The Water Crisis

Right now, many places in the world are facing water shortages or access to sustainable sources of water.  While some of this can be attributed to droughts and climate change, the problems are increased by human activity and mismanagement of water supplies.  

Here are some of the issues we face.

Over Extraction of Groundwater

A majority of the world’s population has water sources that are badly stressed or running out.  Water is being removed from the ground 15 times faster than it is replenished.

A NASA study from June 2015 found that 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers (in India, China, United States, and France) have passed sustainability tipping points.

Agriculture

Over 70% of freshwater used by humans goes to agriculture, and that is expected to increase over the next 15 years due to population growth and inadequate water conservation practices.   In California, 80% of the state’s water goes to agriculture, where it is sequestered and exported.

Pumping and distributing water in CA uses over 19% of all electrical consumption in the state, 32% of all natural gas, and equates to over 7.6% of all emissions.

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Privatized Water

 Private companies extract water from local areas, commodifying a common good.    

Liquid water is heavy and difficult to transport.  Each day millions of plastic water bottles are transported only to be discarded, thrown into landfills, and often end up as litter or marine debris.  Plastic on the ocean surface now outnumbers sea life 6:1 and is over 90% of all trash in the ocean.  

 What the world spends annually on bottled water could pay for projects providing water to everyone in need.

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Power Plants

Thermoelectric power plants boil water to create steam, which in turn drives turbines to produce electricity.  They also need vast amounts of cooling water,  and when they can't get enough, they must cut back or completely shut down their generators, as happened in 2011 and 2012.  Power plants use as much water as farms do, and more than four times as much as all U.S. residences.

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Fracking

“Fracking uses a tremendous amount of fresh water that once used for fracking can't be used for anything else … it becomes contaminated and taken out of the water cycle.”
        - Hollin Kretzmann, of the Center for Biological Diversity, an Earthjustice client in a case challenging the illegal injection of fracking wastewater into protected sources of water.

 

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Cooling Towers

In Los Angeles County more than 2.5 billion gallons of water a year are wasted in cooling towers.  More than a gallon is discarded for every gallon evaporated-- enough water for 15,000 households. 

There are estimated 5,000 to 10,000 cooling towers in Los Angeles alone, and only 10-20% of buildings have cooling systems that operate at the optimal level.