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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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Water Situation May Be Even Worse Than We Thought

I have blogged often over the years about water sustainability. We humans need fresh water for survival and there is a lot less of that on the planet than there is salt water (which is what covers more than two-thirds of the earth's surface). In that way, our evolutionary trajectory has not been as helpful as we might have hoped. Unfortunately, a report just out from scientists in the Netherlands (and reported by HuffPost Science) suggest that water availability is even less than we thought.
About 66 percent, which is 4 billion people, of the world's population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year, according to a new paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances.
Previous studies calculated a lower number, estimating that between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people lived with moderate to severe water scarcity for at least a month out of the year.
Scientists, led by Dr. Arjen Hoekstra of the Netherlands' University of Twente, used a computer model that is both more precise and comprehensive than previous studies have used to analyze how widespread water scarcity is across the globe. Their model considers multiple variables including: climate records, population density, irrigation and industry.
As the map below shows, this is not a spatially random problem. Some parts of the world--mostly very populated areas--are harder hit than others.

The HuffPost Science article mentions the role that drought may have played in setting off the Syrian civil war, and I've discussed that before. Throughout the Middle East, in particular, the combination of rapid population growth and dwindling water supplies is potentially explosive.

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