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Are We on the Path to Peak Water?

Infographic by Kylie Schultz, Ensia

Many scientists and experts fear that humanity is reaching the point of peak water — the point at which freshwater is being consumed faster than it is being replenished or available. In the infographic above we take a look at the amount of water use around the world. Can we cut back before we reach the point of no return?

Kylie Schultz researched, wrote and produced this infographic as a participant in the Ensia Mentor Program. Her mentor for the project was Ensia director Todd Reubold. Infographic design and layout by Amber Billings.

Reprinted from Ensia with permission.


By Kathy Nockels (Malott Wa 98829)
on February 17th, 2014

What I don’t see, the amounts of water, contaminated unusable water,for how long we still don’t know for sure, that is used for shale fracking. Or the hugh amounts used to process tar sands all of which is groundwater.

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By Laurence Budd (Fort Collins, CO ,80526)
on February 17th, 2014

Re the big difference between the U.S. and Netherlands-  landscape water use.  Much of the U.S. maintains lawns in areas too arid for natural irrigation. In sharp contrast, the Netherlands and Northern Europe in general have sufficient rainfall to maintain turf and trees without irrigation.  Now the rapid changes in rainfall patterns may require parts of the U.S. to transform to Mediterranean and   xeric landscape types.

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By Rob
on February 17th, 2014

If water wasn’t a renewable resource, and if the oceans weren’t filled with it, and if it cost way more than $1.50 per thousand gallons, I might give “peak water” more than 2 seconds of thought.  I guess peak water is the new boogey man now that fracking killed peak oil.  Clean water availability is a serious issue for some developing nations, so why not focus on helping them with sanitation and treatment instead of distracting us with fear and worry about a $2 T-shirt using 650 gallons of “virtual water”?  Were those 650 gallons destroyed, never to be used again, or did they go right back to the water cycle to be reused for the next 10,000 T-shirts?

Looking at the infographic, I have to believe that a tree in the Amazon rainforest uses a lot of virtual water, probably more than what is needed to make a chocolate bar.  Can we slash and burn the trees fast enough before we reach the point of no return for peak water?  The whole concept of virtual water seems to beg for such absurdities.

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