Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[dupe] Life in a City Without Water: Anxious, Exhausting and Sweaty (nytimes.com)
45 points by pseudolus 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

My parents are both residents in Chennai and visited me in Tokyo last month. I overheard phone conversations and their complaints on state of the crisis. The water crisis gets deeper and more sinister.

I remember plumbing being done years ago around the house to harvest rainwater, to store it in underground tanks and excess drained into the well. Nearly every household was forced to do this by the government. Few households built a sump and others bought plastic water storage tanks (it is the cheaper option) to store water. These are being re-purposed to store water delivered by water tankers. (a family 4 approximately uses upto 4000 L of water every month, in Chennai, around my parents neighbourhood)

With the water crisis now, these plastic storage devices are under attack. Near my parent's neighbourhood a few households had the water drained from the tanks and the tanks themselves stolen or sabotage to prevent further storage. Sumps are not risk free either, as malicious actors drop pipes into them and use a pump to drain the water out. (some pollute the sump after draining it and later charge to clean them up as innocent service providers)

Furthermore, water bodies around the greater metro have dried up. These so called "water tankers" are siphoning water from bodies which were designated unsafe for drinking, from agricultural wells, and through other illegal means. The water being delivered is neither certified for quality or acceptable for drinking. Some neighbourhoods that were recipient of such water have seen a rise in the number of sick children.



The well in our house was 8ft deep, there are also two borewells one at 400 ft and the other at 1000 ft deep. All three of the waterholes are now dry. There's literally no underground water left in certain areas in Chennai. It also costs several thousand dollars to drill a new one now.

There is hope yet. People have banded together to clean up nearby water bodies, like the Chitlapakkam Rising [0] and Velachery Rising [1] NGOs who have raised funds and put their children and old to work on cleaning nearby lakes removing garbage and making the lake bed deeper. They hope to have the monsoon rain fill them this year and restore the underground water supply.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lt29MvgX01I

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozhwWzuPNAw

I think its great that the people are getting involved in the cleanup but I really feel the government should pitch in and bring some heavy equipment to speed up the cleanup.

Now imagine a climate change future where this happens all more often -- also the resulting wars between neighborhood states with more/less recourses.

This is a more likely future than "colonies on Mars", fully autonomous self driving cars, and personal robot assistants...

No need to imagine the future, the present is bad enough to justify climate mitigations.

There's a lot of talk about drought and climate change. But what does the consensus climate science says about droughts? The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that "There is low confidence in attributing changes in drought over global land areas since the mid-20th century to human influence owing to observational uncertainties and difficulties in distinguishing decadal-scale variability in drought from long-term trends." https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2017/09/WG1AR5_Chapt...

Well, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy had both. The premise of William Gibson's The Peripheral also seems to be that the development of futuristic technology is not going to stop, it's just going to exacerbate the unequal distribution of resources.

Who says we can‘t have both? Of course the latter will only be accessible to a wealthy elite still glad they managed to escape the woes of socialism.

>Who says we can‘t have both?

Reality. Once constant recession, social unrest, famines, resource struggles, and so on become a permanent fixture, consensus to spend money on such things becomes even lower (and there's no market to sustain a "wealthy elite" either, the elite declines too, like it did in Rome's fall).

Reading articles like this makes me want to check our local reservoirs more. We build a desal plant to feed about 10% (I think?) of our city's consumption starting in about 2007, when we had some pretty major drought. I believe it is only now that we see a drought severe enough again to start appreciating it, but no one thinks about it anymore. Shortly after it was built, about 5 years ago, it was derided as a great big waste of money. But I think it has been our hidden reservoir savior. It has been running continuously since in maintenance mode, but even just a little bit may be enough to make our reservoirs seem like they're enough on their own, as that small amount of water no longer needs to come from them.

I can't imagine having to deal with this sort of issue on a daily basis nearly all the time. I have a travel trailer and sometimes camp without hookups, which forces you to be very careful with your fresh water supply. Of course, I can simply move somewhere and get more water, these people don't have that luxury.

The "water tanker mafia" in Karachi is another example, in many areas with large population where there simply is no municipal water supply, and wells are literally impossible to extract water from.





I think the biggest immediate change we will see from climate change and "climate emergencies" is massive migration of people. If sea level rise affects a significant portion of Bangladesh, or Rajasthan remains at 50C weather for long periods of time, millions of people will become climate refugees.



The Arab Spring and the Syrian war arguably started due to climate change. Crops fail due to extreme weather conditions and farmers migrate to cities. Not enough work or supplies leads to civil unrest. Civil unrest leads to war, which leads to migration to countries with jobs available and more temperate climates. The article doesn’t mention it, but how many of the 5 million living in Chennai have moved to find places that are easier to live in? When will millions start to move out of Chennai if the situation carries on like this?

I took a pretty boring poetry class a few years ago. Most of the poems other students (including myself) were boring and mostly just written for the sake of getting the assignment done.

There was this one girl in the class who wrote a poem titled, "Millions," or something along those lines. Anyway, at the end of each stanza, she wrote "and millions of people flooded inland."

It was super powerful to me and was the first time I really considered what a massive problem that's going to be. I don't even know how we could prepare for it.

This current crisis is 90% mismanagement and ineptitude, 10% climate change and that's probably being very generous.

You can't cite a source because this is opinion presented as statistics.

I can't find it but someone from one of the zones in India that is suffering from severe water shortages said just this (what you mentioned).

They said everything from filling in lakes to leaking water pipes and a corrupt local government are more to blame than climate change.

What's interesting is that even private enterprise can't fix this problem since there is probably a water cartel already in place to profit from the situation with the local government officials in on the take.

Why hasn't the local population held their government responsible or is this not possible?

India is a super corrupt place where faith in government services is low. There's also a kind of apathy involved where long term corruption has narrowed people's horizons about what government can achieve.

Right, so the way to look at it is that humanity has always suffered from an epidemic of mismanagement and ineptitude, with no vaccine in sight (though democracy and education certainly help!). Now on top of that epidemic, we are faced with an additional disaster and we'll have to somehow survive both at the same time.

Yes, and it will make the Syrian refugee crisis look like a joke in comparison. There will be extreme backlash from the right and even center depending on the volume of migrants. It will not be pretty.

Why was this downvoted? There's plenty of evidence in the linked articles.

With people collecting water from AC's, seems like moisture farming could be a viable business if power is cheap enough.


I think I'm going to go back and finish Paolo Bacigalupi's The Water Knife. It feels less like dystopian science fiction and more like realistic observation than ever at this point.

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact