Thursday, March 12, 2009

On top of all the other crises

The United Nations has issued a new report that gives warnings on a future water crisis. The UN warns that by 2030 half of the population of the world will be without water. The report blames climate change, diet changes, and biofuel production.

From the Reuters story explaining the report, writer Patrick Worsnip focuses on the effect of Biofuel production is water supply.

The report added to recent U.N. warnings about the downsides of developing biofuels to replace heavily polluting hydrocarbons as an energy source, because of the water needed to grow crops like corn and sugar cane to produce ethanol.

Saying about 2,500 liters of water is needed to make 1 liter of biofuel, it said implementing all current national biofuel policies and plans would take 180 cubic kilometers of extra irrigation water and 30 million hectares of cropland.

"The impact could be large for some countries, including China and India, and for some regions of large countries, such as the United States," it said. "There could also be significant implications for water resources, with possible feedback into global grain markets."

When oil prices peaked at over $140 a barrel last year, "the kneejerk reaction was 'well, we are going to grow our energy - biofuels.' But nobody took account of how much water it was going to require," William Cosgrove, coordinator of the report, told journalists.

On the positive side, the report pointed to successful water policies in Uganda and Turkey and said a U.N. goal of halving the population lacking access to safe drinking water by 2015 would be achieved except in sub-Saharan Africa.

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