It was water scarcity that destabilized Syria, sparked a war, and sent more than 1 million refugees fleeing into Europe. Analysts have attributed the Arab Spring revolutions in several countries to shortages of water, and thus grain and rapidly rising food prices, pushing about 150 million people into poverty, according to the World Bank. Now, water shortages are spreading to the United States.
n 2008 King Abdullah, in order to maintain the political stability of Saudi Arabia, stopped the production of wheat and other water-intensive crops such as hay, and directed Saudi food companies to search overseas for farmland with access to freshwater. He promised to subsidize their operations.
Almarai, which is Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company, bought land in Arizona in 2015, and began pumping up billions of gallons of water in the Arizona desert to grow hay and wheat, which it exports back to the Middle East. Analysts refer to this as exporting “virtual water.” It is more cost effective to use the Arizona water to irrigate land in America and ship the hay to Saudi Arabia rather than filling a fleet of oil tankers with the water. Arizonans living near Almarai’s hay operation say their groundwater is dropping fast as the Saudis and other foreign companies increase production. They are now worried their domestic wells might suffer the same fate as those in Syria and Yemen.
In January, more than 300 people attended a meeting in rural La Paz County, Ariz., to listen to the head of the state’s water department discuss how long their desert aquifer would last. Five sheriff’s deputies stood guard at the event to ensure the meeting remained civil. Thomas Buschatzke, Arizona’s water director, defended the Saudi farm, saying it provides jobs and increases tax revenue. He added that “Arizona is part of the global economy; our agricultural industry generates billions of dollars annually to our state’s economy.”
But state officials admit they don’t know how long the area’s water will last, given the increased water pumping, and announced plans to study it. (A precis of an article by Nathan Halverson, April 11, 2016)
What is at the root of all this, aside from global climate change? Population growth, the one subject that no one will talk about, religious denominations in particular. There is massive, unrestrained growth in population, particularly in hot, waterless moslem countries. It isn’t just bad governance they suffer from, but lack of family planning and freedom of women to choose how many children they have. For those who think that too many people have no affect on water resources and food, don’t complain about massive migrations and an increasing number of wars,