In the U.S. we tend to think that oil is the most precious and contested substance on earth because we hear about it in the media every day: oil exploration, spills, oil prices and wars. But if you think competition for oil is bad, water is worse. Oil is a luxury, water is a basic necessity and clean fresh water is getting harder to find.
Last month the World Resources Institute (WRI) published Aqueduct, an interactive tool that measures and maps water risk. From the maps I learned that water woes come in many flavors.
Some are naturally caused: (This is not an exhaustive list!)
- Droughts: California, Texas and the winter wildfires in arctic Norway.
- Floods that pollute clean water: UK floods right now, Mississippi River floods in 2011
- Saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers: South Florida drinking water at risk
Others have man-made origins:
- Too many people living in places too dry to support them: Las Vegas, Sub-Saharan Africa
- Over-demand by agriculture: Click here to watch the Aral Sea disappear.
- Water permanently lost to industrial processes: Fracking water withdrawals in drought.
- Pollution: The West Virginia chemical spill comes to mind every day.
"Water is very complicated," says WRI.
Try their Aqueduct interactive tool to see where water is at risk. You may be surprised at what you find in Wisconsin, Michigan and Cape Cod.