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(092112)

Fresh Water is Limited
in a World of Global Changes


by T. Peterson, Ph.D.
(the following text excerpt is taken from:
The Creator's Window -Viewing Global Change,
Universal timelines, & The Promise, © 2000)

Water

If Earth is our apartment house, then lakes, rivers, and aquifers beneath us are the globe’s plumbing systems. Fresh water is especially valuable for wildlife and humanity. Water quality and availability are quickly becoming critical issues for wildlife, urban and rural centers, and global survival. According to the World Resource Institute our fresh water resources are:

'...under severe and increasing environmental stress. About two thirds of global withdrawals are used for agriculture and about one fourth for industry. By the end of the century, withdrawals for agriculture will increase slightly and industrial withdrawals will probably double. ... The world’s supply of fresh water is unevenly distributed and frequently unreliable. Consumption is outstripping supplies in northern China, and shortages could reach crisis proportions in the Middle East and North Africa, where the water issue is complicated by political tensions.

'The volume of water on the planet is immense—about 1.41 billion cubic kilometers. ... About 98 percent of this volume is in the world’s oceans and inland seas and is too salty for drinking, growing crops, or for most industrial purposes. About 3 percent is freshwater, but nearly all of that amount (87 percent) is locked in ice caps or glaciers, in the atmosphere or soil, or deep underground. In fact, if the world’s total water supply were only 100 liters, the usable supply of freshwater would be only 0.003 liter, or one-half teaspoon.’ (italics added for emphasis)

How humans use water affects life on this planet. Signs of abuse come in several forms. First, water pollution is one problem humans quickly notice and take action to counter. In the US., the Clean Water Act represents a significant piece of legislation, which today is part of the US. Environmental Protection Agency’s mission. In the former U.S.S.R., pollution in Lake Baykal—the single largest body of freshwater on Earth—became a catalyst for historically unprecedented environmental action within an otherwise tightly controlled political system. Environmental concerns expressed by each nation’s citizens made a difference in very different political circles, but today global pressures exerted by humanity further erode fresh water resources. Dr. D. A. Munro notes that humanity’s water use must be a major concern if humans are to achieve a sustainable future:

'Global water withdrawals have increased 35 times during the past three centuries. Access to water for domestic use and for irrigation is a crucial factor in the sustainability of arid land societies. Irrigated agriculture accounts for 70% of water withdrawals throughout the world. If present trends of use continue, water withdrawals will increase by as much as 35% by 2000. ... It will not be possible to sustain current patterns of freshwater use if human populations reach their projected total of 10 billion by 2050.’ (SXi 92)

The Gallant Aquifer is another example of a diminishing water resource located in the western US. This underground deposit of fossil water supplies needs from the Dakotas to Texas. An aquifer, like an oil deposit, has an ancient origin and once pumped out is not readily replenished. In fact, the Gallant is currently pumped 25 times faster than natural rates of replenishment. Furthermore, the current pumping practice uses natural gas to fuel the process—this too is a limited resource. The aquifer’s useful lifetime now appears limited to the present generation. Once depleted, farmers will have no other dependable water supply and agriculture in the area is destined to fail. Similar scenarios can be expected for Libya’s use of the Nubian Aquifer and pumping of aquifers in the Middle East. The additive effects of these water-related limitations on agriculture pose continued change amid unpredictable global conditions.


The importance to global change is in looking at how social, biological, and physical sciences all reveal data and signs for more ominous changes in the near future. This is change in every aspect of human and earthly affairs ... globally. The Window looks further to see change as a backdrop to a biblical timeline. Driving forces for change force us to ask the most important questions about our true origin, who we are, why we are here, and what the Scriptures tell us about the future. Change forces us to look deeper to face choice or crisis. Life is an opportunity to look for the answers.


This is just one of many panes in the WindowView. This is a fraction of the process identified earlier within the section entitled 'Convergence.' Keep exploring the view, visit our page titled 'Experience WindowView' to see how global changes are part of a larger holistic paradigm which is the reason behind assembling this cyber-place. Putting the picture together helps to envision humanity's direction along the dimension of time.

A copy of this text with footnotes and a complete listing of references used in writing this text can be obtained by downloading the chapters and reference list for the Creator's Window. References that appear as ''(SXi #)'' signify the page number from Sigma Xi's publication related to a 1991 forum on global change (see reference list for the Creator's Window for a complete citation of this work).



References from SXi and page number refer to the Sigma Xi Forum Proceedings: Global Change and the Human Prospect: Issues in Population, Science, Technology and Equity, November 1991. The importance of this science society's forum is that the meeting was forward looking and demonstrates how scientists from social, biological, and physical sciences all saw change on the rise. Not just climate change, but change in every aspect of human and earth affairs ... globally.


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