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Grabbing Water From Future Generations


This piece is part of  Water Grabbers: A Global Rush on Freshwater, a special National Geographic Freshwater News series on how grabbing land—and water—from poor people, desperate governments, and future generations threatens global food security, environmental sustainability, and local cultures.

Suresh Ponnusami sat back on his porch by the road south of the Indian textile town of Tirupur. He was not rich, but for the owner of a two-acre farm in the backwoods of a developing country he was doing rather well. He had a TV, a car, and a maid to bring him drinks and ensure his traditional white Indian robes were freshly laundered every morning.

The source of his wealth, he said, was a large water reservoir beside his house. And as we chatted, a tanker drew up on the road. The driver dropped a large pipe from his vehicle into the reservoir and began sucking up the contents.

Ponnusami explained: “I no longer grow crops, I farm water. The tankers come about ten times a day. I don’t have to do anything except keep my reservoir full.” To do that, he had drilled boreholes deep into the rocks beneath his fields, and inserted pumps that brought water to the surface 24 hours a day. He sold every tanker load for about four dollars. “It’s a good living, and it’s risk-free,” he said. “While the water lasts.”

A neighbor told me she does the same thing. Water mining was the local industry. But, she said, “every day the water is reducing. We drilled two new boreholes a few weeks ago and one has already failed.”

Surely this is madness, I suggested. Why not go back to real farming before the wells run dry? “If everybody did that, it would be well and good,” she agreed. “But they don’t. We are all trying to make as much money as we can before the water runs out.”

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Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit

While draught and desertification are intensifying around the world, corporations are aggressively converting free-flowing water into bottled profits. The water wars of the twenty-first century may match—or even surpass—the oil wars of the twentieth. In Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit, Vandana Shiva, “the world’s most prominent radical scientist” (the Guardian), shines a light on activists who are fighting corporate maneuvers to convert this life-sustaining resource into more gold for the elites.

In Water Wars, Shiva uses her remarkable knowledge of science and society to outline the emergence of corporate culture and the historical erosion of communal water rights. Using the international water trade and industrial activities such as damming, mining, and aquafarming as her lens, Shiva exposes the destruction of the earth and the disenfranchisement of the world’s poor as they are stripped of rights to a precious common good.

In her passionate, feminist style, Shiva celebrates the spiritual and traditional role water has played in communities throughout history, and warns that water privatization threatens cultures and livelihoods worldwide. Shiva calls for a movement to preserve water access for all, and offers a blueprint for global resistance based on examples of successful campaigns.

Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental leader and recipient of the 1993 Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award). She is author of several books, including Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply (South End Press, 2000); Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge (South End Press, 1997); and Staying Alive (St. Martin’s Press, 1989). Shiva is a leader, along with Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin, in the International Forum on Globalization. Before becoming an activist, Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists.

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Which energy resources are gulping down our water?


If you’re like so many conscientious consumers, you’ve experienced the disappointment that comes when you realize the “lean” turkey breast you bought has
300 percent of your daily value of sodium. Instantly, food choices feel more complex; you’ve learned the hard way that the pursuit of a low-fat diet is not the same as a healthy diet.


The energy-water nexus shows us that our energy choices are much like our food choices. The environmental benefits of an energy diet low in carbon emissions might be diminished by increased water consumption or waste, and the unforeseen tradeoffs between the two resources — such as more sodium in lieu of less fat — can hurt us in the long run.

Water intensity


Roughly 90 percent of the energy we use today comes from nuclear or fossil fuel power plants, which require 190 billion gallons of water per day, or 39 percent of all U.S. freshwater withdrawals. (Water “withdrawal” indicates the water withdrawn from ground level water sources; not to be confused with “consumption,” which indicates the amount of water lost to evaporation.)

The water intensity of these energy resources brings us face-to-face with the realities of energy and water overconsumption. High electricity consumption means more water withdrawals, placing extra strain on the water system. At the same time, emissions from power plants contribute to climate change, which increases the amount of water required to produce energy and intensifies severe drought.

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Saudia Arabia ~ ‘Save it’ plea as water usage hits record levels


Per capita consumption of drinking water in Saudi Arabia has now reached 265 liters, which is double the amount of water used by an individual in a European country, said Water and Electricity Minister Abdullah Al-Hussayen.

He said total water consumption in the Kingdom crossed eight million cubic meters for the first time.
“This is equal to nearly 800,000 10-ton water tank trucks,” he said while emphasizing the need to rationalize consumption of water.
Al-Hussayen said about 60 percent of the Kingdom’s water supply comes from desalination plants on its Red Sea and Arabian Gulf coasts while the rest comes from underground water wells.
“All regions have reported record consumption of water,” the minister said.
Jeddah’s consumption is more than 1.2 million cubic meters per day, which translates to per capita use of more than 300 liters per day.
Al-Hussayen said his ministry has launched a nationwide campaign to reduce water consumption by 30 percent through free distribution of devices that would help reduce consumption.
He also stressed the importance of preserving the country’s underground water resources.
Saudi Arabia has been producing desalinated water since 1927, with output jumping from 300,000 cubic meters per day to more than five million cubic meters.
The Kingdom is the world leader in this field, producing almost 20 percent of global production.

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