Most people in the US assume and expect when they turn on a facet or flush a toilet that water will magically appear. When it doesn’t they have no idea what to do. The point being that global warming could change all that.
Global Water Shortage
Looms In New Century
When most U.S. citizens think about water shortages — if they think about them at all — they think about a local problem, possibly in their town or city, maybe their state or region. We don’t usually regard such problems as particularly worrisome, sharing confidence that the situation will be readily handled by investment in infrastructure, conservation, or other management strategies. Whatever water feuds arise, e.g., between Arizona and California, we expect to be resolved through negotiations or in the courtroom.
But shift from a local to a global water perspective, and the terms dramatically change. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the world — more than 2 billion people — have no access to clean water or sanitation. In this context, we cannot expect water conflicts to always be amenably resolved.
Consider: More than a dozen nations receive most of their water from rivers that cross borders of neighboring countries viewed as hostile. These include Botswana, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Congo, Gambia, the Sudan, and Syria, all of whom receive 75 percent or more of their fresh water from the river flow of often hostile upstream neighbors.
In the Middle East, a region marked by hostility between nations, obtaining adequate water supplies is a high political priority. For example, water has been a contentious issue in recent negotiations between Israel and Syria. In recent years, Iraq, Syria and Turkey have exchanged verbal threats over their use of shared rivers. (It should come as no surprise to learn that the words “river” and “rival” share the same Latin root; a rival is “someone who shares the same stream.”)
More frequently water is being likened to another resource that quickened global tensions when its supplies were threatened. A story in The Financial Times of London began: “Water, like energy in the late 1970s, will probably become the most critical natural resource issue facing most parts of the world by the start of the next century.” This analogy is also reflected in the oft-repeated observation that water will likely replace oil as a future cause of war between nations.