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Sam Asano's Let's Invent: Data points to water shortage

April 27. 2014 5:05PM

THIS WEEK features a two-part look at water.

PART I: "America is out of water!"

You might think the statement is inflammatory, incendiary, rabble-rousing and not true. I don't blame you to think that way if you live in the American Northeast such as New England. "What do you mean we have no water? We've always had plenty of it."

For some years I have been noticing with some alarm that we Americans are profuse wasters of water. Being a total outsider of the hydrological field, I have had a sense that we waste a lot of water, but it wasn't really my business to say anything about it. I thought vaguely that we must have a plentiful supply of water over the continent, so why worry?

For some strange reasons, alarm about the impending (well,'s already here!) water-shortage is considered as politically left-wing-originated, and is a pure propaganda based on nothing. So, this time I decided to look into the situation. Bear with me, who was never trained in the hydrology, the science of water source and uses. All I am relying upon is the statistics on source and use available from public sources including our government.

In FIG 1, I have listed the annual water consumption per capita in the developed countries. Again, United States and Canada far exceed in the individual consumption over the rest of the world. What you can observe through this chart is that the average consumption by most of the developed nations amounts to about half of the volume we Americans consume per year.

In fact, a Danish citizen consumes a mere 32,000 gallons of water per year while an American spends more than 409,000 gallons. That's close to 13 times than a Danish consumption. Is the Danish life that much different from that of America? I don't think so. A few times I stayed in Copenhagen didn't give me an impression that water use was extremely restricted.

So now let's discuss the current water availability in the continental United States: Well it doesn't look good. The major U.S. cities that would have water shortage are listed below in FIG 2. The chart lists the stress level of the water supply situations in the notable major cities. Basically all of these cities are teetering on the brink of water starvation, and one or two significant droughts would tip them to crisis.

FIG 3 is Water Supply Sustainability Index with Climate Change Impact calculated in up to 2050AD. The map clearly shows that the Southeastern United States and Florida Region are in dire straights for water. These graphics simply demonstrate, I believe, that we will have no water soon. Regardless of your political affiliation, Republican or Democrats, readers, please wake up. Water famine will be here shortly. In the red areas it is occurring now, and other areas it will happen in our children's generation.

PART II: Inventors' Lifetime Opportunity.

Part I of this week is an extremely abridged depiction of the impending water shortage of this country. There are literally hundreds of scholarly material published on this subject, and our readers should seek and read them to fully understand the very serious nature of this situation. As for us 99 percent inventors, this crisis presents us a lifetime opportunity in which to invent. Using water is a very old field. But, saving water is a new field. Especially in this country, the concept of water saving is new whereas we have been accustomed to spend water well ... like water.

The country where efforts to use water effectively as possible is Israel. It does make sense that the nation is located in the geopolitical situation where access to water is very limited. Thus an industry specializing in effective use of water with little waste as possible was born and grew there. A good example is what we now call Sub-Surface Drip Irrigation (SSDI) System. This system provides water and nutrient through a special hose buried underground at a depth of roots with a very low pressure. The great advantage of this system is that it prevents evaporation as water with nutrient is delivered directly underground to the roots instead of spraying through the air. Roughly 80 percent of water is lost in evaporation in the conventional spray irrigation. However, the hose needs to have a special valve installed at a determined interval. The valve prevents water from the outside to get into the hose when for some reasons the outside pressure gets to be bigger than the inside. An Israeli firm called Netfim perfected the solution, and is now a dominant supplier of SSDI systems.

Shintaro "Sam" Asano of New Castle can be reached at

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