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A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises (nytimes.com)
190 points by johnny313 74 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 123 comments

One of the more interesting (to me at least) aspects of the warming trend of both the atmosphere and the oceans is that for each degree C increase in the mean atmospheric temperature increases its water carrying capacity on the order of 4.2 quadrillion kilograms. Rising ocean temperatures, combined with rising air temperatures are increasing the rate of evaporation of sea water into the air.

The effect of this is transporting more water in the air over longer distances. This "side effect" of global warming will likely make all of our past observations of precipitation rates in any given region completely moot. It also makes suspect any extrapolation of current precipitation trends into the future.

My reading of the current literature suggests to me that we might have an opposite problem, which is massive flooding in areas on a regular basis where previously they considered such floods "100 year" or "1000 year" storms.

What every climate scientist I have talked with agrees with, is that the current climate is being destabilized relative to historical records. Thus extrapolations become more and more uncertain (have larger error bars) as the initial conditions drift further and further away from anything on record.

Note also that the winds are driven by the temperature difference between the equator and the poles.

The greenhouse effect warms the poles more than it warms the equator, thereby lowering that difference. So less wind. Which means the water that evaporates and then precipitates back down spends less time traveling horizontally in the wind. Evaporate straight up. Fall straight down.

So, wet areas get wetter. Dry areas get dryer.

* Winds are driven by the pressure difference (from high to low).

That's not the big deal, the big deal is that the CO2 acts as a primer to keep more H2O in the air, which is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2; the warmer the air the more water it can hold.

Yes it rains out, from time to time and forms clouds which makes this all so very complex.


I wonder if it's happening already? Just last month we had record rainfall in 1 day that we'd typically get in a whole month in Kyushu, Japan.

This area of Mississippi has been flooded for five months:


Same thing happened in Vancouver, Canada.

Austin, Tx here also record rains.

It's not "an opposite problem", it's the same problem. Heavy rains in a shorter timeframe will not refill aquifers.

I don't disagree, but aquifer filling is in part a function of precipitation over time. And when an area is getting much more precipitation over time than it used to, it increases the aquifer fill rate.

There is also the "new" opportunity to build reservoirs on the rain sheds. If it had been impractical before it can become practical given even a modest increase in the average yearly rainfall. I good example of that is the LA project[1] to recover rain runoff rather than sluice it out to the ocean.

[1] https://la.curbed.com/2015/6/25/9946522/los-angeles-rainwate...

Well, if you dig deep enough holes, they will. That's how over a million people live in the Rajasthan desert in India.

But if your surface situation isn't good (lack of trees and other water capturing/retaining systems), you will eventually run out of water.

Following permaculture principles, you can transform a region from barren (where water evaporates and leaves your area) to a relative oasis. There are several current desert permaculture projects that illustrate this. We just need to start doing this on a large scale - at least within and around regions of population. Then much more of the pumped water will remain in the local system. As a bonus, local climates will be cooler on average. And you can grow a lot of food, if you choose to.

Just to add to your point, this guy transformed the land more or less by planting grasses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSPkcpGmflE

Planting pioneer species, building berms (to slow runoff), and fencing out grazers is the basic formula for rehabilitating dead land.

I learned this from Dune. The world needs more well-written ecological novels.

Great documentary - thanks for sharing

> you will eventually run out of water.

In the context of the GP comment, isn't that entirely dependent on how deep your holes are? By definition, if you dig holes "deep enough", then you won't run out of water. And they are providing a concrete example of somewhere that they do dig holes deep enough to not run out of water (though I'm not sure how constrained the population growth is there).

"for each degree C increase in the mean atmospheric temperature increases its water carrying capacity on the order of 4.2 quadrillion kilograms"

I wondered if that would counteract the sea rises caused by melting sea ice, but.. no. Apparently a worldwide rise of 1 meter is caused by around 1 quintillion kg of melted ice.

Yeah, sadly no. Ice holds a lot more water than air can. Another interesting effect is that when large amounts of water precipitate out of the air it creates a bigger localized temperature difference because the phase change absorbs more heat. With enough change you can get hail (the water freezes as it precipitates out) and very steep thermoclines between the layers of the air (think tornadoes or hurricanes).

This National Geographic piece about David Bamberger and the Selah Ranch Project in Texas bears watching.


Surface water from rivers, lakes, streams, and reservoirs garner attention because they are visible and make the effects of changes and shortages easier to understand.

But a much more difficult crisis may already be upon us in the form of aquifer depletion and may require a complete paradigm shift in how we approach conservation and usage.

It would be nice to be able to look more closely at the data here. What makes up this scalar 'water stress'? Maybe those areas using the available water are efficient?

As other commenters point out, there's a 2nd order effect: if you live in a low stress area, near (in a transportation sense, not Euclidean distance) a high stress area, you're bound to have problems unless border control comes to rescue.

I should have paid more attention in geopolitics class..

I'm wondering why areas along the Mississippi River and near the Great Lakes are considered stressed.

That's a good question, I had to go poke at the original publication and tool to get some idea. This looks like a very good database, but the NYT is being misleading when it cites "high stress" and then only gives examples that are actively running out of water.

The actual definition of water stress used is:

> Baseline water stress measures the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable water supplies... Available renewable water supplies include surface and groundwater supplies and considers the impact of upstream consumptive water users and large dams on downstream water availability. Higher values indicate more competition among users.

So the first note is that this is measuring sustainability, not risk of water shortage; it doesn't factor in that Lake Superior has ~800x the current volume of Lake Powell. And it's meant to study competition for water rather than actual deficit, so 'high' stress is 40%-80% usage, and 'very high' stress is >80% usage. (In fairness, >80% is likely unsustainable because we don't capture water as it arrives. Drawing 100% doesn't mean a state-wide rainbarrel, so water will still reach surface plants as wells run dry.)

Second is that it's not clear how rainfall onto the lakes is being assigned. Michigan is "high" in the middle and "low" around the edges, so maybe it's being assigned to the nearest land area without accounting for piping and the usage compacts that govern where it goes? That wouldn't matter in most places, but Lake Superior in particular would distort things hugely.

Third, these are watershed-level colorations. If you zoom in on the dark red along the Mississippi, it turns out to be Jonesboro, Arkansas. That's a hilly/mountain region with flatter land on either side, and a bunch of manufacturing. As soon as it's streams hit the White River watershed, it drops back down to yellow. If they're drawing hard without pumping water uphill they might get into trouble, but things would still be ok downstream because no one on the Mississippi is relying on that area for water.


This is likely an unpopular opinion and one with many downsides we need to be very alarmed about but I think we are going to find that if there is any solution to this, the solution is going to involve a global government.

Climate change and water are Earth-scale problems. If we don't have an Earth-scale organization that has real power working to solve those problems, we're going to end up with a bunch of nations feverishly wasting even more of our dwindling resources to try to push the suffering onto each other.

Do you want countries building desalinization plants and planting forests, or do you want them accumulating missiles and building walls? Unless there is some organization with enough power to prevent countries from fighting each other, you're going to get the latter.

I disagree with your contention that water is an earth scale problem.

In fact, as someone charged with building and maintaining not only my own water sources and infrastructure, but community water resources as well, I would put forth that water resources - and their responsible usage - are governed by very unique hyperlocal conditions.

We all know that, for instance, the water resources and usage are different between New York City and the Colorado River Basin - and we wouldn't expect usage and sharing agreements between those two locales. But are you aware that similar scale differences in water resources and usage can exist within the same county ? Physics and economics make them just as impractical to share and manage.

There may indeed be drivers of global governance - and I typically find them distasteful - but I don't think this is one of them.

> are governed by very unique hyperlocal conditions

Yes, and what happens when 1 area does not have available water, another does, and the area with water does not want to share?

It doesn't matter if they want to share or not. Pumping water is so expensive that sharing won't be economically. Sure we can ship bottled water - for drinking that is cheap enough, but try taking a shower with bottled water.

If some areas doesn't have enough water some people need to move out to areas that have enough (this is easy to say and hard to do). Areas that are borderline need to think hard about what gets priority - much of California has been ignoring this question for a long time (climate change may or may not make a difference in the future)

"Yes, and what happens when 1 area does not have available water, another does, and the area with water does not want to share?"

That is a real problem - and should be addressed - but the physics and economics dictate that the sharing need be relatively local.

So I would agree that it is a governance issue, but it is not going to be a global governance issue.

It is a global governance issue since, much like your relative who's house was wrecked in a hurricane, the rest of the world will need to pick up the pieces when water availability collapses. I'm not against that sharing personally, but we as a world need to all get together and ensure global stability because otherwise a problem like this will be like falling dominoes where the additional water burden will spread and exacerbate the issue.

When the people without water get up and move, from one country to another, it will become a global governance issue.

Perhaps the consumers of the water relocate? Whether you view that as a mundane suggestion or a crazy suggestion depends on more context. Are these areas different neighborhoods, towns, states, countries? Who is consuming the water (golf course, agriculture, residential lawns in a desert, etc.)? Are the pricing models reasonable or are they distorting the water use/consumption? Is the shortage due to increased demand or a problem with supply? Is there a functioning price signal for the water consumption (i.e. does the price goes up if the supply is limited or demand increases)?

I think this is a topic where the details matter quite a bit, it is hard to generalize.

Usually resource competition in humans leads to organized conflict; insurrection or war.

Usually? Sometimes resource competition leads to innovations including more efficient use of the resource, discovery or development of new supplies/sources and so on. Or it might just lead to increased price leading to decreased demand and an incentive for someone to figure out a better way to satisfy the demand.

There's already international politics about water sources. For example, the Tigris and Euphrates are very important to multiple countries, starting with Turkey and flowing downstream.

In the US, you could imagine pipelines bringing water from the East Coast westwards. That could transform water economics in much of the nation, maybe even save an aquifer or two.

I can imagine it. However I cannot create it - pumping water is too expensive to get water that far in the quantities needed.

International != global

GGP was arguing for global government, not international treaties.

Ok, now go tell that to a Syrian, Bangladeshian, or Ethiopian.

I think pollution makes it more of a global problem, so I think you and GP are both right.

> Unless there is some organization with enough power to prevent countries from fighting each other, you're going to get the latter.

How do you think you get a world government? I guarantee you it's not without somebody using some missiles!

Corporations would love to lobby an infiltrate this group.

Yes, so the new world government would have to be based on an economic system that doesn't allow for the existence of massively powerful and wealthy corporations or individuals, unlike the currently dominant capitalist system.

Holding hands and singing Kumbaya has never worked on even a country scale and rarely works on a city level, now you want to extrapolate that to the whole planet?

Good luck. Signed, those of us who build missiles.

The one thing better than a good defense is not needing to use it.

Signed, someone else in your industry.

Global government won't help with that. There are many countries with ongoing conflicts, that would continue between the people even if the governments were gone, and then planetary government would either have to send large number of troops into iraq/afganistan style conflicts, or let them fight and form their own governments.

Hey, I don't want to use it either. But it's pretty obvious we need it.

War is a market solution.

Good Luck. Signed, The new Right

> This is likely an unpopular opinion

no, just an opinion of a unrealistic dreamer. why wouldn't the govt be more corruptable by money than the current?

The real unpopular opinion: the solution is simply less people. we need less infra, not more, and the problem will sort itself out.

By overvaluing life, we have forgotten the value of life. We're killing everything, even the human spirit.

Local communities need to start fending for themselves and stop importing/exporting everything.

"but who gets to decide who gets to live and die?". everybody does. that's life

That would work well if you got to pick your community. But with state borders and inherited wealth the people who get fucked are the ones who were just born in the wrong spot.

> That would work well if...

no "if". its worked for thousands of years. weak communities will die off. people will have something to live and fight for, humanity will get a renewed vigor, and the water crisis will fix itself.

It in the interest of the wealthy for their local communities to survive so they can grow food.

These Malthusian arguments are about 200 years out of date. The ideas behind your gray text has long stopped being taken seriously and it's certainly not truth.

I too enjoy the Mad Max movies.

Empathy, you should try it, it feels good.

I didn't say it was necessarily a good solution. I don't have any utopian visions of a world government. More like a hopefully marginally less dystopian one.

I’m from Sweden. We have massive fresh water sources and most projections of the future show us retaining our water advantage while the rest of the world suffers through more intense droughts.

Why do I deserve all this water just because I was born here? Why doesn’t someone born in a water stressed environment deserve more water? Water is not a luxury, and we can’t easily make more of it, so I just don’t understand how we can knowingly transition into a more unfair world than ever and not feel bad about it.

> Water is not a luxury, and we can’t easily make more of it, so I just don’t understand how we can knowingly transition into a more unfair world than ever

I'm not sure I understand what you mean here.

Water is logistically hard and expensive to transfer; sustaining a place like Las Vegas is quite possible, but it relies on massive infrastructure development and expenditure to move water around. Selfishness is certainly part of the problem, from allotment-preservation in Colorado to international politics in Turkey. But to a significant degree, the core problem is that people simply live and use water in different places than it falls.

As far as an argument for allowing immigration, water fairness makes sense. But if we're talking about sharing water, I'm not sure if a lack of will is the central problem?

> so I just don’t understand how we can knowingly transition into a more unfair world than ever and not feel bad about it.

Some of us do, I'm also from a country that is small enough and wet enough (and likely to get wetter with climate change) that we can feasibly shift water from the wet north west to the drier south east.

Beyond what I'm already doing I don't know what else I can do - honestly on an individual level no one person can make a significant difference, it has to come on a governmental level and that requires good politicians with the electorate pushing them and frankly in my country I can't see that happening without massive voting reform that would require the turkeys to vote for Christmas.

Collecting rainwater on the building roofs is a right solution, also putting the trees on these roofs. And of course, desalinating - a lot of the cities from the red zone are nearby seas or oceans.

And here in the states there's bans on collecting rainwater on state by state basis, despite the fact that there's good data that it doesn't matter to the macro hydro systems if people collect rainwater.


In South America it's even crazier. Bolivia was forced to privatize their water system as part of the neoliberal polices they needed to enact in order to get a world bank loan. That new company banned rainwater collection and has used heavily armed paramilitaries to enforce it.

> despite the fact that there's good data that it doesn't matter to the macro hydro systems if people collect rainwater

There's an interesting comment below suggesting that bans may be more about preventing mosquito breeding grounds than capturing water supply.

Here in CO at least it's 100% a water rights thing. They're afraid of downstream lack of water if everyone is collecting their runoff (and afraid that the smaller farmers won't need to buy as much if they're collecting their own).

> Here in CO

Spelling out places might be helpful in a forum that is global. To me, CO means

* Colombia, the country. I don't know much about water rights, usage and distribution there.

* Colorado, the US state. Certainly a place where water rights are a hot topic.

* Central Oregon, where I live, where it is also very dry and water makes or breaks farm and ranch operations.

* Province of Como, abbreviated CO on license plates in Italy. Water isn't quite so contested there as far as I know.

Funny, I grew up in Central Oregon and my friends and I (who are from there) always call it "the CO" and many other people assume that we mean Colorado.

Colorado I think. We need to put our rain barrels behind the house so the g-man (government man) doesn't see it.

IIRC they were made legal explicitly around 2016 and were never actually illegal in any meaningful way.

It was explicitly illegal before that, and now you can only collect two barrels from your roof if you live in a rural area (I think you have to be on a well).


Nothing about wells or rural areas, just 1-4 family units max and 110 gallons


Previously they were only "technically" illegal because as written, you had to prove they injured the water rights of others.

> Nothing about wells or rural areas, just 1-4 family units max and 110 gallons

The part you're looking for is the part about the state engineer. I'm not sure if it's all settled, but the goal there is to ban it in places where they can make an argument that the grey water in the rain barrels and the rest of the water infrastructure might mix. That means that rural areas off of water infrastructure are the only safe ones long term.

> Previously they were only "technically" illegal because as written, you had to prove they injured the water rights of others.

There was case law that any collection infringed on the water rights of others, because otherwise the water would flow into aquifers and what not if you only had a third grade knowledge of the water cycle. You didn't have to find the specific person that was harmed. My MIL in rural JeffCo got in a zoning fight with county gov, and that was one of the things they successfully hit her with. It was enforced, my own family got hit with it.

How can you prove that it doesn't evaporate?

That's not how the burden of proof worked. It was established case law that any collected rainwater without clear water rights was infringing.

It's like if you went into fight a speeding ticket by questioning quality of the radar gun. I mean, in an ideal world you should be allowed to, but it's not going to fly. Our common law style system has this overarching goal of internal consistency, and there's been tons of cases where the radar (or maybe some relative of the radar, but close enough as far as the court is concerned) has been legally found in the past to be trustworthy. It's also in the Court's best interest to have this line of reasoning because it saves the court from having to rehash the same arguments saving the court immeasurable amount of time. About the only way you can get out of that situation is new legislation.

The courts here had gotten into a similar state where it wasn't really willing to hear new evidence on the matter, and needed legislation to patchfix. Something something checks and balances.


IIRC they aren't afraid of people collecting runoff from their roofs -- more like collecting all of the water that falls on their land/building artificial reservoirs while starving the downstream watershed...

But the root is, that's not really a thing out here. The runoff from rain like that doesn't tend to make its way into the water system on that go through the water cycle. Out here it mainly evaporates and sublemates. The water that makes its way into aquifers and rivers is almost entirely glacier/snowpack melt.

I'm trying to understand what it means for a private company to "ban" something. My guess is that the government created a framework for a private company to operate as highly regulated utility with a monopoly on water distribution. If my guess is correct then it is really the government that is supporting that "ban" and I would guess (putting my cynical hat on) that there are some pretty cozy relationships between the owners/investors in the private company and the government.

The private part doesn't sound crazy all by itself, but I think it is a challenge to create systems that prevent a private regulated utility from abusing its privileged position.

The reasoning behind rainwater collection ban is usually health and safety, not environmental impact. Most nations treat their water.

Most nations that treat their water also have the concept of grey water.

Desalination on a scale sufficient for a city requires an extraordinary amount of power. The plant in Queensland uses: "...around 3.58 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity for every cubic metre (kilolitre) of water it produces"[1]

That's not going to be affordable for many poorer countries. It's expensive enough that Queensland only turns that plant on for emergencies.

The CO2 emissions would also only intensify the problem.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Coast_Desalination_Plant

That sounds much worse than it is. Outside of farming a cubic meter is a lot of water.

Desalination costs ~3$ per 1,000 gallons of which around 40% is electricity costs, that’s generally affordable for most areas based on consumption and local economic conditions. Though again, not for farming.

Which source are you using for that number?

The numbers quoted for the Queensland plant referenced above would translate to about A$1.50, or US$1, for a thousand gallons. (10c/kWh for electricity according to [0])

There are running costs other than electricity, but it's always talked about as being power-intensive, so it seems fair to assume the cost of electricity dominates.

$1 for a thousand gallons seems like a non issue for domestic use in developed countries. It's on par with the cheapest rates consumers currently pay in Europe, while some countries pay 8x more [1]. Even in most poor countries it should be attainable.



Several sources list 3$ as the lowest all inclusive price. Though notability these systems are much more costly when run intermittently. https://www.advisian.com/en-us/global-perspectives/the-cost-...

The issue is just keeping them on standby is expensive. So, if you only need one for 6 months every 3 years you end up paying a lot more per m3 of water.

Hmm. That link seems to use a paper for its source, titled "Technical review and evaluation of the economics of water desalination: Current and future challenges for better water supply sustainability".

I tracked down a copy of that paper. It opens with:

"The cost of desalinated seawater has fallen below US$0.50/m3 for a large scale seawater reverse osmosis plant at a specific location and conditions while in other locations the cost is 50% higher (US$1.00/m3) for a similar facility. In addition to capital and operating costs, other parameters such as local incentives or subsidies may also contribute to the large difference in desalted water cost between regions and facilities. Plant suppliers and consultants have their own cost calculation methodologies, but they are confidential and provide water costs with different accuracies. The few existing costing methodologies and software packages such as WTCost© and DEEP provide an estimated cost with different accuracies and their applications are limited to specific conditions. Most of the available cost estimation tools are of the black box type, which provide few details concerning the parameters and methodologies applied for local conditions."

I read through the rest of it. To the extent that it offers cost comparisons of some large scale SWRO projects, they seem to be self-reported and come from projects in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Oman, and Australia. This leads me to a couple of concerns WRT the construction and operating costs of SWRO projects:

(a) that a comprehensive, independent, apples-to-apples accounting of the costs of these projects has not yet been done;

(b) that some of the long-term costs are being externalized, especially the expected impacts on local ecological systems that become the necessary dumping grounds for the wastewater;

(c) that the costs to date are severely location-specific, and do not address for instance trying to transport seawater a mile uphill as needed in many of the areas expected to or currently experiencing severe freshwater instability.

Clearly SWRO is a viable option in specific areas that have nearby access to a suitable water source, good power infrastructure (or solar availability), a lack of freshwater availability, and an appropriate wastewater treatment strategy (or, more likely -- and sadly -- loose regulations that obviate the need to address this).

But calls for SWRO as a worldwide, one-size-fits-all, cheap solution are misguided and misinformed, IMO. Mostly I worry that "just build desal" will frustrate efforts for conservation and improving existing infrastructure, especially in places where desal isn't a viable option anyway.

A cubic meter of water is 264.17 gallons. So, 50c per gallon is ~2$ per 1000 gallons. 50% more is 0.75$ per cubic meter (not 1$) or 3$ per 1000 gallons. Though if it’s 100% more that’s 4$ per 1,000 gallons.

That paper is also from 2012, but I generally agree with your conclusions.

> That's not going to be affordable for many poorer countries.

I think that's clearly the crux of the problem with desalination. It works well right now in wealthy countries. Israel couldn't exist without it. The Carlsbad plant in San Diego can provide water for about 500,000 people and the monthly average water bill in San Diego is around 2x the national average ($80 vs $35-$40; it'd be higher if San Diego were purely desalination). $80/month in a combination water source approach is an affordable problem in high income countries, for such a valuable resource. And it's an impossible cost - even at half that price - for all but the top few percent of families in India, Egypt or Pakistan.

Assuming $0.25/kWh (a very high electricity price), that's $0.90 per kiloliter (264 gallons). No one's going to die of dehydration at those prices, though sanitation may become expensive in poorer areas. (With the obvious public health implications...)

At that price greywater reuse and low-flow everything become obviously worthwhile. It boggles my mind that the average American uses 100 gallons of water per day, but that's partially because of how cheap water is.

Furthermore, water storage is stupid easy compared to electricity. Build out some excess capacity and then run off of cheap solar, storing the water needed for the evenings. No emissions issues, no power cost issues.

> The CO2 emissions would also only intensify the problem.

Good that most of the places facing droughts tend to get lots of sun. Using increasingly cheap solar power for desalination seems like a perfect fit, especially as water is easily stored and desalination plants can offset power production peaks/demand lows.

rainwater on roofs is certainly a solution, but it also massively increases mosquito presence if not properly set up and cared for - like, weekly.

it's an externality that can't be hand-waved away as trivial when considering massive adoption of rain barrels.

Rainwater is a pretty terrible solution, if you needed to implement it at a large scale to deal with water supply issues then you'd easily be within a decade, and probably a few years, of absolute disaster. Rainwater collection reduces the amount of water going into the local aquifer and in sufficiently urban areas this can lead to ground instability while also depriving down-shed areas from having water access - though I'd mention that rainwater collection as a way to simplify the water infrastructure isn't a terrible idea especially in remote communities since it can remove the need to support local water extraction and some of the piping. Still, care needs to be taken to ensure water safety with rooftop collection.

Most urban areas want to minimize water running into their sewage system and wet soil is weaker than dry

curious: what does properly setting up and caring for entail?

This link suggests you "just" need to make sure all openings in the tank are sealed and the inlet is protected with a fine mesh grille:


Or toss a few guppies or goldfish in there.

That'd work in the tank (besides the fish excretions) but in a wet system, you have standing water in downpipes the diameter of a tennis ball that might get a little restrictive for fish.

You'd need all intakes (e.g., downpipes from gutters) to be protected with mesh, the tank itself to have likewise, but the most painful bit is handling those intakes/overflows getting blocked by leaves/debris. My pipes get blocked by leaves even without mesh. There are a variety of angled mesh systems you can use but adding them to each down-pipe gets expensive.

Many states ban the collection of rainwater. In California for example it was illegal until 2012. I don't about the rest of the world, but I suspect water rights can be complicated everywhere.

It will be up to the states and national governments' to fix this with legislation.

If a place gets less than 40cm of rain per year, adding water collection for the entire roof of a 100 sq meters building will only result in 40 cubic meters of water, or 40000 liters. At 100 liters per day usage (lower than a typical European), collecting rainwater gives you 40 days of usage, and in reality much less due to evaporation and other inefficiencies.

What is needed most are laws preventing, or at least disincentivizing, taking more out than what is coming in. Of course this is really hard: water systems don’t follow neat political boundaries, so one entity drilling deeper or damming a river also drains the water of its neighbors.

> If a place gets less than 40cm of rain per year, adding water collection for the entire roof of a 100 sq meters building will only result in 40 cubic meters of water, or 40000 liters. At 100 liters per day usage (lower than a typical European), collecting rainwater gives you 40 days of usage,

40000/100 = 400 days of usage.

Woah bad math on my part. This is a good point, and changes my view on the viability of rainwater collection.

Water rights are going to be increasingly important as time goes on, and those rights might prevent certain areas from collecting rainwater and runoff.

Already in some places. Roofcrime is a thing.


Nestles just launched worldwide delivery of plastic botles using drones https://www.nestle.com/aboutus/overview/businesses/nestle-wa...

They are the worst for water issues.

better tell /r/hydrohomies and get them on the case

And another quarter* faces the ramifications of that water crises: war + massive immigration

*I don't really have an estimate but a lot IMO

Sounds like an endlessly cascading problem that will effect the whole world eventually. If we have more consumption than is sustainable then it is going to run out eventually.

Yeah.. Sudan, Syria.. a factor for Arab Spring was rising food prices because of Russian forest fires ruining the grain harvest. And then the residents of those areas dream of the land of gold and honey (or at least political stability and no bullets flying) and try to go to Europe, pissing off the people who don't want to share their "birthright" prosperity, leading to populist/Nazi parties...

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi is a great near-future sci-fi read on this subject.

Is there ongoing research on methods to control weather on local level? Most suggestions i have seen are things that are meant to change the temperature of earth as a whole like build sunshade in L2 point, randomly spray aerosols to make it colder everywhere. But there must be ways to change the local weather with smaller and smarter methods, (maybe aerostats, solar updraft towers, short lived aerosols?)

I live in Western Oregon where for much of the year we have an abundance of water falling from the sky. We already have tons of people moving to the area, but I wonder if the number of people moving to areas like ours is going to go up tremendously.

Ironic if there's a mass Exodus to Oregon/Washington just before the next Cascadia earthquake/tsunami wipes off half the two states. Guess that would be nature's way of enforcing population control.

It would be great if nytimes really cared about these issues and used its power to convince people of the real changes that need to be made to society. Instead, they run pieces that side against those that are working hard to make these changes:


Has one of the fundamental components (water) for farming changed at all in recent years? Perhaps there hasn't been enough of a market force for innovation after the advent of irrigation.

well just increased globalization in the last couple of decades. California produces lots of crops and most of it isn't even consumed by Californians. The California water crisis is basically just a product of a globalized economy. Non-Californians are getting their food using California's water.

Having grown up in the California central valley (the Ag capital of the country), it's really sad to see the state flora and fauna suffer so that people who live on the other side of the planet can get almonds.

Farmers in many areas have long been pumping out groundwater from wells at unsustainable rates. In recent years some of those wells have started running dry, or governments have imposed restrictions.

A lot of farmers in the US pay heavily subsidized prices for water, this market inefficiency is just going to lead to sadness down the line - either farmers are getting a really good deal or residential customers are being heavily exploited (or, most likely, both).

The Isreali's have done fairly incredible things with drip irrigation as a way of farming the same amount of food with much less water.

They've been using that expertise to help out the Indians.

Didn't much of Spain switch to drip irrigation / greenhouse farming? That would be innovation, right?

Drip irrigation is not foolproof. If there isn’t enough water the salinity of the soil increases until eventually it can’t support plants anymore and you end up with something that looks more like Iraq. I’m not sure what that means for greenhouses.

On the plus side, hydroengineering is one of the very first technologies human beings mastered. This is an engineering problem, and it's one we can solve.

Around the rocky's - I've noticed that storm drain systems are always a huge piece of infrastructure. They seem to dump to the local river. Why don't the cities harvest that water and treat it instead of dumping it into the river? They may be able to build retention ponds and hold on to it for a while. Treat it later. No need to just toss it.

It's more a reproduction/migration crisis really. These cities have all grown above what their local resources can provide, its time to cut back.

So, based off the map, the Indian subcontinent is basically fucked right? Although I am surprised by places like Italy or Peru.

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