environment & politics

Water Wars

An excellent video, part three of four in a series that examines the glacial retreat caused by global warming. This one focusses on the water wars that develop because of glacial retreat. Part one is here. (I think Flash is required, but you kids all have that, right?)

These are the kinds of videos I hope all global warming deniers (you know who they are) will watch; such people trawl message boards and blogs trying to claim global warming is a myth for reasons I simply cannot fathom – convincing them is as futile as trying to show Creationists the impact of Darwin, ultimately, but it’s useful for them to realise lives are being affected – and lost – in numerous ways because of climate change.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

9 replies on “Water Wars”

Phillip – how do you mean? Essentially I mean with regards to the fact that some people simply do not wish to acknowledge the scientific evidence available, let alone debate it in a sensible way; and that was one example. It’s a different language almost.

And, of course, with all that fresh water now melting into the ocean the Gulf Stream is slowly collapsing. That was the reason for the freeze back in January – they said that the Gulf Stream had moved and let the cold waters in that had been circulating around. The fresh water pushing down the warmer currents… it’s going to leave us like Russia eventually

Having come to the UK from California, I can attest that the struggle for water rights has been brewing for a long time.

The Western states reliance on the Colorado watershed and the water rights set up during what is (whether or not you’re a climate change denier) a brief water-rich aberration in the otherwise dry history of the region – has been failing to match its growing needs for decades.

Perpetual drought, commercial farming of the central valley, and the southern half of the state’s unquenchable thirst for water, at any price and at any consequence – has dominated the landscape and politics of California.

Sitting in such a wet country as the UK, I sometimes forget the power of this scarce resource to cause conflict. It bodes ill for the rest of the world, who already suffer the pangs of water scarcity and the rise of salination and diminished supplies as sea levels change along with the weather.

The nations of the first world will not be willing to spare so much as a cupful, when their own mismanagement and waste of current resources makes internal competition for fresh, clean water a fiercely contested issue.

The desperate will resort to desperate measures or face a dry and desolate future. And there is no question that this is already underway, visible not just in South America but in the Horn of Africa, across a number of fragile island chains, and in China and India.


It was the clarification I was looking for. As a man of faith I was troubled by the thought of being portrayed as a closet loon because I believe in a creator.

It has been a very long time since I thought that Science and my faith were mutually exclusive. In retrospect I put it down to youthfull ignorance of the nuances and complexities of my faith.

Eric – I’ve heard (but forgotten) some very interesting things about the way water is piped around US states, particularly in California. Is it something to do with Colorado, too? Can you shed light on that, or is it not as interesting as I remember (or don’t, in this case)?

Phillip – yes of course, science and faith often go together. Darwin himself was agnostic (if I recall correctly).

While the United States is hardly the worst casualty in the global battle for fresh water, the disputes which have arisen over its ownership and use, have been highly influential. Few places have been affected by this more than the dry Western states.

California and to a larger extent the West, are not alone. If you do a search on water wars in the Great Lakes region, you’ll find some very interesting articles for example. I would predict this will be an increasingly pressing concern for communities across a wide number of states.

More recently, and topically, are rising concerns throughout the Gulf (of Mexico) states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida, water rich regions – the first two in particular who have long depended on riparian water rights stemming from the massive Mississippi River – but with problems arising from the encroaching sea, the draining of underground aquifers which are now being threatened by increased salinity, and similar problems related to global climate change along the coastline. That doesn’t even touch on the problems that the Mississippi has with pollution, pumping something like 1.5 million metric tons of nitrates among other problematic contaminates which make a Massachusetts sized hypoxic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico each year. States like Louisiana have only recently begin to change years of laissez-faire water management policies, especially over surface water rights, with tentative legislature.

As for California, I recommend reading up on the California Water Wars which started around the turn of the century in Los Angeles but have their roots in the wider western region of the United States.

For an update on some of the problems facing the CWA and the West, National Geographic had a fairly good article back in 2008. You can find updates on this subject with a few searches which show that very little progress has been made in solving the problems facing an increasingly thirsty West.

On another note, it’s interesting the point you bring up about Charles Darwin’s professed agnosticism. Personally, I think it’s mostly a case of wishful thinking on the part of theists and agnostics (or at the least, a splitting of hairs) to consider Darwin as anything but a fairly clear atheist by the end of is life. Filtered through the lens of his time and the considerations he held for his family, most of our evidence points towards a far less ambiguous stance, even if we will never know for certain.

Does it matter? Not really. The beauty of evolution is that it is much more than just its founder’s theory and is still being expanded and developed by great minds of our present age. It was a monumental discovery however, and should not be downplayed simply to smooth the ruffled feathers of some opposing religiously minded groups – nor should we be too much distracted by the personal feelings of its namesake. It is the best and most successful explanation for the development of life that we have to date, and for me, that’s a sound argument all in itself.



Thanks for the summary – and the links, Eric, I’ll take a good look. (Ah, National Geographic… my subscription lapsed too long ago!)

Re: Darwin: Indeed – though I suspect the focus on him is often to attack or dismantle the theory. When the evidence doesn’t work in your favour, head to the person who discovered it and dismantle him… Which, then, creates the impression of a debate.

But as you say, great minds have taken it and run with it.

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