How are water resources distributed?

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Paul Anderson

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How are water resources distributed?
« on: 05/10/2009 06:30:06 »
Paul Anderson  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi Chris and team,

I just wanted to start a topic regards the world's water resources and how to distribute them fairly throughout the world.

I have just been looking at a world map of fresh water resources

I would be interested to know how that was composed. Also, whether those resources are readily available, or just that they exist.

Australia has drought problems and yet in the map it is shown the same shading as NZ (i.e. 10,000 or more cubic meters [it must be American!] per year). Now that I have read that, I assume that is rainfall, not deposits of water.

I have often thought that there should be pipelines of water taken across Africa and Australia. Australia is one country, so it would be easier for them. Africa has a number of countries who may not cooperate. They may try to rip each other off by charging exorbitant amounts or they will turn off a tap when it passes through their country. Pipelines would be better than just canals or man made rivers, because it cuts down on evaporation.

Before someone reacts by saying I am talking rubbish, might I wonder what happens to Russian gas, or what happens when the Americans or Canadians want to move oil through pipelines? Were there not problems of certain pipelines upsetting the meanderings of wandering wildlife?
There was once talk of NZ importing stuff and then exporting fresh water in tankers. That hasn't happened. Perhaps it is considered too expensive to keep the water clean. If a tanker comes to NZ full of oil, the question is, how do you fill the tanker with fresh water? One idea might be to line the tanks with a giant plastic bag, but after a month at sea will the fumes, etc, filter through the plastic?
When I was a lad I remember hearing about a group of folk in a lifeboat off the coast of Brazil. As the days went by the folk were starting to suffer dehydration, but one chap seemed okay, and the later explanation given was that they were somewhere off the mouth of the Amazon which was disgouging a large amount of fresh water into the sea, and he was secretly taking advantage of that.

I do not remember if that was just a story, or an account of something that actually happened.   Could it be valid?
Once the water from the Amazon reaches the coast it is of no more use to the Amazonians, so why not have a dam at the mouth to save that water and export it? No money to build the dam, too difficult, no political will ?
I'd better get ready for work.

What do you think?


Offline litespeed

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How are water resources distributed?
« Reply #1 on: 04/11/2009 21:28:55 »

First, you are correct fresh water sources are increasingly a proplem to secure. Not that there is a shortage of fresh water, but as you point out it is a distribution problem. However, damming up the Amazon to fill tankers is a bit out of the question. I don't know of any freshwater tanker industry. And you would not need to damn up anything, just take the tanker to one of N. Americas great lakes and fill up!

Still, I believe there have been actual commercial use of icebergs towed to needy places.  And of course California transports more fresh water via aquiduct then you can shake a stick at. Lately, desalinization through semi-permiuble membranes has become commercially successful.

In addition, I see no need to irrigate the Sahar Desert. Reclamaition efforts through tree plantations has some success. However, the basic problem is over grazing buy sheep and goats. I thing most of Africa has plenty of water. Decades ago I was given the task to evaluate peace corp water distribution projects in Tanzania and Malawi.

Water was abundant, but the locals were not much adept at keeping up the maintenance of a simple bore-hole water pumps, let alone a simple gravity distribution system using PVC pipes. Maybe it is better now.


Offline Don_1

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How are water resources distributed?
« Reply #2 on: 05/11/2009 09:16:22 »
Moving water across national borders would be extremely problematical, not to mention expensive. Transport of gas from Russia, by pipeline, has been interrupted on many occasions.

As you say, it would not be a problem for Australia, since there are no national boundaries, so no political problems. But in Africa!!! Strewth! They are all at each others throats as it is, this would make matters even worse.
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