Got water? New study finds global water scarcity on the rise
Written by: Meghan Henoumont
A new study has found that 4 billion people worldwide, two-thirds of the Earth’s population, live in conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month out of the year. For half a billion of these people, water shortages are a year-long struggle.
The study was published Feb. 12 in the journal Science Advances, by researchers Mesfin Mekonnen and Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands. The study names freshwater scarcity as a top global risk. Mekonnen and Hoekstra say that previous assessments to measure annual global water scarcities have been grossly underestimated due to seasonal fluctuations in water consumption and availability.
The alarming study indicates that water shortages are quickly becoming a growing crisis that must be addressed on a global scale. Researchers say, “…putting caps to water consumption by river basin(s), increasing water-use efficiencies, and better sharing of the limited freshwater resources (will be) key in reducing the threat posed by water scarcity on biodiversity and human welfare.”
China and India account for nearly 2 billion of those living in water-scarce conditions, but other countries where large numbers of people are affected by severe water scarcity for at least part of the year include Bangladesh, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States.
Here in the United States most of the population to be affected live in western states such as California and southern states such as Texas and Florida. Both California and Texas have endured their worst droughts in history over the last four years.
Water shortages in the United States are not new news. Over the last few years many privately-owned weather modification companies have popped up. These weather modification companies use the controversial practice of cloud seeding to stimulate rain in regions experiencing chronic drought conditions.
Cloud seeding was initially discovered in the 1940’s as a technique to increase rain or snowfall for the water supply. According to physics.org, cloud seeding works by, “seeding the atmosphere with chemicals such as silver iodide or dry ice. They work to promote rainfall by inducing nucleation – what little water is in the air condenses around the newly introduced particles and crystallites to form ice.”
Cloud seeding has become a controversial practice due to the silver iodide that is sprayed in the atmosphere. Many researchers have argued that silver iodide is likely toxic to humans and that enough independent studies have not been conducted to understand its effects on humans or the Earth’s atmosphere long term.
A report from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation United States Senate dating back to May of 1978 has recently been released. The report is titled Weather Modification: Programs, Problems, Policy, and Potential. The report states that, “Reports and studies conducted by such diverse organizations as the National Academy of Sciences, the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere, the General Accounting Office, and the Domestic Council have highlighted the lack of a comprehensive Federal weather modification policy and research and development program.”
Sen. James B. Pearsox said at the time, “… Hearings that I chaired in February of this year reinforced my concerns regarding the wisdom of our continued failure to implement a national policy on this very important issue.”
While research on silver iodide’s effects has been tested since the report many climate scientists argue that those studies were conducted in a lab under controlled conditions that may not mimic the Earth’s rapidly changing atmosphere and weather. However, nearly all scientists agree that cloud seeding and weather modification may need to become a routine practice globally to produce enough rainfall to sustain the earth’s current population.
The private weather modification companies are not currently required to publically disclose areas where cloud seeding is being used. Some companies do register and display their on going projects on a website called weathermodfication.org where anyone can view the interactive map of current weather modification projects.
In 2014 Louisiana revised one of its laws on weather modification which dated back to 1956. LA Rev Stat § 37:220, also known as, Chapter 25. Weather Modification, now states that, “Sovereign right to use of moisture. It is hereby declared that the state of Louisiana claims its sovereign right to the use for the best interest of its people of the moisture contained in the clouds and atmosphere within its state boundaries.”
What this means is that, the state of Louisiana is claiming ownership of any clouds with precipitation that are meant for the state. Our neighboring states are welcome to cloud seed as often as they need but they may not take rainfall that is meant for Louisiana’s citizens.
While this revised law may seem extreme, given current studies on water shortages, laws such as these may be necessary to ensure individual states/territories have enough water for human activities such as bathing, drinking and agriculture.