Right before Yemen was grabbing headlines for being connected to the Christmas day bombing attempt on a Northwest flight, the biggest news coming out of the country was its water shortages, not terrorism. Oil is one thing to run out of, but water? The show’s over if that ever happens. Yemen is the canary in the coal mine on this issue. The water table in some areas has dropped from 70 feet below the surface to a whopping 700 feet. The capital of Yemen, Sanaa, is expected to run out of water within the next decade. Yemen never had a lot of water to begin with, but the Telegraph reports that diversion to produce the cash crops like the drug qat (it takes up 40% of the water supply!) making it a critical problem. Population growth is also seen as a factor (Yemen has one of the highest birth rates), but this brings up some controversy: how can people in rich countries who “flush their drinking water” as I recall someone on my Twitter feed saying, profess to the Third World on their resource issues? It’s definitely a recurring theme, one that appeared noticeably at the Copenhagen Climate talks.

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