‘The real threat to our future is peak water’
As population rises, over pumping means some nations have reached peak water, which threatens food supply, says Lester Brown.
Peak oil has generated headlines in recent years, but the real threat to our future is peak water. There are substitutes for oil, but not for water. We can produce food without oil, but not without water. – Ref. The Observer 6th July 2013.
Water (H2O) – two parts Hydrogen combined with one part Oxygen forms water.
Hydrogen, a colourless, odourless gas has the lowest density of all gasses was discovered by Henry Cavendish in 1766 – the name is derived from the Greek for ‘hydro’ and ‘genes’ meaning water forming and is easily the most abundant element in the universe. Besides its many uses, hydrogen gas has the capability of becoming the clean fuel of the future – it can be generated from water and return to water when oxidised. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are seen as pollution-free sources of energy.
Oxygen, a colourless, odourless gas was discovered by Joseph Priestly and independently by C. W. Scheele in 1774 – its name is derived from the Greek for ‘oxy genes’ meaning acid forming. Used in large scale, especially in the steel industry, it’s growing use is in the treatment of effluent, sewage and purification of water as Ozone (O3).
Water, without which there would be no life, as we know it is the most abundant compound on Earth’s surface covering 70% of it. A tasteless, odourless liquid it is found in nature in 3 of 4 phases – liquid state being the most common – solid state as ice and gaseous state as water vapour or steam. The fourth state, as a super critical fluid, occurs very rarely in nature as it requires specific critical pressure/temperature to form.
Where has all the water gone?
We are told that there is the same amount of water today as there was when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The currently issue though, is where is the potable water now and is the volume the same?
Satellites that are able to measure the minute difference in gravitational pull caused by changes in the amount of subterranean water levels have been monitoring various areas that are underlain by massive aquifers.
The results are of great concern as data shows that these aquifer levels have continued to drop as abstraction continues with ever more powerful pumps and deep well drilling capability.
Accurate measurement of the amount of water that utilities process for cities comes from the network of bulk and domestic meters installed by them and falls broadly, in South Africa, into distinct areas namely:
Dwindling potable water volumes (peak water) from sources have necessitated end user conservation programmes which can only be successful if these are monitored by accurate water measurements.
Revenue derived from end user water consumption is vitally necessary for utility funding for both maintenance of existing network structure as well as providing for the ever expanding population being serviced.