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Watergeddon: The Beginning

I had a terrible nightmare about the future of water and humanity.

I didn’t alter these photos. I made a collage of today’s reality. Water scarcity, security, sanitation and easy access to the most precious resource on the planet is a BIG problem. And it is happening at a faster pace than people realize.

Over the last two years, I traveled the world for FluidLytix, the company I co-founded. From Europe to South America to Southeast Asia to China and back, I saw the various water problems each country faces. During those travels I started thinking about how water will affect humanity as a function of climate change, population, urban and economic growth in the future.

We are concerned about how the pandemic will change our future. We worry about social injustice and inequality in the world. We worry about climate change. Well, some of us worry about it while others fight the scientific facts and argue whether climate change is real. The world has become more politically divided than ever. No matter where I went, I saw the struggle in ideology between the left and the right regarding politics, religion, justice, environment and you can fill in the rest.

“The real-life examples of water problems humanity faces today cannot be hidden, watered-down or manipulated politically. Let me share a few water facts and figures based ”

don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand climate is changing. I see the evolving patterns everywhere. And most of you do as well. Whether it’s manmade or not, it’s happening. You hear various opinions regarding climate change. One of the biggest is that climate change is cyclical and not a function of human activity. I won’t get into that debate today, but the flawed and distorted logic used by anti-climatists cannot be applied to water issues. The real-life examples of water problems humanity faces today cannot be hidden, watered-down or manipulated politically. Let me share a few water facts and figures:

  • Today, 780 million people on this planet are living without clean water. This year 801,000 children under 5 years old will perish from diarrhea, mostly due to unclean water.[1]
  • Over 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress.[2]
  • By 2040, estimates show that one in four of the world’s children under 18 – some 600 million in all – will be living in areas of extremely high water stress.[3]
  • About 4 billion people, representing nearly two-thirds of the world population,
    experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.[4]
  • A third of the world’s biggest groundwater systems are already in distress.[5]
  • Nearly half the global population are already living in potential water scarce areas at least one month per year and this could increase to some 4.8–5.7 billion in 2050. About 73% of the affected people live in Asia (69% by 2050).[6]
  • With the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people.[7]
  • 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.[8]

Water is life.

Without access to drinkable and accessible water, we’re doomed. Water scarcity is happening faster than climate change. The volume of water on Earth has been constant over billions of years. Because water can easily change between solid, liquid or vapor, it is more adaptable than a cockroach. It was here before the dawn of civilization; it will outlast humanity and it will be here for billions of years in the future.

Mass displacement of people due to water stress is what I envision barreling at us like a runaway train. Imagine if, over the next 10 years, 500 million people worldwide are forced to relocate because their cities have run out of water.

  • How will that affect our global economy?
  • How will we feed those people and quench their thirst?
  • How will we protect them during the migration?
  • How can we stop potential civil unrest and armed conflict?
  • Where can those 500 million people be relocated?
  • How quickly can they get water?

Food logistics is significantly easier than water logistics. How do you keep millions of people from developing diseases during their displacement, due to lack of sanitization? How do governments agree quickly to absorb all the thirsty people? Where do they live if the infrastructure cannot support such massive migrations?

 

I named this nightmare. I call it Watergeddon.

I have always seen patterns in the world. I see them everywhere I look, whether I try or not. I have consciously looked for trends in society, business and science. One pattern is for sure: water and humanity and where we are headed if we don’t do something fast.

Water is more important to life than electricity. It is more important than money. Without water, there is no humanity. But as a society, we don’t pay enough attention to the water problems because we assume that water is a human right.

In 2016, Bill Gates warned the world to prepare for a potential pandemic. Nobody listened. Globally, we were unprepared. A similar situation could happen with water, where we saw all the signs of distress and did nothing about it. Let us learn from the horrible lessons of the pandemic. Let us become more pro-active than reactive.

On some days, I think disruptive water efficiency technologies and water management practices can help. On other days I feel there is no hope. But we need to try with everything we have to avoid Watergeddon.

We are moving at a fast pace toward Watergeddon. We don’t have until 2050 or 2100 to solve the problem. Unless we aggressively address the water issues over the next 10 years, we will experience the following:

  • Water scarcity on a global scale—regionalized where some areas experience extreme flooding and other areas experience droughts while rivers continuously get polluted or go completely dry.
  • Coastlines are disappearing. Aquifers are being rapidly depleted. Water Pollution is compounded due to urbanization and industrialization. Increased potential for armed conflict, massive protests, food shortages and energy blackouts (powerplants need water to produce electricity).
  • Further warming of our oceans and increasing destructive weather patterns like hurricanes and tornadoes.
  • Forced human migration—as cities around the world run out of water, tens to hundreds of millions of people could be forced to migrate in a relatively short amount of time. There would be potential for anarchy in certain areas of the world as governments are overthrown. The Syrian refugee crisis will look like a walk in the park. All of these things are tied together.

Watergeddon sounds like doom and gloom in the distant future, but it has already started. Unlike the climate debate where the question is by how many degrees will the temperature rise by 2050 or 2100, we do not have that luxury of time to debate water scarcity and water security. My pessimism increases daily on whether we will be able to deal with these water issues. On some days, I think disruptive water efficiency technologies and water management practices can help. On other days I feel there is no hope. But we need to try with everything we have to avoid Watergeddon.

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