians beginning to call for an increased reliance on nuclear power.”
While 97 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, only three percent is fresh water, the rest is salt. That’s not much drinking water if you think about it. However, over two-thirds of the fresh water is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. At the moment, there are many projects to help transport icebergs from Antarctica and Canada already uses icebergs from Greenland to make drinking water, Danilov-Danilyan explained.
“I think we’ll all be in deep shit,” second semester Visual Arts student Melinda Pierre-Paul Cardinal said. “What with global warming causing tsunamis and earthquakes everywhere, droughts seem likely to be the next thing on Mother Nature’s list. I’d like to keep our leafy trees alive, thank you very much.”
Indeed, experts have concluded that one of the predicted effects of global warming will be droughts. Therefore, the people who rely on rainfall for their water supply needs will be faced with an unfortunate problem; one of the predicted effects of global warming will be the reduction of rainfall and more droughts.
“80 percent of our nations’ freshwater is put to use for irrigation,” Varghese said. “This high percentage is due to the inefficient usage of water irrigation.” A large amount of water flows through open ditches; soaks in the ground and evaporates. You’d think that all this extra water in the soil would be good for the plants, but then again, we don’t want to drown our flowers.
It’s hard to imagine the future today; most people live in the moment and don’t think of what could happen a few years down the road. “I’m afraid to see how the world will turn out,” second semester Cin/Vid/Com student Melanie Lapointe said. “We use way too much water and the society will be affected later on.”
Many countries are feuding over the use of water. “States in the Western United States have been feuding for years over the usage of the Colorado River. Turkey, Syria and Iraq are also feuding over the usage of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.” Danilov-Danilyan said.
Despite their natural fresh water reserves, China and India, the two most populated countries in the world will also suffer from lack of water. Nevertheless, Africa, the Middle East, South and South-East Asia will be hit with this crisis first.
Many countries such as Russia have been signing special agreements on the use of water resources. The agreement is to share their excessive water reservations. “Sooner or later people will learn to take care of water,” Danilov-Danilyan said.
By 2021, Varghese estimates that there is a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead and Lake Powell will dry up if water shortage trends continue. “(The lakes) provide water to nearly 25 million residents in the South-western United States.”
This crisis can be avoided with smart management. “The technology of desalination, which very well could be the best way to supply water for future uses,” Varghese said. A few States such as Florida have been using this system. Desalination is a process that removes salt and other particles from seawater; it gets rid of the impurities and makes it potable. Getting water may not always be as simple as turning a knob and expecting water to flow out; individuals may actually have to work to get a fresh glass of water.
“I have relatives who live on a farm and have to pump their water from a well. To use the water, it has to go through a softener to get rid of all the rubbish, the pump pulls 10 gallons a minute,” Lalji said. “To drink it, the water has to go through a distiller, that takes a little longer.”
Think about all the water you use. Do you abuse it? People don’t realize how much they use unless someone tells them. For example, leaving the tap running seems to be a normality for most people. “Now that I think of it, I have the tendency to leave the water on while I’m brushing my teeth,” Lapointe said. “I use way more than I need. But I take short showers. Doesn’t that even out?”
Water is essential to our daily lives. Apart from desalination, there are several other ways you could cut down on water and help the world avoid a horrid water shortage. All it takes is a little effort, so stop being lazy and start celebrating earth day by being conscientious of the water you use.
First, take shorter showers. Fill your tub with less water. Use dish washers and washing machines when they are full. When washing your car, use a bucket instead of a hose, besides, how dirty can your car actually get? Furthermore, use refrigerated water instead of waiting for the tap water to get cold. Whenever you use water, think about the future; picture yourself in a drought. So, next time you brush your teeth, for the sake of the entire nations, will you please close the tap?