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VIDEO: Barlow talks water scarcity on CBC’s The National

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow was on CBC’s The National yesterday evening.

The news report by Margo McDiarmid says, “As the world’s population hits seven billion this week, the United Nations is warning that the planet’s water resources will come under intense pressure. Most population growth is in the developing world and ‘dwindling water supplies is the environmental issue most often raised in developing countries’, says the UN Population Fund’s State of World Population 2011 report. …But it isn’t just developing countries that need to be worried. Canada is at risk, too. Canada is to fresh water what Saudi Arabia is to oil. Canada has a lot of it. The problem with that analogy is Saudi Arabia knows how much oil they have (but doesn’t tell anyone). Canada, on the other hand, has never done a clear accounting of its ground water resource. ‘I use the image of groundwater being like people with straws and blindfolds on in a big bathtub. Everybody’s sucking the water out of the bathtub and it’s fine until the very moment that the last drop of water is gone,’ explains Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.”

To see Barlow on The National, go to the 25:04 mark at http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/The_National/1242568525/ID=2162846811.

Other points to keep in mind in terms of population growth and water scarcity:

1. Water use increasing at twice the rate of population growth: Reuters notes, “Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute… Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview.”

2. Climate change impacts on water: “Factor in the expected impacts of climate change this century — more severe floods, droughts and shifts from past precipitation patterns — that are likely to hit the poorest people first and worst ‘and we have a significant challenge on our hands’, Jenkinson said.” An HSBC Climate Change Centre of Excellence report says that climate change will result in lower agricultural yields and less water. In Canada, water availability is expected to decline by 8 per cent per capita by 2020.

3. Water scarcity and war: This past June, the Ottawa Citizen reported that water shortages along with compounding factors could provoke wars within the next 15 years, according to a Department of National Defence report, Army 2040. “The analysis warns that, even under conservative estimates, up to 60 countries could fall into a category of water scarcity or stress by 2050, making the natural resource ‘a key source of power’ or a ‘basis for future conflict’.”

4. Water use in food: An International Water Management Institute report in 2004 stated, “Western diets, which depend largely on meat, are already putting great pressures on the environment. Meat-eaters consume the equivalent of about 5,000 litres (1,100 gallons) of water a day compared to the 1,000-2,000 litres used by people on vegetarian diets in developing countries.” Author John Robbins adds that it takes approximately 60, 108, 168, and 229 pounds of water to produce a pound of potatoes, wheat, corn and rice respectively. He says that a pound of beef requires 12,000 gallons of water.

5. The business of water scarcity: A World Water Congress media release states, “Access to clean water creates enormous challenges for business survival, but enormous opportunities for profit as well. …Prices for water worldwide rose (in 2009) by 10 percent, well above inflation rates, and this trend is expected to continue. …Business leaders should note is that scarcity of vital natural resource as vital as water engenders competition, and competition means there are winners and losers. …As global clean water resources continue to be stressed driving-up the costs, companies involved in developing critical clean water technologies and services necessary to sustain life will benefit in comparison to other investment sectors by superior profits and growth.”