Posted by: shipbright | August 21, 2009

Where is all the water? global primer series…

02_freshwater_regionsWe know that freshwater is a finite resource and controlled by the natural hydrological cycle AND it’s not evenly distributed around the world.  Our challenge is that water is not always where it’s needed by people and/or in amounts that we want or need.

For example, Greenland has the most freshwater available per capita where Asia’s huge population outstrips its water resources.

Climate change is a major factor in freshwater availability, both in the long and short term.  Even if you subscribe to the belief that there is no such thing as global warming, the amount of annual rainfall  varies naturally… just ask anyone in Maine this past summer.

You can demonstrate the global amount of freshwater with one of my favorite dinner party “trick’s”.  You will need a single piece of paper for this…you can try using your dinner party host[ess]’s nice linen napkin but don’t expect to get invited back.  You can also use a $20 bill, but send the ripped up bill to me–I’ll recycle it for you [just helping you out here].

Deftly steer the conversation to you, everyone’s favorite subject at a dinner party [“enough about me, lets talk about you — what do you think of me?”]. You can start to wax eloquently about the issue of freshwater for a thirsty planet and your new fav blogger.

1. Take the paper you have put in your pocket before you arrived and fold it into quarters…the whole paper is planet earth;

2. Tear of ONE of the quarters [25%]–that’s all the land mass on our planet.  If you have used your host[ess]’s linen napkin get clear of sharp instruments;

3. The remaining 75% is all of the water on earth–most everyone already knows that, but here’s where you start to shine;

4. Of the remaining paper tear off what looks to you like 3% of the remaining paper.  97% of the earth’s water is salt water, only 3% is freshwater. If anyone challenges that statistic ask them to google it–a lot of sites will come up confirming your brillance;

5. Here’s where you go in for the kill with “oh’s and ah’s” to follow:  of the remaining 3%-the very small piece of paper you now hold-70% of THAT is tied up in Antarctica, glaciers, Greenland, high mountain snow packs, and the Arctic.

6. Tear off that 70% of the 3% and discard it…the remaining piece of paper is now TINY…that 30% of global freshwater is what supports all non-marine biota on the planet…you, your dinner party friends, plants, animals…you name it.  You are now a fascinating dinner guest.

To recap, of all the worlds water resources:

  • 97% is saltwater
  • 3% is fresh

of that 3%:

  • 70% of the 3% is tied up in polar ice caps, glaciers, and Greenland.
  • leaving 30% of the 3% for all of the rest of us…and its not distributed evenly around the world and its not always where and when we need it.

It’s an issue we need to address because thirsty starving people will take what they need to survive…how do we share this fundamental resource? How will climate change affect the world water equation? How do we conserve more, increase supply, meet the needs of agriclutural and industrial production?

Global strategists believe the wars of the 21rst century will be over water.  Conflicts have already emerged.  Let’s figure this out before we lose any of our sons and daughters.  This is an avoidable conflict if we get smart about it now.

water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

let me know how you do at your next get-together..

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