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The end of natural water scarcity

Luis Antonio Bittar Venturi Author information Associate Professor in Physical Geography at the Departmnent of Geography - University of São Paulo – Brazil. Corresponding author Department of Geography – University of São Paulo Avenida Prof. Lineu Prestes, 338 Cidade Universitária São Paulo – SP CEP 05508-000

Abstract It has been widely proposed that water scarcity is unavoidable and may or not lead to conflicts. Most authors jump directly to the consequences of a supposed idea of water scarcity. Here, we reject this hypothesis through two arguments. Firstly, we remind that fresh water stocks are fed by oceans, hence, it is incongruous think about water scarcity. Secondly, we demonstrate that presently, humankind is able to produce freshwater in industrial rhythm, leading to a total independence of groundwater. Using a 12-year dataset of water production in Dubai, we show that production of freshwater from desalination plants and from groundwater sources grows inversely indicating that this latter is irrelevant to water supply and its contribution will soon be annulled. We then conclude that water must be conceived not only as ‘inexhaustible’, but also as a ‘producible’ resource.

  Sponsoring information This studywas sponsored by FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo). I Background and introduction The threat of water scarcity has been widely emphasised by scientists, politicians and the mass media. For many years, most scientific articles on this subject have suggested that water scarcity will cause conflicts in the future. This idea is known as the ‘water-war hypothesis’. Gleick (1993), Homer-Dixon (1999), Ohlsson (1999) and Berman & Wihbey (1999) have all stressed this possibility. The last authors, referring to the Middle-East, claimed that nations would be sliding toward conflict over water. In addition to academic experts, political authorities, including three UN Secretaries-Generals, have strongly warned of conflicts due to water scarcity. According to Katz (2011) Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary- General from 1992 until 1996, asserted that “The next war in the Middle East will be over water”. His successor, Kofi Annan, who was Secretary-General from 1997 until 2006, echoed this assertion in 2001: “Fierce competition for freshwater may well become a source of conflict and wars in the future”. The current UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has also emphasised that “Water scarcity has created a high risk of violent conflict”. However, other scholars have disagreed with the water-war hypothesis; they argue that this prediction has been artificially created in response to various interests and that the prediction has no empirical foundation. These authors include Klare (2001), Simon (1980), Singer (1987), Rebouças (2004) and Katz (2011), who argue adamantly against the hypothesis. Based on the lack of empirical evidence for wars over water, Katz (op cit) severely criticises the proponents of the water-war hypothesis:

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The end of natural water scarcity

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