Scientists Warn That an “Insurmountable” Water Crisis Will Grip the Planet by 2040

New study concludes that water shortages may be a bigger problem than we thought

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Reuters/Heino Kalis

In order to find out what the world in 2040 might look like in the future we’ve looked at trends and expert projections across areas that may affect water and waste water services in the future.

By which we mean all the things that support modern life, such as energy, communications, transport, health, education and of course, water.

Disturbing study has been conducted with researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation. The study and analysis has lead researchers to conclude our energy needs and population growth will lead to severe water shortages in the next few decades.

The United States (and the rest of the world) could face a full-blown water crisis if we don’t change the way we generate power. As the population increases, so does water consumption and power usage. Right now, energy production is the biggest water guzzler in the country – slurping 41% of all freshwater. Unless the country moves to less water-hungry power sources like wind and solar by 2030, water needs could grow to the point where there is a huge gap between what is needed and what is available, plunging the planet into a water crisis.

At the same time, corporate hoarding of fresh water is on the rise. Nestle’s former CEO clearly stated that water supplies should be privatized and that the right to fresh, clean water is not an essential human right.

Knowing that both the climate and corporate influence are converging to restrict and/or dramatically increase the cost of fresh water, two new reports reinforce that there isn’t much time left to find solutions. In fact, for an increasing number of people, water might not be available at any cost

“Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today. It is a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand.” said Bejamin Sovacool, director of the Center for Energy Technology at Aarhus University in reference to the dual reports released Tuesday.

The report recommended that nuclear power and coal, which use an excessive amount of water for cooling purposes, should where possible be replaced by wind and solar, which use virtually no water.

The research stated that “electricity generation from thermoelectric power plants is inextricably linked to water resources.”

Ultimately, the scientists warn, in a world of limited water supplies we’ll have to choose what to do with it.

“Do we want to spend it on keeping the power plants going or as drinking water? We don’t have enough water to do both,” Sovacool said in the release.

Water consumption has increased by 600 percent this past century, while the population is three times what it was in 1900. The growing rate of human life is clearly the culprit, as common sense tells us that the more people, the higher the demand for water.

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The water scarcity index (Photo: UNEP)

Most countries use water mainly for energy production. In the United States, 41.5 percent of freshwater is used for thermoelectric power — electrical power generated from a heat source.

What can we do?

In the reports, the researchers emphasize six general recommendations for decision-makers to follow in order to stop this development and handle the crisis around the world:

  1. Improve energy efficiency
  2. Better research on alternative cooling cycles
  3. Registering how much water power plants use
  4. Massive investments in wind energy
  5. Massive investments in solar energy
  6. Abandon fossil fuel facilities in all water stressed places (which means half the planet)

Maybe the threat of no more water can motivate people?