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The Nations That Will Be Hardest Hit By Water Shortages By 2040 203

merbs writes: Water access is going to be one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. As climate change dries out the already dry areas and makes the wet ones wetter, we're poised to see some radical civilizational shifts. For one, a number of densely populated areas will come under serious water stress—which analysts fear will lead to strife, thirst, and even violent conflict. With that in mind, the World Resource Institute has assembled a new report projecting which nations are most likely to be hardest hit by water stress in coming decades—nations like Bahrain, Israel, Palestine, and Spain lead the pack.
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The Nations That Will Be Hardest Hit By Water Shortages By 2040

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  • I was expecting a listicle.
  • Alaska (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:06AM (#50400055)

    I love how Alaska gets included with the rest of the nation even though we have nothing close to a water shortage with all the glaciers up here. We should have been grouped with Canada.

    • Re:Alaska (Score:5, Informative)

      by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:14AM (#50400081)

      If you're gonna divide it up like that the Great Lakes bit of the Midwest should have no shortage, either. The prairie bit of the Midwest is in much bigger trouble because the Oglala Aquifer is being drawn down too much, and the Mississippi is probably gonna be schizo with more evaporation (ie: lots of heat meaning more evaporation, and some years the rain'll come down within the Mississippi valley and they'll have too much, and others it won't and they'll have too little). The Pacific Northwest should also be fine.

      I suspect the South, Southwest, and Cali will have the biggest problems.

      No idea about the Northeast.

      • Drought is relative too. An ecology evolved for wetter conditions can suffer when precipitation falls - even to levels that would be considered "wet" elsewhere. The northern part of the lower peninsula of the State of Michigan has been under fire-watch/no-burn orders over the summer for the past few years, even though Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes. A few years back, parts of the south around Georgia were under drought conditions.

        There is fraking (hydraulic fracturing) extraction occurring in

      • This is the Pacific Northwest that is currently on fire (as in 500km away I can hardly see across the street due to the smoke from Washington State)
        • But the question wasn't "Are they gonna be in some trouble?" Everybody's in some trouble (except Alaska and, mayhaps, the Great Lakes). It's "Are they in more trouble then everyone else?"

          And the cities of the Pacific Northwest are probably fine, because that constant mist of rain off the ocean probably won't change, so in theory they don't *have* to ration water (they almost certainly will anyway because Portland). The interior is less fine, but it's not really more un-fine then Idaho, the Imperial Valley,

      • While there's lots of fresh water in the Great Lakes, the watershed really isn't all that big, so it won't renew itself real fast. Drain it too fast, and there will be some pretty big problems from lowering lake levels.

        • Two points:

          1) Unlike many watersheds, particularly towards the coast, it's a closed system except for evaporation. Chicago water comes from, and goes to, the same lake. This water is then available for Chicago again, or (more likely) can be pumped into Michigan for irrigation, Milwaukee's water system, etc. And then it proceeds through Huron, Erie, and Ontario; and is usable by Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, etc. etc.

          2) The lakes contain a fifth of the world's fresh water. The watershed population the

          • Closed system? So that big river (the St. Lawrence) extending to the Atlantic has been filled in or dam put in?

            • [joke] That bits on your side of the border. It's your problem. [/joke]

              That was hyperbole. Niagara Falls does exist, but in terms of the bit of the lakes that the US uses, almost none of it is anywhere near the Falls. It's very easy for most American cities to use up their water supply because the place water goes is not a place you can easily get freshwater from. Phoenix's mostly goes to the sky as evaporation, and will come down somewhere that is not Arizona, LA and NYC send theirs to the ocean. Cities on

    • Re:Alaska (Score:5, Informative)

      by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:32AM (#50400143)

      I love how Alaska gets included with the rest of the nation even though we have nothing close to a water shortage with all the glaciers up here. We should have been grouped with Canada.

      Did you read the headline? The Nations That Will Be Hardest Hit By Water Shortages By 2040. Unless Alaska has somehow seceded from the union, I don't see how they could group Alaska with Canada.

      There are plenty of other US state drought maps that you can use if you really care about a single state's water, but don't complain that a global representation of drought was not local enough for you.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      It would make a lot more sense to build up a map of regions where areas with the highest shortages are plotted, much like the US drought monitor [unl.edu] but worldwide.

      There are areas within countries with a lot of water like Canada where there's a shortage because the population density is too high as well as areas where there's no shortage of water even though it's arid because few people live there.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        A lot of weather forecasting is done based upon analysis of past data with prior weather patterns. More accurate future weather forecasting will require analysis of future stable weather patterns. Localising data is very difficult at the moment as weather patterns oscillate somewhere between past weather patterns and future developing weather patterns.

        Water shortages are subject to water usage at particular locations, so more water in areas not developed to make use of it and less water in areas fully dev

    • I love how Alaska gets included with the rest of the nation even though we have nothing close to a water shortage with all the glaciers up here. We should have been grouped with Canada.

      You have glaciers now. But California gets, um got a significant amount of water from its mountain snowpack, as well. Another big chunk of Greenland glacier fell off into the sea this week.

      Florida has been under water restrictions for decades. And it's surrounded by water on 3 sides. Just not potable water.

    • Yes, Alaska and Canada will be water suppliers to the lower 48

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:15AM (#50400087)

    Oh well, I suppose people with very stable and safe lives need to find something to fear.

  • By 2040 we should have all that crap sorted out. If there are any shortages, it's because some corrupt bastard is mucking up the works. There is absolutely no longer any technical reason to suffer shortages of any kind anywhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:29AM (#50400129)

      some corrupt bastard is mucking up the works.

      Why would you think they would be any fewer in 2040?

      • I find it even more painful that much of Africa is not using that much water. That's only because the corruption and the lack of infrastructure. Richer countries, though with some exceptions all around, find it affordable to use a lot
        • Africa, corruption (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The most blatant corruption here are the so-called "free" trade agreements rammed down the throats of African nations (EU, I'm looking at you). They are killing local industries (just one example: they are swamped by cheap, disgusting leftovers from EU chicken industry because the "developed" nation's citizens can only stand breast and drumstick).

          Water? The same: The likes of Nestlé and Veolia steal the water to re-sell it to the locals.

          Now that's not to say that the local chiefs aren't corrupt -

          • by DrXym ( 126579 )
            Call this a wild and crazy supposition but I bet if you walked into any open market or supermarket in continent of Africa that you would find chicken for sale, either whole or in part. Live, slaughtered and refrigerated according to where you were looking. Maybe you think that the EU steals all the chicken breasts and Africa just gets buckets of scrag ends with flies crawling all over them.
            • Hey, still beats growing your chicken in the US, sending it all the way to China [idealistrevolution.org] for "Processing", then getting whatever it is that you will be eating back.
              • by DrXym ( 126579 )
                Fresh meat in EU countries say the farm of origin and even most fruit and veg. So I trust that stuff. There's a short supply chain that is traceable.

                It's the wholesale supply chain which is always the one which scares me. I remember watching a UK documentary where some health inspectors raided a premises packing "halal" chicken where there was no refrigeration and there was rotting meat sitting by the "fresh" stuff, all of which had already passed from another wholesaler in Denmark and might have passed t

    • Re:That's messed up (Score:4, Informative)

      by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:33AM (#50400147) Journal

      I'm assuming you're talking about desalination. That requires a lot of energy, and there's no way short of a revolution in fusion technology that you could use that to produce enough water for irrigation of any significant amount of stable land. And you're still left with the problem may users of aquifers are suffering; way to much salt.

      A succinct change in rain patterns will almost certainly turn land now under cultivation into semi arid lands, without sufficient fresh water to reverse the problem.

      • Re:That's messed up (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kenwd0elq ( 985465 ) <kenwd0elq@engineer.com> on Thursday August 27, 2015 @02:03AM (#50400237)

        Any major change in rain patterns will likely cause water shortages in SOME places and water surpluses in others.The desert Southwest of the United States was probably fertile and green 700 years ago; after all, the Anasazi had a civilization of SOME sort then, and there hasn't been any water around in the last few hundred. Everything goes in cycles; don't expect that every change will be a bad one.

        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @02:13AM (#50400277) Journal

          And what if that rainfall change leads to greater rainfall on one side of a national border and far leads arable conditions on the other? Imagine of large swathes of the Midwest are rendered unsuitable for large scale agriculture, because rainbelts have moved into Canada. Suddenly the United States' food security is in a foreign country's hands.

          There are serious geopolitical ramifications of male changes in rainfall patterns.

          • We can always do a reenactment of the War of 1812... on location... with live rounds...

          • There are serious geopolitical ramifications of male changes in rainfall patterns.

            Look, I know it's popular among the social justice crowd to blame all kinds of ills on "the patriarchy", but, you're not really coming off as credible to blame the dominant gender for orchestrating where the rain falls.

        • Actually, a lot of that area was underseas a few million years ago, but what difference does that make here and in the near future?

          It's strongly suspected that a lot of the Mesoamerican civilization collapses (Olmecs, Maya, etc. were related to rainfall changes.

          And a change IS a bad one if it happens to punish where you live.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I'm assuming you're talking about desalination.

        There is that. The bigger issue is transportation. There's plenty of water, just not where we need it at the moment. And we have to restore contaminated water. Time to build some big-ass, nuclear powered tunnel boring machines, and pipe it around like oil, gas, and battery acid. And after bailing out the bankers, I don't want hear anybody crying that we don't have the money. There's plenty of that also, just not where we need it at the moment...

        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @02:19AM (#50400289) Journal

          Read about the water wars in California and neighboring states when the Colorado River was tapped to turn desert into oasis. Any jurisdiction that imagines it is just going to wholesale grab another jurisdiction's water is likely in for a rude surprise. Now imagine if those jurisdictions are in different nations.

          • Yes, it is disturbing when war is the cheapest and easiest way to acquire water. It's happening in the Middle East also.

        • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

          Or move people to where the water is?

        • Once the heavy reliance on fossil fuel is over, they could convert the oil pipelines to water pipelines. As most of the oil producing countries are desert like, the roles could be reversed.
        • I'm assuming you're talking about desalination.

          There is that. The bigger issue is transportation. There's plenty of water, just not where we need it at the moment. And we have to restore contaminated water. Time to build some big-ass, nuclear powered tunnel boring machines, and pipe it around like oil, gas, and battery acid. And after bailing out the bankers, I don't want hear anybody crying that we don't have the money. There's plenty of that also, just not where we need it at the moment...

          It's not like this is a new problem. Solutions were developed as far back as the 1960's, and many politicians promoted those plans [schillerinstitute.org] as early as 1978 and warned of the dangers of doing nothing. But nobody listened. And it kept getting worse, and still nobody wanted to invest in it. There just wasn't enough corporate profit in it, politicians can succeed by ignoring it, and there is simply no stomach in the US electorate for taking on some pain to alleviate future problems.

          So here we are. Carly Fiorina ca

      • by mentil ( 1748130 )

        short of a revolution in fusion technology

        Luckily, that's only 20 years away. 2040 is 25 years away. Disaster averted.

        • Assuming we keep up the necessary funding, what will we have in 2040? How expensive will it be to build a fusion power plant, and how much power will it produce? I've heard "too cheap to meter" before.

      • That requires a lot of energy, and there's no way short of a revolution in fusion technology

        Or, y'know, building a bunch of nuclear plants.

        Or, y'know, taking advantage of all that newly available sunlight to build large-scale solar stills.

        Or....

        • Or, y'know, taking advantage of all that newly available sunlight to build large-scale solar stills.

          Or....

          ...using solar-thermal heat pipes to pump water from the ocean into deserts, there using it to grow algae for biofuel feedstocks. Any excess water is simply spilled over into a salt pan, and replenishes groundwater.

      • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

        That requires a lot of energy, and there's no way short of a revolution in fusion technology that you could use that to produce enough water for irrigation of any significant amount of stable land.

        What about fission?

      • by nomadic ( 141991 )
        Plus you've got to figure out something to do with all the salt you take out.
      • I'm assuming you're talking about desalination. That requires a lot of energy, and there's no way short of a revolution in fusion technology...

        Maybe he was talking about desal, but what I wanna talk about is giant flying fan blades. Compact fusion generators in the sky, turning giant fan blades. They can blow rainclouds into areas that need rain and away from areas that have too much rain.

        Farfetched? Only the compact fusion generator part. If we have those then the possibilities are endless.

        • Apart from the fantasist part of giant floating fans, fusion-powered or otherwise, this is still taking water from one place and moving it to another. What if the people who live in the place with "too much" rain (whatever that may mean) don't think they receive too much rain. What if they don't want to see their water taken, whether by big pipes, big fans or magic transporters?

          Again I repeat that there are serious geopolitical issues to moving water from jurisdictions that may have an apparent plenty to ju

      • Desalinization also tends to produce water at sea level, and in many cases the irrigation is needed at considerably higher altitudes. Moving that much water uphill is also going to take a lot of energy.

    • Re:That's messed up (Score:4, Informative)

      by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:35AM (#50400159)

      By 2040 we should have all that crap sorted out. If there are any shortages, it's because some corrupt bastard is mucking up the works. There is absolutely no longer any technical reason to suffer shortages of any kind anywhere.

      It can take a decade or longer to do an environmental review, get permits, and build a large desalination plant (and decades more to build a nuclear plant to power it). Building a dam or large reservoir can take even longer (and still needs time to fill).

      While some progress will be made, don't count on the problem being solved in 25 years.

      • So you're saying that government is the major impediment to progress? I agree!

        • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

          So you're saying that government is the major impediment to progress? I agree!

          No, its the under educated voters that vote on emotion and sound bites rather than issues. Oh yeah I guess the people and the government are one and the same.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      License to procreate would be a step ahead.

    • by Torvac ( 691504 )
      shortage =====> profit
    • by gsslay ( 807818 )

      By 2040 we should have all that crap sorted out. If there are any shortages, it's because some corrupt bastard is mucking up the works.

      One thing we're never likely to suffer any shortage of is corrupt bastards mucking up the works.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @01:21AM (#50400103)

    So...water shortage might cause Israel and Palestine to have issues, then?

    • Israel? You mean that place we were talking about not long ago with all of the new desalination plants shipping water to other countries? That Israel?
      • by skaag ( 206358 )

        I was going to say that the report is out of date. Israel have already solved their water shortage problems, forever, and they have so much to spare that they have begun exporting water to neighboring countries. I believe this could work in Israel's favor, as they forge a path to peace with the region.

        • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

          Meanwhile the Dead Sea shrinks every year.

          • by skaag ( 206358 )

            That is not just a man-made disaster, it's a crime. The companies doing this should be held accountable, but it's such a Banana Republic, I don't know if that will ever happen.

          • by Sun ( 104778 )

            Yes, it's horrible, but it has nothing to do with the water shortage.

            Shachar

            • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

              Well - it has to do with water shortage because the water from the Jordan River is used for irrigation.

        • I believe this could work in Israel's favor, as they forge a path to peace with the region.

          So when do they stop bulldozing and start forging?

          And yes, I know the Palestinians are launching rockets. The best way to achieve peace isn't tit-for-tat. Ask Ireland.

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      Israel and Palestine have been having strife over water for decades. Israel diverts nearly 100% of the Jordan river now, mostly for its own agricultural purposes. To add insult to injury this water is piped right through the west bank to Israeli farms and communities in the south. Palestinian farms and communities get less and less of this water as time goes on. And as the aquifers that feed the Jordan river fluctuate, guess who gets the short end of the stick? Certainly not Israelis. Water is certain

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Spain is covered in greenhouses, if they run out of water, Europe runs out of food, so you can pretty much expect desalination plants to be built in large scale.

    I know they already are getting into solar in a big way.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @02:03AM (#50400245)

    Obviously, it will be the ones with inadequate desalination plants.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      California is safe then with the salted almonds they grow.

  • More Fearmongering (Score:4, Informative)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @02:22AM (#50400299)

    Uh-huh. Here in Australia, we had one of these guys screeching about the perpetual drought Australia was going to be enduring. The government poured billions into building the biggest desalination plant in the country. Then the drought ended, the dams filled, and the desal plant is idling along, producing nothing, but costing half a million a day.

    • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @02:54AM (#50400425)

      Weather *is* cyclical you know, and with climate change some places are going to be hit with even more aggressive patterns.

      Or there could be other problems brewing. I'm not sure what the water table usage in Australia is, have you looked into it? It's one of those things that can be really bad when the water runs out but nobody thinks about because it's out of sight, out of mind. Just look at California - they've been drawing way more out of the aquifers than can possibly be replenished for decades and it's causing the actual ground to sink. One day not too far off those aquifers will be dry and then their entire agricultural sector will be screwed.

      • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday August 27, 2015 @03:01AM (#50400449)

        Some rural areas might rely on aquifers, but the vast majority of Australia relies on man-made dams. I *know* weather is cyclical - as does everyone who's lived in Australia for more than a decade. Poems have been written about the juxtaposition of our "droughts and flooding rains". That's why I get cynical when people start screaming that the sky is falling, because we're in a part of the cycle they're not enjoying.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ah, yes... darned those people trying to save fellow Australians from the 10 year drought with water rations and water reserves at less than 30% with no sign of the drought ending. You do realize if it had been a 15 year drought instead of a 10 year drought, you'd be praising that facility as a godsend, right?

      The cost per day is even higher than you state, but to be fair -- the payments are mostly on the construction of the facility -- not actually the cost of maintaining the idle facility. It'll take nea

      • The cost per day is even higher than you state, but to be fair -- the payments are mostly on the construction of the facility -- not actually the cost of maintaining the idle facility. It'll take nearly 30 years to pay it off, but after that, hey... you have a great facility should you need it... and you probably will.

        Or they could have built another dam, just like we have historically done to cope with droughts and population increases. They cost a fraction of the amount of a desal plant, both in construction and in maintenance, and can have enormous capacities.

        Desal plants weren't built to deal with recurring droughts - we have them already, and we're already pretty good at storing and rationing water to deal with them. They were built because people were claiming that weather patterns were changing, and we would no lo

    • If it's idle, what is the half a million per day being spent on?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The problem is not water shortage, it's human surplus.

  • Israel will probably be OK. In the recent years, It invested heavily in reclaimed water and desalination facilities. It can already provide more then 50% of it's water from desalination and dirty water processing. The countries around Israel though, are not in such a great shape. Jordan buys water from Israel today, and would probably need to buy more in the future. Saudi Arabia might have some issues as well. Syria and Iraq are losing their infrastructures fast. It doesn't help that you have water on the o
  • Water stress in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland? You've got to be kidding! Where I live if you put a water butt outside with an open top it will fill up over winter. That's not with a pipe coming from the roof or anything like that, its just with the rain going directly through the hole in the top.
    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      The map doesn't break down countries, and they're all part of the UK. And there are areas of the UK that often have drought conditions, although no evidence of that exists this summer!

      • i think "drought" is a bit over the top for the UK if you compare it to real droughts around the world. a few dryer periods sounds more like it
        • i think "drought" is a bit over the top for the UK if you compare it to real droughts around the world. a few dryer periods sounds more like it

          OTOH, there are some oceanographers who are watching the Gulfstream currents carefully. Should that flow ever relocate (the current candidate cause IIRC would be excess flow from melting Arctic ice), the Emerald Isle will go brown.

  • For water desalination using nuclear means. Sure it won't support industry, but it will support local drinking water supplies. One problem at a time. Overall I don't really care and such a calamity will spur nuclear research that should have been done years ago.
  • Israel currently or will shortly desalinate 100% of its water needs and is actually refilling its aquifers. So I'm not sure what the basis of the claim is. However, the desalination is using natural gas, not solar, so it is not long-term sustainable. Not all the damage has been undone yet. The dead sea has been falling by 1 meter per year for the last 30+ years because all the water coming into it was used for irrigation by Israel and Jordan. While I believe they have arrested or perhaps stopped the dr
  • If you put any thought into it, a 'condom' will fix all serious issues facing people on Earth. In less than 200 years, if people had just one child, the Earth's population would be around 700 million. An environmentally stable population, and people could then have two children per family.

    Will it happen? No F**KING WAY.

    • Note the birth rate of middle class or wealthy people is much below the 2.1 children per couple it takes to have "break even" population. The poor and ignorant are the problem

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