Water Wars

The world is running out of water. Of all the resources on Earth this is the one we think of the least, and yet it is the most vital of them all. Here we keep our multimedia dealing with the increasing scarcity of potable water due to politics, pollution, and genuine scarcity.

Water Wars

An introduction to some of the political aspects of the coming water shortage. It is from Mumia Abu-Jamal, a controversial death-row inmate and activist. However you feel about his situation, his information is accurate and well-portrayed. It is hosted on YouTube.

Lake Chad’s Dwindling

Lake Chad was the largest fresh water lake in Africa and still is the number one source of fresh water in Africa. The trend can readily be extrapolated from these images. This image was generated for the latest UNEP report.

People Affected by Natural Disasters Between 1971-2000

A map of the people affected in Africa, with special concentration on droughts, floods, and famine. From UNEP.

Water Stress Map

A map showing the projected number of countries that will need to import 10% or more of their water by no later than 2012. This map is considered optimistic by some people studying the problem. This map is from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Water Companies

A political cartoon dealing with the future of our water supplies. It is hosted by OilEmpire.us.



  1. May 13, 2006 at 9:57 pm

    […] Climate Change, Culture, Deforestation, Gaia, Overpopulation, Peak Oil, Politics, Skills, Sustainability, and Water Wars. […]

  2. flint kohman said,

    June 18, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    i live in rural ks. where our water is continuosly polluted by non naturally forming nitrates and sulfur (feed lot one mile away) What can i do to help purify my water!

  3. Aftermath said,

    June 18, 2008 at 11:05 pm


    Wetlands. Nature purifies water using wetlands. Sometimes called marshes, swamps, or bogs, but ultimately it is a continuously wet, although shallow, area abundant in plant and animal life. The best place to put the wetland would be between the rivers and streams and the source of the pollution. Obviously this is probably going to require a large number of citizens petitioning. There are companies that can be contracted to do the actual work of (re)creating wetlands.

    Alternatively, if you border a polluted stream and would like to purify it for your own sake you can do this as well. You will have to divert the stream or part of the stream into an area prepared to be made into wetlands containing wetland plants (such as cattails, which are also edible). The water that leaves the wetland area should be suitable for either irrigation or, after boiling, drinking water. Your best bet would be to test the water before using it though. If you intend to divert an entire stream into a marsh, make a thorough inventory of the life in the stream first. Some of the species will not survive the transition, and some of those may be endangered species. If they are endangered this may provide additional leverage to get a wetland installed up stream between the pollutant source and the stream.

    You should look in to something called permaculture. There are a lot of online sources as well as a number of books. Hemmenway wrote a wonderful beginner’s book for North America called “Gaia’s Garden”. Permaculture focuses itself on creating ecosystems, as opposed to industrial agriculture, which creates wastelands. No one drags a bag of fertilizer into the forest. No one purifies a mountain stream. Nature does this stuff on its own accord and has been doing it for billions of years. If we hand these jobs back over to nature our work load eases up quite a bit. When you build the wetland it will largely take care of itself, assuming you planned it out right. Otherwise you’ll have to either let nature fix it or fight her to keep it the way you planned it.

    Let me know how it goes, or if you come up with another means. I’m not as familiar with it but I believe some people are successfully experimenting with using different fungi to do different kinds of clean up. You could look into that as well.

    – Benjamin Shender

  4. flint kohman said,

    June 20, 2008 at 12:27 am

    unfortunately, we are talking a very large area, almost five sections, with only man made ponds between us and the source of pollution. The run off from the feed lot and feilds are running in to everyones ground water and from there, in to our wells. Any help under these circumstances

  5. Aftermath said,

    June 22, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Yeah, they could start raising cows instead of making beef.

    Runoff can be helped with a border of essentially forest; it can be fairly narrow and still be effective, although if the forest is too thin runoff will still get through. The downside for farmers is that it becomes a source of weeds. Of course it also becomes a sanctuary for the ladybugs and parasitic wasps that keep insects from getting out of control.

    Leeching through the soil directly into the ground water can really only be fixed at the source. Feedlots are disgusting, if the same Americans who won’t eat a filthy dandelion growing out of the dirt knew where their beef came from feedlots would be run out of business. Hell, some of the officials involved might be shot. And all of that waste ends up in somebody’s water.

    Nasty business. The problem is the sheer density of waste (chicken, cow, pig, doesn’t matter) makes it impossible for nature to handle it appropriately. And the feedlot just doesn’t want to spend the money to handle the waste properly itself. So now we have a regulated maximum amount of cow feces that can be in our ground beef (talk about food for thought). In nature the waste never becomes so dense bacteria and fungi can’t survive long enough to eat the stuff. The ground becomes so rich in nitrogen and devoid of oxygen not much can be done. When cows, chickens, etc are wild or free range (actually free range, of course, not what they call free range) the waste is wildly distributed and churned into active, living soil. At the feedlot it just gets compounded into dead dirt. When it rains the waste becomes a hazard to everyone and everything nearby.

    In this situation, there are only two things you can do. The first is convincing the feedlot to adopt more ecologically friendly practices. The second is to surround the feedlot with forested and wetland areas. These areas should be productive enough to absorb most of the waste running off. However if the area is that large you will need to enlist the help of your neighbors, who may not appreciate the advantages of loosing land that can be made into crops to sell. But remember, these forested regions are productive areas too, growing whatever you put into them. The same region set aside to serve as a buffer between you and the feedlot can also produce a huge variety of food or craft material.

    Cattails are an excellent wetland plant that is also edible. Apple trees make good sense. Walnuts, goumi, olive, bamboo, etc can all be used and are edible. To make it better, that’s just the tree layer. You can also plant shrubs, ground cover, vines, and roots that are edible. And by having them all there together they can support each other leaving little work for you guys, except harvesting. And don’t forget the birds and insects that will happily dine on your aphids.

    From what little I know those seem to be the only two legal ways to solve the problem sensibly. Are there more factors here? I am assuming this feedlot is surrounded by farms, probably growing number 2 corn, in a fairly flat area. I’m also assuming the feedlot is managed in a fashion fairly stereotypical of feedlots, with the stereotypical concern for anything but selling beef. Have you spoken to the feedlot managers? Have you spoken to your neighbors? Set up a town meeting to discuss the problem? Something this big can be worked through, but you need the support of everyone in the area.

    – Benjamin Shender

  6. flint kohman said,

    June 23, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    BRAVO!! I could not agree more! This paticular feed lot actually ruined the water supply for an entire small town and was forced by (myself) and others to pay for a rural water system for this town. They were also fined, etc….and needless to say were not happy with me or the sanctions at all. We` have tried to keep EPA on them as they absolutely do exactly what you said!! And just seeing the conditions these cows are raised in has made me determined to never eat processed beef from these sources. We now raise a few head of our own, completely naturally. Enough to keep us in beef and a few extra to sell and pay for the butchering etc.
    I am pleased to say that I have already begun some of your suggestions…small forest..bushes etc. although my reasoning was more to block the awful view and intermittent smell! This feed lot takes up a LOT of land!! And we are very rural. Only three farms in a 12 square mile area other than the feed lot. So not a lot of political pull. I am on a couple of local township and county boards and am doing my best..but in an area consumed with quanity over quality and money over all other things..it is a losing battle. Cat tails sound promising. Any info on where I can find them?!
    I am fairly new to your website and just wanted to add that I am so grateful to have found it and to feel a little less alone out here. Thanks for everything.

  7. Aftermath said,

    June 23, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you for coming by.

    Getting cattails can probably be most cheaply and effectively done by finding some wild ones and transporting them. Research wetlands in your area and find other plants to put in with them. Monocroping is unstable and the cattails will be best served by company.

    – Benjamin Shender

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