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All over the world, wells are drying up and water tables are dropping low. Altogether, 18 countries around the world are over-pumping their underground water resources to the point where the level of water available is being reduced each year and will eventually run out. The head of the Earth Policy Institute warns that this could lead to a global food shortage in the not-too-distant future.

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According to an essay written by Lester Brown, who is the head of the Earth Policy Institute, the real threat to the world is not that we are nearing peak oil production, but that we have reached peak water. Not only do we require water to survive, but the food we eat takes massive amounts of water to produce. Without it, the grain that makes up nearly half of the world’s calories may become a precious commodity.

Water can come from rivers or aquifers, and there are two types of aquifers: those that replenish through rainfall and those that do not. It is the latter that is most concerning, because as we tap those sources, there isn’t any more once they run out. China, India, the US, Iran, Pakistan and Mexico all over-pumping their aquifers, along with at least a dozen other countries. In Saudi Arabia, the impact has already resulted in a forced reduction in wheat planting in order to phase out the crop by 2016. At that point, the country will rely entirely on imports to fill the gap. Syria and Yemen are also experiencing grain shortages.

In the western plains of the United States, one of the largest areas for grain production, farmers have relied on the Ogallala aquifer for water and in some areas the wells are beginning to run dry. In fact, Texas’ water supply peaked in 1975 and Oklahoma not long after, in 1982. More recently, Nebraska peaked in 2007. Accordingly, water has become the biggest constraint on food supply, according to Brown, and the situation will only getting worse.

Via The Guardian

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