It is interesting how a relatively short time can change our perspective and our reality about the next World War. I wrote a blog in May of last year which stated that “many believe that the next World War will be fought over water and not over Ukraine or Taiwan, although those may follow”. How the world has changed in the last week.

However, the world war over water is well underway. Like most wars, it has been created by mismanagement, inefficiencies, arrogance, neglect, greed, and ignorance.

     Let me repeat a question I asked in the earlier blog. Did you know that the production of all crops and many products, require a great deal of fresh water? That water is not retained in the final product, but is discarded as waste water making it unavailable in the country of origin for other purposes, like drinking water. Food production is the biggest culprit. The amount of water needed to produce many crops is astonishing:

65 gallons for a pound of potatoes

Between 250 and 650 gallons for a pound of rice

3000 gallons for the feed for a cow to produce ¼ pound of hamburger

650 gallons for a pound of cheese

Between 500 and 1000 gallons for a cow to produce 1 quart of milk

400 gallons to produce 1 pound of sugar

2560 gallons to produce 1 pound of coffee

1320 gallons to produce a small steak

A glass of brandy requires 650 gallons

     When crops such as cotton and alfalpha are added to this list, the consumption numbers become astronomical, and that’s a worldwide problem. The Russian Government, in its attempt to cash in on the exponential growth of the cotton industry, have diverted the rivers that used to feed the Aral Sea, the fourth largest inland body of water in the world. That sea has virtually disappeared. The fish that sustained the local population, the aquifers from which they got their drinking water and most of the people themselves have also disappeared, all to produce more cotton.            

     In the U.S. wheat production is enormous, and so is the water usage for that production. The fact that surplus grain is shipped worldwide, and even stored in enormous silos, means that there is less water available for drinking in the areas where the grain is produced.

     These processes have coined the term “Virtual Water” to describe the water that is “exported” in products. It is not actually exported, but it made useless for other purposes.

     Water rights is already causing small “wars” in the western United States. On the Mexican border, the Rio Grande river now stops over a hundred miles from the sea. However, it is not just a U.S. problem. Even the mighty Ganges in India doesn’t reach the sea for many months of the year for the same reason. The water is diverted for crop production.

     Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming all rely on water from the Colorado River. Each state thinks it has the right to the water that flows through it and, traditionally, each has taken what they want, triggering small range wars in places. It doesn’t appear to have occurred to them that it is all the same river.

     Now, it has become a national problem and the Federal Government has stepped in.

     Climate change has affected the snowfall in the Rocky Mountains, and the hence the snowmelt that feeds the Colorado River. This is getting worse, not better, and can only be addressed by long term climate control and short term consumption reduction.

     Please go back up and re-read the amounts of water it takes to make our food. Changing our eating and lifestyle habits is the only solution if we are to avoid catastrophic droughts, famine, starvation and war. The catastrophe will start without much fanfare, indeed the war in many parts of the world has already started, and we don’t realize it.

     3000 gallons of water to produce a quarter-pound of hamburger meat is not only stupid, it’s totally unsustainable, AND the volume of methane produced by those millions of “hamburger” cows is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases, triggering warming temperatures and climate change, which exacerbates the water issue, as well as many other environmental problems.

     It’s our problem, our responsibility, and we have the power to change it.

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