The Water Wars – when not if

Well, well. It has come much earlier than I thought it would.

We have been talking about the imminent water wars for a couple of years now in my household and beyond. Coming from drought-flood-drought Australia, I have always been super aware of water usage and even set up water collection tanks on my urban property because the town’s reticulated supply often ran low and I like gardens. Having also lived on rural properties, water storage is essential for stock, gardens and household use anyway, so I was always used to it.

Urban water tanks under eaves of my old house

Garden water tanks in my old house

Understandably then, here in Scotland, I am horrified by what I see as the profligate waste of water. Often I am told that in Scotland there is so much water that it doesn’t matter and I can just relax.

Grumpily I retort that when the water wars start, expect Scottish Water to sell the excess to the highest bidder. I tend to think globally these days not nationally.

Today’s headline in The Independent reads Scotland offers to sell its water.

England is starting to suffer droughts and climate change consequences and hasn’t the same storage capacity that hilly Scotland has. Scottish Water started to offer water to England in March.

It would be expensive and a logistical nightmare and the offer may not be ‘commercially viable’ at this stage. There will come a time when the cost won’t be a consideration. Without water, we can’t live. It really is that simple.

Oil tankers may end up refitted as water tankers and ply the seas delivering Scottish water to places that need it. It is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility. It is also probable that residential houses will be required to store and conserve their water use. Someone told me he finds it obscene that drinking water from a tap is used to water gardens. Good point.

All ratios of fresh to salt water on this planet are approximations however the figures seem to hover around 2.1% locked in icecaps, 97% as salty oceans and the difference found in groundwater, freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. Not much in the atmosphere.

English: Graph of the locations of water on Earth

English: Graph of the locations of water on Earth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Water cycle

Water cycle Other language versions: Català Czech español Finnish Greek Japanese Norwegian (bokmål) Portugese Romanian עברית Diné bizaad (Navajo) and no text and guess water vapor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Moreover, people seem to have difficulty comprehending the simple fact that the amount of water is stable. No more is being made.

The water cycle is a closed system and how we manage it is becoming extremely important. Put simply, water demand is growing while water supply, due to contamination and pollution, is decreasing.

Water travelling to the sea takes all manner of salts with it. This goes some way to polluting the sea water, the effects of which we can see and measure.

Ancient groundwater is being used in countries like Australia at a faster rate than it can be replenished. And, global population keeps increasing, so does land being used to feed us. To speed the agricultural cycles, we are using more fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides – all the excess from these uses is contaminating and polluting the run off to the sea. Then we have nutrient problems in the sea with its effect on all sea life.

So I can’t just be complacent because I now reside in Scotland. The variability of availability of water for human use is an increasing problem and one we will all have to face eventually.



One comment on “The Water Wars – when not if

  1. Dod says:

    “Someone told me he finds it obscene that drinking water from a tap is used to water gardens. Good point.”

    I don’t find it obscene at all. If the water applied to the garden is needed to grow foodstuffs then that’s good use of water.

    Obviously one could argue that gardeners might store rainwater and that’s true, but most would find the installation expense incurred hard to swallow considering the fact that farmers in Scotland often set up huge sprinkler systems in their fields in summer.

    As far as I know all water from a tap in Scotland is drinking water – and very good water too! Here are just a few other processes using tap water I can think of.

    1. Industrial manufacturing not near rivers.
    2. Vehicle radiators.
    3. Car washers.
    4. Laundries.
    5. Transport.
    6. Central heating systems (domestic and otherwise).

    The list goes on and on. Everything we do is water based, we are water based! So given the comparatively miniscule amount of generally good use of water by gardeners, it seems the “obscene” comment was made by someone who didn’t give it much thought.

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