The Growing Fresh Water Crisis

The Growing Fresh Water Crisis
reprinted from
The People
February 10, 1996

THE GROWING FRESH WATER CRISIS

BY CHARLES TURNER

Sufficient fresh water beneath the surface of the earth is more essential than many people realize. This subsurface water enables thousands of cities and towns all over the world to drill wells to provide good fresh water. However, many events already have taken place that threaten the continued availability of potable water.

For example: Farmers in Colorado, by getting fresh water for only 7 cents per acre-foot when it costs the government 54 cents per acre-foot, have used so much water that in recent years there has been a "50 percent depletion level of the Ogallala Aquifer," a very important underground reservoir that provides water for 20 percent of all irrigated cropland in the United States. (SEATTLE TIMES, Dec. 28.)

In the watershed of the Mississippi River, an area larger than New England has been paved over with roads, roofs and parking lots. All these changes from the original landscape represent what the capitalist class has wanted done, mainly to speed up the acquisition of profit. However, it has also speeded up the run-off of water into the river, instead of maintaining a level of groundwater sufficient to maintain an aquifer. In many other areas, groundwater is essential to adding enough water to a river in late summer and early autumn to enable migratory fish to survive.

In a desperate move to conserve dwindling fresh water supplies, authorities in Syria have cut off residential tap water in Damascus between 2 p.m. and 6 a.m., a 16-hour period.

The Russian ruling class, in an attempt to build up industries as fast and cheap as possible, has caused oil spills and radioactive and chemical pollution, which together have made 75 percent of Russia's fresh water unfit to drink.

So much water has been taken from two rivers that flow into the Aral Sea in Central Asia that the sea has shrunk 60 percent in volume and 40 percent in area. Most of this depletion can be traced back to reckless policies of the former Soviet Union, but the environmental damage continues today.

There are many lakes, rivers and aquifers from which two or more nations get fresh water. Given the nature of capitalism, and the predatory character of ruling classes generally, there is a real danger that bitter wars may be fought in the future over the right to get water from any source on which two or more nations depend.

Only a socialist world can promote the type of cooperation necessary to insure good potable water sufficient for everyone's needs.