We’re running out of water. The Ganges, Yellow, Yangtze, Indus, Brahmaputra, and Mekong rivers collectively irrigate the food crops for nearly a billion people. The glaciers that have fed them for eons are rapidly melting. Within my son’s lifetime, if not my own, these rivers are projected to be seasonally dry.
A similar issue affects rivers fed by snowmelt in California, America’s fruit basket. The Ogallala aquifer supplies 30% of the groundwater used for irrigation in the United States. But it is “fossil water” from the last ice age, and it’s being extracted at 100 times the replacement rate.
Even places that don’t have water-quantity issues have water-quality issues or are connected umbilically to places that have both. Meanwhile, we’re living fat on the drawdown of this resource. And water isn’t the only natural capital we’re squandering. In our lifetimes, we will see not only peak oil and water, but also peak just about everything else, including clean air and topsoil. To deal with these emergent risks, we must learn to live on fewer resources, much better utilized.