The future of warfare may not be fought over limited resources such as coal and oil but rather over renewable but harder find resources such as fresh water.
As populations grow so does pollution into our water ways, be that fresh water streams and rivers, lakes and ponds only present less than 1% of all the water on earth with another 2% in the atmosphere there is precious little fresh water to waste.
Supply and demand for water, especially in dry areas like the middle east could see a massive escalation of military conquest to control the limited water ways the area has to offer.
One thing is for sure, conflict over water will affect the entire planet in one way or another
This offers an interactive map of where water shortages occur and areas that could see future conflict because of it.
The middle east is likely to be the hardest hit area of the world when it comes to water shortages. Having a large population dependant on limited resources in one of the driest places on earth affects everyone from the rural to the urban areas.
Governments face the challenging call of trying to supply water but also keeping the cost of it down.
In Somalia we are already starting to see thousands of water refugees flee to Kenya in an attempt to find and secure water for their families. Water, the most necessary of all resources to human life, is worth a lot of money in Somalia where drought and lack of government involvement have left the people high and dry.
Almost half of humanity will face water scarcity by 2030 and strategists from Israel to Central Asia prepare for strife.
Although there hasn't been an actual water war fought in centuries, we see water conflicts arise all the time.
After Turkey closed off the Euphrates in the 1970's to fill a dam and show off its military might, bitter rivals Iraq and Syria banded together and threatened military intervention to reopen the Euphrates. Turkey's attempt to bolster its power and influence in the middle east was set, but the response of creating rivals to ally against them was a significant realization that water effects everyone.
Since the 1940's the planet has seen a steady increase of water related conflicts around the world. Although most end peacefully the rate at which they are occuring is alarming.
" What if companies, farms, and other large water users started thinking about their effluent as a resource, instead of something that needed to be disposed of?"
Discovering new ways to convert waste water into potable water is a step in the right direction. Much of the waste water around the world is disposed of into nearby lakes and streams creating a cycle of pollution because the water is left untreated.
Using organic products to break down waste water a company can not only treat waste water and return it to potable source, but they can also create chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide from the left over waste. Which can then be used to treat future wastewater.
As engineers develope new methods of producing potable water it is up to the population to embrace these new concepts and insist that these new methods are implemented around the world. This of course is the hardest part of developing new methods, getting people to change.
"Water has long been underpriced and overused. With only one percent of the earth’s water available for human consumption, peak water could be a more pressing problem than peak oil. With water consumed at a faster pace than the natural rate of evaporation, precipitation, and storage, water stewardship will define many companies’ long term success or struggle."
Privatizing water is a solution governments have implemented to offset the cost of maintaining water infrastructures. With the idea of creating a bigger market the likely hood of water prices increasing can offset usage.
However the backlash against this is that it affects the poor more than the rich because the less wealthy use a greater percentage of their pay to have water, while it doesn't break a wealthier persons piggy bank.
The fear is that these companies buying the rights to water do not care about human rights any more then they care about their bottom lines and profit margins. Therefore water is likely to be sold to the highest bidder, rather then shipped to those most in need.
"So as more water goes private, fewer people have access to it" - Economist Ge Yun
As in the case with oil, the Middle East and North Africa is likely to see the most drastic conflicts in coming decades because of water shortages.
The Jordian River Basin serves several countries including, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel, as it currently stands has conflict with its surrounding neighbors. This could be heightened if places like Jordan and the Palestinians in the West Bank increase their water usage from below average to just average.
The Tigris Euphrates river basin has been a source of conflict between Syria, Iraq, and Turkey for decades. Ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq and southern Turkey, although not heavily dependant on the rivers for water consumption, plan to divert some of its water for irrigation reasons. This could reduce the amount of water heading south to drier parts of Iraq. Kurds, lacking a nation state, may begin to see increased repression of its people, the like of which could replicate Saddam Husseins attempt to eradicate the Kurds from Iraq post Persian Gulf war.
In Asia, large populations ranging from India to China, Bangladesh to Pakistan has created conflict among the borders. Although not lacking water, these countries are having a hard time regulating it to drier or arid parts of the countries they maintain. As the populations grow so does the demand to control more access to fresh water.
Focus on greener technologies has created several break throughs in science. One such breakthrough is the use of Concentrated Solar Power or CSP. The concept being instead of heating water with fossil fuels a company can focus energy harnessed from solar panels and use it to boil water. The subsequent steam is used to power turbines that create electricty which is then sold on the market.
Until recently that steam was wasted. But with breakthroughs in technology a solar power plant can use the excess steam and energy to desalinate the water it boils creating a new source of potable water.
Whenever the plant needs peek electricity production it can simply shut the desalinization process down and focus on creating electrcity. During slow periods, when excess electricity and water vapor would normally be wasted it can be converted to a desalinization plant producing fresh water. This literally solves two issues at once.
Its breakthroughs such as this humanity needs to break the status quo for water usage.
Although ocean water is not drinkable as it currently stands it plays a vital role in keeping the planet alive. Moisture evaporated from the oceans fuels ecosystems throughout the world by delivering rain.
However, through industrialization we are polluting the ocean more than ever. One of the first steps taken should be to clean our oceans and prevent pollutants such as plastic and mercury from degrading its bio-diversity.
Over two billion people and 40% of the worlds agriculture depend on non-renewable fresh water from underground aquifer and reservoirs. These limited supplies are set to expire in the next couple of decades, what happens once they are depleted?
Water conservation is a must because as demand increases so does price. Just because a state or country recieves plenty of rainfall it doesn't protect them from a global economy that could be affected when a prolonged drought effects another part of the world.
If a drought were to hit Florida for example, there would be a greater demand to get something as frivolous as Oranges from Mexico. This would increase price and demand as far north as New England and beyond.
A solution being proposed and implemented around the world is to trap rain water. In dry areas like the American South West and over populated areas like Bangladesh the demand for water increases. But after recieving limited rainfall how does a city keep the water from flowing away or evaporating until the next rain comes?
Designing new buildings to harvest and use rain water is not a revolutionary idea but it is a pratical solution.
For one it could be used for something as trivial as replenishing water in a toilet bowl or used to irrigate farms. The problem with harvesting is that water is likely to acquire contaminets through its storage, therefore it is no longer deemed drinkable without proper filtration.
Some experts believe the solution to combating water usage and consumption is to increase its price. The World Bank sees this as a pratical solution since water is underpriced. However water is still a necessity that people cannot simply forgo or substitute
"One of the most serious consequences of global warming is its predicted impact on the water cycle. A new study, described below, presents evidence that the global water cycle is changing even faster than predicted."
Global warming is affecting the salinity of ocean water. This is creating a nightmare among places that depend on a constant flow of rain. Because of the complexity of Global Warming it is assumed that some areas will become wetter, some will become drier. It's the places inbetween that might see the most volatile of weather. Floods one year, droughts the next, trying to predict what will occur on a routine basis is now nearly impossible by just looking at historical records.
One way to counter the shortages of water world wide is a process called desalination. Brackish water, water that is not as salty as ocean water, is pumped into giant broilers that boil the water. The subsequent steam is released and trapped, as it condenses it is transported to a collector, creating renewable fresh drinking water for consumption.
One draw back to boiling brackish water is the co2 emissions that are released while trying to find a heat source. Oil or coal heating systems can be counter-productive because they release particles that contaminate the worlds oceans.
A solution to this problem is to build these desalination plants in areas that have natural reoccuring energy surpluses. Such as Geo-thermal areas of Iceland, or Using solar panels to boil water in the American South West.