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Intel Sucks Up Water Amid Drought In China 386

Posted by kdawson
from the nor-any-drop-to-drink dept.
An anonymous reader sends along a Bloomberg piece on Intel and the coming water wars. "Intel is going head-to-head with businesses like Coca-Cola to swallow up scarce water resources in the developing world. According a 2009 report ... 2.4 billion of the world's population lives in 'water-stressed' countries such as China and India. Chip fabrication plants in those countries, as well factories such as the soft drink giant's bottling plants, are swallowing up scarce resources needed by the 1.6 billion people who rely on water for farming. ... Li Haifeng, vice president of sewage treatment company Beijing Enterprises Water Group, told Bloomberg, 'Wars may start over the scarcity of water.' China's 1.33 billion citizens each have 2,117 cubic meters of water available to them per year.... In the US, consumers can count on as much as 9,943 cubic meters."
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Intel Sucks Up Water Amid Drought In China

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  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:32PM (#32390380)
    What's the big deal it's not like you need water to live...
  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:35PM (#32390404)
    You know you are truly fucked in terms of population density when technically renewable and basically unlimited resources like water start to be discussed as possible causes of war... Interesting times ahead, guys.
    • by Mr Pippin (659094) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:39PM (#32390424)
      "drinkable" water has been a major issue in every age of history, that I'm aware of. It's not a lack of water, but water suitable for human consumption and/or use in many cases.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        True, but today we have the technology to make any water source drinkable - from cleaning up rivers to desalinating sea water. Guys, you got gardens blooming in the middle of the Nevada desert. And still the problem comes up - that's the scary bit.
        • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:47PM (#32390492) Homepage
          Well, that's because when it's not a problem and no one cares about it and water is abundant, people find interesting things to do with it, like put gardens in the middle of the Nevada desert.
        • True, but today we have the technology to make any water source drinkable - from cleaning up rivers to desalinating sea water. Guys, you got gardens blooming in the middle of the Nevada desert. And still the problem comes up - that's the scary bit.

          And partially due to that, water rationing during various summer months since that water supply is also the same one used for other areas that need it for more important things... like drinking the water instead of trying to make a desert look like an oasis.

          California depends on snow that accumulates in the Sierra Nevada for much of its water needs. The spring thaw that melts the snowpack is relied on to replenish reservoirs that are vital to millions of people.

          The region also takes water from the Colorado River, which runs east of California.

          So... the problem isn't limited to China... we experience it here as well. In California, Nevada, and New York City (and numerous other areas). Some of the few areas that do not run into this problem are eastern Long Island where the water comes from d

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rossdee (243626)

          All you need to make most of the 'undrinkable' (and not suitable for irrigating crops) water from nearly pure water is energy (to power the distillation or filtration problem, and to pump it to the areas it is needed.

          What we need is a cheap, nearly unlimited source of energy (that does not produce CO2), and the means to harness it. Fusion seems to be our best bet, either by a breakthrough in controlled fusion plants here, or better harnessing of the existing reactor that is 93 million miles away.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chris Mattern (191822)

          Artificially desalinating water is insanely expensive. It is simply unaffordable to supply your water needs like that unless you're super-rich. For third-world countries, it is flatly not an option.

          Those gardens blooming in the middle of the Nevada desert are depleting non-renewing aquafers to do it. Check back in a few decades--they won't be doing it any more, and they may be in a lot of trouble.

      • We have a whole range of technologies designed to make the formerly undrinkable water safe to drink.
      • This isn't 900 AD, we have desalination that is efficient, we've got the 5th largest city in the US in the middle of a desert (Phoenix), water pipes to nearly anywhere in the country you want, islands that can survive purely on ocean water, etc.
        • by sznupi (719324) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:05PM (#32390644) Homepage

          And in the process you're nearly the most wasteful place on Earth [wikipedia.org], claiming almost 3 times more resources per capita than the most "lean" places with comparable standard of living.

          • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@gmail.REDHATcom minus distro> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:38PM (#32390912)

            Water consumption is a really poor example of wastefulness. You can only "waste" water if you have water to "waste", it's not like we import water from 3rd world countries to plant our gardens. If you have it, you might as well use it. You might as well complain about people in Buffalo/Niagra letting all of that water go to waste without using it while people in other parts of the world die for lack of clean water.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Reziac (43301) *

        Some areas can legitimately cry drought, but China has dumped so much crud into its rivers that now ANYONE can walk on water. From what people who do business in China have told me, this is the root of their water issues right now -- not lack of water, but how much of it is no longer fit for ANY use.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:44PM (#32390470) Homepage
      If it comes down to it, a nuke plant or two has enough power to desalinate a whole lot of water. People usually just don't bother because the regular stuff is almost laughably cheap - it falls from the sky, for free! - and shortages are usually more cheaply addressed by moving it around from one place to another. (In California, that's the whole "regulatory drought" affair, when the courts said they had to stop pumping water through one particular delta because of the endangered fish who might get killed by the pumps, and replacement infrastructure hasn't been built.)
      • by mlts (1038732) *

        The problem is that nuke plants have been at a standstill since the Carter days. What would be the best solution would be a large scale desalination plant system powered by nuclear reactors near enough so voltage losses are minimal, but far enough away that a disaster wouldn't contaminate the water supply. Combine both of these with a large pipeline similar to how oil gets across Alaska, and this would go a long way to ending the water fights in the western part of the US.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        "A whole lot of water" locally, the amoutn being quite miniscule in larger picture. Unless you built more of them...and more...but from where will come the resources for that?

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        If it comes down to it, a nuke plant or two has enough power to desalinate a whole lot of water.

        Lulz.
        Nuke plants have their own water issues.
        Nuke plants use water for cooling, which means they dump heat into their water source (usually a river).
        The allowable temperature of the output water is subject to all kinds of fun regulations.
        (And there are regulations on the amount of water they can use for evaporative cooling)

        Ontop of the heat issue, there's the fact that, because of drought and diversions, many rivers are a lot lower than they used to be, which in turn means that many existing nuke plants hav

    • by JamesP (688957)

      Yes, but while some whine about that some go about turning seawater into drinkable water

      You know the whole "2/3 of the planet is water"

    • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:07PM (#32390656)

      It's not a resource availability problem: it's an infrastructure problem.

      Infrastructure is not in place to get the water (in sufficient quantities) from (potentially distant) places where it is available, to satisfy everyone's needs, and perform any processing required to make it usable.

      Water can be difficult to carry over long distances in large quantities (such as from the ocean) to remote areas of a continent, due to its tendency to corrode metal and other materials -- not just anything can carry it.

      It also requires energy to pump water, or keep it under pressure.

      Not to mention, that Ocean water is fairly dirty and requires desalination, and other processing to make it usable, which would be the highest cost. So usually water is taken from sources that are cheaper because they are closer or less processing is involved.

      If you ask me... Intel, Bottling companies, and others like them, are creating the bulk of the scarcity problem, and they should foot the bill for the additional delivery infrastructure their presence is causing to be required.

      They have a choice of where they build their large facilities, and the money to build new ones in places where water is not scarce, and close down old ones.

      They just do not have the financial justification to do so. If the local government makes it massively more expensive to operate facilities in the areas where water is more scarce, the companies will be able to justify opening new plants, or finding alternative means to obtain resources, rather than competing for limited locally available resources.

      As well, the plant operators should compensate for any other ongoing or any specific lasting impacts, required by their operations.

      For example, if Intel generates a waste substance, such as ruined/spoiled water, there should be metering they are required to do, and a per-pound/per-milliliter charge that they have to pay to cover the risk and eventual cost of that to the public, as an insurance/security deposit, with annual multiple independent 3rd-party investigations, and have the amount that must be paid per unit automatically increased retroactively, if the impact causes harm, spoiling to the environment, or the public, including harm to any animals, any aesthetic damage, or hidden damage to the future utility of any land above ground or underground, in order to pay for fully reversing the impact.

      Consumption or spoilage of any resources being a harm.

      • True - but the infrastructure problem comes down to a resource problem in the end. You need to have the resources to build that infrastructure in the first place.
      • by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:00PM (#32391740) Homepage

        Well, how it gets paid for is up to the government. The government needs to consider that the only reason Intel built a plant there is that it was a lot cheaper than doing it elsewhere. If the government starts telling them to pay a lot more for resources and that they can't just dump their solvents into the creek then they might just find some other place to go.

        If the company wanted good stable infrastructure they'd have just built the plant in the US or Europe. If you build your job market on exploiting your own populace, then you're stuck with that until there is some other compelling reason to build a market there.

    • Except water rights have always been a source of conflict [worldwater.org]. Note that the code of Hammurabi, 4000 years ago talk about resolving water conflicts. Fighting over water has always been with us.
  • On one hand, the claim is made that industries (of various kind) are consuming this very precious resource called water. On the other hand, China is becoming one of the most industrialized countries in the world, and is very much infatuated with it's industrial growth, and you can pry it from their cold, dead fingers.

    Well, you know the saying: you can't eat a pie and have it, too. You just fucking can't. It's not politically incorrect, it's a fact, it is what it is. If China has overextended herself - can't

    • Oh sure they will, using a little word known as Lebensraum [wikipedia.org]. Look up Chinese weapons manufacturing, they are cranking out ballistic subs like they had a war scheduled for next Tuesday. Why would little capitalist friendly China suddenly need huge fleets of missile boats? Because someone high up knows their current way of life isn't sustainable, and they want to have the firepower handy if/when they decide they need to "liberate" a country that has resources they need.

      And would anybody really be surprised if they did? It isn't like the USA and Russia haven't had questionable wars...err I mean "police actions" in the past, so why not China? While my heart says the bad blood between China and Japan and Korea might point the dragon in that direction, my head says Africa. There is simply too many precious minerals and other resources controlled by warlords and crushing the militaries in that region would be quite easy for the Chinese army.

      • by d34dluk3 (1659991) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:10PM (#32390696)

        Oh sure they will, using a little word known as Lebensraum [wikipedia.org].

        They had to import a German word to describe their devious plans? Sounds like China's experiencing a word shortage as well.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Red Flayer (890720)
        You don't even need to go so far as to refer to lebensraum.

        China, India, and other countries all have disputed claims on areas of the Tibetan plateau. There was a war fought over some of that territory only a few decades ago. And those disputes are heating up again... because the Tibetan plateau is the location of the headwaters of some of the largest rivers in Asia.

        The prospect of war between India and China is a scary one, IMO. I sometimes wonder if China would push into a war over the Tibetan plate
      • by jayveekay (735967) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:33PM (#32390880)

        How do ballistic missile subs help China liberate a country with resources it needs?

        If China wants to prevent another country from intervening in some war of conquest that China starts, all China has to do is to publicly say "We have several hundred ICBMs with nuclear warheads that we will shoot at all your major population centers if any of your military forces stand in our way of conquering county . We are deadly serious."

        The rest of the world is then faced with the choice of allowing China to swallow up whatever country it has chosen to conquer, or take the nuclear armaggedon end-of-life-as-we-know-it path. Which path do you prefer?

  • and others have to do it for us...
    Instead of becoming muscular, sexy hardworking people, look what we have done to ourselfs in the latest 50 years:
    1. we forgot how food is made - have you ever seen a pigslaughter? I have...
    2. we forgot how textiles are made, do we even make clothes in western europe? Except expensive ill-fitting italian shit?
    3. we have new types of morons: celebrities, entrepreneurs, hairstylists, economists, socionomists
    4. we have laboriously invented new psychical diseases - new types of

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      We have enough specialists in each of those fields to bootstrap back up if necessary, and I'd rather have a hairstylist than go to my barber for a leeching.

      FFT: i don't even know what you mean. I guess FFT strictly speaking grew out of the field of analysis? Unless you are computing the eigenvectors or using it for multiplication, then it's algebra, combinatorics, and number theory. If you're actually implementing a DFT, then it's mostly combinatorics and engineering. My math professor said that his best an

    • True, true

      But still:

      1. Yes. Slaughter day rocks - fresh sausages+beer, and yeah I participated in the work often enough.

      2. More that true. The region I was born was huge in textile industry - now it is a post-industrial wasteland.

      3. We have been busy inventing new types of morons for centuries. Nothing to see here. More prominent now, though, I give you that.

      4. Disagree. Better to actually investigate what is wrong with people than just sticking them into asylum under the general diagnosis of "nutcase".

      5. A

  • by the_macman (874383) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:59PM (#32390602)

    Explain this to me. Water is renewable. It's not getting gobbled up. It's not getting ruined. We're not "running" out of drinking water. It's not syphoning out of the planet. The whole fucking planet is water. It's stupid easy to desalinate water and purify toxic water for drinking. My wife is always telling me about the water crisis. I'm like what fucking crisis? Water isn't going anywhere. Desalination is expensive but it will become cheaper when we need it. Supply and demand. Fossil fuels--THERE is something you should be worried about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      "when we need it" means demand goes up. That makes the price increase by your "supply and demand" mantra.

      Any economies of scale on the supply side are bottlenecked by the price of energy. The cheap form of which is the very thing you said we should be worried about...

    • by winwar (114053)

      "It's not getting ruined."

      While it is not getting destroyed, its usefulness is. Contamination is a problem. So in that sense it is "ruined".

      "It's stupid easy to desalinate water and purify toxic water for drinking."

      Define "easy". If you mean by a well known scalable process, sure. If you mean by a cost effective, practical one, no. Purifying water can be even worse.

      "Fossil fuels--THERE is something you should be worried about."

      And what do you think will be used to produce the energy to RUN the desalina

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:16PM (#32391276) Homepage

      It's stupid easy to desalinate water and purify toxic water for drinking.

      That sentence is where your rant fails. Yes, there is plenty of water but no, it's not 'stupid simple' to purify OR desalinate. It takes quite a bit of energy to do the latter (and remember, we don't have energy growing on trees). It can be complicated to impossible to bulk purify contaminated water. You are conveniently forgetting that (energy) cost matters.

      Your assumption that desalination should become cheaper 'when we need it' is interesting. Care to back it up?

      So listen to your wife. She's correct on this one.

    • by sjames (1099) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:28PM (#32391988) Homepage

      Imagine you have a nice creek behind your house. It's water is fresh and clean. You have never in your life had to pay for water. One day some millionaire jackass upstream dams up the creek and diverts 100% of it to water his chinchilla ranch. He digs a small canal to channel their urine back into the creek bed below the dam. The flow rate is very nearly as high as ever, but unfortunately it's chinchilla piss.

      Chinchilla piss is mostly water and plenty of it flows behind your house, but nevertheless, you now have a water shortage. You find out that a filter good enough to turn chinchilla piss into drinking water will cost you $100,000. Your upstream neighbor has connections so he spends $5000 on expensive lunches to make sure nobody decides HE has to build the filtration plant. You don't just happen to have $100,000 laying around.

      You consider moving, but it turns out that with a river of urine flowing behind it, nobody wants to buy your current home.

      That is essentially the situation the small subsistence farmers are facing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ChrisMaple (607946)
        Water rights are an old concept, and a valid one. If your jackass example violates your rights through bribery, you should give him and his "connections" the gift of some high velocity lead. We're in the mess we're in today because people don't agressively protect their VALID rights.
  • It has electrolytes.

  • I just looked at my water usage for the past year, and it's about 32000 US gallons. Google tells me that this equals about 121 cubic meters. So if I lived in China, I'd only be able to use about 20 times as much water as I currently use? Oh no.
    • by Reason58 (775044)
      The summary of TFA spells it out for you. Water consumption is more than what you see on your statement each month. It goes into the products you use every day, whether you realize it or not.
      • If you're counting the water used to make the products I buy as water I use, then you can't also say that the water the companies use is in conflict with this, since it's the same water.
        • by Reason58 (775044)
          I did not say that they were conflicting data sources. What I said is that you are only looking at a small part of your overall usage. You directly consume 32,000 gallons through flushing your toilet, showering, watering your lawn, doing laundry, etc. That does not take into account the water used in the manufacture of the computer you are using right now. Of your phone, your soda in the fridge, all that stuff. Those things do not show up on your statement. You have no way to reasonably measure or understan
  • increase the damn price of water. In fact use a tiered system in which farmers get a free quota as do drinking water supplies, which Coca Cola pays for their first drop.

    "But they'll leave and take their production elsewhere", that solves the water problem too. Just find the right price point. If the jobs are more important that people having food and water, set it at 0...

  • " According a 2009 report..., 2.4 billion of the world's population lives in 'water-stressed' countries such as China and India"

    The combined population of just China and India is about 2.36 billion... So only 40 million people outside of China and India live in water-stressed countries? I would have thought that the population of the countries of just the Sahara desert region would exceed 40 million.

    Given that countries can be geographically large with distinctively different regions, and moving huge quanti

  • cliff notes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveGod (703167) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:21PM (#32390790)

    There's two key themes of the article and both are inadequately covered by the OP.

    1. Criticism of China's mismanagement of their water resource, principally with reference to the humanitarian results.

    2. The impact on industry if:
    a) China continues to mismanage, in which case industry in China is going to have a major problem.
    b) China begins to manage, in which case there is going to be a huge opportunity for water supply industries.

    Industry itself is given some of the blame but their focus is rightly on the government. It is their responsibility for telling Intel that they cannot build a factory there because there is insufficient water for everyone else. Sure, maybe Intel should install a desalination plant or whatever, but the government is supposed to be demanding that as a requirement for building the factory, not relying on Intel deciding it would be a nice thing to do. Even if Intel suddenly had a case of the guilts and built a plant, all that would happen is someone else builds a factory to utilise the water Intel are no longer using. It would be a totally pointless gesture unless part of a government plan.

  • Waste water (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:05PM (#32391148) Homepage Journal

    Does Intel *consume* the water like coke does, or do they just use it then eject it out of the building? I bet their 'dirty water' is cleaner then what coke puts in their process and could be reclaimed for human use.

    • pure water (Score:4, Informative)

      by OrangeTide (124937) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:35PM (#32391502) Homepage Journal

      Well coca-cola has been a leader in pretty sophisticated and very very large scale water purification systems. The water they put in put in their soft drinks is clean, clear, odorless and tasteless. They use the same water in their Dasani bottled water and charge 2x more than a coke, too bad their bottled water is so tasteless that you can pick up the smells of the plastic bottle before you get anything interesting from the water.

      But you do bring up a good point, coca-cola uses water and then ships it out on trucks and boats never to be seen again locally because it is part of their product. While Intel would be using the water for an industrial process and would need to dispose of it. Let us hope that their waste water doesn't contain arsenic or antimony, two common silicon doping agents. I wouldn't want to drink Intel's waste water even through a simplistic purifier unless it was carefully tested.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mschuyler (197441)

        I'm not sure that is 100% true. Coca Cola licenses the formula to be used by local bottling companies who "make" the coke for more or less local distribution. Every major city has a coca cola bottling plant for distribution right there.

  • Bad summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PNutts (199112) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:34PM (#32391492)

    Unless I missed it I'm not seeing that Intel is "sucking up" water and is only mentioned in passing. The drought in Southwest China affects 24 million of the 1.6 billion people in China/India that rely on farming and Intel's location isn't mentioned. And from TFA: China ... has contaminated 70 percent of its rivers and lakes. Those numbers indicate there are steps that can be taken that will provide more benefit than targeting Intel.

    I'm not saying there's not a concern, but to paint Intel as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is a stretch.

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