Canned Heat II: The Jig

Canned Heat I was published several months ago. To catch you up to date includes 2 flocks of chickens decimated by an 11 year old dog and a summer garden.

We finally got the chicken/dog issue straightened out. But the fact that chicks were sharing my work space and I wasn’t going to run power-tools and use chemical sealants around them, meant the Mister saw no need to make a jig if I wasn’t going to use it immediately. The upshot is, I am just now getting around to the 2nd phase of the project.

So after cleaning the cans I set up a jig on the drill press to take out the bottom of each can. Initially this consisted of a board bolted to the table on the drill press with a groove routed out.

After a couple of tests, in which I realized how much torque (twist) the hole saw created I had to figure out how to keep the can stable while the saw was cutting the bottoms. I hit upon this configuration:

This was held onto the table with 2 vice grip clamps. The Gorilla Tape helped to fill the space to create a snug fit, but was slick enough to allow the can to be inserted and removed smoothly. The bevel in the back allows the can to fit, as the hole saw was long enough to interfere with placing the can into the jig.

Note the sheet-rock screw. I found that if you put the screw inside the can opening and twist it until the side of the opening touches the screw, you simply have to hold the can down. This means you don’t have to squeeze the can to prevent it from spinning and you avoid crushing the can.

I used a 1.5″ bi-metal hole saw.

Please wear gloves and safety glasses. Drilling creates a lot of metal shavings. They are sharp and small and would not be pleasant under the skin.

Next, I needed to cut the tops to allow more air flow. You don’t want holes that are as big as the can, nor do you want them to align perfectly. Large, perfectly aligned openings, allow the air to move through too quickly for the air to make much contact with the warmed metal . So using a tin snips and cutting the top into a series of tabs will allow you to bend some of the tabs. The bent tabs create baffles, which creates turbulence in the air flow. This turbulence causes the air to touch the warmed metal more often, resulting in warmer air.

Next you will want to push some of the tabs down. Please don’t use fingers. I use an old stand by that you probably already have on hand: an inexpensive can opener.

So, all that done, I needed a jig to hold the cans in place while the adhesive cured.  I’ve seen people use angle iron and other types of contraptions, but the main idea is the keep the cans stable and in line while the sealant sets up.

And, although I love the Mister, he has a tendency to …*ahem* over build things. (At least in my humble opinion) And the jig for the cans was no exception. All I needed was two 2×4’s joined to form a right angle. But nooooo….. I got a fancy jig instead. One that took a lot longer to build, but I’m not sure works any better. But, at least he got the job done. Sometimes that’s all you can ask.

So we’ve jumped ahead a bit with this picture, but I just wanted to show you the basic idea.

I’m using a sealant for roof flashing. It is U.V. and heat resistant. It takes 24 hours to cure before painting, hence the need for a jig to held it in place. I’ve found it best to apply sealant to several cans at once, then place them in the jig, making sure that the cans are seated one atop the other and in contact with the sides of the jig. Use enough to adhere the tops and bottoms together, but not so much that you have to do a lot of clean up after the sealant dries.

I can do about 1 1/3 stacks a day. So, in less than two weeks I should be able to the 16 stacks needed for the heating unit.

I’ll try to be a little more timely with the next part of the project. Stay tuned.

Spread of the Radioactive Cloud of Fukushima

From the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics

Project Path of Radioative Particulates

Canned Heat: a solar project.

I ran across an interesting company out of Canada a few weeks ago. They recycle aluminum cans to make efficient low-cost solar heaters.

I thought the idea was brilliant and worth trying to see what the process might entail. This is a perfect project to try with students. And fits perfectly with the Boy Scouts Environmental Science Badge.

But before we start explaining how we went about it, I want to thank Diedra Hicks Iredell County Cooperative Extension and the students of Mitchell Community College, Statesville for their invaluable assistance with this project. But not so much FreeCycle of Hickory.

I’ll be updating this post as the project progresses, so check in periodically.

Step One: Kick the Cans

But don’t dent them. If you take the opportunity to view the video clip from the Cansolair website, you’ll see rows of unblemished aluminum cans. They can have minor flaws, but it is better if at least half the can is smooth.

So collecting we went. In addition to being a good lesson on renewable energy and recycling, there is something to be learned from cleaning up discarded cans from the woods and road sides.

If you decide to go can hunting, latex or polypropylene gloves are probably a good idea. The worst I’ve found is that folks sometimes use cans for spitting tobacco. But there is always a fear of other unknowable ickyness when you poke around outdoors.

240 minimally blemished cans seems to be the magic number. This isn’t too hard when there is more than one person on the job.

Once you have your cans, they will need to be cleaned. You don’t want mold or the smells of soda or beer in the air exchange. A little bleach in a tub full of hot water should take care of the average soda or beer can. Soap will help with those that are a little more grungy.

You’ll need to de-tab the cans. This can be done before or after washing and is a nice mindless chore while watching TV or sitting around. And, bonus, we can donate the tabs to Sharon Elementary School can drive along with the unusable cans we’ve collected.

There are a lot of urban legends about charities accepting tabs, but for the most part, they aren’t true. We’ll pay it forward through the Sharon School student can drive instead.

117 de-tabbed aluminum cans

So here are our cans in the wash mode.

And this shows you how little I know a about canned beer. I didn’t know there was such a thing as Bud Dry. According to the Mister, this one verges on being an antique.

Dry, Bud Dry

Tonight the second batch sits soaking in the tub. We’ll get those dried tomorrow and ready to drill out.

See Canned Heat II for more.


How to Conserve Water (Without Really Trying)

On a Wednesday morning garden walk-about, I discovered that one of the swales behind the house was filled with water. Now had it rained, this would not be surprising. That’s what the swales are for; to keep the downside of our hill from becoming a rutted mess. With the co-benefit of watering our garden beds.

But there had been no rain.

The culprit was the water line from the well to the house. It had ruptured. Probably from the combination of basement building, power-line trenching and earthmoving equipment when we installed our solar panel array.

I’d like to blame the earth movers; they put a few dozen bees in my bonnet while they were here. But I strive to be both fair and skeptical (a classical skeptic, not the modern fundamentalist sort). So I’m forced to admit that I can’t definitively know what caused the problem.

A ruptured line next to the house would also explain the persistently damp wall in the basement. We were planning to regrade the front yard to try and shunt more water away from the house. Because the folks who built it – let’s sum up their siting skills in a word: sub-par. The house is oriented so that any water falling off the front side of the roof immediately rolls back toward the footing.

Luckily, it seems we will be able to fix a couple of problems with one solution. Even though it means we will have to get a trencher out here. And locater services.

As it happens, our next door neighbor is a trencher/well and water guy. And he is often in need of carpentry work. So there may be some opportunity for barter there. But, if you know anything about dealing with bureaucracies, especially of the power company sort, then you know we may be waiting a few days to get the water back up and running.

So what do we do until then?

Let me begin by explaining the artist’s creed.  We aren’t taught this creed in a  formal fashion; instead we acquire it through experience. It goes something like this:

We have done so much, with so little, for so long; we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

As a rule artists, and other “creative” types, are the red-headed step-children of funding and budgetary concerns. We are given the leftovers, the scraps with the understanding that “because we are creative”, we will be able to make-do. And after eons of this archetypal narrative playing out like a recurring nightmare, we have become so entrenched in this expectation that making-do comes as easily as a child’s first breath.

The problem was a fairly simple one. We had plenty of water. The question was how to get it to the house.

The Mister Getting a Spot of Water 02/09

Initially I was taking water from our rainwater storage tanks. Two 325 gallon tanks that sit on the back corners of the house. You see, I’m a catastrophic thinker. And lately, as you might imagine, that tendency has served me in good stead.

In North Carolina, we’ve suffered a series of droughts over the past decade or so. According to this report from the Center for Health and Global Environment (pdf) it seems that drown or drought will be the “norm” for the foreseeable future. So I decided to implement some measures to deal with potential water issues . Burms and swales for the gardens and water tanks for rainwater storage.

The water from the tanks is fine for the garden, for watering the dogs, flushing the toilets and in a pinch you can boil it to wash dishes. But, without filtration and some sterilization, I wouldn’t want to use it for drinking or cooking.

Given that, we decided to “run a line” from the well to the house.

This is a much simpler solution than humping water up the hill from the back of the house.  The well water is potable and with a noticeable lack of bugs, leaves and other mystery items floating around in it.

This morning I hooked a hose up to the well, switched it on and ran it over to the front door. 

While this has all the convenience of City Living whilst keeping the native Country Charm, it could be more convenient still.

Running it through an opening in the storm door seemed like it would move the line into an optimum position near the laundry, the kitchen and the first floor bathroom.

Once inside, it was simple to get all the laundry out of the way. The only issue was being aware of the rinse cycle starting so I could add more water.

While the clothes were washing, I started heating pots of water for the dishes, filling water jugs for later use and as a side benefit I was able to get enough water on the hall way and kitchen floors that they both got a rather thorough cleaning.

I can see why women used to be relegated to the kitchen before the advent of boilers and hot water storage. Heating the water on our propane stove took up a good amount of time. I can imagine the extra time spent lighting and stoking wood fires to get the water up to temperature.

Taking advantage of the hot water available, I managed a quick “whore’s bath” as we say in the South. (Apologies to all you whores who bathe thoroughly on a regular basis) Of course, if I was worried about “freshness”  Summer’s Eve could do all that and seemingly get me a raise to boot.

Even before this incident, we had already acclimated ourselves to recycling as much of our “greywater” as we feasibly can. We can’t legally use the water from the washing machine or from the dishes for much of anything. Not yet anyway.  Luckily those laws are changing as lawmakers come to the realization that if oil scarcity has caused the problems we face today, they are nothing compared to the coming nightmare of water scarcity.

So we don’t flush the toilets every time if there is only urine. However, without chlorination, you can’t let the bacteria breed in the toilet bowl for too long before the odor begins to “waft”.  And after I’ve taken a bath, we use that water for the next several flushes; keeping a small bucket handy in the bathroom for just that purpose.

This incident is precisely why I have been pushing the Mister to look into a solar well pump. Either that or a high end hand pump. We were lucky this time. It was only a broken water line. The next incident could be more problematic.

As for heating the water; if the need arises, I can easily construct a solar water heater. That’s a weekend project made from handy scrap material (well, handy for artists, anyway). But if the electricity goes down for an extended period and we use up the stores in the rainwater tanks, that means walking down to the creek or down to the lake.

Down the hill doesn’t bother me. It’s the idea of hauling enough water up the hill that makes me shudder.

Three days of dishes were finally done. And since the Mister is the usual washer of dishes, they weren’t stacked with quite the same neatness he seems to be able to achieve. In my view, if it doesn’t move, that’s good enough. This inevitably leads to a pile of of random shapes sporting the appearance of  bad post-modern sculpture.

As for fretting over the potential lack of a functioning well. Well, here’s the thing: for the past few years a number of government agencies, including the National Research Council in 2009 have warned of the potential for a catastrophic failure of the electrical grid. The general consensus is this could occur either through cyber-attacks or from solar storms.

This past July a “Space Weather Conference” was held in Washington DC. It was attended by NASA scientists, policy-makers, researchers and government officials. One of the speakers, Dr Richard Fisher, the director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division explained that every 22 years the Sun’s magnetic energy cycle peaks while the number of sun spots (and solar flares)  hits it’s peak every 11 years.

He said these two events are due to overlap in 2013 and will produce huge levels of radiation. He also suggested that, although it was unlikely, much of the world could spend several months without any electrical power.

I guess he struck a nerve somewhere, because NASA immediately began to soft pedal Dr. Fisher’s statements suggesting that it could occur within 10 years or 100.

And that’s fine. Except for Katrina. Except for the fact that our National Guard is no longer available to do the job it was created for, to guard the Nation in emergencies and crisis. And except for the fact that, as a nation, we’re broke. Not only fiscally, but in terms of vital infrastructure.

I can’t know the future. But I can make guesses based on history. I can look to the consensus of nominal experts as an inroad to seeing the potential for a given event to occur.

But mostly what I can do is live by the Realist’s Motto: Always Hope for the Best (But Be Prepared for the Worst).

In this case, the worst would be no electricity for months. And other than the convenience of  a water pump, I’d have to say we’re better prepared than many. And that’s probably because we’re artists.

Our blessing and our curse.

Making a little something out of mostly nothing. The $300 (+/-) Greenhouse.

Year after year, I would clear off my plant table by the south facing window. I would find new and temporary homes for the house plants, then I would set up my seedling trays.

Starting seedlings in your living space is….the opposite of convenient or fun. It is messy, prone to mishaps based on kitty curiosity and a dozen other small and inconsequential gripes. Nuisance, I think, sums it up best.

Having learned from people I admire, to seize the moment, ask for what you want and don’t hesitate to take what’s offered, I came into possession of a variety of  materials that began to look like something useful. That something useful being a small greenhouse.

I thought I would share the process. And would appreciate any feedback or questions you may have.

Awww, it’s a Green…da,da..daaa, da…Howwse! …chicka-bow-chicka-bow-wow….

Check  out the “how-to”  by clicking on this link.

Doom and Gloom: Sunspots, Volcanoes and Earthquakes. Famine, Disease and Pestilence.

Sunspots, Volcanoes and Earthquakes

The problem with being merely human is, compared to the vast scales of planetary time, we are but brief and oh, so vapid bubbles. Our capacity to glimpse and somewhat comprehend the eons that have proceeded us, for the most part, only serves to frustrate and confuse.

It is precisely because our brains, and by extension our minds, are geared with pattern recognition and pattern synthesis as built in survival mechanisms, that we valiantly strive to “make sense” of our world, our universe. Some make sense of their world by becoming artists, archeologists or doctors. Others become psychologist, biologist or astrophysicists. And some, eschewing any attempts to understand, keep it simple by “leaving it to god”.

Others leave it to god, but hedge their bets with virgin sacrifices. This, if you think about it, has more in common with the scientific contingent. Reducing action to a simple experiment: A “What happens if ?” question. Where the scientist and the priest will sometimes differ, lays in which needs a definitive outcome. And which will keep trying to prove their ideas wrong in order to obtain a repeatable result.

In times of heightened stress and uncertainty, it seems the desire to create order out of chaos becomes even more acute. If we were all roaming the savanna, keeping a wary eye out for cheetahs stalking in the tall grass, our actively engaged minds wouldn’t have time to parse out the minutia of conspiracy theories or end-time scenarios. Cheetahs are sometimes useful that way.

As a species, we have been both blessed and cursed with the ability to invent time-saving processes and devices and implement them on a massive scale. And after all those processes and devices are firmly in place, what we are left with are active minds and a lot of free time. Here is where the Brain Squirrels tend to show up.

Brain Squirrels are a side effect of attempting to solve problems and create contingencies with too little useful information. We end up running round and round in our heads, trying to make pieces from different jigsaw puzzles fit into a seamless whole; taking a piece of information here, a bit there with no regard for relevance. The end result is either a shoddy conspiracy theory or a series of valid questions we could do little about, even if we understood the problem and its answer completely. Why our weather is outside the norm. Why earthquakes happen. Why are there droughts and crop failures and starvation and so on.

Sometimes though, if you sort through enough muck, you will find something useful. Something that allows you to mark an idea off your mental checklist and ponder contingencies based on known quantities, instead of hapless conjecture.

So while I was poking around after the earthquake in Haiti, I made a few discoveries.

Some people believe there is a link between the sun and our climate. No, I’m completely serious. Stop rolling your eyes. Yes, we are all aware that the sun warms the earth. We are also aware that the lack of sun cools the earth. But this idea is more subtle and more difficult to prove directly due to the aforementioned fleeting lifespan. We simply don’t have enough long term data to make a firm case. And, as yet, the causal link has not been discovered. So bear with me here, while keeping in mind that I am not arguing a case for or against human induced climate change, but am exploring the idea of links between solar activity, volcanoes, earthquakes and climate variation on Earth.

Climate Change May Trigger Earthquakes and Volcanoes. New Scientist

Evidence of a link between climate and the rumblings of the crust has been around for years, but only now is it becoming clear just how sensitive rock can be to the air, ice and water above. “You don’t need huge changes to trigger responses from the crust,” says Bill McGuire of University College London (UCL), who organised the meeting. “The changes can be tiny.”

Among the various influences on the Earth’s crust, from changes in weather to fluctuations in ice cover, the oceans are emerging as a particularly fine controller. Simon Day of the University of Oxford, McGuire and Serge Guillas, also at UCL, have shown how subtle changes in sea level may affect the seismicity of the East Pacific Rise, one of the fastest-spreading plate boundaries.

So science generally accepts that changes in the climate have effects on volcanic activity and on the tectonic plates. If tectonic plates are affected, it seems reasonable to assume that earthquake activity is also considered under that heading.

Right now, we are in a period of increased earthquake activity where quakes have a much greater total strength:

copyright D. Lindquist


And increased volcanic activity worldwide:

copyright Michael Mandeville

From: Global Volcanism: Volcanic Activity

It is understood that volcanic eruptions spew micro-fine particles and other detritus into the atmosphere. This creates a sort of sun filter, cooling the earth by deflecting solar radiation and heat.

That would, at least in part, account for the arctic cold snap covering the Northern Latitudes.

What might account for the rest? Sunspots. Or more accurately the lack of sunspots.

Sun SpotsThe Blank Year

Note the inverse relationship between the charts further up the column and the one shown here.

According to them that study our friend the Sun, we are right at the bottom of what is known as a Solar Minimum. A Solar Minimum is defined as a time in the Sun’s regular cycle with little or no solar activity.

From the site:

The longest minimum on record, the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715, lasted an incredible 70 years. Sunspots were rarely observed and the solar cycle seemed to have broken down completely. The period of quiet coincided with the Little Ice Age, a series of extraordinarily bitter winters in Earth’s northern hemisphere. Many researchers are convinced that low solar activity, acting in concert with increased volcanism and possible changes in ocean current patterns, played a role in that 17th century cooling.

NASA scientists have also noted that the more calm the Minimum, the more quickly the Sun’s systems return to an active state. In addition there are a larger number of strong disruptive events, like solar flares.

Solar Flare

I began by looking at a geology sites on the internet to find some information on earthquake strength and frequency after they Haiti quake. Based on forum postings, the question of earthquakes and sunspot activity comes up whenever there is a major quake. And instead of addressing these concerns, the regular posters flatly and adamantly denied any direct causal link between sunspots and earthquake or volcanic activity in the usual dismissive manner of the pseudo-skeptic.

Since I’m not a fan of flat denial as it has very little to do with critical thinking, I decided to look into the question for myself. After further reading I wondered if the “skeptics” on the geology boards would be willing to admit the possibility of an indirect causal link. A chain reaction, if you will.

I discovered a site with information on a rather interesting theory. On the site M.A. Vukcevic has a formula that discusses the interaction of influence on the mass of the sun from the magnetospheres of outlying larger planets.

M.A. Vukcevic formula

This chart shows the correlation between the movement of planets Jupiter/Saturn and the incidence of recorded sunspots.

A PDF further discussing his work.

If the Sun’s mass is affected by these planetary magnetospheres, wouldn’t that suggest it is possible that the Earth’s mass, the molten core which helps to drive its magnetosphere would be affected too?

In the end, what I am suggesting is not a simple cause and effect. Instead I’m suggesting like many systems with interlinking chaotic processes, it’s a complex and dynamic cause and effect.

* Reduced sunspot activity due to planetary effects can affect how much heat the Earth receives. This begins to shift weather patterns, which in turn affect the tectonic and volcanic systems of the planet.

* The magnetospheric effects working on the Solar mass are echoed in our molten planetary core resulting in increased volcanic and tectonic activity which results in further change in the planetary weather system.

NASA scientists may not agree with Mr. Vukcevic. I have no idea whether his work is valid or supported. But the scientists at NASA do agree that sunspots, earthquakes and volcanoes are linked in some fashion. At this point they are not willing to forward a hypothesis about the correlations but agree that they are mediated by changes in climate.

Whether this goes toward supporting claims on either side of the global warming vs. global cooling debate is outside my area of interest at the moment.

Famine, Disease and Pestilence

In terms of which aspects of the sunspot/volcano activity are within the purview of my interest I direct you to to:  Nine Meals from Anarchy

“This year is the 10th anniversary of the fuel protests, when supermarket bosses sat with ministers and civil servants in Whitehall warning that there were just three days of food left. We were, in effect, nine meals from anarchy. Suddenly, the apocalyptic visions of novelists and film-makers seemed less preposterous. Civilization’s veneer may be much thinner than we like to think.”

It is certain that the recent Arctic blasts which affected much of North America, has already impacted food security in the United States.

Florida, which tends to be the warmest state during the winter, generally grows tender warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers. The freeze in Florida has crippled supplies of citrus and juices, along with tender vegetables like snap beans, squash, and peppers,

While this, in and of itself, does not constitute a food crisis, the truth is many people are not the position to afford an increase in food prices. It is more along the lines of “Another straw on the camels back”.

If there is a possible link between sun cycles and an increase in deadly earthquakes, volcanoes or weather changes then we are obligated to explore those ideas. Haitians and others across the globe who have been adversely affected by these terrible tragedies are a stark testament to how little we know and how much we need to discover about our world.

Researchers discover previously unknown body system. Declare it a potential cause for extra sensory perception.

This news story focuses an article, published December 15th, that details how researchers have made an interesting discovery, turning years of scientific and medical dogma on its head.

“In the article, researchers at Albany Medical College, the University of Liverpool and Cambridge University report that the human body has an entirely unique and separate sensory system…”

Researchers noted that: “Surprisingly, this sensory network is located throughout our blood vessels and sweat glands, and is for most people, largely imperceptible.”

Well, finally. Good grief. Can we finally drive a stake through the hearts of all those scientists, doctors, laymen and outright skeptics who called these people “crazy”, “malingerers”, “neurotic”, “attention seekers” and worse?

For years, these poor people have been hounded by established science; a system that has been known to close ranks and stifle dissent among its own. The scientists and medical professionals who suggested possible theories supporting the claimants were labeled quacks and frauds. Meaning, if you believed the “crazies”, you risked your career, because you were obviously crazy too. If you wanted to keep your job, you toed the party line.

And perpetuating the abuse: misguided unquestioning followers of scientific dogma, who insist that because science hasn’t proven it, or in their parlance: developed a consistently testable theory, it can’t possibly exist.

People have lost their families, been fired from their jobs, have been denied medical attention, simply because they insisted that they had experiences that no one could explain or prove by any scientific rational.

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people, including family, friends, scientists, physicians and even disinterested bystanders, reported that these folks were obviously experiencing “something” even if science couldn’t prove it. These reports were dismissed as unworthy of consideration. In other words: anecdotal evidence.

So, after all these years, sufferers of fibromyalgia may finally find someone to believe them and offer some relief.

Wait. What? You thought I was talking about what?

Are you insane!? Those people are “crazy”, “malingerers”, “neurotic”, “attention seekers” and worse! Any scientist suggesting possible theories supporting these woo-woos are quacks and frauds. They are claiming experiences that no one can explain or prove by any scientific rational.

The hard facts are: like it or not, science can’t prove it, so it can’t possibly exist.

You say: Butterfly Wing Scale Digital Image Gallery.

I say: Oooooooo,  Pretty.

Molecular Expressions has a number of microscopic digital image galleries, including this one on Butterfly Wing Scales.

These are thorough examinations of several dozen types of butterfly wing scales. The pages also include scientific information on the life cycles and feeding habits of said lovelies.

Autumn Leaf Butterfly: Wing Scales Highlighted by Interference Patterns

And they offer a number of different views for each type of butterfly listed.

Autumn Leaf Butterfly: Wing and Vein

My only complaint is: too much clicking to get to the good eye candy.

So, for all the other impatient looky-loos, here’s a link to a Google Image Search with the same information.

Cruiser Butterfly: Wing Scales Highlighted by Interference Pattern

For those who like all the non-eye-candy scientific and technical stuff;  say for instance,stuff like: “Cruiser Butterfly larvae feed on the leaves of the plants in the family Passifloraceae, which include passion vines and passion flowers.” I’d stick with the Molecular Expressions page.


The coming Water Crisis has been quietly discussed for several decades.

This just released study ( report in PDF form) from McKinsey & Co. was undertaken for international corporations known as The 2030 Water Resources Group. It consists of:  The Barilla Group, The Coca-Cola Company, The International Finance Corporation, McKinsey & Company, Nestlé S.A., New Holland Agriculture, SABMiller, Standard Chartered Bank, and Syngenta AG.

The conclusions the study draws are not surprising to those who have even a passing interest in the subject. Global demand for water has long since exceeded supply. The report shows that over a billion people don’t have access to clean water; most of them in impoverished countries.

What is shocking is the accelerating rate at which we are consuming the water we have left. According to this report in just 20 years the demand for water will be 40 percent higher than reliable, accessible supplies, and more than 50 percent higher in the most rapidly developing countries.

Water Available Per Capita 1950 to Present

Since the report was undertaken in corporate interests, it should not be surprising that the looming shortage is framed in it’s impact on economics first:

If these “business-as-usual” trends are insufficient to close the water gap, the result in many cases could be that fossil reserves are depleted, water reserved for environmental needs is drained, or—more simply—some of the demand will go unmet, so that the associated economic or social benefits will simply not occur

with the secondary emphasis placed on humans.

And while it is a dry slog to read through, you will notice that same secondary emphasis on human needs and human consumption in  nearly every instance. (see India Resources protests against Coca Cola) And likewise, when rights to water are discussed, it is always within a legal, corporate orientation. In the dozen or so references to the word “right” as it pertains to water, there is not one instance of  Human Rights mentioned in the report.

At a later news conference, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the chairman of Nestle helpfully questioned whether the idea of water as a “human right” is useful way to frame the conversation. He seems to think that humans have a right to “about 25 liters a day”.

One article on business and economics summarized the problem neatly:

The challenge: Getting beyond the nostrum that water is a “human right” so that water, which is obviously a scarce resource, can be priced in a way that drives conservation.

I will grant that the report takes stock of a number of measures to improve efficiency of use and protection of the resource. But for whose benefit? It may be that the coming water wars may not be between countries, but between corporations and those mere humans struggling to survive.


Further reading: Seeking Alpha T. Boone Pickens Invests in Water, Should You?


Now there’s an interesting take on the whole time-space conundrum. If you attach different states to the concept of time (think of the varying states of water depending on energy input: solid/ liquid/vapor) Petr Hořava, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley figures you can clean up some of the messy, intractable problems physics has been having since Einstein decided to marry space and time together.

This article from Scientific American discusses the implications

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