As the world enters a new decade, the stress on available water continues in a downward spiral as the general populace takes little notice. Some who are directly affected state that global warming is responsible for Lake Chad and other lakes around the world to shrink. Without taking careful look at all available information, this would be a logical conclusion. However, it would be incorrect.
Lake Chad spans the countries of Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon and borders the Sahara Desert. Between 1963 and 2001, the lake shrunk by 95%. The United Nations Environment Program states about half of the shrinkage has been caused by climatic change while the other half is the result of high demand for agricultural water. (1)
Similar conditions can be found throughout the world. Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia is losing size due to eroding deforested and farmed land that is silting up the lake. California’s Mono Lake has lost 40% of its volume as the result of the diversions of its tributaries to Los Angeles. Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake has lost 80 % of its water due to increased agricultural, municipal and industrial demands. (2)
Without doubt, we all have witnessed the natural changes in the world’s climate conditions. Yearly rain and snowfall has not kept up with replenishing lakes and the rivers that feed them.
This could not happen at a worse time for the world’s water use continues to increase exceeding what is available. Irrigation leads the draw down to such an extent that water tables and lake levels are falling at a dramatic pace. Areas once submerged are now a combination of dry land beds and tangles of weeds.
The added pressure of an increased population drawing from bodies of water that can least afford it is another killing blow. Having access to free or cheap water has created a sense of entitlement including the belief that this precious resource “is mine.” As a result, thoughts of conservation remain a problem for the next person.
Then there is the water hungry industrial base that continues to receive a large portion of the depleting resource. Such is the case in Guadalajara Mexico. Its bustling manufacturing center has grown along with the city. To keep this economic engine turning, water is being drawn from Lake Chapala. With demands for water increasing throughout the region, this industry may lose a critical component for survival.
The water crisis that is affecting the region around Lake Chad portrays what is taking place globally. Currently there is little that can be done to replace what is now gone unless the skies open and release days of rain. Yet, there is a chance to stem the current flow by establishing on the local level, fair and equitable water management regulations.
1 – http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/sucking-dry-an-african-giant/
2 – http://www.earth-policy.org/index.php?/plan_b_updates/2005/update47