Dying for Water

In today’s Washington Post article, the heartrending Dying for Water in Somalia’s Drought, Emily Wax describes conflict over water in a country lacking an effective government, conflict that has left 250 dead in 2 years. (See the related photographs as well.)

A USAID site lists these facts about water:

• The lack of clean water kills almost 4,500 children per day

• Every day in Africa, women and girls especially, walk as many as 6 miles to fetch water

• Rapid urbanization is leading to increased pressure on water resources

• The world will require 55 percent more food by 2030, increasing the demand for irrigation which already accounts for 70 percent of all freshwater used by humans.

Water problems will worsen in the immediate future. First, few countries are tackling their water problems, even in the first world. California has an enormous investment in agriculture, yet salinity is increasing and groundwater is being depleted.

Additionally, climate change may increase precipitation in some areas, increasing floods, but in most areas the soil will be dryer, and within decades, irrigation will be introduced into areas that have grown food without for hundreds of years (the US breadbasket, east of the Missouri) or longer. And climate change may shift us into quasi-permanent El Nino conditions, which will increase drought in Africa and Australia. In many areas, precipitation patterns may include more intense rain on fewer days.

There are some promising water trends in some areas of the world, but the overall direction is discouraging.

Update The death of 250 Somalis in the last two years is from the fights over just one well. (Thanks, Ruth.)

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