At this moment, rain is coming down hard in my neighborhood, with the occasional sharp crack of lightning to scare the cat. The down spouts of my gutters gushing with water, most washing down the driveway and into the street. One of my “to-do list” items is a rain water barrel for the corner near the garden. Don’t think I’ll get to it until the Fall though.
So, it’s with a bit of sad humor at the rainfall that I sit here reading background articles on the Aral Sea. Perhaps you’ve seen the news reports about U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit there Sunday, touring the area.
If not, then here’s the basic facts.
The Aral Sea is located in Central Asia, between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which for most of us who don’t keep up with all the “Stans” means it lies north of the Iranian and Afghanistan border. It was once the fourth largest fresh water body but has since shrunk to 10% of its original size. This is because the Soviets have diverted the water flowing from the two rivers that feed the sea to agriculture. With no water coming in, evaporation did its work. Begun in the 20s but stepped up in the 40s, it did succeed in growing alot of crops but then destroyed the fishing industry of the people who lived on the sea.
While the shrinking of the sea was foreseen by Soviet planners, one of the unplanned on consequences has been that when the water evaporates it leaves behind deposits of salt and toxins from the pollution that plagued the sea. Now winds blow those chemicals into the atmosphere where people breath them.
Many of our water supplies are drying up due to our own actions. Here in the US, the Ogallala Aquifer in the southern high plains (Texas and New Mexico) is being mined at a rate that far exceeds replenishment. 36 states in the U.S. in some form of water stress, from serious to severe.
I’ve said we face a world of the future that will be both hot due to climate change and scarce due to the depletion of needed resources. While I can do without oil if need be, none of us can go for long without water.
The Aral Sea is one of the first casualties of the coming days. I don’t think it will be the last.
ADDED: I thought this article was a grim reminder of the fact that economic reality doesn’t always mean physical reality.
You’d think that if you used less of something, your costs would also go down. Not in our world it seems…
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