Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink

Do we face a crisis as stated in the 1797-1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge? (Wikipedia link)

Intrigued about the discovery of water on Mars as well as articles on rising oceans, unclean drinking water, and better desalinization, it has come to our attention that our most valuable resource is under attack, under watch, and taken for granted.

Firstly, the U.N. has a goal for readily available potable water for everyone by 2030. There are still two billion people who do not have access to drinking water. By 2050 sources calculate that with ballooning populations and climate change humans will have to deal with the amount of freshwater that already exists. Even if we get water to everyone, there’s only so much of it to go around.

Plant your fields with sugarcane to make ethanol for fuel, and you can’t raise crops to feed your family. Dam a river to produce electricity, and people downstream can no longer fish. Pump groundwater out for yourself, and your neighbor might just want to fight over it. Researchers call this the food-water-energy nexus and say it is one of the biggest challenges facing our increasingly industrialized, globalized and thirsty world.

One option is a new filter for desalinization that requires less cleaning and fewer costly replacements. Filtering the salt from salt water already makes freshwater available to hundreds of millions of people. Producing freshwater cheaper can make potable water less expensive to transport to areas farther away.

Meanwhile, sea levels are rising. Those sources calculate that by 2050 the sea will have risen 20 centimeters.

Climate change is also making storms more severe and bringing heavier rains to some places. For densely populated cities like Mumbai — the financial heart of India, which is the world’s fastest-growing major economy — those risks threaten to throw personal incomes and national economies into chaos.

As greenhouse gases build up in Earth’s atmosphere, trapping heat and altering the planet’s weather and climate, water will become more precious.

Early this year, it looked as if the more than 4 million people living in Cape Town, South Africa, were going to run out of water. Officials calculated a “Day Zero” in April when the taps would run dry. Only through belated and desperate conservation measures, such as slashing the amount of water for irrigating crops, did city residents eke through until the rainy season began in May. That Cape Town crisis is almost certainly the first of many.

And if you are not seeing the sea rise in your area, it may be due to several factors, like the rotation of the Earth, the gravity of nearby glaciers, or even rivers emptying and swirling to one side. Perhaps you live where lakes and streams are drying up instead.

In Sudan war has been raging over water.

“There has been no rain here for the last year so no-one has been able to grow any crops. This is the worst drought I have ever known and many people have died or migrated because they have no food or water,” explained Martin.

“Usually when things are hard you can borrow animals from a better off family member, but this year no-one has anything to give.”

Although Islamic Relief has constructed more than 80 hand-pumps with another 60 due to be completed early this year, the needs are still vast. Over 350,000 people have been displaced by inter-ethnic conflict in south Sudan. Martin in the article above was in line to get water from the pumps when a rival tribe opened fire. He lost his leg while others were killed and the pump destroyed. He then lost his cattle and his home.

Will fighting occur in other countries by 2050? It seems likely.

Rising global temperatures alter weather patterns and change how water cycles between the ground and the atmosphere. Freshwater stores can shrink. Extreme events, such as flooding and drought means more water in places where people don’t need it, and less water where they do.

While 2018 seems to be holding at 13 predicted storms with 7 becoming hurricanes this season according to weather analysts, there is no predictor for how destructive they might be.

Thinking about the hurricane season where Louisiana, Texas, and Florida are the most frequently hit states, the Florida Everglades are facing a different water related struggle, losing freshwater to people digging wells and rising seawater happily taking its place.

We don’t even have time to mention the red tide killing marine life, water pollution in rivers, and the dying coral reefs.

It seems our planet is on a collision course to death and destruction by water, a resource five billion people take for granted. Destroying our atmosphere, melting our polar ice caps, flooding our land and creating erratic weather patterns will reshape our planet and the beings that live here.

Perhaps that’s what happened to Mars’ beings.

Mars used to have more atmosphere and water covering its surface. All that remains is an ice cap in the South underneath which water has been sensed in liquid form 1.5km below the surface. What is unknown is whether or not that water connects to deeper aquifers that could sustain microbiotic life. (source)(Additional source)(source for kids)

Could H.G. Wells and Orson Welles have been onto something thinking Martians could attack us? (Wikipedia War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast) It’s unlikely any technologically advanced species swim in underground aquifers on Mars, but it makes for good sci-fi. Could a deadly worm destroy the first probes carefully dug down into the surface of the planet?

Moreover, the war for water could also stem a true-to-life science fiction plot worthy of a scary podcast.

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