California Aqueduct is part of the federal Central Valley Project, serving
millions of urban, rural, environmental and agricultural users throughout
the Golden State. As seen from Interstate 5, vineyards are in the foreground
and the Great Central Valley in the background.
POSTED 26 APR 2001
Water. If you've got it, you probably take it for granted. But a quick scan of the globe -- and a chat with the tiny group of researchers who are obsessed by fresh water -- both indicate that water shortages are looming.
And they aren't necessarily in the future, either. Here's what we've read in the past week or so.
... Mexico City (home to 20 million people) is sinking because the city sucks out underground water faster than the aquifer can be refilled.
... Florida wants to refill its overpumped aquifer with untreated surface water, despite federal regulations to the contrary.
Chad, at the intersection of Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon in West
Africa, is disappearing. Shown: 1973 photo. Place mouse over picture to
see a 1987 photo. The lake supplied water for massive irrigation projects,
but the shrinkage also reflects a big drop in rain since the early 1960's.
... Texas is moving toward private, for-profit water sales. The water will be "mined" from aquifers that are disappearing fast. No word on what the private suppliers, including corporate raider T. Boone Pickens, will do once the aquifers run dry.
... Aquifers around the world are being overtapped for irrigated agriculture, which fills about 40 percent of the global larder.
... The Bush Administration has withdrawn a proposed tightening of the arsenic standard for drinking water. Critics say the old rule, dating to 1942, could allow thousands of cases of cancer and other diseases. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, what's been called the "largest poisoning of a population in history" has 35 to 77 million people drinking arsenic-laced water.
... A showdown is looming over the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which originate in Turkey, then water both Syria and Iraq. If Turkey goes ahead with a series of dams, the downriver nations could starve.
You don't miss your water, an old blues sage wisely said, 'til your well runs dry. Down here on planet Earth, the well is starting to run dry. We've seen projections that three billion people -- half of today's population -- will be short of water in 2025.
Yipes! How bad
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5 pages in this feature.
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