Fresh water – the source of life or an export good

Fresh water – the source of life or an export good

Nury AMANOV

The UN, international experts on water issuesand the media are sounding the alarm – in the world there is a growing scarcity of fresh water. A further aggravation of this problem can lead to mass migration of the population right up to the displacement of peoples and conflicts.

Water becomes scarcer for two main reasons. On the one hand, water intake for agriculture (70% of consumption) is increasing to meet the needs of the growing population of the Earth. On the other hand, as a result of global warming glaciers are melting, desertification of previously fertile lands is under way.

In addition, in some parts of the world, water tension fueled political confrontation. For example, there is enough water, but to achieve political goals, someone wants to establish control over the water resources of the region. What is not the reason to start … a war?

According to the UN forecasts, by 2040 the population of the earth will reach nine billion people, while fresh water will be able to cover only 70% of the needs of mankind. UN experts note that with the current fresh water situation in the world it can be called “blue gold”.

But if the experts of the Community of Nations start to speak of water as gold just now, in Central Asia many centuries ago they said: “A drop of water is a grain of gold.” As if they knew some secret of water, which others only got to know now.

One of the world’s leaders in freshwater reserves is Russia (only Lake Baikal accounts for 20% of the world’s reserves), which is second only to Brazil. According to experts, in the long term Russia can become one of the largest exporters of water, and first of all, to neighboring Central Asia. In the late USSR such water projects were developed, but they were never realized.

The potential consumers, along with the states of Central Asia, also include China, which plans to purchase fresh water in Siberia. Moreover, for the transfer of Baikal water to North China, water pipeline construction projects of more than seven thousand kilometers are being considered.

Meanwhile these are only calculations and estimates for the future. What hampers these plans to become reality is the low cost of water, which does not allow paying back transport and construction costs. However, according to experts, the price of drinking water in the world is growing, and as soon as water exports become profitable, that is, revenues will exceed expenditures, then a new industry will appear in the world economy – the export of fresh water.

This expression probably still sounds strange – we are used to supplyinf oil, gas, anything, but not water, through pipelines. God grant that the commercialization of the sacred water for the inhabitants of Central Asia occurred as late as possible. But much depends on people living in the countries of the region. The region, of course, does not have too much water but the point is to carefully use the water that is available. I believe that if we start saving, it will turn out that the water we have is not so scarce afterall. In any case, there might be much more of it than we thought before.

It is no coincidence that the agriculture of Turkmenistan and other countries of the region have adopted a course on the introduction of advanced water use technologies and mainly drip irrigation. Experts believe that optimizing the use of irrigation water in the agro-industrial complex, according to the most conservative estimates, will save up to 30% of it. Which will postpone the time when water from the source of life will turn into an export commodity.