In the coming years, millions will die, Central Asia will explode, Africa will explode, and hydrocarbons should not be on the agenda. Humanity has a battle for water ahead. Energy resources can be replaced at the very least, but how can we replace water?
No one has yet come up with an alternative to the most vital resource, and the problem is growing. The news feed is replete with reports of droughts and shallowing of rivers. It has gotten to the point that Europe periodically switches on strict water saving mode.
Last year, Great Britain had to count all precious drops:
“I filled a basin with waste water. Because in very severe drought conditions like ours, you need to use all the water you can. Water after washing dishes or after a shower is great for watering flowers,” said TV presenter Monty Don.
Water is actually a very tricky thing: it seems to be everywhere, but it’s not. The image below clearly shows where the problem lies. Imagine that the largest container is the entire available supply. There is a lot of water, but it is mostly salty.
The second capacity, already much smaller, is equivalent to the volume of fresh water on Earth. Now, to get to the third, very small vessel, we need to exclude the glaciers. And that tiny dot in the very corner is a bottle of fresh water available to humanity. This includes rivers, lakes and groundwater at an elevation of at least 2 km. The main source of water is rivers, where water exchange is the fastest: 12-16 days are enough for the water to be completely replaced.
Water is unevenly distributed
It turns out that the water is distributed extremely unevenly. The countries of North Africa and Central Asia are the most poorly provided for. India and China also join the list: there is quite a lot of water there, but due to the high population, it is also not enough.
There are also nuances within countries. Firstly, the supply of water to regions is influenced by the seasonal factor. Water has to be stored, which means reservoirs have to be built. Secondly, there is a territorial factor. It is overcome by building canals to redirect water from one part of the country to another.
Not so simple
This means that the construction of reservoirs and canals is important, however, these methods, which have long been familiar to mankind, have many disadvantages.
Let’s start with the obvious: building complex technical structures is very expensive. This results in huge consumption of materials and colossal labor costs. For example, the same Chinese river diversion project is estimated at $500 billion.
The construction of reservoirs involves the flooding of large areas. This process is man-made and unnatural. After all, the land itself could be used productively: it could be used for farming and livestock raising.
The reservoir destroys the existing ecosystem as well as the neighboring ones. The migration routes of animals are interrupted. The objections of environmentalists cannot be discounted as they are very dangerous because they pose a threat to the further existence of local animals and plants, including unique species.
Moreover, there is another unobvious disadvantage. By choosing to build reservoirs and canals, humanity concentrates on old methods of solving the problem. Instead of developing and utilising modern technologies, such as obtaining water from the atmosphere and drip irrigation, which can significantly save resources, efforts are focused on the use of heavy equipment and unskilled labor. Therefore, the professional community increasingly views multibillion-dollar financial investments in such structures as a diversion of colossal resources, which slows down scientific and technological progress.
The question of how to deal with growing water shortages remains open. Meanwhile, the problem is growing. In the 20th and 21st centuries, water consumption increased significantly. This is due not only to population growth, but also to industrial development. At the same time, the uneven distribution of water among the inhabitants of the Earth is also increasing. The Arabs for example, exhausted the aquifer and were forced to reconsider their approach to water use.
In arid regions, the shortage of fresh water is partly eliminated through desalination, which, of course, is not cheap. And in some countries, hydraulic structures are being built, which, in addition to the disadvantages already listed, lead to international conflicts.
Hydroelectric power in Africa has led to controversy not only within the continent. World powers such as China and the United States have supported different sides. And this is just one small issue related to the global problem – poor water supply. Everything indicates that we will soon be facing a colossal problem unless of course, we extract fresh water in the Arctic by installing ice melting plants.
Maybe that’s why all the countries of the world are now going to the Arctic to develop territories.