In Mertzon and Barnhart in western Texas, the worst drought in two generations is choking the water supply. Water shortages are raising tensions between locals and the fracking industry. Drilling for shale gas uses up to 8m gallons of water each time a well is fracked. Suzanne Goldenberg reports
What is life going to look like as our precious water resources become increasingly strained and the western half of the United States becomes bone dry? Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century in the western half of the country in 1000 years, and now things appear to be reverting to their normal historical patterns. But we have built teeming cities in the desert such as Phoenix and Las Vegas that support millions of people. Cities all over the Southwest continue to grow even as the Colorado River, Lake Mead and the High Plains Aquifer system run dry. So what are we going to do when there isn’t enough water to irrigate our crops or run through our water systems? Already we are seeing some ominous signs that Dust Bowl conditions are starting to return to the region. In the past couple of years we have seen giant dust storms known as “haboobs” roll through Phoenix, and 6 of the 10 worst years for wildfires ever recorded in the United States have all come since the year 2000. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, “the average number of fires larger than 1,000 acres in a year has nearly quadrupled in Arizona and Idaho and has doubled in every other Western state” since the 1970s. But scientists are warning that they expect the western United States to become much drier than it is now. What will the western half of the country look like once that happens?
Droughts, it could be argued, are the opposite of news. By definition, they represent the absence of something (namely, adequate rain) happening. And they only occur when that something has already been not-happening for a very long time. As a result, droughts tend not to make the front page. When they do – as happened last summer, when headlines trumpeted the worst U.S. drought conditions in 50 years – the public gets concerned. But soon enough, droughts begin to feel like business as usual again, invisible in their very ubiquity.
The drought-drained Mississippi River will rise slightly later this week between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois, but later continue its decline toward historic lows, according to a National Weather Service forecast.Low water, due to the worst U.S. drought since 1956, has already impeded the flow of billions of dollars worth of grain, coal, fertilizer and other commodities between the central United States and shipping terminals at the Gulf of Mexico.
A further drop in river levels could halt commercial shipping traffic entirely by this weekend, the American Waterways Operators and the Waterways Council Inc said in a statement on Wednesday.
For six of the last eleven years the world has consumed more food than it has produced. This year, drought in the United States and elsewhere has put even more pressure on global food supplies than usual. As a result, global food reserves have reached their lowest level in almost 40 years. Experts are warning that if next summer is similar to this summer that it could be enough to trigger a major global food crisis. At this point, the world is literally living from one year to the next. There is simply not much of a buffer left. In the western world, the first place where we are going to notice the impact of this crisis is in the price of food. It is being projected that overall food prices will rise between 5 and 20 percent by the end of this year. It is becoming increasingly clear that the world has reached a tipping point. We aren’t producing enough food for everyone anymore, and food reserves will continue to get lower and lower. Eventually they will be totally gone.
The United Nations has issued an unprecedented warning about the state of global food supplies. According to the UN, global food reserves have not been this low since 1974… Continue reading »
Brace yourself for some painful “agflation”. That is the shorthand for agricultural commodity inflation, otherwise known as rising food prices.
Rabobank thinks the consumer impact could be less painful this time around compared to 2008, when there were severe shortages of wheat and rice. That is because today’s shortages are being seen more in crops used as animal feed, such as corn and soybeans. Photo: Reuters
Drought is good for business, says world’s largest commodities trading company
The United Nations, aid agencies and the British Government have lined up to attack the world’s largest commodities trading company, Glencore, after it described the current global food crisis and soaring world prices as a “good” business opportunity.
With the US experiencing a rerun of the drought “Dust Bowl” days of the 1930s and Russia suffering a similar food crisis that could see Vladimir Putin’s government banning grain exports, the senior economist of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, Concepcion Calpe, told The Independent: “Private companies like Glencore are playing a game that will make them enormous profits.”