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Are We Running Out of Sand?

If you're planning a beach vacation, you'd better get to it soon. That's because research shows that 67% of Southern California beaches will be gone by 2100 — all because of sand. Even if you don't think about the grainy stuff, you use it daily. Worldwide, we go through 50 billion tons of sand every year — twice the amount produced by every river in the world. It's used to make food, wine, toothpaste, glass, computer chips, breast implants, cosmetics, paper, paint, plastics. So where does it all come from? The sand we use is what's called "marine sand." It's the sand you find at the bottom of rivers, on beaches and at the bottom of lakes and oceans. So, why can't we use sand from the desert? Wind erosion makes the grains too round for most purposes. Short supply of sand and the environmental impacts have compelled many countries to take tough measures to control sand mining. It's time to treat sand as a scarce resource — just like water — to avoid running out of it.