Forbes: Peter Gleick discusses the concept of ‘Peak Water’ in a guest column

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From Forbes (Peter Gleick):

Peak Renewable Water. Most water resources are renewable, in the form of flows of rainfall, rivers, streams, and groundwater basins that are recharged over relatively short time frames. Renewable, however, does not mean unlimited. When human demands for water from a watershed reach 100% of renewable supply, we can’t take any more, and we reach “peak renewable” limits…

Peak Nonrenewable Water. In some places, water comes from stocks of water that are effectively nonrenewable, such as groundwater aquifers with very slow recharge rates or groundwater systems damaged by compaction or other physical changes in the basin. When the use of water from a groundwater aquifer far exceeds natural recharge rates, this stock of groundwater will be depleted or fall to a level where the cost of extraction exceeds the value of the water when used, very much like oil fields…

Peak Ecological Water. Water supports commercial and industrial activity and human health, but it is also fundamental for animals, plants, habitats, and environmentally dependent livelihoods…

The good news, however, is that the assumption that a growing population and economy require ever growing amounts of water (or other natural resources) may be false. Indeed…the U.S. has continued to expand our economy and meet the demands of growing populations, with less and less water, through smarter technology, regulations, education, improved water pricing, and water conservation and efficiency programs…

Peak water may be a reality, but it doesn’t have to be a constraint on our well-being.

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