What is Peak Water?
Peak water is a concept similar to peak oil. Just as we have reached the peak of the world’s oil supply, and are beginning to run out of oil, the world is also running out of water suitable for human consumption. Already, many of the world’s people lack access to safe, clean drinking water. Many more live in regions where water shortages are imminent. In many places, human use of water has passed the point where nature can replenish it adequately. The result is peak water. The longterm result is a world water shortage.
Water as a renewable resource
Unlike oil, water is a renewable resource. The earth has about the same amount of water today as in the age of the dinosaurs. Year after year, worldwide, rivers, lakes and reservoirs are replenished during the stormy seasons. The reason why we risk running out of water is not that water itself is disappearing, but that water fit for human consumption is being used up faster than nature can replenish it. That is peak water.
The rising rate of water use
Over the last two centuries, how the world uses water has greatly changed. It is astounding how much water it takes to make our stuff, and the rise of industrialism has resulted in many of the world’s rivers and streams being diverted to feed factories, industrial farms, electric plants and growing cities. Groundwater, a primary source of water for many consumers, has been tapped so extensively that some cities are expected to run out of water within the next two decades. Much of the water that remains is polluted. Even where the global water crisis is less keenly felt, peak water has been reached.
More causes of peak water
Climate change and human settlement in areas without enough water for the population are among the key reasons for peak water. Australia is a prime example of this: already arid and supporting a sparse human population when Europeans arrived, the continent is becoming even hotter and drier due to climate change and drought. Inadequate delivery methods are also a contributing factor in the world water shortage. In such rapidly developing countries as India and China, the infrastructure for water delivery is not being built fast enough to keep up with consumer demand. In Britain, the city of London faces a different problem: its water system has not been updated since the Victorian era, and now the pipes are old and the population is much larger.
All humans are affected
No one is exempt from the peak water crisis. While the world’s most arid regions may run out of water in less than two decades, even in wetter areas, peak water has been reached. Between heavy usage of water, the majority of which goes to industry and industrial farming, and pollution of the remaining water including chemicals in the water supply, the world’s drinking water is being used up.