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Although it is little consolation to the American city dweller whose water is turned off several hours a day, and who cannot water the lawn, wash the car, or fill the swimming pool, our country is so much better off than the rest of the world as to be swimming in surplus water by comparison. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, in 1963 only one person in ten throughout the world knew the blessings of water piped into his home even on a part-time basis. Closer to home, in Central and South America nearly 40 percent of the population has no community water supply.
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We mentioned that New York State receives 42 inches of rain, and still suffers from drought. Hong Kong, on the other side of the world, is more fortunate with respect to precipitation; it gets a whopping total of 84 inches, about double New York's take. Furthermore, Hong Kong's population is something less than half that of New York. Yet there is never enough water to go around. In May of 1963, water was available for only four hours a day every other day. By June Reservoirs were so low that water service was cut to three hours every fourth day. Plans were made to supplement Hong Kong water with some 500,000 gallons a day brought in from Canton, about a hundred miles from Hong Kong. As a last resort, issuance of water-ration cards was considered.
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Water shortage or not, most cities in Europe get along on about 40 gallons of water a day per person. In Mexico City, where rainfall is just about the world average, some five million inhabitants get water in their pipes for just two hours a day. Each household gets 84 gallons a day, stored in barrels for use as needed. If there are six people in the family, each thus gets 14 gallons a day, or about one-twelfth the United States average per person. Bermuda is famous for its Bermuda shorts, but there is another shortage in Bermuda; namely fresh water. Many hillsides are so paved as to catch rainwater and funnel it into reservoirs. Recently it was necessary to build distillation equipment to convert sea water into fresh. If water is already in short supply, what is going to happen in the future? Apparently, it is going to get scarcer, with real trouble predicted for the United States in a very few years.
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