The real-life "Mad Max" will be about water

The original “Mad Max” was about a post-nuclear war Australia, where the war had been caused by countries vying for dwindling oil supplies. But what if the same could happen, only the precious substance was water? Many people seem to think so, and the number’s growing. The largest-growing area of the US is the Southwest, the area with precisely the least amount of water to go around, though by far not the only region of the country with water problems.

The kicker is that, unlike carbon emissions, if one person conserves x amount of water, and another person on the other side of the world uses a surplus of x amount of water, it doesn’t even out. If I in Japan – a country with a high amount of rainfall – conserve water, it doesn’t do an Australian sheep farmer a lick of good. They say all politics is local, and water usage is the same. It’s up to each local to use its supply wisely. Some people have said that Darfur, if not the Rwandan genocide, was the first of the 21st century water wars. We’ll see if it turns out that way.

(photo via brtsergio)

10 thoughts on “The real-life "Mad Max" will be about water”

  1. Those with technology, say in Australia, will survive. It will be tough but they’ll still have three square meals.

    But the depletion of oil and water will cause intense turmoil in, say, the middle east. What else is new? What will aggravate the situation is that these same countries (say – saudi arabia) will be hard pressed to decrease exports in favor of, say, seawater desalination.

  2. Australians are leaving it perilously late to do anything about water management, even with existing technologies.

    On a visit to Queensland last January I followed the avid discussion on the letters pages of the Brisbane papers. Turns out that water in Queensland (and probably elsewhere) isn’t treated because people refuse to “drink sewage” (!)

  3. I doubt Australia can survive in its current state. One assessment stated that Australia has enough water for about 7million people, while the current population is up around 18-20m. In addition, Australia’s exports won’t last without abundant water: sheep, cotton, and mineral mining all require large amounts of water.

    Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” is a great reference for the potential consequences.

    I have to say I’m not surprised by Denni’s comment, but most people I know in the US and Europe would have the same reaction. It’s a deeply ingrained psychological revulsion that’s served us well in the past, but not currently. People don’t want to think about where that water “came from.”

  4. A lot of UK cities are used to treated water – London’s been like that for a long time. It tastes pretty chalky and i’d prefer non-treated water, but it does its job.

  5. It all depends on how the water’s treated. I suppose there are some better ways to treat water nowadays, though many bigger cities with longer-running programs are probably still using older methods.

    My hometown, Indianapolis, gets its water non-recycled, from a couple reservoirs. Ever had water that smells like dead algae? Makes “chalky” sound almost pleasant.

  6. just for the record, it was only the third ‘Mad Max’ movie that was set after a nuclear war; the first two were mere social & economic collapses. (sorry to be the pedant, as a SF fan i couldn’t help myself.)

    that said, i agree Australians have traditionally interacted poorly with the setting their country provides (using fake snow during summer christmases is a minor but telling example) and will have to adopt a radically different approach to water unless they want to end up like Mad Max… or at least Tank Girl…

  7. There is reason for some hope. The countries where they’ll need water hardest are most suited for largescale construction of solar energy plants.

  8. What scares me about this is that the water shortage is NOT going to be local. (see

    One tone of grain takes about 1000 tons of water to produce, and those areas short water are cutting back on agriculture and importing grain. This means that we can ship water from one point to another until everyone runs out. Australia is just the first to notice.

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