The collapse of the “HUMANITY” project. Chapter 2.
Water is leaving our region…
Researchers find sapropel under peat bogs in the Leningrad Region – and it means that only 2,000-3,000 years ago there were lakes on the sites of bogs. But bogs are also disappearing – scholars from the Zelenogorsk peatland observation station “Lammin-Suo” under the State Hydrological Institute are witnessing their “standard” bog being more and more taken by the pine forest every year, losing water.
Water is leaving, and no one knows where. Most likely, to the sea, its level is rising, slowly but rising. The waterway from the Vyborg Bay to Lake Ladoga existed for 700 years. It became shallow in the 16th century. There are traces left certifying that people tried to cut through the rocks that had risen out of the ground and make the channel in place of the old river bed… Ships coming up the rivers from the Baltic Sea docked by the Koporye Fortress and Gostilitsy Palace already in the 18th century. There are only dry ditches or thin streams left from those rivers now. The Tikhvin water system that served as the waterway for barge caravans nearly dries in hot summers now.
Last year, the water level decreased in Lake Onega, the Svir River and Lake Ladoga…
There is a wooden church built in the late 17th century in the village of Soginitsy, in the meander of the Vazhinka River. It was built from larches, and this wood remembers the climate in the time of construction. One can see wide tree-rings – certifying that trees grew in the over-moisturized environment – gradually replaced by narrower ones.
Over-moisturized forests are a consequence of the so-called Little Ice Age and its echoes in the North. It was then that anomalously cold weather, snow in June and bad harvests (seven years with bad harvests in a row in the time of Godunov’s rule) brought about the Time of Troubles in Russia. And then water started leaving – and not only from our region. The lay of land and climate changes did not end in time immemorial. They go on and entail a catastrophe for civilization.
So, let’s speak about thirst – in the direct meaning of this word.
Research and development
“TAKE EVERYTHING AND DIVIDE!”
If we count the aggregate annual discharge of all rivers and water basins of the world (including renewable underground water-carrying layers), it will turn out that mankind has a lot of fresh water: 40,700 km3 per year. That’s enough to fill all North American Great Lakes every four months. It seems that we’re very far from the fresh water consumption limit as the current water consumption by humanity is only one tenth of the maximally tolerable amounts – 4,430 km3 per year (figures by Dennis Meadows).
But in real life it’s impossible to use the whole discharge of fresh water basins. Many water sources are seasonable. About 29,000 km3 of the yearly discharge goes to the ocean with annual floods. There are only 11,000 km3 left that can be evaluated as a year-round source, with river discharges and renewable underground water-carrying layers included.
But it is possible to store water for future use in the time of annual floods! And people started building giant water storage basins. By the end of the 20th century, dams allowed to additionally use 3,500 km3 of water per year. But dams cause land flooding, and as a rule, first-class agricultural lands. And they also lead to increase of evaporations from water storage basins, thus decreasing available amounts of water as well as changing water ecosystems – both lake and river ones. In the end water storage basins are filled with slime and become ineffective, so we can’t consider them reliable sources, they are a temporary measure.
So, we have counted the sustainable river discharge as a resource than can be used. But not all of it is available to people. The Amazon river basin has about 15% of the global fresh water discharge, but only 0.4% of the global population live here. Northern Eurasian rivers and rivers in North America discharge about 1,800 km3 per year but very few people agree to live on their banks. That is, about 2,100 km3 of fresh water per year are referred to stable but difficult to access discharge.
So, we have: 11,000 km3 of sustainable discharge and 3,500 km3 provided by water storage basins. We subtract 2,100 km3 of difficult to access waters from this amount and as a result we have 12,400 km3 per year left – this is sustainable and at the same time accessible discharge. That’s the forecasted top limit of fresh water amounts accessible for use by mankind. (There are also non-renewable water sources, we’ll speak about them below.)
As it was already said, currently we take only 4,430 cubic kilometers of water from this amount, and half of it is lost irretrievably becoming parts of cardboard, apple, or bread, and the second half is polluted so much that it can’t be used.
About 58% out of these 4,430 cubic kilometers are used for agriculture. Do you know how much water is spent on a cup of tea? Far more than one cup. It’s necessary to water the tea bush, engines of the machines used to collect harvest and vehicles transporting the product are to be cooled, water is also used for packaging. As a result, approximate calculations show that indirect water expenditures for a 200 ml cup of tea amount to 30 liters. And about 140 liters of water are required for a 125 ml coffee cup.
Industry takes 38% more. We have only 8% left for our personal needs – food and hygiene.
Let’s divide 4,430 cubic kilometers of water between seven billion inhabitants of the globe, we’ll get 633 cubic meters of water per year. We remember that we spend 8% of them for our personal needs. That’s only 50 cubic meters per year, or 50,000 liters. It’s enough not to die from thirst but not more. We can forget about daily bath (600 liters), flush toilets (6 liters every time, 5,000 liters per year), a habit to put on clean garments every day. That’s equality according to Sharikov – “Take everything and divide”.
That’s how we divided the used water. And if we divide all the accessible for us renewable surface water discharge between inhabitants of the Earth, so as only cleaned water returns to rivers, we’ll get only 112 cubic meters of water, or 112,000 liters in the nine-billion world “at the 21st century noon”. This is the limit. One bath every second day, washing in the same water, the same water used for toilet flushing. And it should be also taken into account that rationed distribution of such a heavy and impossible to press product as water is very difficult, especially on global scales. May be, by totalitarian methods only.
So, ecologists are becoming ideologists of new Fascism.
We more and more often hear offers to introduce distribution of natural resources (incomes from their sales as a version) between all inhabitants of the globe “justly”, i.e. equally. We’ll speak later about various offers like The Venus Project. Let’s also try to calm down the followers of “equal rights to natural resources” – if all of them are divided between all people, it will be very little. So little, that death will seem liberation from torments of such a life.
By the way, we won’t be able to develop all accessible water in any case. Sewage returned to rivers and lakes will as a rule be polluted, and the natural cleaning system won’t already be able to manage with these pollutions. And it means that people living down by the river will get already polluted water. We witness such things in Middle Asia, where they have already gone beyond fresh water consumption. So, if you want to see the global future – welcome to Turkmenistan.
We are again in a dead-end. Does it seem a governing law? Or are we wrong in our arithmetic?
LET’S TRY TO COUNT ONCE AGAIN
There is a trend in the world for reduction of water consumption. The water consumption curve’s growing is noticeably slowing down, and it even went down in some European countries. Current water use all over the world makes only half of the amount forecasted 30 years ago with extrapolation of exponential curves. And had we had about two hundred reserve years…
We don’t have two hundred reserve years, water will end sooner. Already now, about one third of the global population lives in the countries with partial or severe water scarcity. About half of the Russian people are deprived of the access to drinking water clean according to standards. By 2030, 5 billion people will find themselves without satisfactory water cleaning, i.e. the overwhelming majority of the global population will use polluted water. And if it will be possible to get drinking water from springs or buy in shops, taking a shower or swimming in a river will be fraught with gut or liver diseases.
Water pollution is brought about by its “blooming”, i.e. growing cyanobacteria that in their turn generate poisons deadly for everything alive. “Blooming” water becomes the place for mosquito breeding, including malaria mosquitoes, and the area of their distribution is rapidly moving to the North. According to the World Bank calculations, 5.2 billion people will be threatened with catching malaria by 2050.
Pollution and insufficient cleaning of sewage are the challenges not only for some “third world”. Russia referring itself to the “silver billion” has to deal with the same issues. Each fifth water test if it is taken from the water supply system in this country is not in accordance with the state standard in chemical indicators, and each eleventh test in biological indicators. The state of affairs in various kinds of wells and boreholes is even worse. Only from 9% to 12% of sewage are property cleaned in Russia (according to state standards). Besides, sewage is not the main pollution reason for many open reservoirs. The main is diffusion when pollution comes from the air as well as agricultural lands and bottom polluted deposits. Currently, only 1% of surface sources satisfy the first-class requirements, for which most water preparation systems in our country are intended – that’s coagulation, clearing from impurities, filtration, disinfection with chlorine. In order to clean water from other sources up to the degree allowing to direct it to the water supply system, powerful water preparation plants are required, and most cities and towns in Russia have no money to build them.
Water deficit and water pollution lead to impossibility for a country to provide itself with food. There is so much water taken from such rivers as the Colorado, Nile, Indus, Ganges, Huang He (Yellow river), Syr Darya and Amu Darya, Tigris and Euphrates for irrigation and providing cities, that they become shallow for a part of the year or the whole year. Besides, ice melting on the globe also plays its role. Ice is melting at such a speed that by the middle of this century its amounts will be decreased by 65-70%, and that means water reduction in the said great rivers by 40-50%, or, on the other hand, collapse of such states as India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, China, Middle Asian countries and Transcaucasia…
The subsoil water level in the most agricultural states of India – Punjab and Haryana – is decreasing by half a meter every year. 30 km3 of water is taken out of boreholes in Northern China every year, and this is one of the reasons why the Yellow River is becoming shallow. 12km3 of water is annually taken from the Ogallala Aquifer supplying one fifth of all irrigated lands in the United States. Its exhaustion has already led to ceasing irrigation of 1 mln ha of agricultural lands. The Central Valley in California, where a half of all fruit and vegetables produced by this state grows, overuses about 1 km3 of underground waters per year. Water is taken from desert non-renewable underground aquifers all over North Africa and the Near East. This destroys aquifers by salt water getting there, sinking soils or just exhaustion and depletion.
At first, the consequences of water insufficiency are mostly local. But later they spread to other countries, wider and wider, and then the consequences become evident on international scale. Probably, the first sign of water insufficiency is growth of prices for grains, though still unimportant. The second sign is migration from droughty or water-deficient regions, at first seasonal, labour migration, then regular migration that, according to the UN calculations, will amount to from 24 to 700 mln people by 2030. The third sign is increase of the number of people with schistosomiasis and helminthiasis. Already now, over 90% of the global population are parasite carriers. There are over 100 kinds of parasites inside our bodies, from little amoebae unseen with the naked eye to annelids that are several meters long. The fourth sign is increase of the number of allergic reactions. Lack of clean water interferes with the normal functioning of the body cleaning systems, and that serves as the basis for allergic reactions. By 2030, there won’t be any people left without this or that allergic reaction, i.e. without some disturbance of the body’s immune system. It means that any diseases will be heavier and more often end fatally.
And it is possible that malaria will strike a deadly blow, and that refers to the whole mankind. As a rule, a healthy organism can manage with it, taking simple medicine like chininum. But not the organism of an allergic person, for whom plasmodium from a mosquito can be fatal.
The water environmental crisis will not kill people at once. It will take life by pieces and bits – one disease will tear a year of life, another ten years. Mostly, people incapable of synthesizing information from different fields of knowledge and subjected to slow poisoning, will not even understand what happened to them – everyone dies, right?
Sure, it’s possible to import grain, build channels, lay pipes and install pumps in order to import water. Rich societies with big oil reserves like, for example, Saudi Arabia can allow themselves to use the energy of extracted fuel in order to desalinate sea water (while there is enough of such fuel). However, the air is polluted in this case.
Saudi Arabia gets 5.5 mln cubic meters of water as a result of desalination, spending 350,000 oil barrels for that. Israel develops such technologies that each drop of water will operate with maximum efficiency, at the same time they will first of all focus on technologies requiring minimum amounts of water. Some countries may use their armies to conquer or get an access to water resources of their neighbours. But the majority of the global population with lack or insufficiency of water has only one solution available to them: to run away.
“TAKE EVERYTHING AND DIVIDE” – VARIANT TWO
But there are not only renewable sources of water on the globe, there are non-renewable as well – deeply lying underground artesian basins filled with paleowater formed millions of years ago: the Great Artesian Basin in Australia, West-Siberian Artesian Basin, Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, Guarani Aquifer in Latin America and many other smaller deposits of ancient waters, partially salt and hot but often fresh and suitable for drinking. There are 45,000 cubic kilometers of water just in the Guarani Aquifer lying from 70 to 1,140 meters deep – that’s enough for the whole mankind for one hundred years. There are Great Lakes in America, lakes in Europe, Lake Baikal, there are icebergs. Yes, nearly all these water sources are outside the mass inhabited areas. But in principle, had we witnessed the population decrease trend and decrease of resource consumption trend, we could say, let’s use non-renewable resources in order to live up to the time when there are again two billions of us, i.e. as much as the environmental capacity of the Earth allows. But we can’t say that yet. Because we’re seeing the opposite – thrifty treatment of water resources accompanied by unrestrained reproduction and expansion. Opening non-renewable water resources will only increase its consumption, postpone saving methods and bring about further increase of the population size. Let’s look at Middle Asia to illustrate this thesis though it’s possible to use Nigeria as an example, replacing the Amu Darya by the Niger River.
The idea that Central Asia is poor in water is wrong. There are 2,087 cubic meters of water per person in the Amu Darya water basin on the average, and 1,744 cubic meters in Syr Darya. The same figure in Germany not complaining about insufficiency of water is 1,878 cubic meters.
In 2014, international academic journal Nature named Central Asian countries world “leaders” in inefficient water use, consuming more water per person and per each GDP dollar than people of any other country of the world. Meanwhile, the Aral Sea is 90% dry, and desertification in Turkmenistan, not rich in vegetation as it is, is going quickly, and 50% of lands in Uzbekistan, previously suited for agriculture, turned into saline soils and salt marches. Turkmenistan consumes about 5,500 cubic meters of water per person, and that’s the highest figure in the world. This is four times more than, for example, in the United States, and 13 times more than in China. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan consuming about 2,000 cubic meters per person are also ranked in the list of global water spendthrifts (4th and 5th places respectively). Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are not far behind, raking the 7th and 11th. The Central Asian republics are the first on the globe in inefficiency of water use in terms of water consumption per each GDP dollar. Tadzhikistan is the first one in this anti-ranking using nearly 3.5 cubic meters of water per each GDP dollar. Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are in the 2nd, 3rd and 6th places respectively. Cf.: Turkmenistan spends 43 times more water per each GDP dollar than Spain. As a result of this extremely inefficient water use, most water from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya is used for economic needs of the countries in this region, and the Aral Sea dries rapidly.
If Central Asian countries do not become more rational and go along the environmentally sustainable way of development, the region will be threatened with enormous difficulties, including environmental, economic and social degradation as well as water wars for all the time reducing resources. That’s the conclusion in Nature.
Water wars have already begun. In particular, the consequence of Sahara spreading is the conflict of herders and farmers in the Sahel region, especially aggravated in Sudan that besides other specific for this country reasons provoked genocide in Darfur.
Conflicts between Turkey, Syria and Iraq sharing waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, or Egypt and Sudan, on the one hand, and the states in the upper reaches of the Nile, first of all Ethiopia, on the other hand, are the classical examples of the issue with no solution. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the construction of which is nearly completed by Addis Ababa on the Blue Nile, will reduce the Nile water availability for Egypt by one third and the amount of produced electrical energy by 40% over the six years when the four-level Ethiopian reservoir is filled.
This means inevitable collapse of Egyptian economy and acute deficit of drinking water. And we’re speaking only about the first big dam outside Egypt. Other countries in the upper reaches of the Nile are getting ready to bring into life no less large-scale projects.
Neither Ethiopia nor other countries in the upper reaches of the Nile can’t refuse from constructing hydrosystems on the Nile: their population is growing, they have to feed their people. Redistribution of the Nile discharge in their favour gives them the only chance to solve their own energetic problems and provide their territories with water.
Pay attention – the thought to live as they can afford it does not enter their heads, i.e. to have as much people as can be provided with enough available water. Another dead-end of mankind is insurmountable inclination to expansion and as a result life according to the “prison camp principle”: you die today and I will die tomorrow.
So, let’s sum up the results. Fresh water is leaving us; conversely, amounts of salt water are increasing. We don’t think that the reasons of this process are anthropogenic. The analysis of the discharge volume of water of the 925 biggest rivers of the world shows that water level in them reduced considerably over the recent 56 years. Meanwhile, the World Ocean level rises quicker than it was supposed – the speed of this rise over the recent 25 years increased not by 190% as it had been thought before, but more than 250%. It’s probable that with the volcanism increase on the globe, juvenile waters are flowing into the World Ocean in earnest.
Research fellows from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research established that discharges of one third of the biggest rivers of the globe tended to reduce from 1948 to 2004. The rivers that were most intensively going shallow are the Colorado, Niger, Huang He, Ganges. And now we can with mathematical precision calculate which states will die, whose economy is impossible without using water from the said rivers. According to calculations, about 64% of ice will disappear in China, Middle Asia and India by 2050, threatening the existence of 1.5 billion people who depend of water resources in them.
The river discharge volumes are reducing disastrously in many densely populated parts of the globe: South-East Asia (China, India, Myanmar, Thailand), in many African countries. The river discharge volumes are also reducing in the Near East, the southern part of Australia, Western coast of the United States, central part of Canada. Even the deepest and the most full-flowing river in the world, the Amazon, is growing shallow, and it seems that it is related to tropical forests cutting.
The rivers in the European part of Russia are growing shallow.
But the annual discharge is increased in case of the most rivers in the east of Russia (Ob, Lena, Yenisei, Indigirka, Kolyma), Alaska (Yukon River), some rivers in South America (Parana, Uruguay) as well as river basins in the central and eastern parts of North America (Mississippi).
Rivers are not only the sources of water. They are also the sources of power. All power engineering in mountainous countries is based on hydroelectric power plants. Rivers are also great collectors of sewage and garbage. No matter how sewage pipes wind, finally they have an exit to a river or a sea. Water level reduction in rivers is loss of power, impossibility to get rid of sewage and garbage, dilute salt soil waters in fields, set up new production facilities or a rice plantation.
This is not thirst yet – that’s hunger and diseases. Thirst will come after them.
Water all over the world in rivers and aquifers is becoming unsuitable for use so quickly that we don’t have time to follow these changes. Municipal cleaning systems do not manage to deal with the problem, epidemics begin, insects suffering from thirst get into houses where people live, and there are poisonous insects among them. By the way, all of it is known to everyone who read about the Apocalypse.
Water is heavy, there is a lot of it required, it will be impossible to bring it in required amounts from regions where there is more than enough of it. Use of polluted water entails increase of parasite infections, hepatitis, immune diseases. One of the permanent poisoning signs is apathy and loss of will. Life is dying in agricultural districts. People run to cities, where they will have to live in slums and where they will additionally poison rivers by not cleaned household sewage. Later mass and absolutely uncontrolled migration will start, to put it simply – crowds of people will run away from southern countries to the north where there is still water left.
Actually, this future has already come to some regions of the Earth. And their areas are expanding.
The main lesson for us from the reviewed water issues is as follows. Though the said issues are demonstrative and clear for anyone, though half of the global population can really see their house, everyday life being destroyed, their future disappearing, their property devaluated – all the same, people in the areas with water insufficiency, except few intellectuals, go on living as if nothing is happening, they give birth to many children. They think that the maximally negative for them reaction to challenges is emigration, and they obstinately do not want to understand that there is no old world any more and there will be no coming back to it, to the mode of their parents’ life. We’ll risk to suppose that they will also think their death because of water insufficiency consequences, fairly natural. Well, rulers of some states, who are surely not suffering from water insufficiency themselves, are very lucky with their subjects…
THE CLOCK OF THE ERA HAS ALREADY STRUCK
Had they told me in my childhood that after some time fresh water would be bought in shops packaged in plastic bottles, or people would filter it at home using special filers, I would not have believed them. That’s nonsense! Why should anyone buy or filter water? Here it is! Open the tap and drink as much as you like.
I do not know what water was like then, but recently they changed pipes in the apartment house where I live, and our plumber demonstrated one of them to me, just cut out. The pipe was covered from the inside by a thick layer of deposits, a finger and a half thick.
After seeing it, you’ll really buy water and filter it carefully.
And you’ll start thinking.
Or you read in one of the articles that it was possible to catch a sturgeon in the Neva river in the 1930s. And now, sanitary supervisors warn in mass media: it’s better not to eat fish caught in the Neva, it’s dangerous for life. Or you read in another article that it’s better not to swim in some sea resorts, only in special swimming-pools as they have other water there – safe and cleaned.
I repeat: they are speaking about popular sea resorts, the places where hundreds of thousands go on vacation.
You’re reading all that and you suddenly understand that the world has really become different. It seems that the cheerful though somewhat absurd slogan of the Soviet times – “The sun, air and water are our best friends!” – is gone forever.
There will be no coming back.
However, these are my personal scales. The so-called personal tunnel of reality.
Yuri Shevchuk reviews the same problem in his book on global scales. And he demonstrates convincingly that we are to expect the Great Drought.
Rivers are growing shallow, deserts are advancing, clean drinking water is becoming a deficit. Whole regions of the globe are dehydrated and, by all accounts, we’ll soon see a new type of wars – states and communities fighting for access to plain water.
We should not think that this is somewhere far. That there will be enough water for us during our whole lives in Russia with its rivers and lakes. If, for example, Middle Asia (the region going dry extremely quickly) falls, millions of refugees will rush exactly to us.
What are we to do with them?
That’s the question of the near future.
There is no answer.
But here, in my opinion, is the most amazing issue.
It turns out that the problem is not total deficit of water. The real problem is its irrational use.
The world has changed, and millions of people as if did not notice it. They go on living as if in the 19th century – without thinking, wastefully, without seeing the future.
Meanwhile, the clock of the era has already struck.
The future is really coming.
All global reality is being transformed.
The past is evaporating like water under the sun of the renewed time…