Much of the world including America’s breadbasket could be facing severe freshwater shortages by mid-century, and some are warning the planet actually could run out of drinkable water.
“There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing today,” water expert Benjamin Sovacool of Denmark’s Aarhus University told the press. “… If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage — even if water was free, because it’s not a matter of the price. There’s no time to waste. We need to act now.”
Sovacool is a member of a research team that found the growing use of water in electric power plants could cause water shortages in many countries. Power plants use water to make steam, which runs the turbines that make electricity.
Sovacool co-authored two studies on the subject, which were done in collaboration with Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation. Electricity plants use more water than even the agricultural industry, the reports say.
Also contributing to the water shortage: population growth, economic development and an increasing number of droughts. California currently is in the middle of a mega-drought.
“[In India,] water demand will outstrip supply by as much as 50 percent by 2030, a situation worsened further by the country’s likely decline of available freshwater due to climate change,” one of the reports states. “[P]ower demand could more than double in northern China, more than triple in India, and increase by almost three-quarters in Texas.”
One of the hardest hit areas could be America’s High Plains, where the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground water reservoir, is being sucked dry by farmers. The Lubbock Avalanche Journal newspaper discovered that water levels in the aquifer have been dropping by a foot a year since 1969.
[Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth look at the Ogallala Aquifer crisis here.]
“When anybody tells me it’s going to last for 50 years, I just laugh,” Lucia Barbato of the Center for Geospatial Technology at Texas Tech University told The Avalanche-Journal. Barbato is one of a number of experts who thinks the aquifer could run dry in a few decades.
Mega Drought Coming to the High Plains
The Ogallala Aquifer supplies water to farmers in several states that produce much of America’s grain. The aquifer is going dry because farmers and cities are using water at a rate that’s faster than nature’s ability to recharge it.
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The facts surrounding the aquifer can only be described as disturbing:
- The area of the aquifer in the High Plains Underground Water District in West Texas has seen a 40-foot drop in water level since 1969.
- A study in Kansas estimated that the aquifer will run out of water in 50 years, or around the year 2064. Other experts think it could run out of water sooner.
- Some areas of the aquifer, such as West Texas and Colorado’s plains, could run out of water sooner because they receive less rainfall. “How long the aquifer lasts depends on where you are,” Barbato said.
- Some counties in West Texas could run out of groundwater within 15 years. Those counties include the city of Lubbock, where Texas Tech is located.
“Certainly, the magnitude of the decline is greatest in Texas,” US Geological Survey (USGS) Hydrologist Virginia McGuire told the newspaper. “You’re still using water at a much faster rate than it’s being recharged.”
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