China Water Comparison paper

China Water Comparison paper - Environment and Politics...

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Environment and Politics Prof. R. Axelrod 9 October 2010 Fresh Water Availability: Comparing the United States and China It’s a bit unorthodox to start a paper with a quote, but this one says it all: “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink”. This little passage comes from a poem written in the 18 th century by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and is ironically enough about the trials and tribulations of a mariner and his crewmates at sea. In a broader and non-literary sense this is still true; 70% of the earth is composed of water, with roughly 2.5% being drinkable ‘fresh water’. Despite such a limited supply of fresh water, mankind has done an excellent job of surviving – some might say thriving – under these conditions. That is until you take into account the recent (recent as in the last few centuries) exponential increase in the population: from approx. 3 billion in 1960 to “6,874,677,524” (U.S. Census Bureau) as of this moment in 2010. Between the exploding population and the various so-called ‘innovations’ in technology, there is a growing need for a shrinking supply. If the planet hasn’t already reached carrying capacity, it will soon. Although there is always the same amount of water on the earth – cycling in what is referred to as a ‘closed-system’ (always the same amount) - the 2.5% that is fresh water has never been evenly distributed across the planet – that is simply impossible. Many years ago, it used to be that whole societies were formed solely on the basis of proximity to drinkable water. “Where water was plentiful, large numbers of people flourished; where water was scarce, small groups eked out a living” (LibraryIndex). This is still true, but man’s ability to move water using technology via aqueducts (pipelines, canals, etc.),
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damming and various shipping equipment has given us the ability to live hundreds, even thousands of miles away from our water sources. One of the more notable examples that exists today is the American city of Las Vegas. In this city, there are millions of living in a climate which ordinarily would only support plants and creatures native to the desert. Drinking water is already stretched thinly in this way; add to that the issue of overpopulation and a serious scarcity problem arises. More pivotal to the issue is the way in which water is used in modern times. Re-routing water for agricultural reasons is all well and good, but besides drinking, the newer “principal demands for fresh water are for… household and municipal water use, and industrial uses” (UMich). Much of this water is deemed ‘non-consumptive’, meaning that it is used for a purpose and then returned to a body of water – this is good. However, this non-consumptive water is often laden with pollutants; nitrates, phosphates, arsenic, lead and mercury being a few of the more recognizable names. (The EPA has a wonderful website detailing the cause and effects of the major listed pollutants:
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This note was uploaded on 06/04/2011 for the course POLI 0158-212-0 taught by Professor Axelrod during the Fall '10 term at Adelphi.

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China Water Comparison paper - Environment and Politics...

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