(NaturalNews) The world's most precious resource - and in every way more valuable than all the oil, gold and other precious metals combined - is water, but scientists are warning it is becoming so scarce in many regions that governments should start rationing it now, before it runs out completely.
Climate change, pollution and over-use of resources over the past two generations have taken their toll on the availability of clean, potable water for many of the earth's 9 billion people, 500 scientists warned in a new study.
According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, which reported the findings, the experts believe the world's water systems will soon reach a tipping point that "could trigger irreversible change with potentially catastrophic consequences." Calling on governments to begin conservation of water now, the scientists "said it was wrong to see fresh water as an endlessly renewable resource because, in many cases, people are pumping out water from underground sources at such a rate that it will not be restored within several lifetimes," the paper reported.
The causes are numerous
"These are self-inflicted wounds," said Charles Vorosmarty, a professor at the Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Centre. "We have discovered tipping points in the system. Already, there are 1 billion people relying on ground water supplies that are simply not there as renewable water supplies."
The scientists say about half the world's people - about 4.5 billion globally - already live near an "impaired" water source, or one that is set to run dry or that is polluted. If the trends continue, those people and hundreds of millions more could soon see the water upon which they depend disappear for good or become so dirty it no longer supports life.
The experts said the threats are multi-tiered and many. Among them is climate change, which "is likely to cause an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, floods, heatwaves and storms," said the paper in summarizing the scientists' concerns.
Another major problem is agricultural run-off - fertilizers that contain nitrogen, which has already caused no fewer than 200 "dead zones" in various seas, near the mouths of rivers. Fish can no longer survive in such zones.
Affordable technology used to pump water from underground sources has proliferated and with few restrictions on the use of such technology, over-use of already scarce water resources for irrigation and industrial purposes has occurred. Worse, much of the water is wasted because the operations are not efficient.
Finally, a rapid rise in population growth is putting a strain on dwindling clean water supplies. In some regions, the available water cannot support the existing population.
Per the Guardian:
In some areas, so much water has been pumped out from underground that salt water has rushed in to fill the gap, forcing farmers to move to other areas because the salination makes their former water sources unusable.
Water shortages and places where water is going to be in short supply the soonest are in poorer countries, most of which have little to no resilience to cope with the loss. Other areas include those wracked by political and sectarian violence and instability; competition for water will only worsen those conditions, say the experts.
Not alarmist, but true
Citizens of first-world countries won't be immune either, the scientists warned:
For instance, there are now 210 million citizens of the US living within 10 miles of an "impaired" water source, and that number is likely to rise as the effects of global warming take hold. In Europe, some water sources are running dry because of over-extraction for irrigation, much of which is carried on in an unsustainable fashion.
"There is no citizen of the world who can be complacent about this," said Janos Bogardy, director of the UN University's Institute for Environment and Human Security.
For some who want to dismiss the scientists' warnings as alarmist, you should know that U.S. intelligence officials, including the CIA, http://www.mcclatchydc.com.
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