More on Water and on Wednesday-Night.com Thirst a powerful slide show on water ; Stockholm International Water Institute ; Nanotechnology for clean water ; (IPS files) Troubled Waters ; Economist Special Report on Water
2 June 2000 — Dawn of a thirsty century
The amount of water in the world is limited. The human race, and the other species which share the planet, cannot expect an infinite supply.
Water covers about two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, admittedly. But most is too salty for use.
Population is rising, but water supplies are not
Only 2.5% of the world’s water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers.
Of what is left, about 20% is in remote areas, and much of the rest arrives at the wrong time and place, as monsoons and floods.
Humans have available less than 0.08% of all the Earth’s water. Yet over the next two decades our use is estimated to increase by about 40%
China, Myanmar face Myitsone dam truths
(Asia Times) Debate between China and Myanmar over the suspended US$3.6 billion Myitsone hydro-electric dam project recently reached a new pitch.
A war of words between their governments erupted after China Power Investment launched a renewed public relations campaign to promote the mega-project. This included a corporate social responsibility report released in December beautifying the dam and its supposed wondrous contributions to local livelihoods and development.
Since its inception, the China-backed Myitsone dam has galvanized widespread local criticism and concern over the project and its potential negative environmental and social impacts. The project is situated in the northern Kachin State, where government forces and ethnic rebels fighting for autonomy are locked in a debilitating armed conflict that reignited in June 2011. Some view the government’s agreement to build the dam as one cause for the renewed hostilities after 17 years of ceasefire.
More than two years after its official suspension, however, it is time for both sides to come to terms with new realities. On one hand, China needs to take an honest look at the situation and honor the Myanmar people’s decision to scrap the project. At the same time, Myanmar needs to face up to and prepare for the legal, financial and diplomatic consequences of their reversed decision on the project. Many analysts have come to view the status of the dam as a barometer for the health of broad China-Myanmar relations.
Wave goodbye to global warming, GM and pesticides
Radio wave-treated water could change agriculture as we know it. Its Irish pioneers meet Tom Prendeville
A GROUNDBREAKING new Irish technology which could be the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough is set to change the face of modern farming forever.
The technology – radio wave energised water – massively increases the output of vegetables and fruits by up to 30 per cent.
Not only are the plants much bigger but they are largely disease-resistant, meaning huge savings in expensive fertilisers and harmful pesticides.
Extensively tested in Ireland and several other countries, the inexpensive water treatment technology is now being rolled out across the world. The technology makes GM obsolete and also addresses the whole global warming fear that there is too much carbon dioxide in the air, by simply converting excess CO2 into edible plant mass.
Developed by Professor Austin Darragh and Dr JJ Leahy of Limerick University’s Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, the hardy eco-friendly technology uses nothing but the natural elements of sunlight, water, carbon dioxide in the air and the minerals in the soil.
The compact biscuit-tin-sized technology, which is called Vi-Aqua – meaning ‘life water’ – converts 24 volts of electricity into a radio signal, which charges up the water via an antennae. Once the device is attached to a hose, thousands of gallons of water can be charged up in less than 10 minutes at a cost of pennies.
The Real Future of Clean Water
(NYT | Opinionator) The World Health Organization has estimated that it would require investments totaling $535 billion between 2011 and 2015 to provide universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. This problem cannot be solved by scaling philanthropy. It’s like using an “adopt-a-highway” approach to solve the world’s transportation problems. To fix this problem, governments and businesses must take the lead.
One person who has thought long and hard about what it would take to make a dent in the world’s water crisis is Gary White, a co-founder with Matt Damon of Water.org. White has spent the past 30 years addressing this problem and he has gone through a personal learning process that mirrors the world’s learning process. …
In the past few years, White has developed a model he thinks could reach hundreds of millions of people. The idea is to take advantage of a historically new global opportunity: the explosion of microfinance. He and his colleagues have pioneered WaterCredit, a program that uses philanthropy to jump start a market among microfinance organizations so they get into the business of making water and sanitation loans.
What they have found is that, with reasonably priced loans, many households and communities in the developing world can install water connections, build latrines and wells, and tap into continuing capital sources to maintain them. Many communities will need government subsidies, as well; but microloans can often incite changes far more quickly than waiting for governments or charities to arrive.
WaterCredit is still a young idea. Water.org has invested $7.4 million in 30 microfinance organizations to date; they, in turn, have extended 150,500 loans totaling $28 million for water access and sanitation. So far, 840,000 people have benefited, 92 percent of the loans have gone to women, and the repayment rate is 98 percent.
Brahma Chellaney: The Battle for Water
(Project Syndicate) The sharpening international geopolitical competition over natural resources has turned some strategic resources into engines of power struggle. Transnational water resources have become an especially active source of competition and conflict, triggering a dam-building race and prompting growing calls for the United Nations to recognize water as a key security concern.
Water is different from other natural resources. After all, there are substitutes for many resources, including oil, but none for water. Similarly, countries can import fossil fuels, mineral ores, and resources from the biosphere like fish and timber; but they cannot import water, which is essentially local, on a large scale and on a prolonged – much less permanent – basis. Water is heavier than oil, making it very expensive to ship or transport across long distances even by pipeline (which would require large, energy-intensive pumps).
The paradox of water is that it sustains life but can also cause death when it becomes a carrier of deadly microbes or takes the form of a tsunami, flash flood, storm, or hurricane. Many of the greatest natural disasters of our time – including, for example, the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011 – have been water-related. …
Political and economic water wars are already being waged in several regions, reflected in dam construction on international rivers and coercive diplomacy or other means to prevent such works. Consider, for example, the silent water war triggered by Ethiopia’s dam building on the Blue Nile, which has elicited Egyptian threats of covert or overt military reprisals.
A report reflecting the joint judgment of US intelligence agencies warned last year that the use of water as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism would become more likely in the next decade in some regions. The InterAction Council, comprising more than 30 former heads of state or government, has called for urgent action to prevent some countries battling severe water shortages from becoming failed states. The US State Department, for its part, has upgraded water to “a central US foreign policy concern.”
(The Guardian) As population rises, over-pumping means some nations have reached peak water, which threatens food supply, says Lester Brown
Peak oil has generated headlines in recent years, but the real threat to our future is peak water. There are substitutes for oil, but not for water. We can produce food without oil, but not without water.
We drink on average four litres of water per day, in one form or another, but the food we eat each day requires 2,000 litres of water to produce, or 500 times as much. Getting enough water to drink is relatively easy, but finding enough to produce the ever-growing quantities of grain the world consumes is another matter.
… there are two types of aquifers: those that are replenishable through rainfall, which are in the majority, and those that consist of water laid down eons ago, and thus do not recharge. The latter, known as fossil aquifers, include two strategically important ones, the deep aquifer under the North China Plain and the Ogallala aquifer under the US Great Plains.
Tapping underground water resources helped expand world food production, but as the demand for grain continued climbing, so too did the amount of water pumped. Eventually the extraction of water began to exceed the recharge of aquifers from precipitation, and water tables began to fall. And then wells begin to go dry. In effect, overpumping creates a water-based food bubble, one that will burst when the aquifer is depleted and the rate of pumping is necessarily reduced to the rate of recharge.
UN’s Ban: Greater efforts needed to alleviate water insecurity
The world will run out of freshwater unless more is done to make water supplies more secure, says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Post-2015 development goals need to include “a set of goals for sustainable development, water and biodiversity,” Ban says. Responding to Climate Change (U.K.) (5/21)
Political Currents of Water Management: Challenges in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan
The geopolitics of water management in the Middle East are primarily governed by the basic distribution of freshwater resources: there are vast differences between the naturally available water resources in the region. Layer to this the additional complexity of political stability, financial assets, and other socioeconomic factors, and the potential for improved transboundary water management in the Middle East becomes vastly complicated.
Simply, some nations have few water resources and a lack of capabilities to effectively manage their limited resources – their water security is at risk. Other nations, those with more technological and economic capacity to maximize their limited resources, have less at stake.
Water Purification With Graphene Sheets – Surprising, Yet Commercially Feasible
Water purification and desalination is one of the great challenges of mankind, with 1.1 billion people living without proper drinking water. In particular, portable water purifiers and filters are always in demand, and new technologies are being sought to lower the cost and energy footprint. Nanotechnology holds great potential for getting rid of bacteria and other harmful contaminants, and now graphene water filters are showing great potential.
Graphene sheets perforated by small holes have first been explored by researchers at MIT as potential candidates for water filtration. Holes with a diameter of 1 nanometer (a billionth of a meter) are big enough to let water molecules sift through, however small enough to stop any undesired chemicals. The news of MIT’s discovery was so big that the Smithsonian magazine, the publication of the famous Smithsonian Institution, named it one of the top 5 surprising scientific milestones of 2012, along with the Higgs Boson, the discovery of Earth-like planets, and NASA’s Curiosity mission to Mars.
Why water is now a security issue
Water doesn’t abide by national boundaries, and countries must address the security aspects of this essential resource, says a United Nations report. “Few issues … have the potential to create friction more than the management of water shared across international borders,” says Jean Chretien, former prime minister of Canada. AlertNet/Reuters (3/22)
World Water Day focuses on rights to clean water
Today is World Water Day, a good time to focus on improving access to clean water for everyone — a basic right that’s been long overlooked, writes John Vidal. The Guardian (London) (3/22)
(Nick’s Gleanings) The latest edition of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook noted that 580BN cubic metres of water, 2½x New York City’s annual water consumption, are used each year in energy production (second only to agriculture), 85% of which is not returned to the environment, i.e. it remains underground, often in polluted form, whereas likely close to 100% of the water used in agriculture is so returned. And it expects that in the years ahead the demand for water for energy production purposes will grow at twice the rate of energy output, due to unconventional oil & gas production (first & foremost fracking) and the irrigation of biofuel crops, & it warns that “Water is growing in importance as a criterion for assessing the viability (of energy projects) as population- and economic growth intensify the competition for water.” [Emphasis added]
Groundwater and climate change
(RCI) The importance of groundwater will only increase as climate change results in changes to precipitation patterns and above-ground water sources.
Increasing climate extremes of drought and flood will also increase variability in precipitation, soil moisture and surface water, and as such, the reliance on groundwater sources.
U.N.’s Water Agenda at Risk of Being Hijacked by Big Business
(IPS) – Amidst growing new threats of potential conflicts over fast-dwindling water resources in the world’s arid regions, the United Nations will commemorate 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC).
But Maude Barlow, chairperson, Council of Canadians and a former senior advisor on water to the president of the U.N. General Assembly in 2008-2009, warns the U.N.’s water agenda is in danger of being hijacked by big business and water conglomerates. …
At this time of scarcity and financial crisis, she said, “We need the United Nations to ensure that governments are fulfilling their obligations to provide basic services rather than relinquishing to transnational corporations.”
The Passionate Eye presents an inspiring wake-up call for why you should be worried, and why the global water crisis will be the central issue facing our world this century.
With the help of environmental activist Erin Brockovich and such distinguished experts as Peter Gleick and Alex Prud’homme, LAST CALL AT THE OASIS, travels throughout North America shedding light on the vital role water plays in our lives, exposing the defects in the current system, and introducing us to communities in California and Nevada already struggling with its ill-effects, and individuals who are championing revolutionary solutions.
River treaties could ensure equitable water use
Water is the most important global resource not governed by international agreement, writes Fred Pearce. However, two global river treaties — including the United Nations Convention on the Non-Navigable Uses of International Watercourses — are gaining broader acceptance. Yale Environment 360 (11/19)
Cheap technology is spurring farmer-led hydrological revolution
Experts are increasingly in agreement that the best ways to manage scarce water resources in the developing world revolve not around large-scale government irrigation projects, but small-scale measures such as cheap water pumps, as well as rainwater harvesting. A report by the International Water Management Institute says that bottom-up innovations are “a major driver of economic growth, poverty reduction, and food security.” Yale Environment 360 (9/13)
(RCInet) Groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished in many parts of the world. Almost one-quarter of the world’s lives in such regions, many of them in Asia and North America. A new analysis calculates the overuse and indicates which aquifers are in the most danger. RCI’s Lynn Desjardins spoke with Prof. Tom Gleeson, a hydro geologist at McGill University and lead author of the study.
Prof. Gleeson and colleagues combined a global hydrological model and existing information about groundwater use to find out how much groundwater is being extracted by countries around the world. They also estimated the rate water was replenished in each aquifer.They found that 20% of the world’s aquifers are being overused. The problem is most acute in many of the world’s major agricultural areas like the Central Valley in California, the Nile Delta in Egypt, the Upper Ganges in India and Pakistan and areas in Northern China. Two billion people live in the worst hit regions.
To correct the problem Prof. Gleeson says decision makers could change their water policies to provide better management. … This analysis shows where the problems are and offers a tool to testing different solutions. “We can now test whether a certain region could use more water sustainably or cannot,” said Prof. Gleeson. “So water managers and water policy people can use our new tool that we call the Groundwater Footprint to calculate different scenarios and to determine whether the potential water use in that area would be sustainable or not.”
‘Eating’ Water Latest and Rising Threat to a Thirsty World
(IPS) Paradoxically, the water we “eat” is likely to become one of the growing new dangers to millions of the world’s thirsty, hungering for this finite natural resource.
“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats,” Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), told delegates during the opening of the annual international water conference, World Water Week, in the Swedish capital Monday.
Since everything humans eat requires water to be produced, the paradox of the water we “eat” was best illustrated by an exhibition in the conference lobby, which pointed out that the production of an average hamburger – two slices of bread, beef, tomato, lettuce, onions and cheese – consumes about 2,389 litres of water, compared to 140 litres for a cup of coffee and 135 for a single egg.
Risk of water wars rises with scarcity with water conflict map linking to some of Al Jazeera’s coverage of an issue which could define 21st century strife
Almost half of humanity will face water scarcity by 2030 and strategists from Israel to Central Asia prepare for strife.
(Al Jazeera) In March, a report from the office of the US Director of National Intelligence said the risk of conflict would grow as water demand is set to outstrip sustainable current supplies by 40 per cent by 2030.
“These threats are real and they do raise serious national security concerns,” Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said after the report’s release.
Internationally, 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. By 2030, 47 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Outlook to 2030 report.
Some analysts worry that wars of the future will be fought over blue gold, as thirsty people, opportunistic politicians and powerful corporations battle for dwindling resources.
Making sure there is enough water to go around
As the global population continues to grow and migration to cities continues, the accompanying water demands will mean there is less water for agriculture — and potentially less food for people. Colin Chartres, head of the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute, discusses technological approaches from around the world that help people get by with less water. AlertNet (7/26)
Getting used to “toilet to tap” water recycling
In water-scarce regions of the world — spanning from Australia to Namibia, from Singapore to parts of the U.S. — communities are coming to terms with the fact that the water they drink was once water they flushed down the toilet. The “toilet to tap” wastewater-reuse plants are proliferating the world over. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (7/25)
Where competition for water could lead to conflict
Competition for water is steep in some parts of the world, and the effects of climate change, population, urbanization, agriculture and hydroelectricity are ratcheting up tensions even higher — presaging future water wars. Companies are mapping water resources in some of the world’s largest river basins, providing information that could lead to more responsible water management, but also manipulation by some for personal gain. Reuters/AlertNet (7/23), AlertNet (7/24)
Thirsty South Asia’s river rifts threaten “water wars”
(AlertNet) – As the silver waters of the Kishanganga rush through this north Kashmir valley, Indian laborers are hard at work on a hydropower project that will dam the river just before it flows across one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders into Pakistan. … In the years since their partition from British India in 1947, land disputes have led the two nuclear-armed neighbors to two of their three wars. Water could well be the next flashpoint.
It’s not just South Asia — water disputes are a global phenomenon, sparked by growing populations, rapid urbanization, increased irrigation and a rising demand for alternative power such as hydroelectricity.
Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq quarrel over the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates. The Jordan river divides Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank. Ten African countries begrudgingly share the Nile.
In Southeast Asia, China and Laos are building dams over the mighty Mekong, raising tensions with downstream nations.
World’s critical river basins under threat
One-fourth of the world’s gross domestic product will be generated by 2050 in and around the 10 most populated water basins, primarily in China, India and North Africa, according to a study by a microeconomics consultancy, Frontier Economics. Seven of the basins will face water shortages without better management, the report says. The Guardian (London)/Damien Carrington’s Environment Blog (6/11), AlertNet/Reuters (6/11)
The Coming Global Water Crisis
What happens when demand for this essential resource starts exceeding supply in many parts of the world?
(The Atlantic) The recent UN alert that drought in the Sahel threatens 15 million lives is a harbinger of things to come.
In the next twenty years, global demand for fresh water will vastly outstrip reliable supply in many parts of the world. Thanks to population growth and agricultural intensification, humanity is drawing more heavily than ever on shared river basins and underground aquifers. Meanwhile, global warming is projected to exacerbate shortages in already water-stressed regions, even as it accelerates the rapid melting of glaciers and snow cover upon which a billion people depend for their ultimate source of water.
This sobering message emerges from the first U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security. The document predicts that by 2030 humanity’s “annual global water requirements” will exceed “current sustainable water supplies” by forty percent. Absent major policy interventions, water insecurity will generate widespread social and political instability and could even contribute to state failure in regions important to U.S. national security.
Green Nobel Highlights Water Crises
(IPS) – A Catholic priest from the Philippines, a mother of three from Argentina, and the founder of the NGO Friends of Lake Turkana in Kenya all have one thing in common: they have helped to motivate their respective local communities to protect the natural environment around them and to stand up for their rights.
On Monday, Edwin Gariguez, Sofia Gatica and Ikal Angelei, along with three other grassroots activists, were declared winners of the so- called “Green Nobel”. Ma Jun from China, Evgenia Chirikova from Russia and Caroline Cannon from the U.S. also took the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize.
Water is a special focus of this year’s prize, with two of the winners being outstanding river activists.
India is rethinking scarce water policies
A conference slated to begin today in India is expected to yield new government draft policies that would treat increasingly scarce water as an economic good in an effort to promote conservation and efficient use. India has some 17% of the world’s population, but only 4% of its renewable water resources — and they could be drying up because of rapid development. The Wall Street Journal/India Real Time blog (4/9)
Much of world to experience “water stress”
“In many countries water availability for agriculture is already limited and uncertain, and is set to worsen,” concludes the latest UN World Water Development Report, which finds that farmers will need one-fifth more water by 2050 to meet increasing demands for food by a population estimated to reach 9.3 billion. Today, more than 80% of used water goes uncollected and untreated, an issue slated to be discussed at this week’s World Water Forum. Bloomberg (3/12), The Independent (London) (3/12)
Nearly 9 out of 10 have safe water to drink
Some 89% of people across the globe have access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations, a mark that beats by five years the international target — contained in Millennium Development Goal No. 7 — of halving the number of people who do not have access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells. More than 2 billion people worldwide gained access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2010. The Washington Post/The Associated Press (3/6), Reuters (3/6)
Global access to water rises to 87%, UN study shows
More people have gained access to more sources of water over the past 20 years, but parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia and South-East Asia continue to lag behind the global trend, according to joint study by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. “The good news is that almost 1.8 billion more people now have access to drinking water compared to the start of the 1990s,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s water and sanitation chief. MedicalDaily.com (12/20)
Water Use Rising Faster Than World Population
Like oil in the 20th century, water could well be the essential commodity on which the 21st century will turn.
Human beings have depended on access to water since the earliest days of civilization, but with 7 billion people on the planet as of October 31, exponentially expanding urbanization and development are driving demand like never before.
Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.
Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview.
Brazil judge halts work on Belo Monte Amazon dam
(BBC) A judge in Brazil has ordered a halt to construction of a multi-billion-dollar dam project in the Amazon region.
Judge Carlos Castro Martins barred any work that would interfere with the natural flow of the Xingu river.
He ruled in favour of a fisheries group which argued that the Belo Monte dam would affect local fish stocks and could harm indigenous families who make a living from fishing.The government says the dam is crucial to meeting growing energy needs.
Brazilian judge orders construction of Amazon dam to stop
(The Guardian) Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project halted after ruling that it risked damaging fish stocks on Xingu river
Experts lament water basin tussles
Competing claims on major river basins in Africa, Asia and Latin America may prevent those regions from ramping up food production to meet demand over the coming decades, according to a report from water experts. The basins could help provide sustainable increases to food production that would double current available supply. AlertNet/Reuters (9/26)
Otters are back – in every county in England
Return of otter shows English rivers are healthiest for 20 years, says Environment Agency
Aung San Suu Kyi: China’s dam project in Burma is dangerous and divisive
The leader of Burma’s pro-democracy opposition joins chorus of alarm over China’s plan to build dams on Irrawaddy river
The Guardian) The Nobel laureate stepped into the fray on Thursday with a personal statement calling for greater protection for Burma’s most important river, which is threatened by logging, pollution and the construction of a cascade of at least seven dams, a project managed by China Power Investment.
The biggest of them – the 3,600MW Myitsone Dam – is already under construction on the Irrawaddy despite fierce opposition from the Kachin Independence Organisation, which recently broke a 17-year-ceasefire after warning that it would fight to block the project.
Analysis: Water Rights Trade To Help Quench World Thirst
(Reuters/Planet Ark) Markets in water rights are likely to evolve as a rising population leads to shortages and climate change causes drought and famine.
But they will be based on regional and ethical trading practices and will differ from the bulk of commodity trade.
Detractors argue trading water is unethical or even a breach of human rights, but already water rights are bought and sold in arid areas of the globe from Oman to Australia.
Environment: Worlds Of Water (available only to members)
By Charles Emmerson
(Chatham House) Why water security is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century, and why water politics have just got more complicated.
Water is the most essential and most awkward of natural resources. It has no substitutes, but many uses – as drinking water, for sanitation purposes, in agriculture, in industrial processes, in electricity generation. Water’s versatility makes it coveted by many different consumers, each with their own needs and political heft.
Sometimes water ends up not being water at all: it becomes an input to agricultural production or energy or, in the case of bio-fuels, both. In hydraulic fracturing, water is key to the extraction of natural gas. Elsewhere, it is needed to cool power stations. In southern Mongolia’s bone-dry Gobi, water is needed for the region’s huge mineral wealth to be developed.
Sometimes, the process works the other way, and huge amounts of energy and wealth are used to provide water. In California, it is the State Water Project, transporting water to southern California, that is the single largest user of electricity. In Saudi Arabia, up to 1.5 million barrels of oil per day are used to desalinate and pump the country’s water.
Water’s usability depends not only on sheer quantity, but also on quality and type. Water’s most common form – ocean saltwater – is its least directly useful (though advocates of large-scale desalinisation and salt-water farming have long promised that could change).
Clean up the Ganga; Remember the Thames
(Economic Times of India) The World Bank has sanctioned a loan, worth $1 billion, to the National Ganga River Basin Authority ( NGRBA), to clean up the Ganga. This is a good idea. The loan is supposed to fund projects to treat waste, from industry, towns and cities on the banks of the river, which is now routinely dumped into it. This, it was recognised many years ago, was one of the primary sources of pollution of Ganga waters.
… it’s also important to remember that a river can only be as clean as the people who live alongside allow it to be. If a deficit of sanitary infrastructure makes people turn to the river or if incompletely burnt bodies are floated into the river in the name of custom, or people throw tonnes of stuff daily into the river whether as sacrament or as garbage, polluted the Ganga will remain. If the Ganga has to be really clean, it’s necessary to address not just its physical ecosystem, but its social ecosystem as well.
Brazil grants building permit for Belo Monte Amazon dam
Brazil’s environment agency has backed construction of a hydro-electric dam in the Amazon, opposed by indigenous groups and environmentalists.
The agency, Ibama, said the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River had been subjected to “robust analysis” of its impact on the environment.
The government says the dam is key to meeting Brazil’s growing energy needs.
But opponents argue it will harm the world’s largest tropical rainforest and displace tens of thousands of people.
Governments must protect global water supply: experts
(CTV News) Access to clean, potable water will become a growing source of international tension unless governments take steps to protect the world’s supply, experts are warning ahead of a water security conference in Toronto.
Water has turned into an “urgent security issue” as urbanization, population growth and other forces place increasing strain on natural resources, the experts said.
More than a dozen environment and policy experts are to gather this week for a three-day conference to discuss problems affecting the world’s water supply.
A panel moderated by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and two other former heads of state will draft recommendations to help governments counter those threats.
Thomas Axworthy: ‘If you control water, you control everything’
(Toronto Star) There are many ways to assess the importance of water. But a prism that I find most useful is to view water as a national security requirement. Karen Bakker, director of the program on water governance at the University of British Columbia, defines water security as “sustainable access on a watershed basis to adequate quantities of water of acceptable quality to ensure human and ecological health.”
If that is the goal, we are far from achieving it: one-quarter of all Canadian communities experienced water shortages during the last half of the 1990s, water quality in a thousand remote rural communities is as bad or worse than in many developing countries, and 100 First Nations live with continuing boil-water advisories.
Former national leaders: Water a global security issue
(Eureka) Water as an “urgent security issue” tops the agenda this year for a council of 37 former heads of state and government convening in Canada 10 weeks from now, with a preliminary meeting of international experts this week on the prospect of future water conflicts.
The InterAction Council (IAC), co-chaired by the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien, former Prime Minister of Canada, and H.E. Dr. Franz Vranitzky, former Chancellor of Austria, makes recommendations related to long-term issues facing humankind and holds its annual plenary this year in Quebec City May 29-31.
Mr. Chretien and Dr. Vranitzky and General Olusegun Obasanjo (former President of Nigeria) will also co-chair the experts’ meeting, hosted by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto March 21-23
[Water and] The Coming Health Crisis
(The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences) Water scarcity is already a major global issue that carries heavy adverse health sequelae, and climate change will further destabilize access to fresh water.
A sampling of four current crises illustrates the gravity of the situation. One: In the North China Plain, where half of China’s wheat is grown, the water table is falling by as much as 3 meters/year. Two: Certain states in India are using half of their electricity budget to pump water from depths as deep as one kilometer to irrigate crops. Three: Roughly 300 million Chinese and Indians are eating food grown on “fossil” water that is not replenished. Four: In the Middle East and North Africa, current rates of freshwater use are equivalent to 115% of total renewable runoff.
Given such unsustainable use around the world, the number of people living in water-scarce countries is expected to rise six-fold from 470 million to 3 billion between 1990 and 2025.
New app targets broken water systems
Water for People has developed a new Android cell phone application to help people and groups in the developing world track installed water systems and identify broken pumps. The Flow app allows people to photograph systems, answer questions about operating functionality and log GPS coordinates. CNN (10/22)
Report Casts World’s Rivers in ‘Crisis State’
(US News) The world’s rivers, the single largest renewable water resource for humans and a crucible of aquatic biodiversity, are in a crisis of ominous proportions, according to a new global analysis.
Shedding some light on the problem of dirty water
On a trip to Zambia, Timothy Whitehead says, he saw chemical tablets being widely used to sterilize drinking water. Convinced that there must be a better way, he created a bottle that sterilizes water using an ultraviolet bulb powered by a wind-up generator. The Pure bottle is competing for an international innovation prize sponsored by Sir James Dyson, but Whitehead has other goals, too. “Big water companies have been in contact,” he says. “There’s definitely the potential that it will go further.” Telegraph (London) (8/16)
UN votes to support water as human right
The United Nations General Assembly voted Wednesday to support a nonbinding resolution declaring access to clean water and sanitation as a human right. Canada, the U.S. and Australia were among the 41 countries to abstain from the vote. No country voted against the measure. More than 884 million people around the world lack access to drinking water, and 2.6 billion are without access to basic sanitation. BBC (7/28) , Google/Agence France-Presse (7/28)
Ever since the beginning of this nation, Americans have always been able to take for granted that there would always be plenty of fresh water. But unfortunately that is rapidly changing. Due to pollution, corruption, inefficiency and the never ending greed of the global elite, the United States (and the entire world) is heading for a very serious water shortage. Already, there are some areas of the United States where water is the number one local political issue. In fact, water is becoming so scarce in certain areas that some states are actually battling in court over it. Unfortunately, there is every indication that the worldwide water crisis is about to get a lot worse.
The World’s Ongoing Ecological Disasters
The shrinking of the Aral Sea (Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan)
(Foreign Policy) Straddling the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest inland water body and home at least 20 species of fish and a thriving coastal economy in the surrounding towns. In the early 1960s, the Soviet government built more than 45 dams and 20,000 miles of canals in an effort to create a cotton industry on the desert plains of Uzbekistan, depriving the sea of its main sources.
Over the next three decades, the sea shrank to two-fifths its original size, turning fishing villages into barren desert outposts. Thanks to the high salt content in the remaining water, all 20 fish species are now extinct. Drinking water supplies in the area are dangerously low and the ground contains dangerous pesticides from the cotton farms. When the wind sweeps across the now-dry sea bed, it spreads up to 75 million tons of toxic dust and salt across Central Asia every year.
Report offers first worldwide estimate of investments in combating water pollution
An innovative market in water quality is rapidly emerging worldwide, as cash-strapped governments in countries as diverse as China, the United States, Brazil and Australia invest billions of public and private dollars in schemes that reward people who protect water resources, according to a new report that is the first to quantify payments for watershed services that could help avert a looming global water quality crisis.
A Vital River Is Withering, and Iraq Has No Answer
Withered by decades of dictatorial mismanagement and then neglect, by drought and the thirst of Iraq’s neighbors, the river formed by the convergence of the Tigris and the Euphrates no longer has the strength the keep the sea at bay.
The salt water of the gulf now pushes up the Faw peninsula. Last year, for the first time in memory, it extended beyond Basra, Iraq’s biggest port city, and even Qurna, where the two rivers meet. It has ravaged fresh-water fisheries, livestock, crops and groves of date palms that once made the area famous, forcing the migration of tens of thousands of farmers.
For want of a drink
Finite, vital, much wanted, little understood, water looks unmanageable. But it needn’t be, argues John Grimond
(The Economist) The difficulties start with the sheer number of people using the stuff. When, 60 years ago, the world’s population was about 2.5 billion, worries about water supply affected relatively few people. Both drought and hunger existed, as they have throughout history, but most people could be fed without irrigated farming. Then the green revolution, in an inspired combination of new crop breeds, fertilisers and water, made possible a huge rise in the population. The number of people on Earth rose to 6 billion in 2000, nearly 7 billion today, and is heading for 9 billion in 2050. The area under irrigation has doubled and the amount of water drawn for farming has tripled. The proportion of people living in countries chronically short of water, which stood at 8% (500m) at the turn of the 21st century, is set to rise to 45% (4 billion) by 2050. And already 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night, partly for lack of water to grow food.
People in temperate climates where the rain falls moderately all the year round may not realise how much water is needed for farming. In Britain, for example, farming takes only 3% of all water withdrawals. In the United States, by contrast, 41% goes for agriculture, almost all of it for irrigation. In China farming takes nearly 70%, and in India nearer 90%. For the world as a whole, agriculture accounts for almost 70%.
American industry’s thirst for water: First study of its kind in 30 years
How many gallons of water does it take to produce $1 worth of sugar, dog and cat food, or milk? The answers appear in the first comprehensive study in 30 years documenting American industry’s thirst for this precious resource. The study, “Direct and Indirect Water Withdrawals for U.S. Industrial Sectors” which could lead to better ways to conserve water, is in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
Freshwater inflows could trigger drastic cooling
A massive flood originating in North America unloaded massive amounts of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean and sparked a mini ice age in Europe 13,000 years ago, according to a study published in the journal Nature. Scientists fear glacier melt associated with climate change may soon lead to another sharp cooling period. AlertNet.org/Reuters (3/31)
Poor missing out on moringa seeds’ water-purifying powers
(SciDev Net) Seeds from a tree that grows widely across the developing world could play a key role in water purification — but there is lack of awareness about this application despite a long indigenous history, say researchers. The Moringa tree — Moringa oleifera — is native to North India but is also found in Indonesia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and is used in many communities mostly for food and folk medicine. But adding crushed Moringa seeds to water can cut the time taken for bacteria and solids to settle from a full day to just one hour, and has potential for preventing diarrhoea, according to Michael Lea of Clearinghouse, a Canadian organisation that investigates low-cost water purification technologies.
UN: Contaminated water is more deadly than war
A report by the UN Environmental Program finds that deaths caused by contaminated water outnumber deaths caused by all forms of violence — including war. Fertilizer runoff, agricultural and industrial waste, and sewage are among the leading toxins that kill some 2.2 million people each year. Up to 60% of treated, potable water is lost to leaks in pipes and poorly maintained sewage networks — infrastructure that, if repaired, could provide clean water to 90 million people per day. The Christian Science Monitor (3/22) , Google/Agence France-Presse (3/22) , CNN (3/22)
Climate change taking toll on Kyrgyz glaciers
Unless immediate action is taken to combat global warming, Kyrgyzstan’s 2,200 glaciers might melt within a century, Kyrgyz scientists warn. Much of Central Asia relies on the glaciers in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as a water source. BBC (10/28)
17 September 2009
Obama Seeks National Oversight of Waters
The Obama administration called Thursday for a comprehensive national system for regulating the use of federal waters along the nation’s marine and Great Lakes shores, now administered by a hodgepodge of federal, state or other agencies with often-conflicting goals.
Revenge of the Rivers
A summer of severe storms has left much of the world underwater.
(Foreign Policy Photo Essay) Summer of floods: Over the last few months, a remarkable convergence of heavy rains has plagued the Earth from Istanbul to the Ivory Coast, causing treacherous floods and leaving many people without homes. Storms began in June and led to massive flooding across the region. According to the United Nations, more than 159 people in West Africa have been killed by flooding and resulting mudslides, with those living in slums particularly at risk. An estimated 600,000 people across the region had homes damaged, with many left homeless.
Rural India’s drought woes stress need for new water policy
Economic ripple effects from drought in India’s rural areas highlight the need for government planners to develop a new national water policy to decrease farmers’ susceptibility to weather patterns. This year’s drought has led to lower earnings, decreasing consumer demand and increasing food prices that threaten to engulf the entire country. TIME (8/23)
Asia urged to act on water wastage
(FT) Asian governments need to spend billions of dollars modernising their irrigation systems to boost food output or take the politically difficult choice of relying more on imports, a United Nations-backed report says. The warning, in a study by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Water Management Institute, comes as scarce monsoon rains in India have hit crops, particularly rice, highlighting the region’s vulnerability to water shortages. More on BBC
India’s water use ‘unsustainable’
The Grace mission discovered that in the country’s north-west – including Delhi – the water table is falling by about 4cm (1.6 inches) per year. Writing in the journal Nature, they say rainfall has not changed, and water use is too high, mainly for farming.
The MEI simply will not let go of this issue
Northern Waters – A realistic, sustainable and profitable plan to exploit Quebec’s blue gold
(Montreal Economic Institute) Economic Note on the development of Quebec’s blue gold in a realistic and environmentally respectful manner
L’eau du nord: blue gold (Financial Post) The ‘Northern Waters’ project would give Quebec fresh water for export and more hydroelectricity
Water for Food, Water for Life
Clean Water Should Be Recognized as a Human Right
Firstly, access to clean water can substantially reduce the global burden disease caused by water-borne infections. Secondly, the privatization of water—as witnessed in Bolivia, Ghana and other countries—has not effectively served the poor, who suffer the most from lack of access to clean water. Thirdly, the prospect of global water scarcity—exacerbated by climate change, industrial pollution, and population growth—means that no country is immune to a water crisis. The United States is facing the greatest water shortages of its history, and in Australia severe drought has caused dangerous water shortages in the Murray-Darling river basin, which provides the bulk of its food supply.
A human rights framework, argue the Editors, offers what the water situation needs—international recognition from which concerted action and targeted funding could flow; guaranteed standards against which the protected legal right to water could be monitored; and accountability mechanisms that could empower communities to advocate and lobby their governments to ensure that water is safe, affordable, and accessible to everyone.
Water: A finite resource (with pictures and graphs)
Although water covers 75 percent of the world’s surface, 97.5 percent of the earth’s water is salt water; of the remaining 2.5 percent, most is locked away as groundwater or in glaciers.
Whenever the topic of water comes up, we are reminded of the occasion in early 1991 when Wednesday Night hosted a Spicer Commission “Town Hall”. The opening question decreed by the established format was what did people in the room think would be the most important issue of the 21 st century. From a dark corner of the room came one word “Water”. As the facilitator vainly searched for water in her lists of probable answers, the general agreement on the importance of water quickly morphed into a debate about what percentage of the world’s water resources was in Canada.
Since then, issues related to water, especially its non-renewable nature, reappear with increasing frequency on the Wednesday Night agenda, and the debate over whether water should be “commoditized” often rages.
‘Clean’ Energy and Poisoned Water
(Truthdig) Corporations in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and upstate New York have launched a massive program to extract natural gas through a process that could, if it goes wrong, degrade the Delaware River watershed and the fresh water supplies that feed upstate communities, the metropolitan cities of New York, Philadelphia, Camden and Trenton, and many others on its way to the Delaware Bay. Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are locked under the Marcellus Shale that runs from West Virginia, through Ohio, across most of Pennsylvania and into the Southern Tier of New York state. There are other, small plates of shale, in the south and west of the United States. It takes an estimated 3 million to 5 million gallons of water per well to drill down to the natural gas in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The water is mixed with resin-coated sand and a cocktail of hazardous chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, nitrogen, biocides, surfactants, friction reducers and benzene to facilitate the fracturing of the shale to extract the gas.
Chinese to relocate 150 million from ecological disaster area
Water shortages prompted by over-irrigation and the stress of global climate change have forced Chinese authorities to relocate millions of people from former agricultural areas that are being gradually engulfed by inhospitable deserts. The government estimates more than 150 million people will need to be relocated, largely from the northwest. The Guardian (London) (5/18)
Thirst of the cities drives the giant drills to water China’s parched north
Fifty-year project to stem depletion of the Yellow river dubbed a mega-project too far by critics
China‘s latest, greatest engineering project, the South-North Water Diversion Scheme. In the spirit of President Hu Jintao’s drive for “scientific development”, the aim is to engineer a solution to the most pressing environmental problem – the alarming depletion of water resources in the arid, heavily populated north. More than twice as expensive as the Three Gorges Dam and three times longer than the railway to Tibet, the 50-year, $62bn (£40.67bn) project aims to channel a greater volume than the Thames along three channels – each more than 600 miles long – from the moist Yangtze basin up to the dry lands above the Yellow river.
Water supply in danger as world rivers suffer
Rivers around the world — including the Niger, Yellow and Ganges — are suffering as a result of climate change and poor resource management, increasing the risk of future supply shortfalls, according to research published Tuesday in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. AlertNet.org/Reuters Climate change threatens Ganges, Niger and other mighty rivers (The Guardian) (4/21)
PERU: Water Isn’t for Everyone
LIMA, Apr 18 (IPS/IFEJ) – The melting of glaciers resulting from climate change and the lack of adequate water management policies seem to be the main causes behind the water shortages that are fuelling conflicts in Peru.
At the end of the week-long water conference in Istanbul, more than 100 countries pledged to improve sanitation and water supplies for those in need. The conference made a number of non-binding recommendations. But Canada, Egypt, the United States and some other nations refused to recognize access to fresh water as a basic human right. The conference’s final text instead declared water to be a basic human need. Canada’s environment minister, Jim Prentice, explained that declaring access to fresh water to be a human right would force countries with large freshwater supplies to export their resources to countries with insufficient supplies. On Saturday, he announced that the Canadian government would continue funding a United Nations project based in Canada to monitor the quality of freshwater around the world.
Forum meets to discuss water as right, investment, weapon
UN Wire | 03/23/2009
Government officials met with leaders from a variety of NGOs in Istanbul for the World Water Forum, where discussion of global water policy turned toward a debate about the implications of designating access to clean water as a fundamental human right. China, Canada, the U.S. and some other countries have resisted the effort to enshrine clean water as a human right on the grounds it might require them to share water resources. The World Bank has warned the global economic crisis has delayed much-needed investments in water infrastructure, which could cost industrial nations as much as $200 billion a year. Turkish police at the conference noted water cannons are the most economical method of keeping protesters at bay.
22 March 2009
In 2009, the focus of World Water Day on March 22 will be on transboundary waters: sharing water, sharing opportunities. UNECE and UNESCO are the lead UN agencies this year.
Transboundary water management is not an IRC theme. However, we do occasionally publish news articles on it in our news blogs. Some relevant documents published on this topic can also be found in the IRC digital library IRCDOC.
Another source of information is the database on water resources which has many entries on boundary waters, rivers and lakes as international borders etc. More
(World Bank) The world’s 263 transboundary lake and river basins include the territory of 145 countries and cover nearly half of the Earth’s land surface. Great reservoirs of freshwater also move silently below our borders in underground aquifers. With every country seeking to satisfy its water needs from limited water resources, some foresee a future filled with conflict. But history shows that cooperation, not conflict, is the most common response to transboundary water management issues.
SIWI (Stockholm International Water Insititute) has issued a report detailing an analytical framework for effectively developing transboundary water resources in a responsible manner.
The report, The TWO Analysis – Introducing a Methodology for the Transboundary Waters Opportunity Analysis, outlines an approach by which transboundary water stakeholders can collaborate on the equitable and sustainable use of their jointly held freshwater resources. It sets out a methodology for optimizing benefits for development and economic growth and clarifies tradeoffs in developing transboundary water resources.
16 – 22 March
World Water Council holds 5th World Water Forum: Istanbul 2009 “Bridging Divides for Water” Daily coverage by IISD
Engineer helps poor in developing nations purify drinking water
Projects in Guatemala, South Africa aim to improve health of residents
The device looks deceptively simple – a porous clay pot placed in a five-gallon plastic bucket with a spigot – but Vinka Craver believes it can save millions of lives each year.
Chile’s water problems raise concerns over system of use
Economists believe Chile’s water rights trading system is a model for using water efficiently to is highest use, but environmentalists counter the scheme is an unsustainable method of use that causes shortages and endangers the environment. The New York Times (3/14)
UN issues stark water warning
Water management crises are developing across the world as climate change, pollution, growing populations and poor management stretch the globe’s dwindling water supplies to a dangerous point, the United Nations says in the new World Water Development Report compiled by 24 agencies. By 2030, the report predicts, nearly half of the world’s population is likely to be living in water-stressed areas. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (3/12)
The Global Water Crisis: a Question of Governance
“Just as states have fought over oil, water has played a role in international conflicts. Water resources have been military and political goals. Water resources have been used as weapons of war. Water systems and infrastructure, such as dams and supply canals, have been targets of war. And inequities in the distribution, use and consequences of water management and use have been a source of tension and dispute.”
Grass-roots uprising against river dam challenges Tokyo
(IHT) HITOYOSHI, Japan: First, the farmers objected to an ambitious dam project proposed by the government, saying they did not need irrigation water from the reservoir. Then the commercial fishermen complained that fish would disappear if the Kawabe River’s twisting torrents were blocked. Environmentalists worried about losing the river’s scenic gorges. Soon, half of this city’s 34,000 residents had signed a petition opposing the $3.6 billion project.
China plans 59 reservoirs to collect meltwater from its shrinking glaciers
Major project for Xinjiang province amid concerns over future water supply
China is planning to build 59 reservoirs to collect water from its shrinking glaciers as the cost of climate change hits home in the world’s most populous country. The far western province of Xinjiang, home to many of the planet’s highest peaks and widest ice fields, will carry out the 10-year engineering project, which aims to catch and store glacier run-off that might otherwise trickle away into the desert.
29 January 2009
The bubble is close to bursting: warnings on water from World Economic Forum report
Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, − Water is the nexus linking together a web of food, energy, climate, economic growth and human security; the world simply cannot manage water in the future in the same way as in the past or the economic web will collapse. This is the stark warning of a forecast released today by the World Economic Forum. Report is available here.