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The Importance of Water

April 7, 2012

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by Michael Specter


Water is often seen as the most basic and accessible element of life, and  seemingly the most plentiful. For every gallon in rivers or lakes, fifty more  lie buried in vast aquifers beneath the surface of the earth. Yet at least since  the cities of ancient Sumeria went to war over control of their rivers—long  before tales of Moses parting the Red Sea or the Flood described in the  Bible—water has been a principal source of conflict. (The word “rivals” even has  it roots in fights over water, coming from the Latin rivalis, for “one  taking from the same stream as another.”) By 2050, there will be at least nine  billion people on the planet, the great majority of them in developing  countries. If water were spread evenly across the globe, there might be enough  for everyone. But rain often falls in the least desirable places at the most  disadvantageous times. Delhi gets fewer than forty days of rain each year—all in  less than four months. In other Indian cities, the situation is worse. Somehow,  though, the country has to sustain nearly twenty per cent of the earth’s  population with four per cent of its water. China has less water than Canada—and  forty times as many people. With wells draining aquifers far faster than they  can be replenished by rain, the water table beneath Beijing has fallen nearly  two hundred feet in the past twenty years.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    April 27, 2012 7:18 pm

    Scary to think of the suffering this could lead to in the future.

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