NASA warn that water shortages are “key environmental challenge of the century”
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NASA warn that water shortages are “key environmental challenge of the century”

Scientists at NASA have warned that water shortages are “likely to be the key environmental challenge of this century.” The announcement comes after new data pointed to “a drying out” of huge swaths of the world. 19 “hotspots” of dramatic water depletion have been identified. This is deeply troubling news: less than 1% of the Earth’s water is drinkable (2.5% of total water on the planet is freshwater, but the majority of this is unreachable). And the population is continuing to rise globally as the climate heats up, putting a strain on these resources. Add in their destruction through overuse or wastage and you have a recipe for disaster.

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Amongst the major areas at risk is the Caspian Sea, which has previously been thought to be declining due to “natural variability”. Yet this new report demonstrates that it was “caused in large part by the diversion and extraction of water from the rivers that feed it, for agriculture and industry.” The size of this body of water means that a total depletion would take millennia (unlike the disappearing Aral Sea) – but rising pollution and shrinking shoreline (which are already occurring) are problematic on their own.

The study’s data came from the NASA GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) satellite mission, which has been tracking trends in freshwater between 2002 and 2016 worldwide. James Familglietti, one of the paper’s co-authors, who works in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, put the team’s findings in simple terms:

“What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change. We see for the first time a very distinctive pattern of the wetland areas of the world getting wetter, in the high latitudes and the tropics, and the dry areas in between getting drier. Within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion.”

Jonathan Farr, senior policy analyst at the charity Water Aid – which was not involved in the study – says the paper, published in top scientific journal Nature, constitutes a wake up call: "This report is a warning and an insight into a future threat. We need to ensure that investment in water keeps pace with industrialisation and farming. Governments need to get to grips with this.”

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SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

The gap between the course we’re on and the course we need to be on if we want to avert a water crisis is growing. But ironically, despite big business being responsible for many of the environmental difficulties of recent years, the corporate world may yet prove to be our savior.

There are a number of very simple things we can do to ease the water crisis. One is, for example, updating our infrastructure to ensure that we don’t waste water through leaking pipes. Another is using efficient technology (like showers instead of baths) and common sense (like only flushing the toilet ‘when it really needs it’) to minimize water use. And a third is investigating promising new technologies like desalination, water reuse, and recycling plants.

Some of the companies held in Dominion’s Managed Fund are pioneers in these areas – meaning they represent not just a “sure thing” in light of the water crisis, but also a genuine good for the planet and all its inhabitants. Unless the human race decides to voluntarily embrace extinction, these companies will remain relevant for a very long time to come.


Dominion holds Xylem Inc., PolyPipe Group Plc., Beijing Enterprises Water Group, A.O. Smith Corporation, and Tetra Tech in the Water Trend of its Global Trends Managed Fund.

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