“The purpose of the whole debate about peak water is to help raise awareness about the nature of the world’s water problems and to help drive toward solutions,” says the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick. But Gleick asserts that in the same way certain countries have been contending with “peak oil” concerns in recent years, they may soon also have to deal with “peak water” as well.
Unlike oil, water is largely a renewable resource, but countries in Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere are pumping groundwater faster than aquifers can replenish naturally. Gleick explains “there will be a peak of production in many of those places and eventually the food that we grow with that water or the widgets that we make from the factories that use that water will be nonsustainable and production will have to drop.”
The world’s surface and groundwater resources can be used sustainably even in the face of continued global population growth, says Gleick, but only “if we are careful about the ecological consequences and the efficiency with which we use it.” However, to date, he says, “those issues have not adequately been brought into the discussion about water policy.”