1. Have you ever water scarcity, such as drought?
Luckily, I have never experienced a real drought period to the extent of water scarcity however, a short experience of mine can make imagine how hard it must be. A few years ago I travelled to South Africa for 10 days. Our trip was very well organized and even though we went into the wild, we had entourage that was very well trained. During our visit to Zimbabwe, we dedicated one of our days to visit the Victoria Falls. Only the guides forgot to tell us to take with us at least 3 bottles of water each (3 litres). The daily trip was from early in the morning (07:00 am) until the early evening ( 21:00 pm) and the most organized of us had only a small bottle of water (0.5 litres) each; not to mention the unorganized who didn’t take anything with them. I still remember the feeling, after only 2 hours of walking, my bottle was empty and the distance to cover seemed endless.
The temperature was approximately 40°C but the climate and environment made you thirsty just by looking at it. Imagine being at a very high spot from where you had the clearest view of the water falls but yet being too far to drink from their water. We were walking in a rain forest for hours without finding a source of drinkable water. Our guides were laughing because we were so vulnerable to water scarcity that it seemed odd to them. (I can imagine they were much more used to such situations than us). By the time we were back the only thing I was thinking about was water! I rushed into the hotel and asked for a glass of water.
I think it is very interesting to see that for us who live in western civilization cultures, water is so given while there are entire communities of people for which water scarcity is simply an everyday factor they have to live with. I will always remember this experience because it made me think more critically about things I had so far been using and consuming unconsciously. My own experience of water scarcity lasted for only a few hours and I had the feeling I would faint, I really don’t know what I would do in a situation of actual drought and real water scarcity.
In my example, there was nothing we could really do about our thirst but in a drought period, all I can think of is to minimize your activity (every kind of activity) to prevent yourself from fainting. Now, from a macro-view, I believe every society should have water reservoirs for such emergencies as well as activated technologies to predict such situations (ex: drought). Some of the causes that can lead to water scarcity in large are: human intervention to extend the with of water reservoirs, aquatic pollution and channelization.
There have however, been some actions from the part of EU to deal with this. (“EU Against climate change; Adapting to climate change”, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/pdf/brochures/adapting_en.pdf ) According to the article, Europe will soon also suffer from significant climate changes, and especially, Southern Europe and the entire Mediterranean basin will suffer from extreme temperatures and drought. “It is estimated that there is potential for saving 40% of the EU’s current water use. A communication issued by the Commission in 2007 to kickstart the debate sets out an initial set of policy options for increasing water efficiency and saving in the EU.”
2. In some places around the world, water scarcity is a way of life. Why might this be the case? Do people always settle in biomes that are characterized by abundant water supplies, or do some people live in dry, desert climates?
- In our last lecture we learned that even in the deepest levels of the oceans, where there is complete absence of light, there still is life. I remember we compared this kind of life with the one in deserts. “How can living species survive in an environment of absolutely no light?” seems to me a similar question to “How can people live in deserts, under extreme temperatures and drought conditions?”. As an answer to the first question we learned (by surprise), that life is not only nourished by phytoplankton and zooplankton produced by photosynthesis. That there is another procedure that takes place: “chemosynthesis” and which can produce life equally well. The same I believe, stands for deserts and generally areas of water scarcity. Since there is life in such places, there are also the necessary resources; only, perhaps in a different form.
Also, when speaking about the floor-waters of the oceans we mentioned that the species living in these levels have fully adapted their needs to the existing conditions. (example: We referred to fish which produce light.) In the same way I believe all kinds of species (including humans), have found a way (or ways) to adapt to the conditions of a completely different environment. When we were discussing about different biomes I remember we said, that even in the Mediterranean Woodland biome (where temperature is less extreme than in deserts), we have fire-resistant plants and even animals are amazingly diverse and show several adaptations to drought.
Similarly, in deserts (and other water scarcity areas) although, precipitation is lower, the existing life (plants, animals, humans) has adapted to the extreme conditions to survive. (According to our textbook, plants in deserts look very unfamiliar both in shape and colour because they have grown that way to “protect their photosynthetic surfaces from intense sunlight and reduce evaporative water losses”).
” In biome, plants living in deserts exhibit adaptations to dryness of soil and high temperatures. They face the problem of insufficient water supply and a higher rate of transpiration.
Some plants are ephemeral. They complete their lifecycle in a short, favourable season and survive in a dormant state as seeds through the unfavourable period. Annual plants live in the way.
Some other plants have deep root systems. They reach the water table and meet their requirements by absorbing water from it.”(http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/pdf/brochures/adapting_en.pdf)
By making a quick research about people living in deserts I was surprised to see that they aren’t so few as I thought. Examples are: the Tuareg (Sahara), the Bedouin (Sahara), the Bushmen of Kalahari, the Aborigines (Australia), the American Indians and people in the desert corridor of Asia. As I read through some interesting websites, I realized that most of this people sustain water scarcity by sharing resources with others. “To cope with the difficult physical conditions, the Hopi from the high, dry Colorado plateau harnessed flood-waters to form crude irrigation systems to grow cereals. They share resources, such as labour and food with other families.”( http://library.thinkquest.org/26634/text/desert/tribe.htm ). Also, their clothing is very important to sustain such conditions. They have to wear clothes that will cover as much as possible from their bodies but yet loose-fitting to prevent themselves from sweating (sweat = evaporation = dehydration of body).
1). By how much is the total world population predicted to change between 1950 and 2050?
Between 1950 and 2050, the world population is about to change from approximately 2,5 billion people to more than 9 billion! In other words, within a period of only 100 years, world population is about to grow to almost 4 times.
2). By how much is the average world per capita water availability predicted to change between 1950 and 2050?
The average world per capita water availability between 1950 and 2050, is predicted to change from almost 17000m3, to less than 5000m3. It will be reduced to less than its 1/3.
3). What is the relationship between the population and per capita water availability? In other words, as population increase, what happens to water availability?
The relationship between the population and per capita water availability is negative. In other words, this means that as population increases, per capita water availability decreases.
4). Why do you think this is the case? Why do you see this relationship between population and water availability?
From one point of view, this observation (of negative relationship between water availability and population) seems like a paradox. We are already struggling to find a solution to water scarcity (this means, that already water scarcity is a problem to human living) and on the other hand, population increases. My question is how will population actually increase under water scarcity that is becoming more and more intense? This could mean that we will find other resources (replace water?), or simply take away all the water that is available from plants and animals.
On the other hand, it seems perfectly logic as an outcome that as human population increases, water scarcity will become more intense. More people, means more needs and consuming of everything (including water of course). So, if we take population increase as a cause and water availability decrease as an effect, than this observation does indeed make sense.
5). If the predictions for world population growth and per capita water available come true, in what ways might the world be different in 2050 than it is today?
If these predictions come true, I believe that the world will become a global desert. Given that resources are somehow limited, or at least their turnover time is limited (more specifically; water), the significantly increased human population will survive only under the expense of other populations (plants and animals). The world will look very different as vegetation will probably be very limited or completely extinct and the same will hold for animals.
I really hope that these predictions won’t come true or I don’t want to see a world like this. It isn’t only the harm these conditions will bring to plants and animals or the beauty of the landscape but if these predictions are to come true, they will eventually have an effect on human life as well.