Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Myth of Water Scarcity – Developed Countries

I’m sure you’ve read an article on water scarcity, either online or in a newspaper or magazine. The article usually mentions that two thirds of the earth is covered in water, but only two percent is fresh water. The article was probably mentioning water shortages in a developed area in the world or a third world country. The main point of the article was probably focusing on the author’s position that there is a shortage of water. But is there a shortage of water? I’m going to go against the grain and say there is no shortage of water; only the lack of will to produce and supply the required water.

Take for example the central valley of California. Today the western portion of the valley is drying up, its main source of water dammed up, so to say, at the Sacramento River Delta. Successful environmental lawsuits have reduced the amount of water being pumped from the Delta to ten percent of what the system was designed for. This supposed water shortage is not caused by a lack of water, but a lack of wanting to allow water to be pumped further downstream and fierce opposition to a proposed canal in 1982. When the system was first built water was conveyed through the Delta. Water is discharged at the northern side of the Delta and then pumped out on the southern side of the Delta.

Back in 1982 it was proposed to finish the California Aqueduct by building a peripheral canal, moving water around the Delta, funded through bonds and requiring approval through a ballot initiative. Unfortunately, for Californians the United States as a whole, the measure was defeated. Today the peripheral canal is back on the drawing board with an estimated cost of $3 billion. There is no guarantee that peripheral canal will be built and the west side of the valley may go fallow due to a scarcity of water. The scarcity of water is not because there is a lack of it, only because there is a lack of will to provide the water. The central valley of California is important because it provides an estimated 25% of the United States food supply and large exporter to other countries.

Another example is the small community of San Simeon on the Central Coast of California. The seaside community has halted new home construction due to a lack of water. However the technology exists to provide as much water as the community requires. What the community lacks is the will to utilize the technology to provide the water. Why does the community not want to utilize the technology? Because a vocal portion does not want additional people moving into the town. For if the water is provided the empty lots located in the town would be allowed to be developed.Another example of not a water shortage problem, but a lack of will to provide the water.

If we take a look at most locations in the developed world I think you’d find the same thing. The claim of scarcity of water, but in reality the lack of will to provide the water a growing population requires to survive on this planet.

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