Archive for the 'policy' Category

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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

 

The Water Wars: Conflicts Over Water Sources Continue To Grow

Photo retrieved from: www.ca.news.yahoo.com

“Water wars are definitely more likely. Even on a weak definition – one country upsetting another country with its water policies – we can say that there are more water wars (many) than nuclear wars (none). Mexico is upset with the way the United States drains the Colorado River, and Americans are upset with the way Mexico drains the Rio Grande. Chinese and Laotian dams on the Mekong threaten food security in Cambodia and Vietnam. The Palestinians suffer from Israeli control of their water resources and infrastructure. In each example, we see one country upset and frustrated with another’s behavior.

But wait. Don’t people die in wars? Oh yes, but they do not have to die of bullets and bombs. It’s fairly certain that dead ecosystems have harmed Mexicans, that Mekong dams will leave Cambodians and Vietnamese hungry, and that Israeli irrigation has left Palestinian children thirsty. It doesn’t take too much hunger, thirst and ecological stress before one starts to see bodies. Water wars are out there, but not in the hot-lead-in-the-belly sense that reporters with flak jackets love. Water wars come, slow as molasses, to suffocate us.

Most of you will not experience these wars directly. You live in a place where water bills represent a good value because they cover the cost of delivering abundant, clean water. The same is not true elsewhere. The United Nations says that less than one billion people “lack access to an improved water source” but this number – mostly in cities – includes people who can “access” a source that may or may not deliver drinkable water. Non-UN sources say about 3 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Nearly half the world’s population labors under this burden and the attendant threats to their life, liberty and happiness. Should we assume that matters will improve for these people? Not necessarily for them or us. The recent loss of drinking water in Toledo, Ohio, remind us that nobody is safe when the system fails.”

Read more: Yahoo News

 

Preventing crises over shared water resources requires stronger foreign policy engagement

Photo retrieved from: www.trust.org

“Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Gaza. With such crises in the headlines, it is easy to forget about the structural challenges that threaten to become the foreign policy crises of the future. Among these, access to fresh water stands out. It is already contributing to many conflicts around the world, and demand is growing fast while supplies are limited (and, in the case of groundwater, being exhausted at unsustainable rates). Simultaneously, about 60 percent of the volume of global river flow is shared by two or more states.

Many shared basins – among them the Nile, the Indus, the Ganges, the Euphrates-Tigris, the Orontes, the Jordan, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, and the Mekong – overlap with regions characterised by substantial interstate and intrastate tensions. Population and economic growth increase demand for water. Climate change is concurrently leading to changes in regional and seasonal water variability. The resulting scarcity and extreme weather events, both floods and droughts, threaten long-term regional stability.

Yet shared waters do not have to be flashpoints of conflict, and can even build bridges in the midst of conflicts. For example, the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty has survived three wars between India and Pakistan. Water has also served as a crucial means for strengthening cooperation in Southern Africa. And the negotiations over shared waters between Israel and its neighbours have not only come much further than negotiations over other issues, but have also helped to establish informal means of cooperation in an otherwise highly conflictive region.”

Read more: Reuters

 

Water rights of Ireland and Jordan

Photo retrieved from: www.greenprophet.com

“Parts of this country receive up to 4 meters of rain each year. But Ireland was running out of water so its government recently brought in water charges. Here is why.

Jordan is one of the world’s driest countries, with desert comprising 75 percent of its land area. The entire country averages only about 160mm of annual rainfall and 41 percent of its land receives fewer than 50mm of rain each year.

Ireland receives an average of 1000mm of annual rainfall and parts of its Atlantic coastline receive nearly 4000mm (4 meters) of rain each year. Ireland’s driest recorded year was 1887 when only 356.6 mm of rain fell, more than twice Jordan’s average rainfall. With such a plentiful source of freshwater, Ireland never had to pay for huge reservoirsdesalinization plants, waste-water reclamation systems or Red to Dead sea projects.

In fact, in 1997, the government of Ireland decided that water should be a basic human right. So domestic water charges were abolished. Ireland did this thirteen years before the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 64/292 in July 2010 which also “Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

Water, they argued, shouldn’t be a commodity. Water should be a human right.

Irish residents took full advantage of this basic right. They washed their cars, dishes, clothes, bathed, showered and drank the free water. They could even water their golf courses and gardens during rainstorms and let their faucets drip 24 hours per day, 365 days per year– all for free because there was no such thing as a water meter!”

Read more: Green Prophet

 

 

‘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

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