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Resource Crunch: Why Many Things Cost Much More

By Tom Randall and Eric Roston - 2012-02-06T18:24:40Z

Photograph by Sam Comen

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Peak Water--Era of Clean and Cheap Comes to an End

Water is plentiful on Earth; humans use less than 1/100 of one percent. This global abundance obscures local challenges. In many places, the tap is running dry. That's because there's a difference between usable water -- the kind that's clean and salt-free and located nearby, and unusable water -- everything else.

Many of the reservoirs of water humans draw on for farming, manufacturing and drinking are ground-water aquifers that took millennia to fill. These irreplaceable storage tanks are being depleted over just a few decades.

The era of cheap water has passed its peak, according to Peter Gleick, a California scientist who helped define the term "peak water" in 2010. The good news is there's plenty of water out there if the humans just learn to better manage it.

Read more energy & sustainability news.

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