Water. Too much and you drown, not enough and you die of thirst. Getting it just right is important. But how?
One of the fears associated with global warming is that it could lead to droughts that could lead to wars. There was an essay in Nature in March that argued that those wars don’t really happen – that countries trade virtual water when they import food. But is that really the case? Seed has a nice article today about just that. It brings together seven experts on water and international relations to address the question of water and conflict. The consensus, if you can ever get one from seven experts, is that water shortages can lead to conflict, whether it not leads to war. But don’t just read my summary – check out the whole thing.
And within a country, or even within a state – say, California – how should water shortages be handled? The western US has a complicated set of water laws dealing with the distribution of surface water, but in California’s case, the surface water simply isn’t enough. So farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are going back to what they did in the 1950’s: they’re using groundwater. That caused problems such as subsidence of the ground surface – when water was removed, the sediment compacted, and the ground sunk. The New York Times reports that California is now considering regulating the use of groundwater, but that there is resistance:
“I don’t want the government to come in and dictate to us, ‘This is all the water you can use on your own land,’ ” said Mr. Watte, 57. “We would resist that to our dying day.”
I wonder if Californians would be more willing to accept the limitations of groundwater if they took earth & environmental science classes in high school?
(Thanks to John Fleck for the link to the NY Times article.)