This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Watering Hong Kong

Infrastructure is a huge--maybe the biggest--issue faced by cities. This is obviously important since we are now an urban-majority species and cities are absorbing most of the planet's population growth. We all need water and food and neither of these resources is automatically available in cities. Lorena O'Neil, writing for, has found that one of the world's richest cities--Hong Kong--may be about to overshoot the supply of water needed for its 7 million, and growing, population.
On the one hand, Hong Kong has been progressive and forward-thinking with water — it was the first city in the world to use seawater for toilet-flushing and one of the earliest adopters of seawater desalination. On the other hand, water experts are now sounding the alarm that Hong Kong is at great risk of running very low on water in the future. Hong Kong’s reliance on imported water leaves it vulnerable: 70% to 80% of the city’s water comes from the Dongjiang river in the Guangdong province of China. And that early desalination plant? It was dismantled in 1992.
Any and all solutions will require consumers to pay more for water. There seems to be little question about that. Although this may not hurt too much in Hong Kong, there are a lot of other places in the world where the rising cost of water simply creates a bigger gap between the rich and the poor, and more conflict among those competing for finite water sources.
A Civic Exchange report on Hong Kong’s water management system says this foreshadows “a future in which demand will exceed supply” and an increase in competition for water among the cities. HK is not an isolated instance. Water shortages are a rising source of conflict between cities in Brazil, Ethiopia, Jordan, India and the United States. Hong Kong is a harbinger of how other modern cities will find themselves struggling to meet water demands.

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