Speaker 1: Turn on the faucet and clean water rushes out as much as we want, anytime we want. It’s easy to forget that the quest for this has been one of the defining struggles of human history. Civilizations that harnessed water thrived. The ones that failed fell. Today, seven in 10 people on earth can count on having running water in their homes.
Speaker 2: The water flows from the risers to connecting mains and finally through service connections into each building on the street at least.
Speaker 1: So they think Cape Town.
Speaker 3: It could become the first major city in the world to run out of water.
Speaker 4: Cape Town, South Africa is inching closer now to Daisy, just ninety
Speaker 5: two days away from having to shut off most water taps because of a severe drought.
Speaker 1: Cape Town is the first major city in the world to plan to indefinitely shut off its water supply. Four million people would stop getting running water. They get water rations and they’d need to line up at city water stations to get it. And it’s not just Cape Town, Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Jakarta, London, Beijing, Istanbul, Tokyo, Bangalore, Barcelona and Mexico City will all face their own desert in the next few decades unless their water use radically changes.
Speaker 6: There are perceptions that it is there and bountiful amounts and everyone has access to it because you can turn a tap and that’s a big problem.
Speaker 1: In fact, by 2040, most of the world won’t have enough water to meet demand year round.
Speaker 4: We’re facing a global water crisis and it’s getting worse. We’re at a real inflection point where if we’re not careful, we may actually get out ahead of our ability to to manage it.
Speaker 1: But there’s no substitute for water. Each of us will die in just a few days without it. How have we built a world where we don’t have enough of its most valuable resource? And as this crisis grows, what will the new world look like?
Speaker 2: Waterways built by the people to free the land of the tyranny of nature. For some investors, what they
Unidentified: see in this world is liquid. Gold was. Well, we’ll have to come to come out of it, takes on you let people play. There we take all walks of life. We know the air we breathe.
Speaker 1: Earth is the blue planet, there’s no shortage of water. We have 326 million trillion gallons of it. Always have, always will. Water may freeze into ice or evaporate in the air, but it doesn’t leave our planet. If you sucked up all the water on Earth, it would fit into this sphere. But 97 percent of it is salty and two percent is trapped in ice at the poles. So all of humankind relies on just one percent of that water to survive.
Speaker 4: When people talk about running out of water, what they really mean is do they have access to that very small percentage?
Speaker 1: And the answer depends a lot on where you live. Kuwait is one of the poorest countries in terms of water per capita and Canada, one of the richest, doesn’t have twice as much or even ten times as much. It has 10000 times as much. But it also matters where the water is that one percent of Earth’s water that we all rely on, most of it is underground and really difficult and expensive to get to. So humans have mostly settled close to surface water like rivers and lakes. Around 90 percent of the world’s population lives less than 10 kilometers from a fresh water source. Hundreds of years ago, when the Aztecs settled on what is now Mexico City, they saw a giant like these are the last remnants of the canals they made when the Spanish came in the 16th century. One soldier marveled at the Aztec city rising from the water. That seemed like an enchanted vision. But then the Spanish started draining the lake. And over the next few centuries, that space was filled by people like in most places, surface water in Mexico was treated as a public resource key to development. And since 1950, Mexico City’s population has exploded. It’s now home to 22 million people.
Speaker 2: I would say that some of the most important threats for Mexico City are related to water.
Speaker 1: Mexico City gets more rain than notoriously rainy London, but the lakes that would have collected that water are long gone. So the city floods, but they still need to pipe in most of their water from other parts of Mexico or they pump it from underground. We’ve gotten a lot better at accessing groundwater, but there is a catch. Those water deposits called aquifers have accumulated over millennia and they’ll take millennia to fill back up.
Speaker 4: Groundwater is sort of like the savings account, which it’s fine to draw. And sometimes, especially when you have a drought,
Speaker 1: that’s not what Mexico City has been doing.
Speaker 2: We take out from the local aquifer around 50 percent of our water supply. So that means that probably we’ll lose half of our supply of water in the next 30 to 50 years.
Speaker 1: Sucking up that groundwater has another side effect. It compresses the soil. Mexico City is literally sinking in some places as much as nine inches a year. NASA satellite data shows aquifers in northern India decreasing by 29 trillion gallons in just a decade. There are simply more people on Earth consuming more water. This century. Water consumption has increased seven fold and the rain and snow that we count on to water crops and refill lakes and rivers is getting less reliable.
Speaker 4: Climate change is making available water much more erratic. We’re seeing areas around the world that are experiencing much more extended dry periods.
Speaker 1: But the problem isn’t just that there’s more people on Earth using water. It’s how we’re using water. Humans need to drink almost a gallon of water per day. Brushing your teeth, washing your hands typically uses about a gallon. Well, there goes three gallons, but the drinking, washing and toilet flushing of every person on Earth only accounts for eight percent of our fresh water use each year. Most of the water goes to agriculture and industry and into the food and products we use.
Speaker 4: Let’s take a bottle of Coca-Cola. 90 percent of the water in that bottle is not what you see in that bottle. 98 percent of the water is actually embedded in all the ingredients that were brown to make that bottle of Coca-Cola
Speaker 1: 74 liters of water goes into every glass of beer, a cup of coffee, 130 liters each of your cotton shirts, 2500 liters. But nothing has as much embedded water as meat. Alfalfa is a common ingredient in cattle feed, and growing a kilogram of it takes 510 liters of water. An average cow consumes about 12 kilograms of feed a day. Divide it up. Just one quarter pound hamburger takes around 1650 liters of water to produce. The world is eating more and more like Americans, higher calorie diets with more meat. But everyone can’t eat like Americans. There actually isn’t enough water in the world. Water doesn’t abide by some of the basic rules of capitalism. Farmers hardly pay anything for it. So the true cost of water doesn’t end up in the cost of the burger, which is why those fast food places can offer you bargain burgers. How could it be
Speaker 2: 99 cents for only 299? You heard like to 99.
Speaker 1: In most places in the world, water is treated and priced like there will always be enough of it. So we end up using it in absurdly wasteful ways. Arid Southern California uses over two trillion gallons of water a year to grow alfalfa, which they get from the Colorado River hundreds of miles away. The amount they pay for it doesn’t even cover the cost of delivery. Just a fraction of the water used by South Africa’s wine industry would be enough for Cape Town’s taps. India and China both grow their most water intensive crops in some of their driest regions. But as water gets more scarce, that may change the bank. Goldman Sachs predicted that water would be the petroleum of the 21st century, and private interests, like hedge funds, have started buying up water, prompting fears that they’ll take advantage of scarcity to turn a profit. And if that sounds like a villain’s plot in a James Bond movie, that’s because it was
Speaker 2: as of this moment, my organization owns more than 60 percent of Bolivia’s water supply. This contract states that your new government will use us as utilities provide.
Speaker 1: But putting a higher price on water might have benefits.
Speaker 4: The benefit of valuing water, as we should and sending, you know, a price signal is that we wouldn’t be growing alfalfa in the desert.
Speaker 1: Remember that point? It’ll be important later.
Speaker 4: We wouldn’t be growing crops that don’t make sense in really arid places because the economics of it wouldn’t make sense.
Speaker 1: And 95 percent of the irrigated farmland in the world probably wouldn’t use the most inefficient irrigation method. Just flooding the fields and if water had a higher price, governments might decide it’s worth the money to repair our water infrastructure.
Speaker 2: We are not investing the financial resources needed to make good mundaneness of the system. One critical result of this is that we have 42 percentage of leakages in the water network.
Speaker 1: Mexico City, which is facing an existential water crisis, loses close to half of its drinking water to leaky pipes. We value water so little we dump two million tons of sewage and agricultural and industrial waste into it every day.
Speaker 4: There’s no sense of value to what what is really an incredibly an invaluable resource in water. But then when we run out, we find what the cost of water truly is.
Speaker 1: In 2017, the city of Mexicali finalized a deal with Constellation Brands, the maker of Modelo and Corona Beers, to construct a brewery. It will be the biggest investment the region had seen in years, creating 750 permanent jobs. And in exchange, the brewery was guaranteed a lot of water. But Mexicali doesn’t have a lot of water to spare. Its main water source is the Colorado River, which starts in Colorado in the U.S., fed by melting snow in the Rocky Mountains, warmer temperatures in recent years have meant less snow, which means less river. You can tell how much less by that big bathtub ring. The river flows south, quenching a few American cities along the way, like Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phenix and Los Angeles. Oh, and almost six million acres of farmland. By the time the Colorado River reaches Mexicali, it looks like this
Speaker 7: yesterday was the lawyer, so I wasn’t I wasn’t Stahler. He was here in Houston with the governor while I was sort of called Europeans as they painted me, John, as a matter of course, because I love this country that is promoting Senator. I mean, it was cool because my elderly mother. Well, that’s true, that
Speaker 1: the more scarce water gets, the more access to it becomes a competition with winners and losers, often with governments picking. In July 2013, the federal government of Mexico issued a decree making it easier for businesses like Constellation Brands to extract surface water all around the country
Speaker 7: will not be allowed to tap Mexico’s inoperable element in their society and partizan. They stand a little Chanderpaul. In contrast, as political parties have even spoken,
Speaker 1: in January 2013, protesters tried to physically block the construction of the breweries aquaduct
Speaker 7: covino alternative. In the beginning, Possum’s excuse it also. See, there is nothing. There’s nothing in this video went on to.
Speaker 2: Both animals could have been workers, won’t be bitterly.
Speaker 1: The is water scarcity is increasingly driving violent conflict all around the world.
Speaker 6: My personal experiences of where this has been, Dhiab, have been in northeast Nigeria, as we saw over the years and the drying up of Lake Chad. So did livelihoods dry up? And that tension really did erupt in a way in which governments could no longer contain it.
Speaker 1: Water scarcity is at the heart of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, which since 2003 has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. And some analysts say the Syrian civil war was caused in large part by a severe drought in 2006. As tensions rise over fresh water, governments are increasingly eyeing an idea that was once far fetched, creating more of it. Desalination of ocean water has more than doubled over the last decade, but the amount we make a year still adds up to less than one percent of the water we use.
Speaker 4: We’ve been waiting for the holy grail of breakthrough in how expensive it is to desalinate water, that is, to take ocean or brackish water that has a lot of salts in it from underground and treat it to drinking water standards. That takes a lot of money and it takes a huge amount of energy right now.
Speaker 1: That would make more sense if water was more valuable, but that would also mean the water and everything would cost more. The price of consumer goods would skyrocket. Some industries might collapse. Companies like Constellation Brands might make different decisions about where they set up their operations. Because remember
Speaker 4: the other benefit of valuing water as we should and sending, you know, a price signal is that we wouldn’t be growing alfalfa in the desert,
Speaker 1: growing cattle feed in the desert. And that’s what the Mona family does. And if water suddenly became the next petroleum, they’d be out of a living, too. The thing is, water isn’t like petroleum or any other commodity on earth, for that matter, because without water, we die. In 2010, the U.N. recognized access to water and sanitation as a human right. And that’s the challenge of our water crisis. How are you supposed to value an invaluable resource while ensuring everybody has it? When the price of water is raised to fix pipes or encourage conservation, it has the greatest impact on the poor.
Speaker 5: Sydney Water is pushing for a 15 per cent hike over four years, putting more pressure on family budgets to strive for water conservation. Water saving is now a burden that poor people must carry living
Speaker 4: on a fixed income. I cannot afford any of this.
Speaker 1: It might be that we don’t end up treating all water equally.
Speaker 2: We know that there is a certain percentage of water that’s around 60 liters per day per person that is associated with human rights issues. What about that? People should pay for water in 2017.
Speaker 1: Philadelphia has started experimenting with tying water prices to income.
Speaker 4: We need to price it in such a way that we protect basic human needs.
Speaker 1: The fact that we all need water makes this crisis exceptionally hard, but it can also inspire people to act in exceptional ways to solve it. Cape Town’s Dasia was first scheduled for March 18th, but then people started conserving.
Speaker 5: The water restrictions are clearly having some effect. Daisy has been pushed back by a Cape Town announce it has pushed back Daisy until July 9th.
Speaker 2: Authorities expect Daisy Arrow, as it’s been dubbed, to take place at the end of August instead of July.
Speaker 3: That’s since been pushed back to next year, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of residents and authorities.
Speaker 1: By early 2018, the city’s water consumption was less than half what it had been just four years earlier. And the day zero countdown clock was paused indefinitely.
Speaker 4: Not enough action was taken until they started talking about zero. That really got people’s attention and was remarkable between the time that the city started to talk about days zero and a month later, how much people cut back their water use and it goes to show what we can do.
Speaker 1: But Cape Town also got lucky. It rained. The trick is recognizing how valuable water is before there isn’t enough of it and remembering that our fates are tied to what rushes out of our taps,
Speaker 2: Mexico City was founded within a lake, but today a relation with water is very distant. It’s very important also to recover our historical consciousness with water. There are many actions that individuals can take in order to save water, but also to be aware that water has a value.