The Dawning of a Global Water Crisis
BY RUSS WINTER
Good quality water sources in the right locations are the key to basic civilization, let alone even minimal economic growth. Like hydrocarbons, water is now the weak link to the maintenance of 7 billion people on the planet. Once abundant aquifers worldwide are being rapidly depleted, and resolving this is expensive and requires growth controls and sacrifice. Growth at any price strategies such as used in China completely fracture in this kind of environment. There is plenty to write on this topic but I will warm up with a little on two trainwrecks: North China and the American Southwest.
China has 2220 cubic feet of usable water per capita, which is one fourth the world average. They use 2/3 of water consumption for crops and livestock. The North China Plain (home of 42% of China’s population) has seen massive water table drops on the order of 120 billion cubic feet since 1970 [Water Shortage Looms]. There are now 700,000 powered wells. This year weather conspired to bring about a perfect storm, a severe drought in the south on the Yangtze River, the most important watershed in China supporting 400 million people [China Faces Worst Drought in 50 years]. In the last few weeks reports are popping up of large scale drinking water shortages. Central and Southwest China are being blasted by continual heat waves. Here is what grain production looks like when a major aquifer id depleted.