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Water shortages affect food, transit, security

A thousand tons of water produces just one ton of grain.

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Water also complicates a shift from fossil fuels, researchers pointed out at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The Toronto Star reports:

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"University of Texas professor Michael Webber, an environmental policy specialist, said so-called green fuels for vehicles all require much more water to produce than ordinary gasoline. Conventional oil refineries use comparatively modest amounts of water, largely for cooling.
"Webber said the water required for an alternate fuel vehicle to travel a certain distance can be up to 100 times that required for a gas-powered vehicle. This extra water use stems from the irrigation of crops like corn that are turned into ethanol, or in the production of the electricity for recharging hybrids."

In China, drought has made it difficult to supply reservoir water for irrigation while also providing generating capacity for downstream hydropower dams. Reuters reports:

"The frequency of both the droughts and floods that regularly batter China are expected to increase in a warmer world. And rural demands could compound the impact of short supplies, because China tends to time releases of water to suit the needs of farmers rather than power companies."

Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute think tank in Washington, is concerned that declining water supplies combined with the push for water-intensive biofuels could be a threat to global food security. Another Reuters story reports:

"The thing to keep in mind is that it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce one ton of grain.... Seventy percent of all the water we use in the world – that we pump from underground or divert from rivers – is used in irrigation. Not everyone has connected the dots to see that a future of water shortages will be a future of food shortages."