So are we running out of water (perhaps it's Already Gone) or just screwing up what we have? Or both?
This article by Frank R. Rijsberman, former Director General of the International Water Management Institute and current Program Director at Google.org, is a thoughtful examination of the 'water crisis'.
I heard him speak at World Water Week in Stockholm several years ago and was duly impressed with his insight.
He makes an astute observation:
Therefore, to understand the water crisis we need to distinguish two fundamentally different problems, which will require different solutions. The first, the drinking water problem, is about access to affordable water services: here we face a service crisis. The second is about the lack of the vastly greater water resources needed to grow food and maintain ecosystem services: here we face a problem of water scarcity, a resource crisis.
He discusses Malin Falkenmark's concept of blue water (renewable water) and green water (soil moisture) and indicates that we need to focus on both types of water when addressing water problems.
And I have to mention that Rijsberman feels that groundwater is often given short shrift:
While groundwater is included in all definitions of water resources, it is often ignored in practical water management. Groundwater is bypassed in part because it is hard to find in all but the simplest geologies, such as homogenous deep sand layers, and in part because it is difficult to quantify. Large-scale public water projects, from Roman aqueducts to the great irrigation systems in India and China, have traditionally focused on the water in rivers. Groundwater was traditionally accessed by digging wells that provided people with small amounts of clean and reliable drinking water.
Another reason groundwater is neglected is money, or rather the lack thereof - there is not much money in it, compared to surface water projects. Groundwater can often be developed at the point of use. No need to construct a costly dam, reservoir, canals, pumping stations, pipelines, etc. You can also extract money from reservoirs - lakefront property sales, recreation, etc. So is it any wonder that water managers and developers, who are often engineers and have traditionally have had little training in groundwater, want to develop big surface water supply projects?
The odd thing is that when Rijsberman discusses building more water storage, he fails to include underground storage - no mention of aquifer storage recovery or artificial recharge. C'mon, Frank!
But it's an article worth reading.
"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key." -- Already Gone, by the Eagles, written by Jack Tempchin and Robb Strandlund