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Conditions combine to create fear on water issues

As a follow-up to weather forecasts and impacts on wheat growers, this week's Monday Morning Memo contains a short, cautionary word from Red Williams, on a commodity that receives less media clamour than climate change, food shortages or economic collapse: a growing shortage of potable water.

April 6, 2009  By Monday Morning Memo/University of Saskatchewan

April 6, 2009

Climate change, food shortages and economic collapse have created an attitude of fear that is driven by media coverage. However, more fundamental, and a source of deep concern is the growing shortage of potable water, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Each person requires 3000 litres of water per day to produce their daily food requirement and we are anticipating another 50 percent increase in population in the next 50 years; creating a growing crisis. Major areas of the world have already experienced shortages for both drinking water, industrial use, and for irrigation (which takes 70 percent of the total). We have to look no further than the western US where arable land is being abandoned because of a shortage of water for irrigation. Unfortunately, the three percent of the water in the world that is fresh is not always located where the concentration of population exists, or is not managed in a manner to optimize its use. But if the benefits of the great rivers of the world, such as the Amazon or Mississippi could be captured there would be no shortages. There are also the problems of inefficient use of water through evaporative losses, failure to capture peak stream flows and wasteful processes.


Locally, only Saskatoon, with less certainty, Regina and Moose Jaw of the major cities, has the assurance of a year-round water supply in the case of a prolonged drought; and that because of the Gardiner Dam. A growing system of piping is servicing many vulnerable smaller centers; however there is much to be done. Without capture and management of the spring flush of water in the North Saskatchewan we remain exposed.


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