Running Out of Water

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Running Out of Water

With the world’s attention focused on failing energy supplies, another vital resource—pure water—rapidly drains away.
From the July 2001 Trumpet Print Edition

The most precious resource on Earth is not oil or electricity, but water. Humans can survive without petroleum and electric power, but not without pure, usable water for drinking and crop irrigation.

Water is the most abundant substance on our planet’s surface. About 326 million cubic miles of water in liquid and frozen form make up Earth’s oceans, lakes, streams, glaciers and ground waters. The problem, however, is that most of this water is not pure, and therefore not usable.

A water crisis is in the making in most of the underdeveloped world, and even parts of modern, developed nations. Today, some 1.2 billion people—nearly one out of every three in the underdeveloped world—do not have access to a safe and reliable supply of water for their daily needs. And signs of water distress are increasing even in such advanced nations as America, Israel and Australia.

Mankind is depleting the Earth’s store of usable water at a pace that will soon threaten our global food supply. Already, millions die and thousands starve or become ill each year because of mismanaged water supplies.

The technology exists to solve these problems, yet this world’s governments rarely seem to make global access to pure water a priority.

Our Limited Water Supply

The amount of pure water on our planet is finite. There is no more water now than existed thousands of years ago. Essentially the same quantity of water has continuously circulated, changing from vapor in the atmosphere, to rainfall on land or water surfaces, then back to the atmosphere as a result of total evaporation. Anciently, Israel’s King Solomon observed this phenomenon and wrote: “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (Eccl. 1:7).

This process, called the hydrologic cycle, functions much like a gigantic distillery. The sun’s rays heating the oceans and other bodies of water cause water to evaporate. The vapor-laden air eventually drops its moisture in the form of rain or snow. The precipitation which falls on land runs off into lakes, rivers and streams, providing fresh water suitable for man’s use. Typically, 10 to 20 percent of this groundwater seeps down beneath the crust of Earth’s continents and into extensive networks of water-bearing strata, or underground aquifers.

More than 97 percent of all water on Earth is salty ocean water. Of the remainder, about 2 percent is trapped in icecaps and glaciers. That leaves less than 1 percent (approximately 3 million cubic miles) of fresh groundwater as a usable resource.

Despite this small percentage, the amount of pure water in existence could support several times the current world population. Yet it is not even supplying the present-day needs of Earth’s 6.1 billion inhabitants.

Why? The answer is, because of man’s abuse and mismanagement of the planet’s resources, generously given by the Creator God—and the ensuing withdrawal of His blessings!

Population Explosion

One of the greatest and most awesome of present-day phenomena is the population explosion. From antiquity, human societies have tended to locate and develop near river basins, lakes and other pure-water sources. The problem is, over time, growing populations have increased out of proportion to readily available water supplies. Population as a whole today is not distributed in the same way that pure water is.

The modern state of human affairs is comparable to the antediluvian world mentioned in Genesis 6, “when men began to multiply on the face of the earth.” The human population, which started with just two people, grew slowly over a long period. By Noah’s time however, there had been a population explosion not unlike the one we face today.

History has indeed repeated itself. At the turn of the 20th century the world was host to some 2 billion citizens. Today it is teeming with three times that amount!

In 1950, there were fewer than 100 cities with a population in excess of 1 million. According to recent United Nations estimates, that number is expected to rise to 650 by 2025. Even now, some 23 cities—18 of them in the underdeveloped world—have populations exceeding 10 million.

Worldwide, approximately half of all people live in urban areas. The areas of the greatest rise in population are the underdeveloped parts of the world—the “have not” nations plagued by poverty, illiteracy and disease.

Some of the world’s largest cities, including Beijing, Buenos Aires, Dhaka, Lima and Mexico City, already are, or soon will be, unable to provide safe, clean water and adequate sanitation facilities for their citizens. Ironically, most available fresh water is found in developed nations, which have only one fifth of the world’s population.

Pure water is most appreciated where it is scarce. But in those societies that have had an ample supply of pure water, the tendency has been to take it for granted. Turn the tap on, out comes the water. Besides air for breathing, perhaps no other substance is less appreciated by those who have it than water.

According to UN figures, 20 percent of the world’s population, in 30 countries, currently face water shortages, a statistic that will likely rise to 30 percent of the world’s population, in 50 countries, by 2025.

Because of the demand for increased food production and a rising global standard of living, the demand for water is increasing at twice the population growth rate, says Dr. Hans van Ginkel, of the UN University. Water shortages are especially adverse for agriculture, which consumes 70-80 percent of all available fresh water in the world.

The consequences of increasing global water scarcity will largely be felt in the arid and semi-arid areas, in rapidly growing coastal regions and in the mega-cities of the underdeveloped world. Conflicting needs of cities, industry, wetlands and farms portend bitter water wars.

Pollution

Another factor responsible for today’s disappearance of pure, usable water is pollution.

Over the past six millennia, man has abused, polluted, tarnished and ruined nearly everything his hands have touched. He has depleted the soil by failing to let it lie fallow every seven years. He has denuded the forests, raped the farmlands, and befouled the atmosphere with a host of airborne pollutants, thus causing acid rain, altering rainfall patterns and contributing to the expansion of desert wastelands. He has also contaminated the waters in the rivers, lakes and oceans by dumping enormous quantities of industrial chemicals and hazardous wastes into fresh water supplies.

Other sources of water pollution are household detergents and drain solvents, salt used for melting ice, filth from city streets, insecticides and chemical fertilizers from agriculture, raw sewage from animal farms—the list goes on and on.

Drought

Drought is another aspect which contributes to the scarcity of pure water supplies. Drought is caused by rain either not falling, or falling in the wrong place—over the oceans, for example, instead of over the land. This produces a whole new set of complications.

Right now, much of India, Korea, China and Afghanistan is suffering from prolonged drought. Looming droughts in Brazil and Australia are hindering farmers and ranchers.

Jordan, Iran and Israel are also in desperate need of rainfall. Israel’s Water Management Committee declared in May that three consecutive winters of drought have rendered Israel’s fresh water reserves insufficient to meet expected demand (Jerusalem Post, May 12). All three Middle Eastern countries are considering introducing water quotas and mandating year-round bans on watering lawns and washing cars.

In the northwestern U.S., salmon fishing has been suffering because of below-average rainfall. The huge High Plains (Ogallala) Aquifer, the primary water source for the American Great Plains (once called America’s “breadbasket”) has been so heavily depleted that parts of Kansas and other Midwest areas may soon have to switch to rain-fed agriculture. The Colorado River basin, too, is overtapped. Likewise, the water table under the agriculturally critical San Joaquin Valley in California has fallen so much that land sinks. Overpumping in that region has caused one section of farmland to drop 29 feet.

The May 27 edition of the Sacramento Bee stated (emphasis mine throughout), “…much of California agriculture remains just a drought away from disaster. And the problem, like the energy crisis, is at root one of supply and demand. We either need more water or we need to use less of it, or, likely, a combination of the two.”

Concerning the U.S.’s driest state, Florida, Associated Press reported on April 19, “For three straight years, the Florida formula has been the same: Too many people, not enough raindrops. Everglades marshes have turned into mud flats. Overpumped wells in the Tampa Bay area have sucked nearby lakes and wetlands dry. So much salt has intruded on depleted well fields in parts of southwest Florida that people on low-sodium diets have been warned not to drink the water. Already it’s being called a crisis. It could have the makings of a disaster.

As the water level drops around the nation, it is becoming more expensive to bring in water by pipelines and electric pumps. Yet, liberal water usage continues unabated. “Most experts believe people won’t save water until it costs what it is actually worth. Water is now essentially free. Most consumers pay only the cost of treatment and delivery. In some places, it is even illegal to meter water” (Associated Press, May 12).

If agricultural output declines substantially in California, Florida and the Midwest, significant effects, nationally and internationally, will occur.

What is needed is rainfall in the right places, at the right times and in the proper amount. But that is going to be increasingly rare in the years just ahead—for reasons most people would not expect!

Rain in Due Season

The period of time God has allowed for humans to struggle with their problems in their own way is about to come to a close. This world, as we know it, is about to end.

Mankind’s history is one long record of rebelling against God’s government and laws. Our great God, who made all things through Jesus Christ, will punish humanity—just as a parent punishes a disobedient child—until we learn our lesson.

One of the ways God punishes nations is to shut off their water supplies: “Take heed…[lest] the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly…” (Deut. 11:16-17).

No, the Bible is not silent concerning the coming world water crisis. Long ago, God foretold that because of society’s mounting sins, skyrocketing crime, divorce rates, broken homes, plummeting moral standards and our total ingratitude to Him for the blessings bestowed upon our nations—including pure, abundant water—we are going to see the day when the taps run dry (Amos 4:6-8).

To a rebellious and self-willed people, God thunders, “The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke…and thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed” (Deut. 28:20, 23-24).

If pure water is already in short supply in many areas, what will happen when droughts increase, drying up what moisture there is? Will we finally come to our senses and at last submit to God’s ways that bring satisfaction, peace and prosperity?

God takes no pleasure in the punishment of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). He rather desires that humans live in health and prosperity. In Leviticus 26:3-4, our merciful Creator promises to provide plenty of rain to those who obey Him: “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.”

Some are convinced that scriptures such as these are merely recorded history. But you can easily prove that these are, in fact, prophecies for today—and for the soon-coming World Tomorrow!

Water Everywhere

God predicts sweeping reforms everywhere in the utopian age He says will soon erupt on this Earth.

When God sends Jesus Christ to set up His Kingdom over all nations, one of the top priorities of God’s perfect government will be to completely redevelop and shape the Earth into an Eden-like paradise! He will not attempt to reform, mend or patch up today’s evil society. He will start all over—virtually from scratch!

Imagine it!

As the nations learn to submit to God’s government, they will no longer be cursed with water shortages. Gentle rains will fall in the appropriate seasons (Ezek. 34:26) and in the right balance (Ps. 65:9-13). Accessible, pure water will abound. Complicated man-made irrigation systems and huge dams will become obsolete.

It is just as Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his visionary book Mystery of the Ages: “…God has the solution, and how simple it is. Simply make most of the earth cultivatable. Reduce the bare, snow-swept and craggy mountains, raise up some of the deep, arid desert valleys, change the world weather patterns.

“Make all the deserts green and fertile. Open up huge slices of the Earth, like the Kalahari Desert, the Lake Chad basin and the Sahara in Africa, the Gobi Desert in Asia, and the great American deserts. Make green and verdant the vast wastes of Mongolia, Siberia, Saudi Arabia and much of the Western U.S.

“Thaw out the deep ice packs and snowdrifts, the permafrost and tundra from the vast, almost limitless expanses of Antarctica, North America, Greenland, Northern Europe and Siberia. Make level the awesome Pamir Knot, the huge giants of the Himalayas, the Atlas, Taurus, Pyrenees, Rockies, Sierras and Hindu Kush—level the immense sweep of the Andes, and all the other forbidding, towering, virtually uninhabitable mountains of Earth.”

Does this sound like some far-fetched pipe dream?

In the hands of man—absolutely! With God however, nothing is impossible.

Look what God promises: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains [artesian wells] in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isa. 41:17-18).

Thank God that someday soon the world’s water problems—in fact, all its problems—will at last be solved!