Monday, March 16, 2009

The New Oil

Euronews today played a 150-second segment on water scarcity, in connection with the ongoing World Water Forum that is taking place in Istanbul, Turkey. The results of the conference focusing on this increasingly scare resource were covered in a different segment, in which the channel noted that several protestors were ironically dispersed using water cannon. However, that incident is trivial if looking at the bigger picture. And that bigger pictures, according to the pan-European news channel, is quoted as follows:

"Turning the tide on the planet’s water problems will be enormous. It is estimated that one in six people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water and the lack of sanitation is the world’s biggest cause of infection.

Most of our water consumption goes into agriculture (66 percent), industry accounts for 20 percent, domestic needs 10 percent, and about four percent evaporates from man-made reservoirs.

H2O remains one of the most unevenly distributed commodities on Earth. For example, someone in the West who takes a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing world slum uses in a whole day.

In many parts of the world, water shortages are a major cause of conflict. Such is the case in Darfur, western Sudan, and in the Middle East, where water is a major issue between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

One solution for wealthy, water-scarce countries is desalination. But it is a costly, energy-guzzling procedure. It is only an option for rich nations like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, the world’s biggest producers of desalinated water.

An added stress to world water supplies is population growth, with the global population predicted to soar from 6.5 billion to more than nine billion by 2050.

And global water shortage faces another major challenge: climate change. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, for example, the most productive agricultural region in the world, water levels have reached dangerously low levels. A drought emergency was declared last month and along with the soil, farmings jobs have dried up.

Many experts say water has become the new oil and, unless dramatic solutions are found, access to it will become the world’s major source of conflict in the future."

P.S. The two graphs pictured are courtesy of

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