Cynthia Barnett has an article in the fascinating new environmental publication Ensia about the problems we face globally because we’re pumping water out of the ground faster than nature puts it back in. One of the things I like about Cythia’s writing on water is her optimistic, solutions-oriented approach:
The solutions to overdrawn aquifers are similar to those for overdrawn bank accounts. Foremost is reining in overconsumption. Cities and farmers alike have shown that we can live with less water. Facing severe groundwater depletion in the 1980s, residents of Tucson, Ariz., have managed to reduce their daily Big Gulp from 200 gallons per person in 1985 to 130 gallons today. At the same time, the city has transitioned away from mining the aquifer as its primary source. Three-fourths of Tucson’s water supply in 2003, groundwater now accounts for less than half — with the remainder drawn from the Colorado River and reclaimed sewer and industrial sources.
The real test is whether people already in conflict can come to share and restore aquifers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Pacific Institute, which has tracked water conflict throughout human history, found that water has more often been a source of international cooperation than of war.