Commentary: Water, water
There are other ominous signs of an impending water crisis, such as:
- Falling lake levels. Both Lakes Michigan and Huron, two of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water, are at all-time record low levels—all of the Great Lakes are at historically low levels—due, scientists say, to a combination of a severe drought last summer and higher average temperatures that have increased summertime evaporation rates.
- Middle Eastern crises. In nearly all of the countries across the Middle East—Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and Iraq—oil dollars have brought increased affluence, which means far greater water consumption. Despite extensive desalination projects, the need for increasingly larger amounts of water for farming, commercial and industrial uses is severely and rapidly depleting the region’s once-vast underground aquifers.
- Virtual water exports. Consider that a significant percentage of wheat, corn, beef, pork, cotton, rice and sugar—much of which is produced in drier regions of the world, like Australia, Argentina, western Canada, Egypt and Pakistan—all represent significant water consumption that ends up getting shipped out the producing country.
All of this is complicated by what we know—the increase in global population—and by what we don’t know—the impact of climate change. It adds up to a potentially disastrous situation for farmers and ranchers.
With the energy crisis, we’re learning to re-think our lifestyles and consumption patterns, and we have the option of investing in alternative, renewable sources of energy that someday could replace much of the fossil fuels upon which we currently depend.
With the world’s dwindling supply of fresh water, the reboot won’t be nearly so straightforward.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.