Posted by: shipbright | August 24, 2009

freshwater availability and the world population

As you’ve [hopefully] been reading along with these blogs you should know that freshwater is a) finite b) only a tiny fraction of all the worlds water c) controlled by the natural hydrological cycle d) not evenly distributed around the world, and e) not always where we need it and in the amount we need.


“The challenge of securing safe and plentiful water for all is one of the most daunting challenges faced by the world today. ‘Until only recently, we generally assumed that water trends do not pose much risk to our businesses. While many countries have engaged in waste-water treatment and some conservation efforts, the notion of water
sustainability in a broad sense has not been seriously examined.

‘Our experiences tell us that environmental stress due to lack of water may lead to conflict and would be greater in poor nations. ‘Ten years ago – even five years ago –few people paid much attention to the arid regions of western Sudan. Not many noticed when fighting broke out between farmers and herders, after the rains failed and water became scarce.

‘Today everyone knows Darfur. More than 200,000 people have died. Several million have fled their homes. ‘There are many factors at work in this conflict, of course. But almost forgotten is the event that touched it off – drought. A shortage of life’s vital resource.

‘We can change the names in this sad story. Somalia. Chad. Israel. The occupied Palestinian territories. Nigeria. Sri Lanka. Haiti. Colombia. Kazakhstan. All are places where shortages of water contribute to poverty. They cause social hardship and impede development. They create tensions in conflict prone regions. Too often, where we need water we find guns. . . .’ Ban Ki-moon 2008. Secretary-General United Nations

Here is the worldwide distribution of approximately 6.2 Billion people and how much of the earths freshwater is where they are [source: UNESCO/IHP].  Keep in mind that this is “Big Picture” information.  Within each continent the availability of water can vary greatly.  For example,  in North America the Pacific Northwest is well known for its rainy climate; whereas southwest Utah is dry as a bone.  Water is not evenly distributed around the globe nor within each continent:

  • North and Central America:  Water 15%     People 8%
  • South America:                           Water 26%     People 6%
  • Australia & Oceania:                 Water 5%        People 1%

Doesn’t seem so bad, right? Now the rest of the story:

  • Europe:                                         Water 8%      People 13%
  • Africa:                                           Water 11%    People 13%
  • Asia:                                               Water 36%   People 60%

herein lies the rub…

The next post will be Friday, taking the natural disparity in the availability of freshwater resources another step with a specific example:  Water and War…Darfur

BREAKING UPDATE:  this article just came out… world population to hit 7 BILLION by 2011

school children central african republic photo
Africa’s population has now passed one billion and at current rates will double by 2050. School children in Central African Republic, photo: Pierre Holtz/UNICEF, Humanitarian and Development Partnership Team in CAR via flickr/Creative Commons.

Here’s a sobering thought for your Friday morning: Mongabay reports a new study by the Population Reference Bureau shows that by 2011 world population will hit 7 billion people. That’s just twelve years after it hit 6 billion, and 24 since it hit 5 billion:

As you may very well be aware, population growth is being driven nearly entirely by the developing world — despite signs in parts of Asia population growth is slowing.

In particular, African population is growing most rapidly. The entire continent now has a human population of one billion, with the PRB predicting that in will double by 2050.

90% of Young People in Developing Nations
All of this has created a youth bubble throughout the developing world:

The great bulk of today’s 1.2 billion youth—nearly 90 percent—are in developing countries,” said Carl Haub, PRB senior demographer and co-author of the data sheet. “During the next few decades, these young people will most likely continue the current trend of moving from rural areas to cities in search of education and training opportunities, gainful employment, and adequate health care.

Add in Resource Over-Consumption & Imbalance…
Let’s add another crucial variable to all this: Remember that the bulk of
natural resource consumption remains solidly in the wealthy countries of the world, which consume natural resources grossly out of proportion to total population — if the entire human population consumed resources the way the average person in the United States does, we’d need four additional planets.

Combined with climate change changing resource availability — not even considering the possible impact of peak oil, should renewable energy not be able to take over quickly enough — and you have a recipe for conflict.



  1. Subject: Global Water Equilibrium and Human Unity in the Age of Cosmic Genealogy

    In 1859 Louis Pasteur disproved spontaneous generation of life, thus beginning the age of cosmic genealogy meaningfully characterized and defined by evolutionary panaltruism and human unity. (“Life comes from space because life comes from life.” – Brig Klyce, Astrobiology Research Trust). Universal forelaws of empathy and compassion (empirical attributes of cosmic genealogy seated within the genome of humankind and all intelligent life) form the foundation of evolutionary panaltruism and human unity – moving humanity in modern times to global achievement of the basic necessity of a compassionate/cooperative world order: freshwater.

    Though today actively in denial of their own humaneness, international terrorists remain genetically predisposed – and reeducable – to compassionate humanness common to all humankind. Human unity is imperative in creating a compassionate/cooperative global society, in dealing with climate change (global water equilibrium), in development of life-centered cosmologies, and in fulfillment of the promise and gift of intelligent life.

    Achievable global water equilbrium on Earth is the state of balance between seawater converted to freshwater amply available worldwide on one side and, on the other, constancy in planetary sea levels, Mandated and coordinated by the United Nations, dramatically accelerated, expanded and sustained seawater desalination ensures (1) relief for member-states vulnerable to sea-level rise, (2) potable water amply available worldwide, (3) stabilization of ocean shorelines, (4) enlarged land mass/biomass, and (5) freshwater deposits where once resided coal and petroleum.

    “. . . we have found a way to make a membrane (for use in seawater desalination) that can produce higher amounts of water compared to the commercial membranes being used today, while using the same process.” – Mohammed Rasool Qtaishat, Water for All.

    “Among U.S. states, Maryland, Virginia, and DC are exceptionally vulnerable to climate change. The states have more than 6,000 miles of Chesapeake and Atlantic shoreline, almost every inch of which would be degraded or inundated completely by the projected sea-level rise of up to three feet.” – Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

    “Concerns about global warming, energy consumption and increased demand for potable water sources are causing a dramatic expansion of the desalination industry.” – Lisa Henthorne, President, International Desalination Association.

    “The melting of these glaciers (Himalayan “Earth’s Third Pole”) is the most massive threat to food security that we have ever projected.” – Lester Brown, president, Earth Policy Institute.

    By exemplifying “concern for others and for those who will succeed us . . . . . ” (The Center for Naturalism) – such as the achievement of global water equilibrium – humankind takes an important step toward its rightful place within the cosmic community of intelligent life. Intelligent life reciprocally propagated from infinity to infinity by intelligent life, from habited sites to habitable sites – fundamental in fulfilling the promise and gift of intelligent life while defining the cosmic community of intelligent life – bears witness to evolutionary panaltruism and the intrinsic unity of all intelligent life, in the age of cosmic genealogy on Earth.

    In forelawsship on board,

    Robert E. Cobb
    Forelaws on Board

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