“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water” – W.H. Auden.
You can survive around three days without water, and even if you have some stored up for yourself, it is almost a guarantee that your neighbors don’t. You may not have heard that Taiwan is experiencing its worst drought in nearly sixty years. We can’t dismiss this fact because we see droughts in areas where water was copious, and we see floods in places where water has always been scarce. Leaking pipes, deforestation, and the warming Indian Ocean have all exacerbated the problem in Taiwan. Since Taiwan produces around ninety percent of the world’s microchips and it requires copious amounts of water to clean the wafers that go into tech devices, this drought has contributed to what is being termed Chipageddon. The rise in demand, COVID lockdowns, and now a significant drought has created a global chip shortage, and that will impact everything from appliances to televisions to cars to smartphones to GPS devices and more.
Droughts worldwide affect more than just our wallets and our ability to upgrade our cell phones or buy a new car. The Australian drought directly contributed to the wildfires that ravaged their country and brought several animal and plant species to the brink of extinction. The Amazon has been a stable biome for many centuries. Still, scientists believe that dryer conditions and too extensive burns could bring rapid change to the rainforest and tip it from rainforest to savanna. Increased droughts lead to cumulative deforestation leading to less evapotranspiration, less rainfall, and even more drought. At the same time, global patterns are shifting so dramatically that extreme precipitation events are being seen in traditionally dry subtropical areas. The rain isn't falling where it should and is falling where it traditionally hasn’t.
In this blog, I’ll examine the effects the drought, and extreme precipitation events will have on you in the future and are having on you right now. Even if your local weather doesn’t change one bit, drought and extreme precipitation events in other countries and right here in the United States will threaten your comfortable survival.
LAND & CROP FAILURES
The most evident impact of droughts and extreme weather precipitation events are witnessed on the impacted land. When we think of droughts, we often think of the farmer and his crops drying up in the fields. In Taiwan, farmers are being paid not to grow crops so that the water may be repurposed and directed to chip manufacturing needs. Last year’s Derecho wiped out corn crops in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. Just two years ago it was droughts all across Europe that lowered yields and affected farmers. Wildfires from Sweden to California are more extreme and disrupt production, trade, and whole economies.
The climate has constantly been changing, but it is undeniably changing at a more dramatic rate. The swings to the extreme are barely contained in the historical record, as we see droughts and deluges that were barely once-in-a-lifetime events before happening year after year. Farmers cannot just switch over their crops to heartier, drought-tolerant varieties. In some cases, no such drought-tolerant variety is available, and farmers can’t keep pace when the sun scorches their fields, and water levels drop.
There is a dependence, however, on large-scale operations and a very limited range of crops. By 2050, the global population will have grown and urbanized so much that we will need to produce 87 percent more of the four primary food crops – rice, wheat, soy, and maize – than we do today. When extreme weather conditions stunt the growth of these main crops, a global hunger crisis is created. Though there are many more grains that could be brought into more extensive scale production like sorghum, Farro, Teff, or Amarnath, global pallets are too slow to shift, and farmers and manufacturers lack the experience with these other grains.
It’s not just the crops we eat, though. It's also the feed we provide livestock, fisheries, and ranch operations. When the big crops fail, the effects are felt throughout the world. These failures are also observable in the sustained
socioeconomic impacts lasting well beyond the drought or flooding event. Decreased yields lead to shortages and scarcity. Collapsing land leads to collapsing economies. This can result in mass migration events or, in the case of fires, mass evacuations. These exoduses brought about by land failure impacts all regional economies and redirect billions of dollars per year to rescue and relief efforts.
FIGHTING OVER THE LAST DROPS
You may have viewed my popular video on Why The Rich Are Buying Water Rights, and it’s worth mentioning here. The real question is can we run out of water on a planet that is mostly water? The answer is both yes and no. You can
run out, but the Earth won’t. The wealthy won’t.
Water covers 71% of Earth’s surface. There are 326 million trillion gallons of it on and in the planet. 96.5% of the water is ocean water, and just 3.5% is freshwater. Of that 3%, 69% of that water is locked up in glaciers. Another 30% of that freshwater is underground and usually requires costly extraction. That leaves 114 million billion gallons of readily accessible freshwater, not necessarily drinkable water, but water nonetheless. That sounds like enough, but it represents just 1% of the Earth’s water for every man, woman, child, and animal on the planet. That 1% of the water also has to serve every agricultural and industrial need on the earth. In most cases, it also needs to be filtered and treated before it is safely consumable. So, though there is plenty of water on the planet, not very much of it is drinkable. Not very much of it is accessible, and the distribution methods are easily manipulated, legislated, and monetized. That’s never good for the common person. Nestle Water, for instance, extracted 36 million gallons of water from a national forest in California in 2015 to sell bottled water, even as Californians were ordered to cut their water use because of a historic drought in the state.
The problem isn’t that there isn’t enough water. There’s plenty for a thirsty planet. The problem is the rapid shift of water resources and a free infrastructure to channel and distribute that water. Dry areas lack the proper infrastructure to capture the water. Often, the infrastructure that is in place is not adequate. An estimated 14% of Taiwan’s pipes are leaking. In an area known for having umbrella stands outside of stores and subways because of the usual high volume of rain, 14% is inconsequential until there’s a drought-like they are experiencing today. The Salton Sea in California was created by an infrastructure failure in 1905. As humans, we seem to barely be capable of containing the flows of water that fall from the sky. In some states, water companies have forced legislation that
makes it illegal for citizens to collect their rainwater.
Desert and arid areas that have seen little historic rainfall in the past are ill- equipped to capture or even channel even light rains. The years of scorching heat have compacted the soil surface so much that the water doesn’t even absorb into the Earth. Instead, it rapidly runs off, resulting in flash flooding and mudslides. Where it does flow into a larger body of water like a lake or the ocean, phosphate levels soar, and biological blooms of deadly algae can occur. One area’s precipitation or lack of rainfall can quickly cascade into a regional, national, or global problem.
WHOSE WATER IS IT?
Beyond the exodus of populations impacting the global community, water rights, those who feel they are entitled to the water also create a host of problems. Whether it is Nestle bottling and selling water from public lands during a drought, or chip manufacturers having to scale back operations because they lack the precious resource, or its farmers being asked not to grow vital food, water is a commodity, the scarcity of which impacts us daily. In the United States, there are corporate and factory farming operations that have legislated reduced cost per gallon of vital water. In some cases, they then sell those water rights back to municipalities and refrain from growing anything. If they are guaranteed 1 million gallons at 3 cents per gallon, but they can sell the rights to that water for 17 cents a gallon, can they be blamed for profiting from the sale? And one million gallons is actually low for a farming operation. It takes one gallon of water to grow a single almond and five gallons of water for a single walnut. In a complex legislative shell game, farmers can acquire rights and then sell those rights and produce nothing.
During a time of drought, their profits continue to go up though they produce and grow nothing.
In other countries around the globe, the problem of water scarcity is an even more significant one. Heavy-handed militaries or tribal warlords can seize water resources or withhold aid for victims of either drought or extreme precipitation events. This sends a hungry population far from their borders or compounds global insecurities. China, India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh are the top 4 countries growing rice. Combined, these four countries account for just shy of 70% of all the rice grown in the world. India currently faces its worst water crisis in history. Since 2015, India has been experiencing widespread drought conditions. Some 600 million people in India are presently facing high to extreme water stress. Add to this the ravaging effects of COVID, and India's rice production is plummeting. That’s almost 25% of the world’s rice. Just ten years ago, and these tend to be cyclical events, a drought so bad in China decimated the wheat-producing regions. At the same time, what water was obtained was allocated to manufacturing over farming.
Even as floods occur in some areas and droughts in others, there will be a constant struggle over who owns the water. The rich have been buying water rights with the understanding that H20 is the newest commodity, and whoever controls that commodity can make huge profits even as others might suffer.
WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?
The first thing you should do is understand the implications of both droughts and floods. Recognize that this will cause shortages in everything from the grain we eat to the microchips we place in every single piece of technology. When water is in scarcity, mining operations have to scale back operations. The fossil fuel industry has to scale back operations. Water is the critical element in everything we produce and consume. Industrial water is used for fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting a product. Water is also used by smelting facilities, petroleum refineries, and industries producing chemical products, food, and paper products. You can’t live for three days without water. Even if you have enough stored up for a little bit of time in the event of an emergency, I guarantee your neighbors don't. They would be desperate and at death's door in about 72 hours.
You need to implement your prepping plan for this vital resource. If you have the means and area to set up a rainwater collection system or rooftop precipitation collection system, now would be a good time to start making moves in that direction. If you own a piece of land and have considered drilling or repairing a well on it, now would be the time. If you have a slow, natural bubbling spring on an older property, now might be a good time to begin restoring it to its pioneer day glory. If you have always wanted to set up a hydroponic vegetable garden in your
back acres or garage, now might be the time to do so. The reason being that new laws that might later restrict your ability to do so will likely have to grandfather you in to pass the legislators. Even in the suburbs, a rainwater collection system can dramatically increase your odds of survival through disasters that may stretch into weeks or months. As a side benefit, your water bill will significantly decrease if you also use that water for irrigation and gardening or even washing your car. Suppose there are no actual means for you to tap into and access the free and natural water flow in the environment. In that case, you must plan to store up water in your home and have a means to collect, filter, and treat water from wild natural resources.
Just recently, officials in Florida revealed that the water treatment plant’s facilities were hacked. The hackers increased the sodium hydroxide levels from one hundred parts per million to eleven thousand parts per million. If you’re not familiar with sodium hydroxide, it is more commonly known as lye and is the primary ingredient in drain cleaners. If the real plant operators had not been monitoring the systems and hackers also overrode the sensors and redundancy programs, an entire city could have been poisoned. Whether you are in the country or the city, you should be filtering your water for health and safety reasons. You can’t rely on your little refrigerator filter because it isn’t very effective, and it wouldn’t work in a grid down disaster anyways. Even the most natural sources can be polluted by agricultural and industrial operations miles and miles away from where you tap into it. So, the
investments you make now in sound filtration systems will pay you dividends when disasters strike. I have been using a Berkey water filtration in my home for many years, so I know my family’s drinking and cooking water is safe and free from all contaminants.
Even if you are in tight living spaces and can filter and treat water, you should have some water stored. Some recommend at least seventy-two hours worth. That is about three gallons per person. I would suggest an absolute minimum of a week’s worth and optimally a month’s worth or more. That is between seven gallons per
person and thirty gallons per person. Even in tight spaces, this can be achieved with ten WaterBricks filled and placed under a bed. You can also line your car’s trunk area or place several in your basement or loft spaces. If room permits, 55- gallon food-grade drums will weigh almost 500 pounds when full but can provide water through even a prolonged disaster. Whatever is suitable for you, make sure you have a supply of personal water stored for you and your family.
Droughts and floods are a timeless problem. In times past, whole societies were forced to move where the water flowed. Today, we aren’t so nimble. When the rains stop where once they flowed, or the rains start where once they rarely did, food production and manufacturing stop. People are forced from their homes. Even if this all occurs thousands of miles away from us, the impact on us locally is still felt. Water security is the cornerstone of good prepping. Even before you store food, you should make sure you have a means to collect, filter, and store water.
What do you think? What’s your water plan? Are you feeling the effects of water shortages?
As always, please stay safe out there.