Physical and human factors associated with the politics of water

Robson, R.E. (2004) Physical and human factors associated with the politics of water. The Physicist, 41 (6). pp. 183-185.

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Popular opinion has it that water, rather than oil or even terrorism, will be the main global political issue of the century. It is already a major issue in this country, a perception which has been sharpened in recent times by the prolonged drought and well-publicised arguments about irrigation - in regard to both its equity and adverse environmental effects. Like the weather, just about everyone has some opinion about water, but as any weather forecaster will tell you, the general public just doesn’t understand. There is no doubt that weather forecasting can be considered to be a problem in physics 1 - the Bureau of Meteorology requires its forecasters to have a degree in physics and maths - but no one would claim that the issues surrounding water per se are the realm of the physicist in particular, or even scientists in general. Nevertheless the physicist is in a particularly good position to bring to bear the sort of rigorous analysis and reasoning that we apply to all sorts of systems, both naturally occurring and man-made. One of the things we are trained to do is to reduce the essential components of a system or process to their simplest elements, making models where appropriate, and to produce estimates of crucial parameters and constraints, quickly if necessary via “back of the envelope” calculations. In the present note we will attempt to crystallise some of the issues surrounding water in this way, with a view to encouraging further input from physicists to the debate. This is preceded by a brief discussion of the relevant atmospheric physics.

Item ID: 9639
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1837-5375
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2010 23:53
FoR Codes: 02 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 0299 Other Physical Sciences > 029999 Physical Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9602 Atmosphere and Weather > 960203 Weather @ 100%
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