Our Effect On Earth’s Water Cycle Is Both Fascinating And Terrifying

Initially, access to water defined where humanity could grow and develop. But now the opposite is true, and we’re the ones directing the future of our global water system. Watching that transition unfold is as sobering as it is stunning.

This three-minute video, created by Felix Pharand for the opening of the Bonn meeting in Germany (meant to highlight major global water research), tracks this shift in power and the unsettling consequences to come.

Anthropocene” is the informal term for the newest geologic epoch, one in which humans are the major factor in global change. So in terms of our water supply, as humanity grows, the carbon and nitrogen cycles continue to shift while damming, extraction, and irrigation alter the water flow we so desperately depend on.

The video lays out the facts of our current status, which can be troubling enough: rivers exist that never meet the sea; we move massive amounts of sediment that would otherwise not be affected by natural erosion; 48,000 large dams have been built; and we’ve drained half of the global wetlands. And the consequences of our actions don’t sound hopeful — 800 million people have no safe drinking water, and four out of five people across the entire world face risk to their water security.

While, sure, most of us are aware that our fresh water supply is limited, seeing the numbers displayed so plainly is shocking. Btu hopefully, with conferences like the Bonn meeting kicking off today, we’ll be able to change the direction of the water cycle again, but this time for the better. [Eureka Alert via Felix Pharand]