The Price of Thirst: How Millionaires Buy Up Farmland And Hoard All Our Water

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Where I grew up, the city of Los Angeles diverted water away from Owens Lake, slowly draining it starting in 1913. It took more than ten years for the lake to dry up and turn into a toxic dust bowl, when naturally occurring heavy metals like aluminum and cadmium that had concentrated in the salt lake over centuries became airborne. This dust has been shown to cause cancer and respiratory failure, among other ailments. I grew up experiencing water inequity in my own body.

So when I saw Sean Hannity on Fox News broadcasting from another California valley allegedly drained of its water, I must admit I became curious. In September 2009, Hannity broadcast from Huron, California, in a weeklong special titled “The Valley Hope Forgot.” He was broadcasting from the poorest congressional district in the nation, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. According to the 2009 U.S. Census, 39 percent of Huron’s close to eight thousand residents live below the poverty line. It is a migrant labor town, a cotton-picker town, and is 98.6 percent Latino/a. Huron has no medical services, no high school, and no voting booth during elections, because most of the residents are undocumented. Some 80 percent of Huron residents have not finished high school, and children who are born there have more birth defects than children anywhere else in the country—most likely due to pesticide exposure.

One resident of Huron said she shut the windows when the wind blew. “What good is the wind?” she asked. “It’s all poison.” The water quality is no better, ranking 490 out of 502 cities in California, with fecal coliform bacteria, E. coli, and nitrates found in dangerous levels. The water system is built and run by Tri-City Engineering and owned by a former manager of Bechtel.

I could certainly see why Hannity would call it “The Valley Hope Forgot.” Ironically, these were not the problems that Hannity had come to discuss. According to Fox News, Huron had only one problem: “environmental extremists” had turned off the water to save a “two-inch fish” in the Bay Area. According to Hannity, both the winter-run Chinook salmon and the delta smelt had been listed as endangered species in 1994, an event that wreaked havoc on local farms. It had been determined that water pumped for farming in the San Joaquin Valley was destroying the fishes’ habitat up north. In an area known simply as “the Delta,” an ecologically unique inland estuary exists between San Francisco and Sacramento. Through this Delta, much of the state’s water supply passes, as do its endangered fish species. It turned out they were all competing for water.”

Read more: AlterNet

 

In the Shadow of Glacial Lakes, Pakistan’s Mountain Communities Look to Climate Adaptation

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“Landslides, floods and soil erosion have become increasingly frequent, disrupting channels that carry fresh water from upstream springs into farmlands, and depriving communities of their only source of fresh water.

“Things were becoming very difficult for my family,” Zaman told IPS. “I began to think that farming was no longer viable, and was considering abandoning it and migrating to nearby Chitral [a town about 60 km away] in search of labour.”

He was not alone in his desperation. Azam Mir, an elderly wheat farmer from the Drongagh village in Bindo Gol, recalled a devastating landslide in 2008 that wiped out two of the most ancient water channels in the area, forcing scores of farmers to abandon agriculture and relocate to nearby villages.

“Those who could not migrate out of the village suffered from water-borne diseases and hunger,” he told IPS.

Now, thanks to a public-private sector climate adaptation partnership aimed at reducing the risk of disasters like glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), residents of the northern valleys are gradually regaining their livelihoods and their hopes for a future in the mountains.

Bursting at the seams

According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), there were some 2,400 potentially hazardous glacial lakes in the country’s remotest mountain valleys in 2010, a number that has now increased to over 3,000.

Chitral district alone is home to 549 glaciers, of which 132 have been declared ‘dangerous’.

Climatologists say that rising temperatures are threatening the delicate ecosystem here, and unless mitigation measures are taken immediately, the lives and livelihoods of millions will continue to be at risk.

One of the most successful initiatives underway is a four-year, 7.6-million-dollar project backed by the U.N. Adaptation Fund, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government of Pakistan.

Signed into existence in 2010, its main focus, according to Field Manager Hamid Ahmed Mir, has been protection of lives, livelihoods, existing water channels and the construction of flood control infrastructure including check dams, erosion control structures and gabion walls.”

Read more: IPS News

 

Oil spill coats river, sea in Nigeria’s impoverished Niger Delta

Photo retrieved from: www.america.aljazeera.com

“A large oil spill near Nigeria’s Brass facility, run by ENI, an Italian energy company, has spread through the sea and swamps of the oil producing Niger Delta region, local residents and the company said Monday.

ENI said it was not yet possible to determine the cause of the spill.

“During loading operations on a tanker on November 27, an oil spill in the sea was seen. Operations were immediately suspended and resumed only after it was verified that the vessel’s structures were not damaged and were not leaking,” the company said in an emailed statement, according to Reuters.

Vast stretches of the delta’s unique mangrove swamps are blackened and dead from oil pollution caused by hundreds of leaks every year from pipelines that pass through the delta’s creeks.

ENI in particular reported 471 spills in the Niger Delta, compared with the 138 from Shell from January to September, according to a recent Amnesty International report. ENI’s Nigerian subsidiary frequently blames saboteurs, but Amnesty said there’s “absolutely no information” to support their claims.

“For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria, in particular Shell, have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage and theft of oil,” the report said. “There is no legitimate basis for this claim.”

Nigerian legislators are considering a law to impose new fines on operators responsible for oil spills, a measure that could land major foreign companies with penalties running into tens of millions of dollars a year.

Francis Clinton Tubo Ikagi, chairman of the Odioama fishing community in Bayelsa, where a large part of the Niger river fans out through creeks into the Atlantic, told journalists on the scene that he saw a large oil slick on Nov. 20.

“I saw a very thick layer of crude oil on the river,” he said.” “The community is affected seriously. Our women and men whose main livelihood source is fishing are complaining bitterly to us that the whole river is full of oil.”

Read more: Aljazeera America

 

Can We Forecast Where Water Conflicts Are Likely to Occur?

Photo retrieved from: www.newsecuritybeat.org

“The scientific literature on international water politics offers a wealth of case studies on individual river basins, but also an increasing number of larger-scale comparisons of many international freshwater catchments.

The latter work in particular offers a reasonably good basis for moving one step further, that is, from explanations of international water conflict in the past to predictions about which areas of the world are most prone to water conflicts in the future.

Basins at Risks

Building on new data on international river basins and conflict events, we revisited earlier research on the basins at risk of conflict and developed a prediction and forecasting approach for international river basin conflicts.

Whereas an earlier study by Yoffe, Wolf, and colleagues identified 29 basins at risk, our work, recently published in Global Environmental Politics, identifies 44 such river basins (see map). Only six basins simultaneously appear in the earlier and the new list: the Asi/Orontes, Cross, Han, Indus, Ob, and Tigris-Euphrates.

Note, however, that none of the river basins identified are likely to experience a “water war,” in the sense of an armed conflict over water. Instead, we expect conflicts to materialize primarily in the form of political tensions.”

Read more: New Security Beat

 

Stanford historian unearths greed-drenched origins of Mexico’s groundwater crisis

Photo retrieved from Stanford News

“A historic three-year drought has left California bone dry. But the state, along with much of the Southwest, is not alone in its water crisis. Mexico, too, is facing a severe water shortage, and Stanford scholar Mikael Wolfe says the Mexican version was decades in the making, and probably preventable.

Wolfe, an assistant professor of Latin American and environmental history, has brought to light the shady story of groundwater pumping in 20th-century Mexico. As Mexico’s water problem is now described as a matter of national security, Wolfe’s research is especially timely. He found that today’s groundwater crisis can be traced back to the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), much earlier than most water scholars and policymakers have assumed. His research draws heavily from the Historical Water Archive in Mexico City. The only collection of its kind in Latin America, the archive contains tens of thousands of documents produced by hydraulic engineers, landowners and peasants, from the 19th century to the present.

“Although the Revolution happened a century ago,” Wolfe says, “decisions about groundwater extraction continue to impact water quality and supply issues in Mexico today.”

Even more surprising, Wolfe found evidence that the Mexican government was warned about the overuse of groundwater resources in the 1930s. Mexican agriculturalists – by far the biggest groundwater users – were paving the way toward environmental disaster.

Within a decade after the Revolution, Mexico already showed signs of groundwater shortage. As Wolfe’s research demonstrates, the engineering elite was responsible for building canal networks, dam projects and groundwater pumps to distribute and maximize access to water. Wolfe found a confidential 1944 U.S. consular report predicting that ecological “disaster lies ahead” for Mexico – despite, or perhaps because of, the burgeoning water infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the insatiable demand for water, fueled by developmental imperatives, “persistently trumped concerns for conservation,” Wolfe said, adding, “it’s a pattern that persists to this day.”"

Read more at: Stanford News

LOS ANGELES MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI URGES CONSERVATION IN DROUGHT

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“Use less water and spend less for the water that is used. That’s the gist of a new directive from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Standing outside the Department of Water and Power’s downtown headquarters, the mayor signed the executive directive Tuesday, calling for big changes in water use. He says he wants the city to lead by example.

“The ongoing drought has created a water crisis second to none,” Garcetti said. “We need bold action, and that is what I am delivering today.”

The mayor wants the city to cut its water use by 20 percent over five years, ordering city departments to cut lawn watering to two days a week.

He also wants more drought tolerant plants. The DWP will now pay $3.75 a square foot to remove your lawn. DWP’s headquarters in downtown L.A. is having new water friendly landscaping installed.

“You can replace turf, if you can install appliances, water saving devices in your home, please reach out and have that discussion with us,” Marcie Edwards of the LADWP said. “The more money we save, it frees up money for us to put into our infrastructure, which is another critical priority.”

The mayor also wants a 50 percent cut in the amount of imported water purchased by the DWP. With the drought, Los Angeles is importing about 80 percent of its water, much which comes from Northern California.

He says, if there is an earthquake, that supply could be cut off for years. He wants to build the city’s local water supply, including treating groundwater, capturing and storing storm water and using recycled water.”

Read more: abc7

The Risks of Cheap Water

“This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.

It will get worse. As climate change and population growth further stress the water supply from the drought-plagued West to the seemingly bottomless Great Lakes, states and municipalities are likely to impose increasingly draconian restrictions on water use.

Such efforts may be more effective than simply exhorting people to conserve. In August, for example, cities and towns in California consumed much less water — 27 billion gallons less —than in August last year.

But the proliferation of limits on water use will not solve the problem because regulations do nothing to address the main driver of the nation’s wanton consumption of water: its price.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“In Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.

Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.

The land loss is swiftly reversing the process by which the state was built. As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

Amid crippling drought, California voters see no relief at the polls

Photo retrieved from: www.ecowatch.com

“LOS ANGELES — California residents face stiff fines if they use too much water. Wells in some communities are running dry. Farmers are drilling deeper and deeper in search of what has become liquid gold.

Yet in a state that is suffering a drought of historic proportions, water is not playing a paramount role in next month’s midterm elections.

It’s not that Californians are unconcerned about water shortages. In a recent Public Policy Institute of California survey, 72 percent of likely voters said the water supply in their part of the state is a problem. “Water and the drought are definitely on people’s minds,” said Dean Bonner, an associate survey director for the institute, a nonpartisan research group. “We found that 29 percent of likely voters named drought or water as a top issue for the state [second only to jobs and the economy]. Last September it was 2 percent.”

So why is it that drought rarely comes up in candidate forums or campaign ads?

“I don’t know if it’s because Californians are accustomed to the drought or because there’s no easy solution to it,” said Roger Salazar, Democratic political consultant. “It’s very much at the top on the mind of voters, but there isn’t anybody to take it out on.”

It may simply be tough to hold politicians accountable for a natural disaster. Whether or not the drought is a result of global warming, human intervention cannot reverse this year’s crippling drought. As a result, there is not one villain to boot out of office, and there is not one solution to the problem. “We’re all in this drought together,” Salazar said. “Now, if we could say, ‘Such and such has the solution,’ but no, we’re all in the same dry-docked boat together.”

Hard-hit farmers in the Central Valley and water conservationists statewide complain about the state’s history of disastrous water policies, but that does little to solve the problem now. Democrats have traditionally been more supportive of environmental measures, and any link between drought and climate change could bolster their positions. More Republicans are skeptical about global warming, but the number of doubters is shrinking, according to Gallup polls.”

Read more: Aljazeera

 

Gaza water network malfunctioning due to Israel war

Photo retrieved from: www.middleeastmonitor.com

“Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from water shortage with a Gaza resident telling Press TV that the drinking water is not suitable for use.

Reports say the damage to the sewerage system has led to the contamination of drinking water, making residents vulnerable to waterborne diseases.

More than 90 percent of the drinking water is reportedly contaminated.

“The water is very scarce and very salty and it is almost the same as sewage water,” said a Palestinian woman.

The Israeli military aggression has exacerbated the humanitarian situation in Gaza and Palestinians in the enclave are in desperate need for additional desalination plants.

“The devastation has created massive needs for more desalination plants,” a Palestinian desalination plant owner said.

Water pollution has also increased the death rate among the children in Gaza.

Experts say it would cost over USD 7 billion to rebuild the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction said on September 4 that the reconstruction process would take” “five years if Israel removed its blockade on Gaza entirely.”

Read more: PressTV