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By Climatologist Cliff Harris

Recently, our world has experienced record shortages of oil and food that will likely continue despite some relief in prices in the past couple of weeks.

But, a CATASTROPHIC WATER SHORTAGE on a global scale could eventually prove to be an even greater overall threat to Mankind later this century.

According to scientists at the recent Goldman Sachs ‘Top Five Risk’ economic conference in New York City, "WATER will be the PETROLEUM of this next century."

Lord Nicholas Stern, the World Bank’s former chief economist, recently stated, "governments around the globe have been very slow to accept the awful truth that usable (potable) water is running out. Fresh rainfall is not enough to refill the dwindling underground water tables."

Lord Stern went on to say, "water is not a renewable resource despite claims to the contrary. People have been ‘mining’ it without restraint due to its unacceptably low price."

Farming makes up more than 70 percent of the global demand for water. Fresh water used for irrigation seldom returns to its depleted underground basins. Most of this water is consumed by the crops in the field or lost through evaporation.

It’s also true that a few hundred miles of the Himalayas, where the glaciers are still in retreat despite a recent cooler climate, are the main source of water runoff for all of the major rivers in Asia, including the Ganges in India and the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers in China. Almost half of the world’s entire population lives in these areas of Asia.

By 2025, it is estimated that about one-third of the earth’s population will not have access to adequate supplies of critical drinking water.

China faces the worst water shortages in the coming decades. It makes up more than 21 percent of the world’s population, but it controls a mere 7 percent of the earth’s potable water supplies due to overpumping. Northern China’s water reserves have fallen 10% since 1990.

The current shifts to an animal protein diet across economically booming Asia have likewise added strain to the water shortage problems. For example, it takes 15 cubic meters of water on the average to produce 1 kg of beef, compared to just 6 meters for chicken and 1.5 meters for corn.

Elsewhere, Egypt is now threatening military action against any country that illegally draws water from the Nile River without a previous agreement. The Nile has dropped near 2 meters since 1990.

Due to the serious lack of vital irrigation water worldwide, nearly one billion people may face increased malnutrition, even starvation, by 2015.

They already can’t grow enough food, or simply can’t afford to buy it when it is available. This is certainly a seismic, potentially ‘catastrophic shift,’ in the global economy.