A farmer takes water from a dried-up pond to water his vegetables in China's Jiangxi province. Population growth and desire for western lifestyles put immense demands on water in countries such as China and India. Photograph: Reuters


FORGET PEAK OIL. Forget climate change. Peak water is where it’s at, according to Scottish journalist and broadcaster, Alexander Bell, who has just written a fascinating book, Peak Water (Luath Press, Scotland).

“It’s the coming issue of our age,” says Bell. “Civilisation is thirsty. It has never stopped to think about what would happen if the water ran out.” And while Bell acknowledges tackling climate change is important, he firmly states peak water would have happened with or without it.

“You could say that it’s a re-framing of the climate change [issues] and what we are doing with the planet. With climate change, we’ve become conditioned to the idea of disaster but by focusing on water, you can’t say there is nothing you can do. Water is a precious resource that is running out in various parts of the world and even if it’s not running out in Ireland or Scotland, we will lose food, clothing and stability of the world order as we know it because of water shortages.” …

He also cites the excessive use of water in the US, particularly in places such as Las Vegas where there is very little. “In gated communities, huge structures look out over green lawns and rolling golf courses and artificial lakes. Never mind that the water for Las Vegas is piped from miles away – this is 20th century civilisation, where water follows man – no matter the lunacy of the destination.” And while he acknowledges that the Las Vegas city council now offers incentives for planting desert grass and fines for wasting water, Bell predicts that cities such as Las Vegas will die by ecocide.

The great rivers of the world are already running dry. The Colorado doesn’t make it to the Pacific Ocean for half the year. The rivers that made China, the Yellow and the Yangtze, also fail to reach the sea for stretches of the year. It’s the same story with the Nile and the Ganges. As Bell puts it, “the iconic rivers of our imagination are drying up. The rivers are the visible, potent symbols of our deluded belief in water control. With them come wetlands, flood plains, natural irrigation and the steady, if slow, replenishment of underground water reserves.” …

'Peak water' could flush civilisation via The Oil Drum



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