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Wednesday, March 11

Electricity's Giant Water Footprint and other fun factoids about the Era of Water Scarcity

A nonprofit organization with the cheery name "FEW Resorces" pulled together a big listing of water facts on its website --  more facts than you want to know if you're trying to enjoy your day -- and several good sources about water usage.  The good news is that the information is well organized and accompanied by all kinds of maps, charts, etc.  

Might as well bone up so you can say you already know when someone asks, 'My God, did you know -- ?'

Here, to get the ball rolling, three passages from FEW's Water Scarcity Issues: We're Running Out of Water :  

The use of fertilizers and pesticides that has been largely responsible for the massive increase in yield per acre since WWII, but it requires far more water per acre than traditional forms of agriculture.[...] "One recent study suggests that in some places energy production may be overtaking agriculture as the primary user of water. Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity, a 2012 report by River Network attempts to summarize what is known about the water footprint of various modes of electrical power production. 
Here are some of their findings in the US setting. One striking conclusion is that in the US "electricity production by coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants is the fastest-growing use of freshwater in the U.S., accounting for more than about ½ of all fresh, surface water withdrawals from rivers and lakes. This is more than any other economic sector, including agriculture."[...]One of the more frequently cited statistics in discussions of water availability is the fact that only around 2.5% of the Earth's water is freshwater. The overwhelming amount of water is saline or salt water, mostly found in the oceans. 
Of the 2.5% of freshwater available for the support of human life, agriculture, and most forms of non-ocean life, 30.1% is groundwater. Groundwater is the water stored deep beneath the Earth's surface in underground aquifers. Another 68.6% of all freshwater is stored in glaciers and polar caps. That leaves only 1.3% of the total freshwater on Earth in surface water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams. But it is surface water humans and other species rely upon for their biological needs. 
Even the bulk of surface water on Earth is found in snow and ice - approximately 73.1%. Surface water found in lakes, rivers and streams accounts for just over another 20%.[...]
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