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Brink of disaster?

  1. Nov 14, 2007 #1


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    Empty shelves in Caracas. Food riots in West Bengal and Mexico. Warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political instability, with governments being forced to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products.

    Record world prices for most staple foods have led to 18% food price inflation in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia and India, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a year ago and rice is 20% more expensive, says the UN. Next week the FAO is expected to say that global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years and that prices will remain high for years.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2007 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    I know you are aware we had a recent climate disaster - the "little ice age". The effects on Europe were not too different from what your link indicates. Europe went thru Hell during some periods of the little ice age. Some historians think the plague was "boosted" by poor nutrition and miserable living conditions. Since I've seen plague first hand I do not think it needs boosting.... Maybe the modern incarnations of plague are the haemorrhagic fevers extant in Africa and the American SW.
  4. Nov 15, 2007 #3
    People in nondeveloped countries with high population growth rates do not know how to farm as well as people in developed countries. Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa do not have much farm land and have poor land management. Maybe the commonwealth is in trouble.
  5. Nov 19, 2007 #4


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    The gathering sandstorm: Encroaching desert, missing water
    China is losing a million acres a year to desertification. In Dunhuang, a former Silk Road oasis in the Gobi, the resulting water shortage has become critical. By Clifford Coonan
    Published: 09 November 2007

    Jiang Zhenzhong is watching, helpless, as his farm at the edge of the Gobi desert runs out of water. His cotton fields are close to the dwindling Crescent Moon lake in north-eastern China. The lake is famous throughout China, attracting a million visitors a year, but now it looks more like a village pond, encircled by railings and fading fast as the desert sucks up more and more water. In the 1960s, the lake used to be 10 metres deep – now it is barely one metre.
  6. Nov 19, 2007 #5


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    Invest in water.


    "An epic drought in Georgia threatens the water supply for millions. Florida doesn’t have nearly enough water for its expected population boom. The Great Lakes are shrinking. Upstate New York’s reservoirs have dropped to record lows. And in the West, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is melting faster each year. Across America, the picture is critically clear--the nation’s freshwater supplies can no longer quench its thirst."

    That’s the first paragraph of an Associated Press story, "Many States Seen Facing Water Shortages."

    Of course, this is what I’ve been telling you for months. And it’s only going to get worse. So the savvy investors a killing on investments in the water sector by capitalizing on the companies that will be providing the solutions to this problem.

    In the next five years, the US government predicts, at least 36 states will face water shortages, with causes ranging from climate change to population growth. But the water crisis isn’t monopolized by the US--it’s worldwide.

    The article continues, "Australia is in the midst of a 30-year dry spell, and population growth in urban centers of sub-Saharan Africa is straining resources. Asia has 60 percent of the world’s population, but only about 30 percent of its freshwater."

    And by 2050, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes, up to 2 billion people could be facing water shortages.
  7. Nov 19, 2007 #6


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    Hydrological cycle


    The earth's water supply remains constant, but man is capable of altering the cycle of that fixed supply. Population increases, rising living standards, and industrial and economic growth have place greater demands on our natural environment. Our activities can create an imbalance in the hydrologic equation and can affect the quantity and quality of natural water resources available to current and future generations.

    Water use by households, industries, and farms have increased. Poeple demand clean water at reasonable costs, yet the amount of fresh water is limited and the easily accessible sources have been developed. As the population increases, so will our need to withdraw more water from rivers, lakes and aquifers, threatening local resources and future water supplies. A larger population will not only use more water but will discharge more wastewater. Domestic, agricultural, and industrial wastes, including the intensive use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, ofter overload water supplies with hazardous chemicals and bateria. Also, poor irrigation practices raise soil salinity and evaporation rates. These factors contribute to a reduction in the availability of potable water, putting even greater pressure on existing water resources.

    Large cities and urban sprawl particularly affect local climate and hydrology. Urbanization is accompanied by accelerated drainage of water through road drains and city sewer systems, which even increases the magnitude of urban flood events. This alters the rates of infiltration, evaporation, and transpiration that would otherwise occur in a natural setting. The replenishing of ground water aquifers does not occur or occurs at a slower rate.

    Together, these various effects determine the amount of water in the system and can result in extremely negative consequences for river watersheds, lake levels, aquifers, and the environment as a whole. Therefore, it is vital to learn about and protect our water resources.
  8. Nov 19, 2007 #7


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    At average world grain consumption of just over 300 kilograms or one third of a ton per person per year, this would feed 480 million people. Stated otherwise, 480 million of the world’s 6 billion people are being fed with grain produced with the unsustainable use of water.

    Overpumping is a new phenomenon, one largely confined to the last half century. Only since the development of powerful diesel and electrically driven pumps have we had the capacity to pull water out of aquifers faster than it is replaced by precipitation.

    Some 70 per cent of the water consumed worldwide, including both that diverted from rivers and that pumped from underground, is used for irrigation, while some 20 per cent is used by industry, and 10 per cent for residential purposes. In the increasingly intense competition for water among sectors, agriculture almost always loses. The 1,000 tons of water used in India to produce one ton of wheat worth perhaps $200 can also be used to expand industrial output by easily $10,000, or 50 times as much. This ratio helps explain why, in the American West, the sale of irrigation water rights by farmers to cities is an almost daily occurrence.

    In addition to population growth, urbanization and industrialization also expand the demand for water. As developing country villagers, traditionally reliant on the village well, move to urban high-rise apartment buildings with indoor plumbing, their residential water use can easily triple. Industrialization takes even more water than urbanization.

    Rising affluence in itself generates additional demand for water. As people move up the food chain, consuming more beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, they use more grain. A western diet rich in livestock products requires 800 kilograms of grain per person a year, whereas diets in India, dominated by a starchy food staple such as rice, typically need only 200 kilograms. Using four times as much grain per person means using four times as much water.

    Once a localized phenomenon, water scarcity is now crossing national borders via the international grain trade. The world’s fastest growing grain import market is North Africa and the Middle East, an area that includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and the Middle East through Iran. Virtually every country in this region is simultaneously experiencing water shortages and rapid population growth.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2007
  9. Nov 19, 2007 #8


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    On 27 February 2006 the Queensland Conservation Council "called on the Beattie Government to drop any support for a desalination plant on the Gold Coast, due to the significant increase in greenhouse pollution that will be created by the plant's excessive electricity demands." They argue that "the Gold Coast City Council is attempting to fast track a 110 Megalitre desalination plant at Tugun to begin operation within the next 2 years."

    Queensland Conservation Council note that "The Gold Coast plant will take about as much electricity from the grid as 20 000 homes." They go on to note that "South East Queensland may need a new coal fired power station just keep the plant operating" but it also seems likely that the government may turn to the nuclear option as the ABC report in June 2006 noted that "An engineering expert says nuclear power is the best long-term way to run desalination plants in Australia."

    Mr Henry Boer from the Queensland Conservation Council notes that "A desalination plant on the Gold Coast will release over 150,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere each and every year. This will be one of the single biggest greenhouse polluters in the Gold Coast region" said Mr Boer.

    Mr Boer continued "With temperatures on the rise in South East Queensland, the Government should be developing greenhouse-friendly water supply options. A desalination plant will only worsen climate change, such as reduced average rainfall across South East Queensland."

    "Climate change is leading to water scarcity, but the Gold Coast City Council wants to build a desalination plant that will significantly increase carbon dioxide emissions."

    "Rainwater tanks and recycling are sustainable, greenhouse friendly water solutions for the Gold Coast. The Government of 'The Smart State' should support these options."

    Source: http://www.qccqld.org.au/media_releases/2006/270206.htm
  10. Nov 19, 2007 #9


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    At what cost?


    Desalination plant pipes | Getty

    12/11/2007 5:45:00 AM.
    Sydney's controversial desalination plant is experiencing another cost blowout.

    A crucial water main has gone $200 million over budget, with the overall project now expected to top two billion dollars.

    Shadow Water Utilities Minister Chris Hartcher says the Government should abandon the project altogether.

    “Mr Iemma should admit he’s made a mistake and see what can be done to get out of this contract.”

    “He shouldn’t be so proud that we have to keep paying money simply because he doesn’t want to admit he has made a mistake.”
  11. Nov 19, 2007 #10


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    using nuclear power is cost-effective
    compared with other primary energies,
    according to researchers in 10 countries
    who have studied various options at
    specific sites in their own countries. Their
    findings show nuclear to be at least competitive
    in all cases.

    How many N plants are needed to cover world shortage?

    What is the cost to the environment?
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2007
  12. Nov 19, 2007 #11
    Wolram, I think you most accurately point to one of the most nagging problems, clean fresh water supply.

    I would certainly investigate the feasibility of a few square miles of solar stills in deserts like the Sahara producing fresh water (and salt) from sea water.
  13. Nov 20, 2007 #12


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    I think people have been distracted with AGW and not looking at naturally occurring changing weather patterns and over population.
    Building any type of fresh water plant will only be a stop gap, even if the total usage shortfall is corrected over night, by the time we have enough water in the right places to full fill the present populations needs there will be an extra billion people etc, etc.
  14. Nov 23, 2007 #13


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    Atlanta water shortage.


    Outlook 2008


    2007-2008 Winter Drought Outlook
    November 2007 Assessment from NOAA’s National Weather Service Office in Raleigh
    and the North Carolina State Climate Office issued November 7, 2007
    Well timed rains of late October brought 2 to 5 inches of rain to all of Central North Carolina.
    Many local rivers and reservoirs experienced significant rises in water levels. However, the
    benefits from this one rain event will not be enough to last through the winter. By the first full
    week of November the Upper Neuse and Tar River levels were back down to the low flows
    observed before the recent rain. In fact, statewide stream flows dropped significantly the first
    week of November. As of November 4th, 62 percent of the stream gages in the state were
    recording flows at or below the 25th percentile. About 36 percent of the stream gages recorded
    new record low flows for the last several calendar days and were below the 10th percentile
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2007
  15. Nov 23, 2007 #14


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    Georgia has drought cycles and yet there was rampant overbuilding, lack of initiatives to build water resevoirs, water restrictions put into place too late, water diverted to sustain mussels.

    And of course idiots like this guy that claims he wasn't aware there was a water shortage, using 440,000 gallons of water in one month.

    Cobb Man Used Enough Water For 60 Homes

  16. Nov 23, 2007 #15


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    And here is me feeling guilty if i over fill the kettle, even though we do not have a drought yet.
  17. Nov 23, 2007 #16
    Fill the kettle, No problem, not all the water used is water spilled, Wolram.

    The other year when we had a serious drought in Holland, I heared the specialist say not to bother and strangle the use of water unnesesarily. Simply, because water circulates. The sewer water is cleaned here before it enters the water channels. Then the drink water company generates fresh water from that. Cutting back on the use of water simply would increase the storage of unused water while it would lower the levels of free running water in the canals.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2007
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