Water shortage

Discussion in 'World Events' started by Saint, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, just as there is no fuel supplied anywhere in the developing world and it all goes to fat-cats in the West.

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  3. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Yet again - water is not like oil. A shortage of oil doesn't kill you.It doesn't even hurt you if you have no cars or trucks or tractors, which an awful lot of poor people don't.
    (Somehow, fuel always gets to the military. )
    And if you compared the price (as % of income) and availability of petroleum in richer and poorer parts of the world, you might find some disparity, even in fuel.

    PS There is no "developing world." That's a euphemism for "those parts of the world that we ignore unless there is something we want to exploit there."
     
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Not while water is, like air, in the commons - nobody owns it.

    The process of establishing ownership of water, which is currently in most places a common good and part of the commons of human civilization, is not likely to be a pleasant and peaceful one. The distribution of the newly owned water according to ability to pay offers even worse prospects.
    I rest my case.
     
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  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I must say that you seem to have a very emotional view of water. But economically it is just another commodity. Now, you may personally find that a very shocking statement, but this is a serious issue and we might consider breaking a few quasi-religious taboos in order to deal with it since, as you point out, if we don't, people may die. Right?

    We have learned, in our efforts to bring climate change (an equally serious global issue) under control, that using the market to change behaviour is highly effective. Just look, for instance, at subsidies and tax breaks for renewables, or the use of the carbon tax. In the UK, 25% of our electricity came from renewables last year, without us consumers even being aware of it. This is investment by business, not government. So I suggest to you that harnessing the market to invest in and develop the international supply of water is an approach that could make sense. After all, investment on a vast scale is needed and the money has to come from people who have some. Governments don't grow it on trees: they have to either tax those of their citizens with money, or borrow it from banks, or borrow directly from people with money via bonds or something. You may hate the fact that money is needed and that someone, somewhere, somehow, has to persuade people with money to lend it, if this problem is to be solved. But I am afraid that is an inescapable fact.

    Regarding the weaknesses you allege - rather feebly - in worldwide fuel distribution, I'd like you to give me some examples. Because unless you can, you have not made your case that my fuel supply analogy cannot work.

    And if you think this approach is no good, let us have your alternative for addressing the issue on a global scale. Bear in mind we may need to think it terms of :
    - international supply agreements to provide water, and get reimbursed for doing so,
    - pipelines thousands of km long, crossing international borders,
    - water tankers, shipping water thousands of tonnes at a time, perhaps between continents, with export and import terminals to handle them,
    - local distribution grids for both potable and "grey" water, to enabling recycling to get serious,
    - incentives for domestic, commercial and industrial use of water to change, to use it efficiently instead of assuming it is close to "free".

    So, how would you do all that? I believe your last suggestion was Town Councils.
     
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I pay for my water through a meter, just as I do for my gas and electricity. It is collected, treated and distributed by a utility, just as energy is. It is nothing whatsoever like air, to which none of the foregoing applies.

    I think it is emotional nonsense to claim it is a "common good" that nobody owns.
     
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Not until ownership is established. It becomes a commodity when it is owned.
    Our efforts to bring carbon emissions under control via taxing markets have, so far, failed. Part of the reason is that they are trying to push uphill, against the market incentives for the exploitation of fossil fuels to the profit of their owners. That is a common situation in the governance of community use of marketed commodities.
    http://www.voanews.com/a/thefts-rise-as-nigerian-pipeline-surveillance-falters/2857650.html
    Those who can pay, get oil. Those who cannot, steal or do without.
     
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Just as is true of food, clothing or mobile telephones.
     
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    I'm pointing to a physical fact. It is strange obliviousness to claim that the water on this planet is owned by anyone, currently.

    You yourself suggested fossil fuel exploitation as a model - so use it: look at how ownership of fossil fuel is established, and what the consequences have been.

    The "commons" is a technical term in economic analysis, its significance highlighted most famously by Hardin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

    Ownership established by production. As noted twice now, the ownership of - say - desalinated ocean water, freshwater produced by somebody, is easily established and easily incorporated into a market without creating hardships, wars, disasters of any kind. The waste brine is a community problem, but there is a profiting owner to tax or regulate in handling it - not ideal, but not impossible.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    If I pay for it through a meter, as we all do, it is absurd to claim it is somehow a free right.

    Look, I lived for some years in Dubai, where the water supply was from a desalination plant, run off the waste heat from Jebel Ali power station. How ludicrous to maintain a pious fiction that this was somehow a "common", owned by all, when it was quite deliberately manufactured, from seawater, at significant cost, and then distributed to us all.

    The same goes for water in any major city. A lot of the water in London has been through several sets of kidneys before it gets to me: it is extracted from the Thames, pumped into reservoirs, purified, distributed through the supply grid, collected as waste, purified again and returned to the river, from which it is used again downstream. The manager of the Beckton sewage works proudly claims his plant is the biggest tributary of the Thames - and drinks a glass of his own outfall water to prove it. Arguing about who the water itself (i.e. the molecules) "belongs" to is a thoroughly pointless debate. The fact is you can't have it without all this collection, treatment and disposal, all of which costs real money and uses real assets that most certainly are owned by someone. So you have to pay for it. And quite right too.
     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    22,884
    The term was "common good", not "free right". Management costs of common goods are often assigned via government of some kind, as are regulations of use - as Hardin noted, that avoids the inevitable failure of market based distribution for such goods.
    And if you don't, like my neighbors with their solar/windmill wells and rain barrels and reservoir ponds and so forth, then what?
    I repeated the exclusion of desalinated water from my observations - first made a couple pages ago, repeated once since, and now in the edit of my post that was apparently too late.
    Desalinated water is of course amenable to your solution of setting up markets and so forth. Nobody is arguing against that, I think. I at least have been in agreement with you all along, there.
    If you attempt to establish the ownership necessary to convert the planet's fresh water into a marketed commodity, you will discover the point of the debate.
     
  14. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    1,547
    I'm somewhat attached to life, yes.

    If that is so, that is the end of life on earth.
    Moving vast quantities of water from eco-system that are water-oriented to desert eco-systems means destroying both.
    Oil and its commoditization has destroyed nations, populations, sealife and wildlife.
    The commodification of water - which, FYI iceaura - has already happened: it is already owned - will just accelerate the killing process.

    Regarding the weaknesses you allege - rather feebly - in worldwide fuel distribution, I'd like you to give me some examples.
    http://www.rockofafrica.org/news/effects_of_fuel_shortages.htm
    http://www.sciforums.com/threads/water-shortage.159029/page-5
    http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Is-An-Energy-Crisis-Brewing-In-The-Caribbean.html

    I just realized you're making me jump through hoops to prove the obvious.
    All commodities are priced according to scarcity and demand, and distributed unevenly, according to the consumer's ability to pay.
    There may be people - many people - in the world who are not directly affected by their inability to buy diesel, but are nevertheless affected by the price of food, electricity and building materials due to a rise in the price of fuel to produce and transport them. The billions who are barely subsisting can't absorb any market adjustments.

    The analogy was always inapplicable. We can adapt to economies and life-styles without oil - after all, it's only been in general use for about two hundred years.
    We cannot adapt to life without water, which has been in use for over 4 billion years.

    Moving oil from one place to another causes many local disasters. Moving water from where there is lots to where there is little causes the destruction of both eco-systems.
    Death is permanent.

    How would I handle this? I would shut it down! This is nuts.

    Strict regulation and huge fines for abuse - all such fines going toward the reclamation projects.
    All water management projects must be local, just as energy production should be, because conditions vary.

    Town councils are in charge of local distribution of potable water and the collection of waste water in urban areas.
    They have to charge to cover the cost of the facilities and processing - not for the actual water.
    Private companies raise the price for increased profit and do a much less efficient job of maintenance and delivery.

    However, the protection of lakes, rivers, ocean fronts, wetlands and aquifers is a matter for regional and national governments.
    Sore, many of these entities are strapped for cash and/or corrupt, so they can be bribed or coerced into signing away their state's or nation's
    water supply. With horrific consequences.
     
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    22,884
    Only in a few corners of the planet. The ownership structure necessary to market-distribute large volumes internationally through pipelines - and no, the bottled water business is not "large" in this sense - will be a significant change.
     
  16. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    It's not the bottling business, which is big enough. It's this: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-ne...-banks-are-buying-up-the-worlds-water/5383274
    "By “water,” I mean that it includes water rights (i.e., the right to tap groundwater, aquifers, and rivers), land with bodies of water on it or under it (i.e., lakes, ponds, and natural springs on the surface, or groundwater underneath), desalination projects, water-purification and treatment technologies (e.g., desalination, treatment chemicals and equipment), irrigation and well-drilling technologies, water and sanitation services and utilities, water infrastructure maintenance and construction (from pipes and distribution to all scales of treatment plants for residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal uses), water engineering services (e.g., those involved in the design and construction of water-related facilities), and retail water sector (such as those involved in the production, operation, and sales of bottled water, water vending machines, bottled water subscription and delivery services, water trucks, and water tankers)."
    Everywhere. That article is from 2012 - by now, who knows? you might not have a right to collect rain off your roof.
     
  17. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    3,218
    In the state of Selangor in Malaysia, the first 20 cubic meter of water is Free of Charge.
    We are lucky.
    Every month, I only pay for about USD3.0 for my water bill.

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  18. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Ok, it's more significant - although not actually bigger -than my "few corners of the planet" made it sound.

    My point was that it's not a done deal, and the doing of the deal will have visible and significant impacts. Most fresh water is not owned, and establishing ownership of it will make an impact easily felt.

    btw: Your link there includes, as a significant example, the Gary Harrington case in Oregon. That was a case of a private individual in conflict with dubious government regulation of the commons, where the new situation was the restriction of a private owner of water - kind of the opposite of the threat posed by the billionaire investors.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    5,544
    OK but I think the desalination model is what we should be thinking of, if we get an emerging crisis caused by climate change. We would need a water system capable of dealing with large-scale desertification or huge swings in rainfall. That means a country with a shortage will either need capital projects to manufacture drinking water in some way, or will need to be able to get supply from another with a surplus. They will be faced with a "make or buy" decision, because, either way, it will have to be paid for.

    It seems to me the countries in surplus will demand payment for supplying it to those in shortage. That would, it seems to me, be greatly preferable to the country in shortage going to war to take it by force, which many seem to think might happen, or to whole populations attempting to migrate. And as soon as it is bought and sold there is a market for water, in which countries can compete, either in their own right or by licensing business to do so. And then we are back to where the money to invest in the necessary infrastructure comes from and what appetite individual governments have to manage the process themselves.

    (And then of course we in the richer countries may find it in our interests to provide aid to some of the poorer countries in this, since wars and mass population migration will cause us a lot of headaches, even if we are not directly involved.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  20. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    1,547
    Easily felt by whom? Prosperous urban North Americans, no, not yet.
    http://www.alternet.org/story/84145..._a_water_crisis_in_the_most_water-rich_region
    But it's near by.
    Of which the point was this:
    "Billionaire T. Boone Pickens owned more water rights than any other individuals in America, with rights over enough of the Ogallala Aquifer to drain approximately 200,000 acre-feet (or 65 billion gallons of water) a year. But ordinary citizen Gary Harrington cannot collect rainwater runoff on 170 acres of his private land.[/quote]
    And that Exchemist is increasingly getting his way:
    "In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water “the petroleum for the next century” and those investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom will reap huge rewards, during its annual “Top Five Risks” conference. Water is a U.S.$425 billion industry, and a calamitous water shortage could be a more serious threat to humanity in the 21st century than food and energy shortages, according to Goldman Sachs’s conference panel."
    They haven't been idle since then. And just to add irony to ignominy, they're buying up the people's water rights with bail-outs from the people's taxes.

    The biggest threat from monetizing a necessity of life, though, is not the self-interested control of utilities, but the total indifference to everything other than profit.
    What will be the environmental impact of draining aquifers and sucking lakes dry? Many humans think they are the only significant life on the planet and can survive using it all up.
    They're not and they can't.
     
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    And that point is muddled, with respect to water ownership. Harrington and Pickens are both claiming private ownership and control over water that was (is?) in the commons.
     
  22. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    You're right; it is a bit muddled. The article is actually about a much bigger issue than either of those men - i.e. Goldman Sachs et al - ; mentioning them was only by way of pointing out the disparity.
    However, aside from the quantities involved, you might still note the difference between collecting water that falls on top of your land and sucking up water that flows underneath your land.
     

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