‘State of the World’s Rivers’ Project Documents Decline in Rivers From Dams

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Many of the world’s great river basins have been dammed to the point of serious decline, including the Mississippi, Yangtze, Paraná and Danube.

“The evidence we’ve compiled of planetary-scale impacts from river change is strong enough to warrant a major international focus on understanding the thresholds for ‘river change’ in the world’s major basins, and for the planet as a whole system,” said Jason Rainey, Executive Director of International Rivers.

For example, in the Middle East, decades of dam building in the Tigris-Euphrates basin have made it one of the most fragmented basins in the world. As a result, the basin’s flooded grassland marshes have significantly decreased, leading to the disappearance of salt-tolerant vegetation that helped protect coastal areas, and a reduction in the plankton-rich waters that fertilize surrounding soils. Habitat has decreased for 52 native fish species, migratory bird species, and mammals such as the water buffalo, antelopes and gazelles, and the jerboa.

Meanwhile, some of the lesser-dammed basins, which are still relatively healthy at this point, are being targeted for major damming. For example, the most biodiverse basin in the world, the Amazon, still provides habitat for roughly 14,000 species of mammals, 2,200 fish species, 1,500 bird species, and more than 1,000 amphibian species, like the Amazon River Dolphin, the Amazonian Manatee, and the Giant Otter.

When all dam sizes are counted, an astonishing 412 dams are planned or under construction in the Paraná basin, and 254 in the Amazon basin. In Asia, China plans to continue to dam the Yangtze basin with at least another 94 planned large dams, while an additional 73 are under construction. At least 153 more dams are planned or already being built in the Mekong basin.”

Read more: International Rivers

 

California drought: San Jose declares water shortage, but won’t fine wasters

Photo retrieved from: www.californiareport.org

“More than seven months into the California drought, San Jose has officially declared a citywide water shortage, asking the city’s 1 million residents to cut their water use by 20 percent — but there will be no new consequences for those who don’t.

The drought declaration, which the San Jose City Council unanimously approved Tuesday, makes it illegal for property owners to use potable water to irrigate their lawns or landscaping between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. through April 2015. It comes on top of several state and regional rules already in effect, such as bans on cleaning vehicles without a hose shut-off nozzle and filling non-recirculating decorative fountains with potable water.

In addition, the council moved to work with regional water officials to explore a new recycled water facility, create a new program to reward water savers and hire teens for a new campaign to aid property owners.

With California enduring its worst drought in four decades, state rules passed last month require water agencies to limit water use and allow them to punish offenders with fines up to $500.

But San Jose will not be enforcing its new rules independently. Instead, it will rely on the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is already hiring 10 “water cops” to crack down on those who abuse drought restrictions starting next month.

San Jose is not ready to fine water wasters, unlike a small number of California cities, such as Sacramento, Pleasanton and Santa Cruz. Instead, San Jose is focusing on education, hoping residents voluntarily follow the new rules after a fresh round of outreach on what they can do to cut water use. “A lot of times the community is just unaware,” said Kerrie Romanow, the city’s environmental services director.

San Jose residents have reduced water use by about 14 percent this year. The state, the water district — and now, the city — are asking for a 20 percent reduction.”

Read more: San Jose Mercury News

13 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the U.S. Water System (But Should)

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“Two U.S. cities (Charleston, West Virginia, and Toledo, Ohio) have gone for days with no safe water service. The nation’s largest reservoir is lower than it’s ever been. The nation’s largest state is in the worst drought ever recorded.

Here are some statistics that sum up the condition of the U.S. water system, which in a word are not good.

• The U.S. has 1.2 million miles of water supply mains — 26 miles of water mains for every mile of interstate highway.

• The U.S. water system has become so old that, on average, every mile of water pipe suffers a break every six years.

• U.S. water pipes leak one full day’s water for every seven days. That is, U.S. water utilities lose one out of seven gallons of drinking water they supply before it arrives at a customer.

• Many cities have centuries-long replacement cycles for their water pipes. Los Angeles and Philadelphia both have a 300-year replacement cycle. Washington, D.C. has a 200-year water pipe replacement cycle.

• The water system is often out-of-date in surprising ways. In Sacramento, California’s capital, half the water customers have no water meters, so in the midst of the state’s worst drought in history, they pay a flat fee no matter how much water they use. In New York, the city’s largest apartment complex, Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town, has 11,232 units — and no water meters.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Young Farmers in the Western U. S. Adapt to a Water-Scarce Future

Photo retrieve from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“The Colorado Basin alone irrigates some 15% of US produce overall and 80% of winter vegetables.  So we all, to some degree, “eat” the Colorado – and thus have a stake in how well farmers can adapt to the drought-prone, water-stressed world now upon us.

Though the farmers profiled differ in their approaches to building resilience on their land and in their operations, and they represent a small, non-random sample, a few important themes jump out.

First, restoring health to soils is key.  Heavily compacted, nutrient poor, exposed soils do not store water well.  So enhancing the capacity of soils to hold moisture is crucial for every western farmer interested in weathering dry spells and reduced water allocations.

For Brendon Rockey, a 36-year-old farmer in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a groundwater-dependent region in the headwaters of the Rio Grande, the solution came in the form of an age-old practice: planting “green manure” cover crops.  Instead of rotating in barley after potatoes, Rockey eliminated the barley in favor of a strategic mix of ten different cover crops that kept the soil protected from wind and evaporation losses, fixed nitrogen and thus naturally fertilized the soil, and produced flowers that brought predatory insects that kept the non-beneficial bugs at bay.

The cover crops not only reduced Rockey’s groundwater use (and pumping costs), they helped improve the quality of his potato harvest and lowered fertilizer and pesticide costs.

“Farmers need to become biologists again,” Rockey told the NYFC.

Second, farmers just starting out often do not have the capital to purchase water-saving equipment or implement conservation methods, so support for irrigation technology upgrades can be a big help.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Water too precious to waste on charity’s campaign, Californian says

Photo retrieved from: www.chicagotribune.com

“The Golden State is experiencing one of its worst droughts on record. Water is like gold out there — it’s extremely valuable and it’s getting more difficult to find.

Nearly 100 percent of California remains in a “severe” drought, the third-harshest on a five-level scale, according to a recent U.S. Drought Monitor report. “Water cops” have begun patrolling the streets in some cities to cite and even fine water wasters up to $500. Wells are drying up and farmers are losing their crops.

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If I, a California native, didn’t feel comfortable asking friends or family there to waste a bucket of water on a viral campaign, then why should I ask anyone else to do it? Why should any of us do it?

Every once in a while we see charities come up with clever campaigns that capture the hearts and checkbooks of people around the country. And you have to commend the minds behind the Ice Bucket Challenge for the idea.

As of Wednesday, the ALS Association had received $31.5 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.9 million during the same period last year.”

Read more: Chicago Tribune

Water-conservation tools: Shame, higher prices

Photo retrieved from: www.ocregister.com

“The water ninjas are prowling the streets. Mocking. Undercover. Often anonymous. They are watching you, snapping pictures of your wastefulness with their cellphones, then uploading the evidence for all the world – and your newly empowered local water agency – to see.

“Congratulations for watering the pavement,” sneered one self-appointed water warrior in Costa Mesa, posting a photo online of runoff pooling curbside off Parsons Street.

“Shame on you USC!! We are in a flipping 100-year drought! Use a damn broom!” scolded Jenna Cavelle, capturing a worker in rubber boots power-hosing a campus sidewalk.

A. Duran’s shot depicts a bald man in dark sunglasses soaking his roses in East Los Angeles. “This guy has been doing this daily since the drought began,” Duran chided.

Public shaming has become a tool of choice for resident watchdogs on sites such as neighborhood-watch app VizSAFE (“drought channel”), H2O Tracker (“report water waste”) and, of course, Twitter (#droughtshaming, #watershaming, #waterwaste, etc.), as California’s historic drought takes a dark, dusty turn.

Be warned: You may well end up paying more for your water, even as you use less of it. More on that in a minute.

CRACKING DOWN

Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown beseeched Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. The State Water Resources Board put some muscle behind that last month, embracing emergency regulations making water waste a crime and empowering local agencies to prosecute offenders and fine them up to $500 a day.

That means no hosing down sidewalks and driveways. No landscape watering that dribbles into the street. No washing cars unless there’s a shut-off nozzle on the hose. No fresh water splashing in pretty fountains unless the fountains recirculate the water.”

Read more: OC Register

Jihadists Rout Kurds in North and Seize Strategic Iraqi Dam

 

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“The crisis gripping Iraq escalated rapidly on Thursday with a re-energized Islamic State in Iraq and Syria storming new towns in the north and seizing a strategic dam as Iraq’s most formidable military force, the Kurdish pesh merga, was routed in the face of the onslaught.

The loss of the Mosul Dam, the largest in Iraq, to the insurgents was the most dramatic consequence of a militant offensive in the north, which has sent tens of thousands of refugees, many from the Yazidi minority, fleeing into a vast mountainous landscape.

In one captured town, Sinjar, ISIS executed dozens of Yazidi men, and kept the dead men’s wives for unmarried jihadi fighters. Panic on Thursday spread even to the Kurdish capital of Erbil, long considered a safe haven, with civilians flooding the airport in a futile attempt to buy tickets to Baghdad.”

Read more: NY Times

 

The Right to Water in Gaza

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“After almost three weeks of bombing, the death toll in Gaza rose to more than 1,030 on Sunday. The Palestinian poet Jehan Bseiso writes, “There’s more blood than water today in Gaza.”

Haaretz notes, “After two and a half weeks of bombardments from the air and ground, roughly two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s inhabitants — 1.2 million people — are suffering from severe disruptions to the water and sewage systems, according to Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene, a coalition of around 40 humanitarian groups operating in the occupied territories. In addition to the damage of the central pipeline and the reservoirs — which affects cities and villages throughout Gaza — home pipes and water containers on roofs have been damaged by the bombardments.”

Beyond water shortages, Gazans are now paying more to get what scarce water there is.

The Associated Press reports, “Electricity and water have become luxury items [in Gaza]. …Gaza gets its electricity from Israeli and Egyptian lines — for payment — and from a power plant in Gaza. The Israeli lines have been damaged in the fighting, leaving only supplies from Egypt and the power plant, says the local electricity distribution company’s official, Jamal al-Dardasawi. …Without power to run pumps, there is no water, especially in Gaza’s high-rise buildings. Rawan Taha, a 39-year-old housewife, lives in such an apartment tower. She says she last showered three days ago. When the water is on, she fills her bathtub, pots and empty bottles. Gaza’s tap water is not drinkable, and her family pays 20 shekels ($6) each day for drinking water.”

Al Jazeera adds, “In Khan Younis, a burned-out crater leaves a gaping hole on the main road, the aftermath of an Israeli F16 missile strike. The residents of nearby Khuzaa, which was under heavy Israeli bombardment, are sleeping on the streets. Access to water is extremely difficult; a man who generally sells water tanks for $4 is now asking for $29.”

And there is another water crisis just around the corner.

The Haaretz article highlights, “Gaza’s water supply was in crisis even before the current conflict. According to the United Nations, the section of coastal aquifer that serves Gaza will be unusable in 2016 because of the overpumping of groundwater.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Drought and Misuse Behind Lebanon’s Water Scarcity

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“In a normal year, the water trucks do not appear until September, but this year they have started working even before summer because of the severe drought currently affecting Lebanon.

This comes on top of the increased pressure on the existing water supply due to the presence of more than one million Syrian refugees fleeing the war, exacerbating a situation which may lead to food insecurity and public health problems.

Rains were scarce last winter. While the annual average in recent decades was above 800 mm, this year it was around 400 mm, making it one of the worst rainfall seasons in the last sixty years.

The paradox is that Lebanon should not suffer from water scarcity. Annual precipitation is about 8,600 million cubic metres while normal water demand ranges between 1,473 and 1,530 million cubic metres per year, according to the Impact of Population Growth and Climate Change on Water Scarcity, Agricultural Output and Food Securityreport published in April by the Issam Fares Institute (IFI) at the American University of Beirut.

However, as Nadim Farajalla, Research Director of IFI’s Climate Change and Environment in the Arab World Programme, explains, the country’s inability to store water efficiently, water pollution and its misuse both in agriculture and for domestic purposes, have put great pressure on the resource.

According to Bruno Minjauw, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative ad interim in the country as well as Resilience Officer, Lebanon” “has always been a very wet country. Therefore, the production system has never looked so much at the problem of water.”

Read more: IPS

 

 

Cali water cops: What you gonna do when they come for you?

Photo retrieved from: www.aljazeera.com

“LOS ANGELES — The trail of evidence streamed down a driveway and trickled down a street in the hilly Silver Lake neighborhood.

It’s 10:30 a.m. on a scorching July day, and Rick Silva is on the case. Wearing a fluorescent yellow vest, he charged up the hill — clipboard, notebook and pamphlets in hand — and knocked on the door. The culprit is quickly found: Sprinklers are dousing a steep slope in the back, sending a stream of precious water down the street.

The resident is a tenant who promises to alert his landlord.

Call Silva a drought buster, conservation expert or water cop (not a favored term). Whatever the title, his job is to educate Angelenos to save water and fine them if they don’t during a historic drought blanketing California.

“We go in the field to investigate complaints,” said Silva, who has become a rock star of sorts as media clamor for ride-alongs with the man who, at least until next week, was the only one to police water use by the 3.8 million people serviced by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Even late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel wants to do a skit with him.

“Before, we’d get 50 complaints a week,” said Silva, of calls flooding a complaint hotline. “Since last Tuesday, we get 50 a day.”

Sprinkler busters in demand

The sudden burst of interest was sparked after the decision by the California Water Resources Control Board on July 15 to approve fines of up to $500 a day for people who waste water outdoors — running sprinklers daily and during the hottest daytime hours, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle and hosing down sidewalks and driveways.”

Read more: Aljazeera