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Watering a Thirsty World [Slide Show]

See how overstretched freshwater supplies will increasingly influence the way we live.

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UNSIGHTLY BATHTUB RING

Lake Mead, seen here from the Hoover Dam, is at a record low level due to years of drought, which have depleted the flow of the Colorado River that feeds it. The white "bathtub ring" of mineral deposits on the rocky embankments indicates the high water levels of wetter years in the past.....[ More ]

DRIED UP AND OUT OF LUCK

Li Shujun, a 51-year-old farmer in Wuhuanchi, a small town in Liaoning Province, China, squats on his desiccated pond. The region has been hit with its worst drought in 30 years, leaving a million people without a sufficient supply of freshwater.....[ More ]

LEAKY LIFELINE

The All American Canal, which shuttles crucial irrigation water from the Colorado River to the valuable croplands of California's Imperial Valley, loses huge quantities of water from ground seepage and evaporation.....[ More ]

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP

Slow leaks from spigots and pipes can add up to substantial water losses over time. Experts say that small leaks in the water system of the average U.S. home can waste thousands of gallons (liters) each year.....[ More ]

DESERT SPRAWL

Experts question whether it makes sense to build fast-growing cities, such as Las Vegas, Nev., [shown here], in parched regions of the world. Nevertheless, concerted efforts to conserve municipal water supplies can help stave off shortages.....[ More ]

DESICCATION NATION

During a 1999 drought, a woman in Makueni, Kenya, draws life-giving water from a well. Although Kenya has received enough rainfall this year to support normal crop cultivation, the nearby Horn of Africa is currently coping with less than half of the region's average annual precipitation level.....[ More ]

BEST PLANS GONE ASTRAY

Despite a seemingly all-inclusive agreement to share the water resources of Australia's Murray-Darling River Basin between the local farming interests and the surrounding natural ecosystem, a severe, five-year drought has depleted the region's total supply, as shown here by the cracks in a dam on the Darling River near Parkes in western New South Wales.....[ More ]

CONSERVE IRRIGATION WATER

Crop irrigation consumes more freshwater than any other individual human use of the resource. Lining and covering irrigation canals to avoid ground seepage and evaporation could save huge amounts of water.....[ More ]

WATER IS NOT FREE

Freshwater in the developed world has traditionally been priced so low that users there have had no incentive to conserve it. Higher water costs would enlist market pressures to help drive people to reduce waste.....[ More ]

TRADING "VIRTUAL" WATER

Rather than sending freshwater to chronically dry regions around the globe, it often makes more sense to ship so-called virtual water in the form of foodstuffs and other products, such as the fruit on this cargo barge.....[ More ]

DRY SANITATION SAVES WATER

Municipal hygiene systems use substantial quantities of freshwater to remove human waste from urban and suburban areas so that it can be processed at a central location. So-called dry sanitation technologies, such as that employed in the Gebers Housing Project in Sweden, can save much of this freshwater for other applications.....[ More ]

MANUFACTURING FRESHWATER

Florida's Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant produces 25 million gallons (95 million liters) of freshwater daily by extracting salt from water pumped in from the Gulf of Mexico. Although modern desalination plants like this one employ high-efficiency reverse-osmosis technology to filter salt out of seawater, the high-pressure process consumes considerable amounts of energy.....[ More ]

PIPE DOWN

The municipal water distribution systems of many large U.S. cities were installed more than half a century ago. Researchers expect that the deterioration of this aging infrastructure will increasingly threaten the safety of public freshwater supplies.....[ More ]

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