World population continues to climb and the people of the Earth must grow food to eat or they will die. That’s obvious, but what isn’t so obvious is that it takes lots of water to create the food these billions of people eat and only a little for them to drink. Even those few liters per day are sometimes difficult to obtain and it gets news attention occasionally with a doe-eyed child drinking obviously polluted water.
As bad as the current water situation is, it is clearly going to get much worse in the not too distant future and then continue to get even worse. The reason for this coming catastrophe is that with global warming the glaciers of the world are melting away. They are replenished in an annual cycle but with the warming trend they are getting smaller every year. As they get smaller the winter snows melt more quickly and instead of a moderated flow of water in the rivers below the glaciers, the partially frozen precipitation runs off into the sea more quickly. The water goes by the farmers’ fields and others who rely upon it with a quick flood instead of a steady flow. It soon drains away, rather than being used for irrigation of crops.
What is going to be needed to dampen the floods are dams. The problem is that dams are very expensive and take many years to construct. When countries become overpopulated and stricken with a drought, they will at the same time need more water. Unfortunately, the time when they will need the dams to control the flow of water will be the time when they are economically poorer and thus less able to construct them. Because the cause of this problem is global warming, which covers all the regions of the world, it will strike all the world’s population at the same time. Food created from the water of annual runoff will go into decline everywhere in the world at the same time.
Billions of people are directly dependent upon these sources of water for their food. The greatest dependency is upon the Himalaya mountains which feed water to the two most populous countries in the world, China and India. It also feeds the populous countries of Southeast Asia. That is the most extreme case and includes over half of all the people in the world, but the runoff from the mountains of the rest of the world will be subjected to the same global warming and therefore the same quicker annual runoff. There will be no surplus in one part of the world to supply the shortfall in some other part of the world.
The CO2 is already in the atmosphere which is warming the atmosphere which will melt the glaciers and it takes over a hundred years for natural processes to clean the CO2 out. Unfortunately, nature has fallen seriously behind in this cleansing process and so as the CO2 grows the atmospheric temperature is certain to rise and the glaciers are certain to melt even faster than they already are melting.
The tragedy is already in the process of unfolding and in the not too distant future, maybe less than twenty years but probably less than fifty, the floods followed by droughts will cripple agriculture worldwide and famine will ensue. The straight-line growth of world population projected by demographers based on the growth of the last hundred years will slump over sharply. Things are going quite well, by their estimations, but when the water is quickly dumped into the sea by the sudden runoff from the depleted glaciers there will be famine. The demographers are measuring past populations for their projections whereas I am looking at the processes that create food to feed the populations.
There is no way to prevent the already inevitable melting and quicker runoffs, but there is a small possibility of slowing the most disastrous of the effects.
Build water reservoirs now while there is time and money.