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Diminishing world water supply leading to major conflict?

Diminishing world water supply leading to major conflict?

Fresh water is increasingly precious. Unlike regions farther west, the Mid-South is yet to feel the full pain of plunging water table levels. But more state regulation of water is promised.

Even so, the abundance and free flow of water around here, the flush of springtime green it provides, is wonderful. And there’s a good reason I really like walking barefoot on freshly-cut grass.

My brothers and I grew up in a thirsty, parched foreign land. There was a three-month window during the year when it would rain, or not. The landscape was stark with few trees, fewer creeks, rivers.

Our mother would meet us at the door every night when we’d straggle in tired and sunburned. We’d dump the sand out of our shoes before stepping inside. She’d then fill the tub with, no joke, maybe an inch of water for our bath. Even this paltry amount, to some, was flat-out profligate.

Perhaps they were right. Water was rarely piped to our home from the city and this led to many instances when my father, honking the car horn and waving furiously, would chase down some water truck circling the neighborhood. For a steep price the crew, using fire hoses, would fill a metal tank atop our house.

The nation’s crown prince once visited our school and gave a sort of “state of the region” talk. One thing he said has stuck with me since: the next World War will be fought over water. This belief was not novel, but his conviction was alarming considering the warfare and sectarian violence that lurked just over the border.

So, with that background, a new report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research is especially sobering. The report claims 770 million people around the world are without clean drinking water. Some 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation. By 2050, the report’s authors expect as many as 50 nations to be at odds over water.

Milo Hamilton, president of, has been paying close attention to the world water situation. We recently talked about China and India specifically.

China’s water tables, he said, “are collapsing and the water is also polluted. … There are farmers that won’t eat the rice they grow” because of toxic waste.

This has led the Chinese to major damming and water transportation projects. And there will be consequences for nations to the south that are reliant on that water. “The fact is, 70 to 80 percent of all the trade in rice comes out of the countries south of China. The headwaters of the five rivers are largely under Chinese control.”

So, is it time to start investing in desalination plants?

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