Monday, October 10, 2011

Should We Be Freaking Out About Disappearing Drinking Water?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 2:30 PM

The Pacific island nation of Tuvalu nearly ran out of drinkable water over the weekend, leading to an understandable panic in the region, with nearby nations rushing desalination equipment to help out. Kiribati, another island nation, is also facing its own drinking water panic. Plus, both nations are among countries that might just cease to exist soon due to rising ocean levels.

Regardless of the cause, this seems like some evidence that global climate change is something to somewhat concerned about, right?

The country has suffered a drought during the past six months because of the La Niña weather pattern, which has curtailed rain in the region. Tuvalu's groundwater has been contaminated by rising sea levels and is not drinkable, so rainfall is critical to fulfilling its water needs.

Halfway between Australia and Hawaii, Tuvalu lies just below the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, and is comprised of nine coral atolls. It is the fourth-smallest country on the planet, with a landmass of 10 sq. mi. (25 sq km). Just under 11,000 residents call it home, half of whom reside in the capital. The high point of the islands is only about 15 ft. (5 m) above sea level, leaving it vulnerable to rising waters brought by climate change.

Neighboring Tokelau is also in a similar predicament and has declared its own state of emergency. The U.S. Coast Guard is delivering 36,000 gal. (136,275 L) of fresh water to Tokelau, in concert with a team from New Zealand that is providing additional supplies.

Numerous other islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans are threatened by rising sea waters, including the Maldives and the Seychelles. As the waters warm, they will expand; combined with the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, this spells trouble. Seas are predicted to rise up to 24 in. (60 cm) in the next hundred years, which could imperil thousands of coastal residents in low-lying areas. Unless stronger worldwide action on greenhouse gas emissions is taken, island nations like Tuvalu are in danger of disappearing entirely.

[HT: The Hairpin]

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