ship on dry lake
A ship near the city of Aral, Kazakhstan. During the Soviet era the authorities decided to divert the Aral lake’s tributary rivers. This water was used for cotton production. In 2007 only 10 % of the lake was left, and the salt content was high enough to kill the fish. This is one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I wrote a post about water on my Norwegian blog about a year ago. The point I was trying to get across was that water could very well start major conflicts between countries and inside countries. Polution is of course a major part of the problem, not least in the two most populous countries, China and India.

This poster from Popular Science shows some of the other possible conflicts around the world. Turkey not only flooded a 12 000 year old settlement, but this project could damage Mesopotamian marshes in Iraq. Ethiopia is also building a dam that has Egypt and Sudan worried about what it’ll do to the Nile. Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are worried about how a dam in Laos is going to affect the local fishing industry.

These are just some of the many conflicts, and when we concider how tense the relations between for example South/North Korea, India/Pakistan or Greece/Turkey can be, I can see the one thing we can’t do without being a trigger for a conflict.

I read an interesting article in the New Yorker today. Where the River Runs Dry is about the possibility that the Colorado River might actually disappear. This river supplies 36 million people with water, and that includes cities like Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego and Los Angeles. The farming communities and cities seem to be blaming each other.

I am reminded of a text that was on the curriculum when I studied English in college in 99/00. I can just very vaguely remember it, but I think it must have been Edward Abbey’s Damnation of a Canyon. He was against the building of a dam in Glen Canyon. As I recall many felt that Abbey represented hopelessly outdated opinions that would have prevented progress.

We have a similar debate in Norway too because many are against the building of windmills. We can’t build them close to where people live, not in the mountains and not at sea. Why? Some think it’ll be ugly no matter where we erect them and some think it’s more important to protect the birds, but that’s a different discussion.

On a planet that is mostly covered by water it would be crazy if we ran out of it. The question isn’t whether or not we’ll have water, but how clean it will be. I think the technology that removes salt from sea water is being developed enough that it’ll soon be relatively cheap. The problem is the amount of heavy metals and other toxic substances in the water. We have been very privileged in Norway. We have payed one fee that has given us the right to use an unlimited amount, except for during an exceptional hot summer when we have to be careful. Now more and more have to pay based on how much they use. We are still privileged because no one is without water, but what people in Detroit experienced last year might become more common in the future. I think water will have a price, and we probably need to accept more responsibility:


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