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The Forum > Article Comments > Water for food: the forgotten crisis > Comments

Water for food: the forgotten crisis : Comments

By Colin Chartres, published 18/9/2008

Significant investments in both R&D and water infrastructure development are needed worldwide or there will be dire consequences.

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The author talks about a massive increase of 2.5 billion people by 2050. He mentions potential solutions to feeding these people: storing more water and more economical use of water, even though it is more than likely that there will be less and less water to store for many years to come.

Surely the best solution is to head off population growth.
Posted by Mr. Right, Thursday, 18 September 2008 9:03:23 AM
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“we will not be able to produce all the food, feed and fibre required in 2050 unless we improve the way we manage water.”

“When we examine the causes of the food crisis, growing population, changes in trade patterns, urbanisation, dietary changes, biofuel production, and climate change and regional droughts are all responsible.”

“there are potential solutions. These include more water storage, improved management of irrigation systems and increasing water productivity (e.g., more kg of crop per 1,000 litres of water) in irrigated and rainfed farming systems. All of these will require investment in knowledge, infrastructure and human capacity.”

The “solutions” listed will provide a buffer of sorts for the undernourished 840 million presently quoted for developing countries. (Forget the affluent,they can go back to bathing in a tub once a week).

The “solutions” will have varying degrees of positive impact: against climate change and regional droughts; and perhaps biofuel production; maybe dietary changes, urbanization,trade patterns.

On the other hand they will have a contrary effect upon growing population. Current projections has the world on track for 9 billion for 2050. The least developed, where the 840 million are, is scheduled to increase by about a billion. Undoubtedly they are presently doing it tough; so if their survival rate is to be improved by good works, how many more than a billion?

In a sane world served by sane science advisers, the causes of crises would be flagged for attention. We can address that great multiplier of them all – population pressure: Either continue doing everything to foster its continuation until natural desiccation and malnutrition does its eventual winnowing; or stand up and insist that human fertility be addressed concurrently with other “solutions”.

It is not that nothing can be done – the ability for women to control their own fertility is a starting point: A first step was taken in 1994, with world agreement. It is a great sadness that fundamentalist religions blocked its momentum - when the least developed world, presently growing at 2.4%, was less stressed by numbers.
Posted by colinsett, Thursday, 18 September 2008 12:40:07 PM
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Population increase in less-developed countries is an often recognised and voiced concern amongst many living in countries with access to universal water/sanitation coverage and spare money to purchase available birth control. There appears to be, however, less concern expressed about the developed countries' taken-for-granted daily eating, drinking, clothing, work and leisure habits that place unnecessary demands on an increasingly scarce resource - clean freshwater.

In the interest of furthering increasing market opportunities and active consumerism, we, in developed countries, have tended to lead by example, fostering expectations that similar lifestyles were desirable and achievable for developing countries. Hence,the scramble to get countries with relatively sustainable life-styles to adopt our patterns of water-intensive, often wasteful, urbanised living, industrialisation, agro-industry farming practices, eating habits, and lifestyles may be coming back to haunt us.

Many developing countries have been, or are becoming successful in emulating our wasteful ways. This behaviour has been aided by raising the expectations of 'improved' life-styles amongst an unprecedented increasing middle income and elite membership.

So, back to controlling population numbers. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves which members of populations are directly related to, and responsible for freshwater-stress. If we intend to remain as leaders and not followers then surely we need to set an example to other countries by controlling our own water-intensive bad habits first, so that these can be seen as desirable and worthy of emulation by others
Posted by Scottys world, Thursday, 18 September 2008 2:39:02 PM
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The author has made no mention of the consequences of building more dams in the never ending quest to get more water. In our own country, this has led to the probably irreversible damage that has happened to the Murray River. In South-East Asia, the dams which China has built on the Mekong have led to the detriment of the downstream population in neighboring countries and so it goes on. We need to restrict our use of available water to that which the various sources can continuously supply, otherwise the environment will suffer irreversibly. On top of that we need to do much more in our cities to embrace the use of recycling such as is done in places like Singapore where all water is recycled.

Others have commented on the concurrent need to control population growth. All I can say is bring it on.

Posted by VK3AUU, Thursday, 18 September 2008 4:13:02 PM
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The Government and opposition are so out of touch- way behind on what is the real crisis. Carbon trading policy is controlling their outdated agenda when they should be looking at a Water Crisis. Carbon Trading is a furphy that ignores the environment and the community.

I heard Maude Barlow at UWA recently. Politicians should read her book Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

WTO wants to control water, some water operations are already in public private ownership in WA. It is in a mess with sewerage overflows, contaminated rivers and rising cost to consumers. There is no future policy for food producers or consumers right to water. We must all cut down on our waste and governments must give grants to low income families to install devices to save water consumption. Industry must also cut back their waste and overuse of water immediately. I see no water tanks on all these industrial roofs! This should be compulsory for every industry. There are no state planning regulations to impose water saving. Will they ever get around to it?
Posted by Sybil, Thursday, 18 September 2008 4:37:05 PM
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Like Sybil I too was at Maude Barlow's seminar at UWS and fully support her recommendation that our politicians should be required to read both of Barlow's books on water (the former was, from memory, entitled 'Blue Gold'). Unfortunately, and I base this suspicion on the poor showing of people at her seminar, I suspect that Barlow's work tends to attract those already prepared to admit we have a water problem and who realise that we can not depend or rely on politicians, the private sector, science and/or technology to 'rescue' us from ourselves here in Australia.

After witnessing Maude Barlow's impassioned talk in the downstairs theatre venue of the Seymour Centre, surrounded by the stark and darkly foreboding set of 'The Crucible', one of the strongest messages that I took away was that despite our huge water scarcity problems we, the Australian public, do not have an Australian water justice movement to mobilise in defence of this most precious resource.
Posted by Scottys world, Friday, 19 September 2008 9:50:08 AM
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