Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Is Agriculture Sucking Fresh Water Dry?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-blame-the-water-buffalo dept.

Earth 379

sciencehabit writes "The average American uses enough water each year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and global agriculture consumes a whopping 92% of all fresh water used annually. Those are the conclusions of the most comprehensive analysis to date of global water use, which also finds that one-fifth of humankind's water consumption flows across international borders as 'virtual water' — the water needed to produce a commodity, such as meat or electronics, if the ultimate consumers were to make it themselves rather than outsource its growth or manufacture."

cancel ×

379 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

The real questions should be different (1, Insightful)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042579)

Do we actually need all those agriculture products?
Isn't there a different way to use water for the same purpose with possibly higher efficiency?

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042593)

Do we actually need all those agriculture products?

Yes, we do.

The real question is, do we need to use that much water in agriculture? As the Israeli have proved, there is much that can be done to reduce water consumption when growing plants.

Re:The real questions should be different (2, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042607)

The real question is, do we need to use that much water in agriculture?

Do we need to use that much fresh water in agriculture, I wonder. A lower-level filtration process yielding "grey water" for these uses would probably be fine and save energy over a full treatment-plant supply.

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Insightful)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042717)

The problem is most water on the planet is full of salt. You can't use salt-laden "grey water" to grow things.

You also want to take some care to ensure it's not full of heavy metals. Then there's the problem of whether other contaminants would be ignored or absorbed by plants.

Basically, at the point where you might consider it on a large scale, it's generally just easier to use fresh or drinking quality recycled water.

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042949)

Water ain't just water, water is all about how expensive it it at the point of use. How much energy is required to provide potable water at the point of use.

The underlying corporate psychopathic distortion, is there is a lack of water. The reality is corporation want to suck up all the cheaply accessible water and then sell it at inflated prices to match the high cost of remaining water sources. Simple straight forward psychopath economics.

Water is not too salty, too hot, too cold, too contaminated, it is just to expensive and they poor are denied access because they can not afford to potable water once they cheaply accessible resources have been consumed by greed.

Serious about reducing water usage, where is the government mandated shift too aquaponics where possible, an agriculture system with the highest water usage efficiencies, little or no waste and the highest food ouptut per land usage.

Where are the government demands that user pays, including corporations for the average total cost of producing water, rather than corporations have access to the cheapest charged water sources and everyone else getting charged much higher prices (total water cost should be averaged and then user pays at the average rate).

The only difference between a clean fresh river and reverse osmosis of sea water is cost and energy consumption. The war here is access to cheap water for the majority versus corporate greed.

Re:The real questions should be different (3, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043073)

I think by gray water, he meant partially treated sewage water.

And, so long as the toxic stuff was clean out, maybe.

The problems with the bacterial and fungal contaminants would still be present, and even if they were initially cleaned out, some new stuff would get in and grow - it's a good growth medium. Care would have to be used.

Re:The real questions should be different (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043075)

The problem is most water on the planet is full of salt. You can't use salt-laden "grey water" to grow things.

What year is it? [wired.com]

See also AIWPS [sdsu.edu] .

Basically, at the point where you might consider it on a large scale, it's generally just easier to use fresh or drinking quality recycled water.

Easier is not the issue here, sustainability is. There's no question that if you continually pump more from aquifers than goes in you will have problems.

Re:The real questions should be different (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043251)

Basically, at the point where you might consider it on a large scale, it's generally just easier to use fresh or drinking quality recycled water.

Easier is not the issue here, sustainability is. There's no question that if you continually pump more from aquifers than goes in you will have problems.

Yes, but my point was that you end up needing to use a lot of energy to treat the water anyway. Leaving yourself with a product which has to be carefully handled by farmers (marginal sewage) is not necessarily a great improvement.

It's not like water is hard to purify - but it is energy intensive, which is what this all boils down to.

Water is not consumed (5, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042913)

Agriculture does not consume water it uses water. Virtually all the water is returned to the eco system after use.

However there are different sources of water. Ground water versus surface water. Depletion of ground water is not sustainable as water table levels are dropping. Surface water use is sustainable but also has consequences as stream dry up as they are diverted or become filled with water so contaminated it can't be re-used down stream.

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Informative)

nanoflower (1077145) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042619)

It's true that we can use much less water in growing our food but it's not easily done. More to the point it's not done cheaply and that's the biggest issue. So long as it adds to the cost of food (even if it's only pennies to a pound of tomatoes) there's going to be an issue with getting the majority of farmers to change their practices. Especially in third world countries where getting those improved practices out to the farmers can prove difficult.

It's certainly a worth while thing if an area is experiencing a lack of rainfall (as in much of Africa) or if their aquifer is beginning to run low (apparently an issue in some areas of the Outback in Australia) but without some incentive it's going to be difficult to get people to change.

Re:The real questions should be different (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042671)

> or if their aquifer is beginning to run low (apparently an
> issue in some areas of the Outback in Australia)

nah, they're used to it and have known it from childhood. Texas is a much more interesting example, as the town & city population density is much larger, and a large proportion of the state depends on "faith" for their resource planning needs and actively lobby against educating their own children.

> but without some incentive it's going to be difficult to get
> people to change.

a big city like Houston running out of water is quite interesting to watch. (as has happened)

Re:The real questions should be different (-1)

Magada (741361) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042759)

Cue a second Dust Bowl decade and another generation of disenfranchised red-necks whining "oh Lordy Lord why have you forsaken us".

Re:The real questions should be different (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043241)

And then the tornadoes carving through. Eventually a new Grand Canyon. Think of the tourist dollars! :P

We don't want groundwater, it traps precious gas! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042995)

Some coal seam gas wells must evacuate water from the great artesian basin for years before they can have anywhere near productive gas yields. Around the Injune area, I've seen these mind-bogglingly huge evaporation ponds - actually trying to transfer precious groundwater back into the sky

And although I've heard Santos are trying hard to make their reverse-osmosis plants work (that would be trying to pump water out of the aquifers at the gas extraction wells, and then back in somewhere I assume has no gas yield potential), they're having big problems making it work properly at scale.

I wish I had some better links, but it's of serious concern:

Almost 300 billion litres of water extracted with the gas annually. I've never heard what price Santos, Origin, QGC etc. are paying for this water: are they in fact paying any at all? And, "Millions of tonnes" of waste salt to be dumped somewhere.

I know the situation in Queensland. And I know how much influence the Queensland greens have on the state labor government there. The only conclusion I can draw is that the Greens are just as corrupt as the rest of them.

Posting AC, because I used to be closer to this stuff and should know better.

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042629)

It's just a basic business decision.

If it's more profitable to use lots of "fresh" water than it is to reduce that water usage through different agricultural methods, then a good businessman will continue to use lots of "fresh" water.

If the opposite becomes true, then a good businessman will adjust accordingly.

Welcome to Capitalism.

Re:The real questions should be different (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043253)

All those thousands of dams and many other public water "reclamation" and distribution projects across America make our version of "capitalism" a funny one very similar to socialism.

Re:The real questions should be different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043285)

It's just a basic business decision.

If it's more profitable to use lots of "fresh" water than it is to reduce that water usage through different agricultural methods, then a good businessman will continue to use lots of "fresh" water.

If the opposite becomes true, then a good businessman will adjust accordingly.

Welcome to Capitalism.

Yes, but they paid for their water, dagnabbit! And that means they have a right to do anything they want with it and to it! What could possibly go wrong! [wikipedia.org]

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Informative)

idji (984038) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042771)

No, we don't. Too much of that ag produce is going into feeding cows, pigs, etc and in producing biodiesel. With biodiesel they are only counting carbon savings, and not counting water, nitrogen, phosphorous and hidden energy costs (e.g. in producing fertilizer)

Actually no (3, Informative)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042815)

With the passing of time, local crops have dwindled due to inter regional trade, and supply demand constraints. For example, in arid regions of India, instead of wheat "Jowar, Bajra, Ragi...." etc., were grown which use much less water. but since majority eat wheat, in the interest of business, farmers shifted to Wheat, which uses more water. In other regions, which never grew rice(due to lack of water), canals saw increase in rice production, and movement of local populace to wheat and rice, instead of the local cereals which consume less water.
So everybody does not need to eat rice. Rice and wheat users can have other cereals added to their diets, and increase demand, and some cultivation area can be reclaimed, and balance restored.

Another aspect is hybrids. Many high yield varieties(which in the long run are not all that more beneficial) often require higher water content. In irrigated regions, people often switch to those varieties. In the short run you have better profits, but since these are not as resistant to local conditions(in some cases), it also means increased pesticide expense.

So with intelligent Farming, and growing crops actually suited to the region, water usage can be minimized.

Apart from that, there is the irrigation question. Using drip irrigation drops water usage by over 60-70%. We have used it on an piece of land where irrigated water was a scarcity, and illegal mining killed local rivulets and creeks. Due to very less quantity of ground water, and only perennial source being an artesian well, we had two options, stop growing, or use wisely. thanks to some govt subsidies and support, we were able to setup a drip irrigation system, which resulted in low water usage, and now we have surplus water.

Unfortunately, much of agriculture, even in developed world, does not move to this kind of savings unless there is a sword hanging on the head. Countries like Israel have water shortage, so they have moved to intelligent use. If other places where shortage is not there yet, also move, it will result in water saving.

Lastly, in many areas, rain water is not stored effectively, and a lot goes waste(flows into the sea). If a large part of that can be channeled to groundwater using recharge zones, it will replenish groundwater which can actually help people survive a year or 2 of dry season.

That said, other than conservation, many places can also have strict policies to block untreated industrial waste flowing into rivers, which will result in higher fresh water availability

Re:Actually no (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043239)

And by short run, you mean a hundred years. We've been pushing modern farming techniques for 100 years, and have had 3 unprofitable years. We don't do "sustainable" agriculture, which is a crock of lies, but given that our yield continues to increase over the last 100 years, I'd say something we're doing is very sustainable. And yes, we're acutely aware that our land is our only resource.

I'm not sure where you are; the illegal mining question begs whether you're a lying leftist with a grapevine or in another country. However, here, we're doing what makes the best long-term sense, and worrying that having pilfered pensions, we're the next target.

Re:The real questions should be different (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042827)

As the Israeli have proved, there is much that can be done to reduce water consumption when growing plants.

Such as not growing citrus fruit in a desert?

Re:The real questions should be different (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042967)

No, building a wall [wikipedia.org] between your delicious citrus fruits' water supply and other people who might need it.

If we didn't eat meat? (2, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042979)

>>Do we actually need all those agriculture products?

>Yes, we do.

What if we reduced our meat consumption, and reduced consumption of other water-hungry foods?

You are of course very correct about being more efficient about water use, as proved by many people in many desert and semi-desert areas.

Re:The real questions should be different (3, Insightful)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043247)

One of the things that goes on in permaculture is the idea of being careful about water use when growing even traditionally water-intensive crops. The idea is that you can actually do a LOT without a lot of water, and also that many mature ecosystems (including rain forests) tend to recycle a lot of their water in the form of transpiration turning into rainfall.

So while we need a lot of water to be used in agriculture, it can be done efficiently, and with a surprisingly low level of water input even in arid environments.

Re:The real questions should be different (2)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042643)

Do we actually need all those agriculture products?

Yes, we sure as hell do. We are TOTALLY dependent upon agriculture for our survival - at least in civilization as we know it.

Isn't there a different way to use water for the same purpose with possibly higher efficiency?

There is. Eat less meat. It takes tremendous amounts of water to produce the corn and, to a lesser extent, the wheat that we feed to become pork and cow meat.

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042733)

Here's a novel idea - you could try not feeding corn to cows. They can't eat it anyway, so it's a collossal waste of resources.

Here's a hint - most of the world's farmland isn't rolling midwestern cornfields. Most of the world manages to raise livestock just fine.

Partly it's a question of preference - Americans like bland greasy meat, so their livestock farming practices reflect that.

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Informative)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042807)

Indeed ... 'corn fed' meat is not the norm in most of the world. Here in Australia it's almost all grass-fed. Then again, we don't have the harsh winters that necessitate keeping cattle indoors for several months each year, so it's easier just to let em roam free and munch on the grass all year.

Incidentally, I honestly don't know why Americans prefer corn-fed meat. It seems fattier than grass-fed and doesn't taste 'right' to me, but I suppose that's simply because I grew up eating 'our' meat and got used to that taste. As you say, a preference thing.

Uh... (3, Funny)

raehl (609729) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042873)

I honestly don't know why Americans prefer corn-fed meat. It seems fattier than grass-fed

You answered your own question. We're Americans, and we want more fat. Fat taste good, mmmm+e@Ds%*a`v=\|3s};aH

NO HEARTBEAT

Re:The real questions should be different (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043211)

I honestly don't know why Americans prefer corn-fed meat

They don't. They just don't know any better.

FYI, the US government has subsidized the corn industry (i.e. they take money from other people, by force, and hand it over to the corn industry, like some kind of mafia scheme). This has allowed the corn industry to become a dominant force that would never have occurred in a free market. You will find corn sneaking into foods you would never have thought: ice cream for example (corn syrup, being subsidized, is artificially cheaper than real sugar). The situation is ridiculous -- and reeks of injustice -- but as you are probably aware, there is no such thing as a temporary government program.

The people behind it are making millions; that was, of course, the entire point.

Re:The real questions should be different (5, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042981)

The corn farmers lobbyists are too influential in the US...
They want to continue producing corn, and won't even consider changing their business model...
So instead of looking to produce appropriate products to meet demand, they are looking for ways to force their existing products onto the market, even when they are not the best choice...

Case in point high fructose corn syrup, it is a terrible sweetener and requires considerably more processing than sugar, making it more expensive to produce...
In the US, high taxes on sugar force the use of HFCS...
In other countries without such manipulative taxes, market forces result in sugar being used because its a more suitable product.

The situation is so ridiculous, that people in the US actually go out of their way and often pay more to buy Coke that's been imported from Mexico because it uses real sugar instead of HFCS.

Re:The real questions should be different (2)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043053)

"Americans like bland greasy meat, so their livestock farming practices reflect that."

ITYM cheap meat.

Re:The real questions should be different (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043091)

WTF???? Feeding the trolls....
"They can't eat it anyway, so it's a collossal waste of resources."
Citation? Because I have 300 dairy cows out back that will call you a lier. BTW, you don't feed cows, you feed there rumen bugs, which then feed the cow.

Re:The real questions should be different (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043153)

Partly it's a question of preference - Americans like bland greasy meat, so their livestock farming practices reflect that.

Actually, many do not. We like spices on it. For example, I eat low fat ranged beef, with habanero sauce. Good stuff. And absolutely nothing bland about that. Of course, I have seen that most veggi dishes are about as bland as it gets.

But hey, your accusation says a lot.

Re:The real questions should be different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043289)

I'm reasonably sure that the other fellow is talking more about how americas cereal feedlot/minimal movement farming practices produces crappier meat than practices elsewhere.

Not quite sure where you got your interpretation, you can add seasoning to anything.

Re:The real questions should be different (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042749)

Eat less grain-fed feedlot meat. It takes tremendous amounts of water to produce the irrigated corn and, to a lesser extent the irrigatedwheat that we feed to become pork and cow meat.

fix'd that for you.

Where I am, in the Central Wheatbelt area of Western Australia, i don't know a single person who uses any water other than rainfall to grow crops, although some water is used in herbicide applications. And a majority of livestock here aren't grain-fed until they've been purchased and are awaiting slaughter(within a few days, a week at most), plus the water for animals is at least half rainfall from dams, and the remainder is saline bore water.

It's all to do with pricing (5, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042741)

The perception is that when something is cheap, it is of low value so it doesn't matter if you consume too much of it.
If you look at areas where water is scarce and where wars are fought over it, or where it has to be desalinated i,e, it's expensive, you'll find the users are a lot more careful over how much is used and how it is used.

Compare US irrigation methods:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Irrigation1.jpg [wikipedia.org]

with Persian Qanat methods:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qanat [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's all to do with pricing (3, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042875)

The perception is that when something is cheap, it is of low value so it doesn't matter if you consume too much of it.

mmm, it's basic economics, if something is cheap then you don't worry about how much of it you are using. If you do then you will likely be driven out of buisness by someone who doesn't.

One problem is in a lot of places there are a lot of people with rights to draw from the same aquifer. Since each individually makes up a tiny portion of the load on the aquifer none of them individually have any motivatation to reduce what they take from it even if the current overall take rate is unsustainable.

Compare US irrigation methods:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Irrigation1.jpg [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

with Persian Qanat methods:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qanat [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

mmm, looks the persian QNAT method avoids a lot of evaporation losses and doesn't need power but it also can only be constructed in specific terrain and looks highly labor intensive to construct.

A compromise could be to keep the pumps from the american method but deliver the water through soil seepage like the persians do.

Re:The real questions should be different (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042983)

Irrigation is mostly done in inefficient ways, some of the water just evaporates to the atmosphere the other part lixiviates through the ground and gets into nearby underground or surface water streams.

Plants also have different water needs, so that their roots are effective at pulling out nutrient out of the soil. Some just need a lot of water for their metabolism and loose much water through perspiration.

Irrigation is also bad cause it builds up salt content on the top soil, and through the excessive use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides it's a major source of pollution for freshwater water streams.

Water use can be made more effective on orchards and vineyards by use of drop irrigation, this is becoming current practice in many other crops.

To cutback water usage in agriculture would mean not only using efficient irrigation systems but also changing the crops that are sown that require less water and grow more vegetables near cities so that there is less wasted produce.

That means that consumer habits would have to change, less cereal, more greens and beans, more seasonality in food stores and less of the same food all year round.

And more important, less meat on the table cause most of the grain is produced for cattle and poultry meat production than for human consumption.

Re:The real questions should be different (0)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043015)

Well,duh on the agricultural products.
Mostly this is some "the sky is falling environmentalist attention whores" reminding you to be frugal with fresh water, it doesn't come out of the ground you know.
Water comes up from well and irrigates rows of crops, what doesn't soak back into the ground immediately is eventually evaporated back into the atmosphere.
I guess the public school fear is that it just goes into space or once its used for irrigation the water is muddy so it should be disposed of, lol.

There are better ways of irrigating, providing you have the manpower and can pay for it without adding overhead cost that would make farming not worth it.
I can't imagine a cornfield full of soaker hose. Hydroponic is far and away the most non cost effective way of growing anything, ask a pothead. Then I guess of course you could always spend eternity watering each individual plant everyday and watch the unwatered portion die.

No, this is just another scare article by the same people who want you to have nightmares about roasting, freezing and possibly the same folks who will assure you that every homeless puppy gets a buttload of firecrackers. Just bad form and another gimme money campaign to follow, After all an environmentalist has to eat and make SUV payments even though that house in Malibu is paid for.

Re:The real questions should be different (3, Interesting)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043109)

Actually, modern agriculture is exceptionally efficient. Problems lie in other things:

1. Our diet, specifically that of Western nations. Meat production is far more water-intensive then similar value (in terms of energy received from eating produce) plant production.
2. Our numbers. Amount of the people on the planet has exploded over last hundred years or so as child and adult mortality basically collapsed with advent of modern medicine.
3. People born in the cities having never encountered the reality of food production. We have things like "organically grown food", which is essentially an older, far less efficient way of doing agriculture (among other things in terms of water efficiency).

So as a result, we have agriculture that is forced to support an ever growing appetites of ever growing amount of people. As a result we're forced to use large amounts of water to irrigate the fields and mind you, this irrigation is far more efficient then it ever was in our history in terms of water used per yields received!

Re:The real questions should be different (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043121)

The question is: Do we need to import water intensive products from countries wiht a water "income" problem, while throwing away our own agriculture products to stabilize market prices?

The answer is: No. We should not force poor countries to produce meat and meat pre-products, like soja and corn, which we only use feed to animals in our country. Yes this will make meat more expensive for consumers, but only because they would have to pay the full price for the production and cannot externalize cost to people in poor countries who have to suffer from that ignorance.

Re:The real questions should be different (4, Insightful)

cbope (130292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043333)

And the OTHER real question is; why does the average American use so much water?

As an American living abroad for nearly 12 years, I noticed a dramatic difference in water consumption after moving out of the US. Where I live in Europe (Finland), we use roughly 10-20% of what I was used to in the US. People here don't let taps run. They don't take long showers. The appliances in the home (and machines in businesses) are designed to use FAR less water than the equivalent devices in the US. My washing machine uses worst-case 10-15% of a typical US-made washing machine. Ditto for the dishwasher. Yes, the appliances and machines cost more, better engineering is required.

When something is cheap, you don't CARE about waste. This is part of the problem with what I call the cheap-ification of America. Everything must be cheap, cheap, cheap. It is a too price-driven market. Witness the success of Walmart, which has completely destroyed large numbers of otherwise fully working businesses, all in the name of CHEAP. Let's not even get into their business practices, hiring practices and treatment of their own employees. I vowed never again to step into a Walmart and to be first in line to raise my voice should they attempt to set up shop here (luckily, they are mostly absent in the EU).

Re:The real questions should be different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043187)

I think the REAL question we should be asking is how many libraries of Congress are there in an olympic sized swimming pool??

Solution (4, Informative)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042591)

if the ultimate consumers were to make it themselves rather than outsource its growth or manufacture.

There are some good solutions in The Humanure Handbook [humanurehandbook.com] . That does not change corporate agriculture, but a little awareness on our behaviour is a good thing.

As Mark Boyle (The Moneyless Man) once said: if we knew how hard it was to purify our drinking water, we sure as hell wouldn't shit in it.

Mmmmm, Commodity Meat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042611)

Do those figures take into account the watering in my mouth? I don't think so.

Are americans actually retaining that much water? (0)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042615)

Because that would explain why they're so fat.

consume consume consume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042625)

It's important that all resources on this planet are reduced to a commodity studied as traded between businesses and consumed by consumers, especially essentials such as water. Only then can we go the laughable way of England and have a completely privatised water supply, costing much more in real terms than it ever did when run by government on behalf of the people. And how about carbon dioxide emissions? You know what would be better than investing in nuclear and other alternatives to fossil fuel? A licence to pollute more! Some entrepreneur could make a mint selling or brokering these licences. We could call them... carbon credits.

The great thing about the old religions was that they were miles away from pretending to be based on reason. What was illogical was ascribed to the mystery of God. The free market is more insidious, being an exercise in logic based on unsound premises.

Re:consume consume consume (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042739)

The free market is more insidious, being an exercise in logic based on unsound premises.

Paranoiac delirium, it's called.

You've missed the point of privatisation (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043071)

It was never done to save the consumer money, it was done to save the GOVERNMENT money. Whatever politicians say, they don't really care how much the average citizen has to cough up for public services. They simply care that they can spend less on them so they have more money to waste on pointless wars so they can be best buddies with the USA (yeah, right) or subsidising undeserving "asylum" seekers and their 10 kids.

OB (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042653)

The average American uses enough water each year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool

The French don't get through that much in total.

Re:OB (5, Funny)

frenchbedroom (936100) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042839)

That's right monsieur, we're saving the planet, one relinquished shower at a time! Come visit our lovely country and smell for yourself the wonderful aroma of true organic, water-saving BO. If you're an environment-minded person, come enjoy a subway ride in Paris! You'll be overwhelmed by the lengths we go to help all you beautiful, hygiene-conscious, rose-smelling-poop-defecators with your Olympic washing lifestyle. I mean literally, it will make you weep. Should you feel thirsty during your travel, you can lick the sweat off the brow of your neighbour, just like we do everyday. Every little drop counts! Seriously, it's not so bad when you get used to it.

I'm off to my yearly little splash in the Seine! Ta-ta, mon cher ami!

Re:OB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042907)

No, can't be. An olympic sized pool has 2500m^3 of water. In europe, a household of 1 uses about 90m^3 per year. There are 64,876,618 in France. So it's more somewhere near 2 million swimming pools of water, consumed by the French each year.

Whooooosh.... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043025)

Does sarcasm really have to be flagged on here with neon signs for some people?

National Reservoir (1)

neurosine (549673) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042657)

Now can we set up a pretend entity to buy and sell our pretend water, much as we buy and sell pretend money now? It takes the emphasis off of what's happening with our real water, much in the way the national reserve has allowed us to ignore what dire straights we're in concerning our real wealth.

Re:National Reservoir (2)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042745)

As long as we can use it to pay bills, I'm fine with it. Get it in your head already, ALL money is "pretend" as you put it.

Permaculture (2)

cptBongo (1376805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042659)

I'd encourage anyone interested (and worried) by these issues to look up and study everything they can find about Permaculture. Solutions are available, if we use our brains.

Plants need water to grow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042665)

Let me know when they figure out how to make plants grow without water.

Seriously, is it now a global crisis that plants need water to grow, and animals need water to live? FFS... what are we all supposed to do? Die of dehydration to "save Mother Earth?"

The far-left fringe lunatics are getting way too much coverage. If they want to go back to living in caves and subsisting on almost nothing, they are free to do that of their own choice.

We see this all the time in the western US (5, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042667)

Australians are dealing with it as well. The cities are drinking up more and more water. In the east where they have lots of water there is no question of starving the farms to feed the cities. But in the west water is a limited quantity.

Sure, we could kill the bread basket of the US... or in california's case it's fruit-basket. But to what end? We're already importing a lot of food from mexico because the farms have been starved for decades. Huge stretches of California that used to be covered in farms are now dust. It has nothing to do with land management. The land is fine... there is no water. And there used to be lots. The cities drank it.

Now, the cities need it... and if I have to choose between the cities getting the water or the farms then I'll choose the cities. But it's a dangerous game and the best solution is to build more dams, more reservoirs, more pipe lines, and more water treatment centers. All of that costs money but the cities have NOT built water infrastructure to keep pace with their consumption. The farms use a lot of water but their consumption has gone DOWN. The consumption of the cities has gone up and they haven't built anything. They just grow and grow without building new infrastructure for water. Even the big cities in the east aren't keeping pace. New York City has some giant water pipes under it that pump water out of an aquifer under the city. When initially built, the city only needed one of those pipes. The rest was extra for growth or if they wanted to shut down one for a time. Now they can't shut down any of them and are piping water in from farther away. But they've built nothing to deal with it.

Contrary to what many environmentalists are saying, sustainable growth doesn't mean "no growth" instead it means expanding our infrastructure as we grow so that we don't have shortages. Killing the farms to get water to the cities only shifts problems. Do that and all our food will say "product of mexico" or canada or some other place because we won't grow anything. The Australians are having the same problem. Huge amounts of water flow into the sea untapped in eastern Australia. Dams that were scheduled to be built 30 or 40 years ago were never built. It would apparently spoil the view or something. So farmers in Australia are literally committing suicide because their family farms are being starved of water and driving them out of business. To say nothing of the fact that the country is increasingly dependent on foreign importation of food when previously they were largely self sufficient.

Point being... Do not starve the farms. If the cities need water then stop looking at who to take it from. Man up and build more supply. There is plenty of water flowing out into the ocean that is never touched to say nothing of rainwater that is never touched. Furthermore, cities could much more readily make use of gray water for cleaning/etc then the farms. Starve the farms and you'll be sorry... it will just mean food prices start doubling and you lose all control over food quality standards because its all imported.

Re:We see this all the time in the western US (3, Informative)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042767)

The other problem in Australia is the ~variability~ of the supply of water. When it's dry, you really need that extra infrastructure ... but most of the time it'll sit there being relatively unused.

It's not true that the east has lots of water. Generally it either has too much, or not enough. "Not enough" is far more common than "too much". Right now it's wet: two consecutive La Nina summers with consequent flooding and heavy rains. Dams are all basically full. Crop yields are up (at least, in the areas where they aren't under 6 feet of water!)

However just a couple of years ago we were at the tail end of an almost decade-long drought. Worst in a century they say. Many towns completely ran out of water and had to have it trucked in daily (reasonable sized towns too, like Goulburn NSW). And even in the large capital cities things were looking grim ... here in Canberra our dams were only ~20% full at one point. For a couple of years, we were on the highest level of water restrictions that existed - no watering of gardens/lawns/washing of cars/filling of pools permitted, and minimal water allowed for personal use. Similar stories in Sydney and Melbourne. And when a drought is so, so long, you begin to think it will never rain again and the seemingly absurd prospect of a major city with millions of people literally running out of water starts to look increasingly likely (scary!)

Sydney built an expensive desalination plant in response to this threat. Canberra's building another dam (or technically, they are massively expanding one of the existing 4 dams that feed the city). Of course, as soon as these projects got underway, the rains started falling properly again for the first time in 9 years. The desal plant sits basically idle now (since Sydney dams are back to almost 100%) Still, I'm sure it'll be needed one day so I don't see it as wasted expenditure.

You're absolutely right that huge volumes of water flow into the ocean in Eastern Australia that could be tapped to provide for the cities. Generally this is of a 'quick and heavy' nature (thunderstorm runoff). So in the long term I think the cities are OK. The big problem is that most of our agricultural areas are inland of the Great Dividing Range, so water that falls there flows inland into the Murray Darling basin. And rainfall out that way is very erratic ... and even in good years, it's not that high. Australia is a very dry continent once you're off the narrow coastal fringe between the east coast and the Divide (only 50-100km wide for the most part). No amount of dams will help the inland because the rain simply doesn't fall often enough. You'd have to divert water from the coasts (which is essentially what the Snowy Hydro Scheme [wikipedia.org] was about (and is largely what allowed cultivation of the inland to occur in the first place). But I don't think there's the appetite these days for such massive and expensive infrastructure projects to be honest.

Also as far as I know, Australia still exports far, far more food than it imports. I'm sure I've read recent figures showing we produce 4-5x what we need to be self-sufficient ... so I don't think we are reliant at all on imported food. We might ~choose~ to import some food rather than grow our own, but if worst comes to worst and we suddenly were completely isolated from the rest of the world, we'd be fine.

Re:We see this all the time in the western US (2)

BeaverCleaver (673164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042985)

We also have farms in this country that grow cotton and rice using cheap irrigation water. These crops were never suited to Australian conditions and unless there is some revolution in how to grow these crops (some new GM variety perhaps?) then it's foolish to grow them in the driest inhabited continent on Earth, and especially insane to do it in western NSW.

Like the many, many posters above, the problem isn't "agriculture" per se, it's agriculture that's unsuited to the environment, whether that's cattle where no cattle have historically been present, or subtropical crops in the desert.

Re:We see this all the time in the western US (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043027)

No amount of dams will help the inland because the rain simply doesn't fall often enough.

We could pump our waste water inland and use it for agriculture (with fertiliser built in). I know it's a massive infrastructure project but it would also mean a great deal more potential food export plus enhance the ability to populate inland.

Excellent post, BTW. Melbourne - Four seasons in one day, Sydney - Four seasons at the same time - sometimes - who knows??? I posted about Sydneys weather not so long ago [slashdot.org] .

Re:We see this all the time in the western US (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043105)

As to the system only being needed in a drought... I feel like you're saying you only need shoes when you go outside or only need a knife you need to cut something. Sure, you don't need a knife when you go jogging or shoes when you go to sleep. But you need it because there will be a drought. And that can go on for a decade or more. In california we struggled with a long drought and our great dams drained year after year. But we had enough because prior generations had built them.

There has been much growth since they built those structures and there will be much more to come. We must be as kind to our children and grand children as our fathers and grand fathers were to us. We must build or there will be nothing for them but what their great grand fathers built. It will not be enough.

As to the eastern US not having lots of water. Oh my god. If the east thinks it isn't swimming in the stuff then they're like a rich man that is so incompetent with his finances that even the smallest checks bounce. If what you're saying is true then I have to laugh. I hope you're wrong because I don't want to think the water management people out there are outright morons.

As to it being too much or too little... you're not seeing a solution in there? Take a little from column A and add it to column B.

As to these areas flooding, they were told thirty or forty years ago this would happen and they had to raise levies. They didn't want to do that. Fine. Swim.

Seeing a theme here? I don't mean to come off like a dick here. It's just that everyone was told a full generation ago how to solve these problems. And everyone took the engineering diagrams and planning projects and dismissed them. Now we're having problems and it's just going to get worse. It's just bad planning.

As to some areas not having enough water. Pipe it. Los Angeles has water pipe lines going for hundreds of miles piping water from all over the state. My home city was made possible by men who thought big and long term. City builders. If the city is running out of water now then it's because the inheritors of my great city are not of the same stature. How many of them do you think have the stones to actually build a city like LA from the ground up? Not a one of the losers. The men that built my city were not nice people. They were not warm or cuddly or your friend. They weren't monsters but if they had to cut a throat to get the water... throats were going to get cut. Judge that how you like but my city of millions wouldn't exist without them. Many of them did all this without advanced educations or teams of scientists to work out long term consequences. They had neither the time nor the inclination to bother with it. They had problems and most had no solutions at all. They for all their faults came up with plans... hundreds of them. And they then did it. They actually went out there and did it. People told them it was impossible... it had never been done before. They didn't care. Say what you will but I have to admire the hell out of that. The carebear and latte crowd would have sat in mud huts wondering what to do... it's what they do best. If we just channeled a quarter of the old guts and determination that built my city all of these logistical problems would evaporate. I'm not claiming the world would be perfect... but stupid issues like "we don't have enough water" would be gone. We've got lots.

If you're having water shortage issues in the eastern US then you have much smaller and easier issues then we have out here. How many pipe lines and aqueducts have you built? The romans could have solved your problems and they lived in the bronze age. We had to have hundreds of miles of custom made pipeline custom built for us in Italy and then shipped all the way to san francisco where it was pulled by horses and oxen in huge numbers into position. And then with little more then brute strength piles large enough for a tall man to walk upright were bolted together one after the other. The temperature was frequently over 100 degrees. The pipe went through valleys and over hills... through the desert and the heat. They had what roads they built. So there's a problem for you. Tell me you're out of water when you go through that. I don't mean to come off as strong or an ahole here. I'm just trying to somehow get across the seriousness of it. When you come up to problems like this you have to have a little more iron in your blood. You have to look at mountains... walls of stone tens of thousands of feet high and miles thick... and know that you're bigger, more powerful, and deeper. You don't build transcontinental railroads or comprehensive water networks for millions of people in arid locations with anything less.

As to sydney, they had a plan to build several more dams 50 years ago. This is well before desalination was considered even possible on municipal scales. They were shelved because they don't want to flood those valleys... wild life and it would spoil the view. That's a real first world problem... where as not having water is a third world problem. Which takes precedence? Water. Every time. Like a blade to the throat... it's something that should focus the mind.

So rather then building the dams when they ran out of water they starved the farms that depend on that water to exist.

Some farmers were literally committing suicide because they were destroyed. Putting the farmers on water rations doesn't work... they can reduce their water a little by avoiding certain crops but cut it too much and it's dead. The cities really need to have segregated water resources that are theirs and the farmers need to have their own water resources. If the cities need more they can buy the water from the farmers but it should be prohibitively expensive so the cities get a more permanent solution... and the farmers are compensated for having their livelihood shutdown. In the western US we actually have this to some extent. Not enough since it's all old legacy law that goes back more then 100 years. But basically water rights in the western US are very different from the eastern US. In the west, if you have water rights it's like having secured credit in a bankruptcy. So the first mortgage in a bankruptcy claims everything it is owed from the estate first. Whatever is left goes to the second mortgage. If there's anything left over then the third mortage can take what it is owed and so forth. What that means is that if you have priority water rights you don't need to cut back water usage in a drought. People with low priority water rights can often get nothing at all. No water. Period. So some farms in California have no water issues ever and some are always struggling. For this reason unless water rights are changed, california will always have a healthy agricultural industry but because of our growing population it is unlikely that we'll be able to feed ourselves because our farming sector is shrinking down to the just the farms with high priority water rights.

As to Australia being dry. Tell me that when they drink every drop of run off. If you want to keep the rivers then tap it right before it gets to the ocean and then pipe it where it is needed. If large amounts of water is flowing into the ocean then that's all waste. And it's cheaply tapped... it's right there. Take it. Again if you want the river for recreation or wildlife then keep it but it doesn't need to flow into the ocean. The loss to evaporation isn't great but it's better then just letting the water flow into the ocean. That's just stupid. And if you want fish to migrate we can even set up a little side channel that's big enough for fish but small enough that 99.9 percent of the water stays in the water system.

Furthermore, there is a proposed water pipe line from Tasmania to Australia. It sounds crazy, but it's actually pretty easy. All we need is a 200 mile long garden hose from the mountains of Tasmania to the mainland of australia. The project is projected to cost less then half of what the desalination plant costs, has very low maintenance, and provides four times the water at no energy cost. Furthermore, the Tanzanians don't need the water. THey have absurd amounts of water there. What they need is money for development... and the money from australia to build this would help them build up their own country's infrastructure. Everyone wins. Maybe we can't make australia go completely green but we could get pretty close if we stop acting silly. We have huge water resources they just need some infrastructure. Think big. The cost of these projects are nothing compared to what you'd be enabling. Cities would rise from the earth like wheat. Compared to the cost of the projects that's nothing. Imagine the Western US without our water infrastructure. We'd have less then a tenth of our current population and almost none of our agriculture.

Forget about providing enough water for existing need. Think of providing water for the next 100 years along with all the growth.

As to Australia being a net exporter... Nope... that bridge has been crossed:
http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/australia-a-net-importer-of-food-20101027-173kl.html [smh.com.au]

The farms were starved and this is the consequence. Starving them further will only make this more extreme. Give the farms the water they need. You need to see that as nearly as important as people getting the water. This is a third world problem. It's right up there with barbarian invasions and getting attacked by wolves. If a mother and her children are getting savaged by wolves you don't say "careful the wolves are endangered." It takes precedence over other first world problems. Just build the dams. They're not that expensive and you'll save/make far more then they cost in increased production, reduced importation, growth, etc. Consider what Hoover dam cost compared to how much money it made the US in providing water and power to the south west? It's got to be over a million to one. Looking at that cost scale you'd have to be mad not to build it.

Do you want to pay one dollar to make a million? I mean... that's like asking if you want cake or death.

Cake please.

We need an agricultural revoltuion (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042769)

That is fit for the 21st century. We had a food revolution in the 20th century, where we used massive amounts of fertilizer and massive amounts of water, this resulted in massive amounts of food. But at what cost? We chopped down most of the great rainforests and are quickly depleting what remains of the prime topsoil left in the world. We need a paradigm shift. We have the technology to make maximum use of water, we only need to make the investments needed to reap the savings. There are numerous small scale initiatives around the world, utilizing mangroves, saltwater irrigation, greenhouses, hydroponics. Wastage results in more than 1/3 of food going bad or being thrown away due to market conditions. Much work needs to be done if we are to feed 10 billion humans.

Re:We need an agricultural revoltuion (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042897)

Given that for any one calory worth of food we consume, we use about 10 cal worth of fossil fuels for its production and transport, I'd say that this paradigm shift will be upon us in force shortly, whether we want it or not.

Re:We need an agricultural revoltuion (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043301)

That is fit for the 21st century. We had a food revolution in the 20th century, where we used massive amounts of fertilizer and massive amounts of water, this resulted in massive amounts of food. But at what cost? We chopped down most of the great rainforests and are quickly depleting what remains of the prime topsoil left in the world. We need a paradigm shift. We have the technology to make maximum use of water, we only need to make the investments needed to reap the savings. There are numerous small scale initiatives around the world, utilizing mangroves, saltwater irrigation, greenhouses, hydroponics. Wastage results in more than 1/3 of food going bad or being thrown away due to market conditions. Much work needs to be done if we are to feed 10 billion humans.

As to what the food amounted to... it amounted to your parents being able to eat and you being able to eat. Willing to go hungry to save the planet? Even if you are, which is unlikely most would beat you to within an inch of your life for a sandwich after going without food for a few days. Your moral position only survives if people stay well fed. If people go hungry everything breaks down and people just stop caring about everything but where to get food - NOW.

As to the environmental cost, you're mostly talking about the third world that is practicing slash and burn. Both Africa and south america have a big problem with that and it is destroying their environment. In the first world, it isn't a problem. Our agricultural revolution didn't do that. In fact, I think by most estimates we have larger forests today then we did 400 years ago. That sounds absurd, but apparently the old forests burned a lot and due to our land management... eg logging and fire departments... they don't burn down as much. I'm not 100 percent sure on that but I did hear that from what I considered a credible source.

As to prime topsoil, again this is mostly a third world issue. There are mismanaged farms in the US but they're the exception to the rule. Farming is a professional business. It's actually one of the more scientific and specialized fields in our society. Farmers... especially the large ones are run like long term investments. They're not going to let the farm go to hell because that would spell doom for their business.

As to mangroves... not sure what you're talking about there. How do you get food out of them? I don't think you can eat them no matter how they're processed. I supposed you could eat the cellos... but you wouldn't get any nutrition out of it. Some food companies add what is basically wood pulp as a filler to food... it's called "cellos" on the ingredients. On the bright side, it's low calories and won't hurt you.

As to salt water irrigation, that is an interesting idea but unfortunately most plant species are poisoned by salt water. Would you be willing to accept some genetic engineering of existing staple crops if it meant they could be raised on salt water? If so, that would be a real 21st century agricultural revolution. We've got wheat that will grow in subzero climate because we spliced it with icefish so it produces it's own antifreeze. Down side is that people that are allergic to fish can sometimes have a reaction to it. It's still a learning process but it's very promising.

As to greenhouses and hydroponics... Expensive. But possibly it's for the best. Some of the larger agro farms might be able to finance something like this but it would require a significant increase in food prices to be worth it. The problem is that if food prices in the US rise we'll just import the food rather then growing it locally. So to make this happen we'd either need to cut off trade to other countries or have food prices raised internationally which would cause the third world to starve... millions of dead babies. I put that image into your head because it's easy to say just raise prices in the first world. But in the third food is almost the only thing they actually buy. Rent for mud huts is not something that really happens. And the same shirt can be worn continuously for a year or more if it's heavy duty, well mended, and washed about as often as the person washes. Much of the political discontent in the middle east was started by a sharp rise in grain prices that happened because of the ethanol program and increased oil prices from china. That caused western food production costs to go up as fertilizer, pesticide, and tractor fuel went up. That was passed on to people buying food and many simple didn't have enough. So... riots. For food. I'm just trying to make the point that small rises in basic commodities can be a life and death situation. Just be careful.

As to food being wasted, this is a problem but its actually less true in the mechanized first world then it is in the third world. We're better at preserving food, refrigerating it, or converting it to something more durable. How many third world countries have large canning operations to can fruit and vegetables? Not many. And if they do, they're almost always set up by first world corporations to turn a local produce into something globally marketable. I don't know what your sentiments are on the matter but an increase in the number of such operations would help the third world. It would give them more jobs, bring more money into the country, and give them a more reliable food source.

Preserving food is a big deal. Every successful civilization in the last 4000 years relied upon a staple crop that it had mastered in cultivation, management, storage, and preparation. Today, we've mastered thousands of crops. Each is different. Each must be grown slightly differently, harvested differently, stored differently, and prepared differently. It's complicated.

I like that you want to think differently. My only question is what your intentions are with that different thought. Because while being environmentally conscious is important it is also a secondary concern when people are hungry. Environmentalists don't like hearing that but again... hungry people will beat you to death with their own shoes if you try to keep them from food or they think you're responsible for their hunger. So production is actually prime. The trick is to meet production needs while also being environmentally conscious. If our methods are too expensive or don't produce enough then we fail. We have to produce, keep costs low, and be environmentally conscious. The solution of "oh just spend more money"... is a rookie mistake.

Water is highly recyclable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042693)

It's too bad that once water is consumed it disappears forever.

Oh wait, no it doesn't.

Privatization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042701)

The criminal activity today is to privatize water.
Fuck these Agenda 21 fascists
Fuck the slashdot experts (who don't know shit)

Ron Paul is Clearly the Solution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042725)

I love it when Ron Paul cums in my mouth. The hot, salty, creamy ejaculate is just chock full of liberty, gold, and prepper fantasy, and anyone who doesn't think Ron Paul should be benevolent dictator, immune to the laws of the land and with infinite license to ignore the Constitution, is just a bolshevik hater.

Desalination (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042753)

Desalination .. just have solar powered desalination plants so that desalinated sea water can be piped inland to the farms .. israel does it .. if you dont wanna be stuck with a salt mound .. just remix the salt with the agricultural outflow and it'll be dumped back in the sea.

Re:Desalination (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042835)

Yeah, only, like, wouldn't it be great if instead of having to build huge desalination plants and then pipe the water to where it's needed, there was some way that the water would, just, like, float up into the sky and then dump down on farmland?

Wait...

Re:Desalination (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043135)

Indeed. While places like Israel and Australia are indeed in a bit of a trouble in relation to water, there are plenty of spots in the world where rainfalls are significant enough to reduce the need for such extreme measures to ensure irrigation needs are met. Incidentally, that's where most of the world's food is produced as well.

Re:Desalination (1)

Dr. Tom (23206) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043169)

graphene bilayers selectively pass only pure water. problem solved.

Why don't we use Antarctic Ice? (2)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042803)

Why don't we use Antarctic Ice? It should be transportable in large quantities. A super oil tanker sized ship should be able to supply some i guess.

But would it be financially realistic?

Re:Why don't we use Antarctic Ice? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042971)

Because the amount of water that a supersized oil tanker can carry is but drop in the big scheme of things.

Just compare your own fuel consumption and domestic water consumption. Your total water consumption is a lot higher than the domestic consumption, because, as TFA says, agriculture uses the most. So, in a nutshell, the answer to your suggestion is: "No, that's pointless, because we just use too much frickin' water to start transporting it across the globe".

Re:Why don't we use Antarctic Ice? (1)

BeaverCleaver (673164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042989)

No. It has actually been studied.

Re:Why don't we use Antarctic Ice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043067)

Millions of cubic meters?

Side effects (2)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042809)

Maybe using lots of water in agriculture is actually a good thing.

Lets actually look at what side effects might be if plants weren't getting enough water, for a start photosynthesis needs lots of water for the electron exchange of the reaction, now yes there are alternatives (arsenite) usually they are toxic, also only work in specific bacteria designed to do it that way.

Fundamentally, the more water the more photosynthesis, the more sugar (for us and livestock to eat) and oxygen we get. Therefore maximizing water usage for agriculture without drowning the plants is a good thing for all of us. It's not like water doesn't fall from the sky, it is the most abundant substance on this planet and not using it in one area does not suddenly help get it in desert areas where there is droughts and famines.

Re:Side effects (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042905)

It ceases to be a good thing when you have to deplete fossil aquifers to feed your plants, though. Or when you grab up all the freshwater upstream, leaving the guys downstream with dust.

Units (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042811)

I need to know how many Libraries of Congress each American consumes. For global agriculture I guess we could use Libraries of Alexandria...

Definitions - Tricky Things (5, Informative)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042869)

This study borders on sleight-of-hand to my mind. At least the way it is presented is misleading.

The headline says that 92% of freshwater use is in agriculture. What it doesn't mention is that the vast majority of that "use" of water is rain that happens to fall on farmland. We could increase that number by converting land use to arable land without changing any natural flow of water. For instance, the city of Adelaide is about the same area as the county of Cornwall and is built largely on prime agricultural land. Moving the city 100 miles North East onto unfarmable land and resuming agriculture there would noticeably increase the agricultural use of water - but it would actually be an environmentally good thing.

When it comes to diverting the natural course of water (extraction from rivers, building dams, draining lakes etc - what you might call exploiting the natural resource), the use of water in agriculture is much less - the majority here supplies water for urban residences and industry.

YES! (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042887)

Because water sprayed on plants and on the ground dissipates into space! And we have angered the sky gods so they are not sprinkling new water upon us as much!

The author of the article needs a bit more education in earth science. Yes I know the problem with pesticide and fertilizer contamination is real but if areas do proper watershed management it's just fine. What is the REAL problem is when you get idiots in a dry area wanting to pipe water out of a different watershed to them. For example, all the morons living in California wanting great lakes water. and large dams that reduce the flow to create recreational lakes for rich people.

Plus for example Arizona, Nevada, and California has a population greater than it's natural resources can handle, so people need to start moving away or live with the lack of water. Disrupting a watershed in that way will only cause problems for the area having the water taken out. It's there because of a balance of the water consumed is equal to the water collected from rain over the watershed area.

I'd support Pumping the water from the end of the Mississippi to California, but they don't want that water, they want that clean stuff we have up here, not the 1100 miles of turd dumping that happens starting in Chicago. Which brings up another point, rivers flowing to the oceans uses 80X more water than agriculture and industry combined. Why are we not talking how rivers are sucking fresh water dry?

Re:YES! (2)

CayceeDee (1883844) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043347)

but if areas do proper watershed management it's just fine.

True. However, no one does. None of the agricultural methods used in large scale agriculture use any kind of watershed management. They just keep draiing the water from the aquifers and not worrying about replenishment rates. It isn't about rain. Its about water access to provide more food than rain can do. Rainfall isn't reliable for large scale agriculture. In many areas where agriculture thrives rainfall is completely insufficient for crop growth. Especially for places like China and India. The solution is to dig into the aquifers for supplies. The problem is that we are past the replenishment level for most of them and are draining water from locations where it was deposited millenia ago. The hydrologic cycle isn't capable of replacing at the level we are draining. If we stop draining aquifers and rely on rainfall for all production then production decreases to the point where it isn't sufficient to provide the level of food required. Simple fact. We are withdrawing water faster than the natural system works. The water in the aquifers is limited. Once they are depleted we are faced with the more expensive alternatives. Price of food skyrockets and production falls. Only the rich can afford food and the rest of the people starve.

Dune & Spaceballs (2)

Loki_666 (824073) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042891)

So, we will be needing windtraps and stillsuits soon?

And how long before a company starts selling Perrie-air when the breathable air starts to run out?

xD

A direct link to the pdf (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042909)

This is a better link.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/06/1109936109.full.pdf

Water subsidy for agriculture (3, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042925)

Part of the problem is the traditional large subsidy that agricultural water gets (both via the infrastructure costs and in direct pricing). Farming would make better use of water if it had to pay the price.

PS: "Olympic-size swimming pools per year" is a strange way to measure water usage. "about 6.8 cubic metres per day" is a much clearer way to express this number. In particular, this makes it clear that low-flow toilets have a negligible effect on water use compared to dishwashing, showers, etc.

What's worse..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042933)

We're polluting fresh water at a frightening pace. This fracking obsession is threatening to perminately destroy the ground water supply for a third of the country. Ironically agricultural waste is one of the largest sources of pollution. Fruits and vegetables can be grown more efficiently but we are also grain obsessed in this country and grains are harder to reduce water consumption. We are also obsessed with meat and it uses vast amounts of water in production and processing. Some times our own laws shoot us in the foot. I was interested in gray water irrigation as in using waste tap and shower water for watering lawns and vegetable gardens. Would you believe in most areas it isn't legal? I'm talking about filtering it and rendering it safe first but there aren't standards for it in most areas rendering it illegal. If those that could went to composting toilets and gray water watering systems you'd only waste a small percentage of the water and you'd avoid using any tap water for plants and yards. Lawns are often the largest domestic water use especially in the southwest. Every house could water their lawns with gray water but instead the government forces you to dump all that into the sewers which in many areas lead right back to the ocean.

FYI to all those touting desalination. Picture watering your lawn with gasoline and taking showers in it because that's roughly what the water costs. The joke is the cheapest solution to any resource problem is conservation but people want solutions that allow them to keep wasting.

Commodities Market and Water (2)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042969)

It really puts grain dumping at sea to keep the commodities prices high into perspective.

Want To Use Less Water? Do Meatless Mondays (3, Informative)

beforewisdom (729725) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043029)

The water to produce various food products: From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_water#Agricultural_products [wikipedia.org] the production of 1 kg beef costs 15,500 L water the production of 1 kg broken rice costs 3,400 L water the production of 1 kg eggs costs 3,300 L water the production of 1 kg wheat costs 1,300 L water Google on "Meatless Monday", it is an international effort to get people to eat meatless for one day a week ( Monday ) to reduce pollution and other environmental problems. One day a week have cereal for breakfast, A PB & J and Banana sandwhich for lunch and a plate of pasta for dinner. I've seen various articles that doing ONLY meatless monday helps the environment more than being a pretentious "locavore" all week long. If you are interested in more information about the connection between good choices and the environment here are some short articles: http://beforewisdom.com/blog/environment/un-urges-global-move-to-meat-and-dairy-free-diet/ [beforewisdom.com] http://beforewisdom.com/blog/environment/go-greendrop-meat/ [beforewisdom.com]

Abundant resource (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043031)

There is NO other resource that is available in more abundant quantities than water. Shouldn't we focus our attention on those other?

the solution is (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043051)

to drink your urine

Its got what plants crave! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043057)

Shouldn't we be using Brawndo?

Usage (1)

kqc7011 (525426) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043083)

My comment is not so much about agriculture usage but about what happens when we "use" water. Is that the water goes down the drain and into the sewage system. From there it is treated and released to be used again and again. Look at almost any city on a river, they draw the water out of the river, use it for everything treat it and back it goes into the river. So if you live down stream of a water user, more than likely you are drinking some water that has been run through a sewage treatment plant. Unless the user is on the coast where when done with the sewage treatment it is dumped into the ocean. If more of the larger cities that are on a coast pumped the treated water inland???

Yes, for decades now .... (0)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043103)

In a few years I will retire, my wife ask frequently where do you want to live?

My reply, anywhere you want in the USA, except the western states that do not border on the Pacific ocean or the Mississippi river. Industrial agriculture not population density is the problem. So, Money or People? Money wins for more industrial agriculture and less people.

A decade ago we should have started the great irrigation canal from the Great Lakes or Hudson Bay for those west-central states, but now folks should just move east or west out of the disaster area (to little as opposed to to much). If the project were private industry it would just carry oil.

Industrial agriculture will feed the world, export food around the world, increase USA food prices, and food-stamp welfare will be an unacceptable burden on the national debt. Maybe we will have a USA national famine of plenty in 50 years.

Re:Yes, for decades now .... (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043329)

Wait, you want to build a pipeline in the mid-west? No way! [nytimes.com] And don't try and argue that it would be 100% privately funded or create thousands of jobs - been thee, done that [house.gov] .

US Corn (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043215)

Massive amounts of water; massive amounts of fertilizer; massive amounts of herbicide; massive amounts of pesticide. The dirt is mainly there to keep the stalks upright.

...did I mention the massive amounts of subsidies and massive amounts of corporate ownership?

Another solution for nuclear power (3, Interesting)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043219)

Another problem that could be solved if we started an emergency nuclear power plant building program, on the scale of the mobilization for WW2
plenty of electricity available for desalinization.

Virtual Isn't Real (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043233)

Water used to make a product that's shipped isn't at all necessarily water that's shipped. If the water is consumed in place but not included in the product it's not shipped. So claims that "virtual water flows across borders" is BS.

Likewise water that's used along its natural flow path, and cleaned (enough) to return it to its original destination, is impacting only in the place where it's diverted. When we put a factory on a plot of land we disrupt that land, and we're willing to accept some deletion from nature. Nature is very resilient, and not all diversions and conversions of it have unacceptable consequences.

We do go too far, and we do waste far too much. But exaggerations like these don't do anything except discredit the already difficult efforts to require management of what we use.

100% of water used is used (2)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043309)

What is so alarming about using 92% of all the water that is used in agriculture? If we cut agricultural water use in half, it would still account for 84% of all the water that is used?

100% percent of all the fresh water that is used is not 100% of all available fresh water. Some places have too much water, others too little, the primary issue is the distribution of the water, then the protection of it from harmful pollutants - the great thing about water is that it is about 100% reusable.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>