April 14, 2010

Cousteau: The Looming Water Crisis

Posted: 03:28 PM ET

Alexandra Cousteau is founder of Blue Legacy, an organization dedicated to bringing attention to the global water crisis.  She is also the granddaughter of renowned environmentalist and explorer Jaques Cousteau, and daughter of Phillipe Cousteau.  Phillipe blogged for us last week.  CLICK HERE to check it out.  Alexandra's commentary is an LKL Web Exclusive.

From outer space it looks like we live on a blue planet.  And we do – 70 percent of Earth is covered by water.  But only a tiny percentage of that water is fit for human consumption.  If you could fit all the water in the world into a gallon jug, less than a teaspoon of that would be available for our use. And as glaciers on all continents retreat, that teaspoon is shrinking.

Nearly every system that shapes the availability and quality of water on our planet is dramatically and historically out of balance.  The past century of progress has largely ignored the simple principles of basic grade-school science: We share a single interconnected hydrosphere, one that puts us directly downstream from one another.

The consequences of our quest for progress and its impact on the rivers and everything that depends upon them – from rainfall patterns to wildlife to agriculture – will be disastrous. Ecosystems will collapse.  Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced. And the steady rivers that once shaped the course of society and the soul of cultures will shift seasonally, delivering floods and landslides to some, and unimaginable drought to others.

This is “will,” not “might,” because this is not theory.  It’s not opinion.  It’s fact.  Unless we do something, in less than a generation all of this will come to pass.

That’s why I’m so excited to be a part of the Dow Live Earth Run for Water.  This event will bring people together around the world, raising awareness about the sources and consequences of the water crisis, locally and globally.  It captures perfectly the interconnectedness of life on our water planet.

And it drives home the message that I hope each of you will take to heart: our water crisis is a global issue.  A human issue.  It isn’t going to be fixed by scientists or policymakers alone.  It’s up to each us… to all of us.

In the end, our shared humanity and our shared history are written in water.  And how the story ends is entirely up to us.

To learn more or how to participate in the Dow Live Earth Run for Water please visit

Filed under: Environment • LKL Web Exclusive

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Smith in Oregon   April 14th, 2010 11:30 pm ET

Sadly many civilizations have been forced to move their capitals and large city's because of extended shortages of fresh water. And while global warming directly leads to a increase in Atmospheric Water it also signals more and heavier droughts on one side of the planet while massive flooding on the other.

In many American States, it is illegal to directly capture Rain Water. However there are many Home Depot or Lowe's type stores which sell roof drain spouts which go directly into collection barrels for watering a small garden or potted plants. In the pioneer days across the Mid-West rain water was captured in Cisterns similar to those found across Europe were created to capture rain water for use during the dry summer months.

The problem however is that even small American cities routinely use well over 1 million gallons of fresh drinking water everyday. If they lose the snow-pack fed mountain stream or aquifer spring those cities would quickly spiral into a inhospitable state of affairs.

Another serious point in the water crisis is the extremely wasteful use of water in many of America's corporate farming practices. Crops like Cotton, Corn and Rice require substantial amounts of water in order to have a viable crop yield. Hemp could substantially substitute for many Cotton uses and Hemp requires far less water and no pesticides.

Many States share and irrigate from the Colorado River and this river really shows how much it is used when it turns into a salty pesticide brine shortly after crossing into Mexico. As water levels lower in the Colorado River resulting from dwindling mountain snow-packs, the many States depending on the Colorado River are going to experience various levels of water crisis's.

Sadly, many Republican party members and Republican lawmakers are largely in a state of denial when it comes to Global Warming. However, it takes 5-7 years from funding to gaining the necessary permits, site planning and building until you finally have in place a working alternative metro area fresh water supply online.

If metro-cites do not carefully keep a close eye on their available fresh water supply's and not seek and have in place a alternative fresh water supply, it could really shut down that entire metro area for an extended period.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   April 15th, 2010 2:55 am ET

@Smith in Oregon April 14th, 2010 11:30 pm ET

Thank you for your interesting and thought-provoking post.

Dodie   April 15th, 2010 3:52 pm ET

@Smith from Oregon
Excellent information. Thank You!

All life is in real trouble with our fresh water consumption. The Blue-green Algae high biomass blooms produce toxins causing health hazards, as well as taste-and-odor compounds, and have caused human illness, animal mortalities, and antagonistic ecosystems which have an economic impact in the U.S. and worldwide. This Algae bloom dissolves the oxygen level in the water causing deterioration of water quality that kills fish. Problems related to freshwater inland Algae blooms are widespread and have become more prevalent in recent decades.

Scripps Oceanography in San Diego discusses the link between global warming and increase in algae. Not only is our snowpack melting at an alarming rate, but the algae is also destroying our water system, what little we have. Southern California has approximately 20 – 30 million people and little to no available aquifer. This translates to no sustainable underground drinking water source which has been researched by G.R.A.C.E. A large earthquake or decrease in Colorado River water flow would mean disaster to the 20 – 30 million inhabitants of that area.

G.R.A.C.E. has the ability to find all the world’s aquifers. It might be the reason Bush purchased 100000 acres that sits atop one of the world's largest fresh-water aquifers in Paraguay. Not too distant in the future, a glass of fresh drinking water may cost more than oil!

Alison Clarke   April 16th, 2010 12:33 am ET

Thank you Larry for posting this. The "Looming Ocean Crisis" highlighted here by Alexandra Cousteau is of concern to many. The more people who are informed about it and can then give sensible consideration to the global problems the better!

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   April 16th, 2010 7:56 am ET

Brings to mind –

"The phrase found in the second half of a verse in the poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The verse is:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."

Water – a priceless commodity!

Ted   April 16th, 2010 9:01 am ET

Well folks, get ready!! If we do not have enough drinking water we just have to drink beer. Not a bad change.

Jokes aside, we still have time to build those water reservoirs and pipelines, just stop spending the money on wars! And on more and more sophisticated way to kill people.

David McWane   April 20th, 2010 6:59 pm ET

Alexandra 's 100 day Blue Legacy tour was amazing. I can't wait for your new expedition. Thanks for all the great work!

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