It’s easy to look at regional droughts as passing phenomena that affect small areas for relatively insignificant amounts of time. Unfortunately, the truth is much graver. Global water shortages are widespread problems that are expected to increase significantly in the next 20 – 30 years.
What causes are responsible for this seemingly imminent crisis? Shifts in tropical and subtropical zones have a huge effect on annual rainfall. Experts have tracked these tropical zone movements; establishing that the zones shift by as much as 300 km every 25 years.
This factor alone accounts for many of the regional droughts currently being experienced in many parts of the country unaccustomed to irregular rainfall patterns.
Higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have led global temperatures to increase by a few degrees. These increased temperatures also play a role in water shortages around the world.
Let’s take a quick look at some facts that are quite disturbing.
According to a joint report released by the InterAction Council, United Nations University, and Canada’s Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, the demand for water in India and China is expected to exceed supplies in less than 20 years.
In another study conducted by the US Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security, it’s predicted that annual global water requirements will exceed current sustainable water supplies by 40% in 2030.
Remember, these are global problems that affect the United States as well as every other country in the world.
Areas of Significant Risk
From a global perspective, there are countless areas that already are feeling the effects of water shortages. In the United States, the Southwest is particularly vulnerable to droughts that could last 20 or 30 years.
In Texas, for instance, the worst recorded drought was approximately 6 years long and occurred in the 1950s. As we look more closely at these shifts in tropical climates zones, it becomes apparent that a six-year drought is nothing compared to the water shortages that our global community will face in the not-too-distant future.
Western Australia is also vulnerable to drought conditions that will be exasperated in the next decade. Northern Africa, a historically arid climate, has been dealing with water shortages for years and these problems will only get worse as we transition into a global water crisis.
Planning for the Long Term
It should come as no surprise that we promote long-term planning as a staple of resilient living. Working on sustainable water solutions may not be enough in some of the hardest hit areas of the country.
As a result, if you currently live in an area experiencing water shortages, your best bet may be to relocate to an area less prone to long-term drought scenarios.
The eastern United States is an excellent example of a climate zone that typically does not experience drought conditions. Keep in mind that as the global water crisis scales, these areas will be affected as well. The difference is that sustainable water planning could be more effective in these regions.
If you are unsure about your risk for water shortage, an excellent resource can be found at the World Resources Institute (http://aqueduct.wri.org/atlas). This website allows you to pinpoint your risk as it relates to potential water shortages in the future.
What it boils down to is that some areas of the country present easy opportunities to grow our own food. In some places, you can literally toss seeds onto the ground and a percentage of them will grow successfully.
In other areas, it is difficult to grow produce in today’s conditions. Imagine how difficult (if not impossible) it will be to grow sustainable food sources in these regions as this water crisis comes to fruition.
Relocating to an area that presents better growing opportunities now reduces the likelihood you will become stranded in an area that cannot sustain itself in the future. It is this proactive attitude that sets resilient community members apart from most of civilization.
As a final note, we need to look at conservation as an important part of responsible water usage. As much a 66% of all fresh water is used for irrigation. We have discussed various water conservation techniques in the past and will continue to look for new ways that we can save water.
Reusing greywater, for example, is an excellent way to reduce our dependency on freshwater supplies by as much as 80% at home.
DIY water filtration systems are another way we can reuse water that would otherwise go to waste.
Of course, water conservation doesn’t matter much if the water crisis gets as bad as some experts are predicting.
However, water conservation techniques could help to prolong a widespread water catastrophe if more people begin to realize the importance of our freshwater supplies and the imminence of their destruction if we continue down the wasteful path we have been walking for so long.