Archive for the 'world water supply' Category

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

 

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 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

 

‘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

 

How Do We Avert A Thirsty Future?

Photo retrieved from: www.energydigital.com

“Adequate availability of water, food and energy is critical to global security. Water – the sustainer of life and livelihoods – is already the world’s most exploited natural resource. With nature’s capacity for providing renewable freshwater lagging behind humanity’s current rate of utilization, tomorrow’s water is being used to meet today’s need.

Consequently, the resources of shared rivers, aquifers and lakes have become the target of rival appropriation plans. Canada, which is the Saudi Arabia of the freshwater world, is fortunate to be blessed with exceptional water wealth. But more than half of the global population lives in conditions of water distress.

The struggle for water is exacerbating effects on the earth’s ecosystems. Groundwater depletion, for its part, is affecting natural stream flows, groundwater-fed wetlands and lakes, and related ecosystems.

If resources like water are degraded and depleted, environmental refugees will follow. Sanaa in Yemen risks becoming the first capital city to run out of water. If Bangladesh bears the main impact of China’s damming of River Brahmaputra, the resulting exodus of thirsty refugees will compound India’s security challenges.

Silent water wars between states, meanwhile, are already being waged in several regions, including by building dams on international rivers and by resorting to coercive diplomacy to prevent such construction. Examples include China’s frenetic upstream dam building in its borderlands and downriver Egypt’s threats of military reprisals against the ongoing Ethiopian construction of a large dam on the Blue Nile.”

Read more: The Globe and Mail

 

Beware large dams and their handlers — study

Photo retrieved from: www.bdlive.co.za

“MEGAPROJECTS should be approached with caution, as few managers anywhere in the world are able to forecast their costs and deadlines correctly, new research on megadams between 1934 and 2007 shows.

This applies particularly in the energy field and in Africa, making South Africa’s support for the largest hydropower scheme in the world, the $100bn Grand Inga project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, quite risky.

Large dams usually overshoot their budgets by an average of 96%, which is more than any other asset class, including rail, roads and tunnels, Atif Ansar, Oxford University lecturer and associate fellow at its Saïd Business School tells Business Day.

Dr Ansar has co-authored a report published this month in Energy Policy journal, titled Should We Build More Large Dams? The Actual Cost of Hydropower Megaproject Development. “One ill-conceived dam in a developing country has the potential to cause a sovereign debt crisis,” he says.

Pakistan’s Tarbela dam, built in the 1970s, resulted in a 23% increase in Pakistan’s external public debt stock between 1968 and 1984. Pakistan is still paying, decades later, says Dr Ansar.

Costs of dams are often too high to deliver risk-adjusted returns even in developed countries, his research has found.

Three out of every four large dams surveyed suffered cost overruns. They also took an average of 8.6 years to build, often making them ill-advised, and even dangerous.

African nations are particularly vulnerable. Costs are likely to spiral in countries with low per-capita incomes, unstable currencies and high inflation rates. Without strong economic fundamentals, as well as high-level expertise to manage complex projects, developing countries are at risk of damaging their economies by constructing large dams, Dr Ansar says.

Brazil’s $14.4bn megadam, the Belo Monte hydroelectric project, is a classic example.”

Read more: BDlive

 

American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga


Photo retrieved from: The Atlantic

“Hood, California, is a farming town of 200 souls, crammed up against a levee that protects it from the Sacramento River. The eastern approach from I-5 and the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove is bucolic. Cows graze. An abandoned railroad track sits atop a narrow embankment. Cross it, and the town comes into view: a fire station, five streets, a tiny park. The last three utility poles on Hood-Franklin Road before it dead-ends into town bear American flags.

“I’ve come here because this little patch of land is the key location in Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $25 billion plan to fix California’s troubled water transport system. Hood sits at the northern tip of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a network of manmade islands and channels constructed on the ruins of the largest estuary from Patagonia to Alaska. Since the 1950s, the Delta has served as the great hydraulic tie between northern and southern California: a network of rivers, tributaries, and canals deliver runoff from the Sierra Mountain Range’s snowpack to massive pumps at the southern end of the Delta. From there, the water travels through aqueducts to the great farms of the San Joaquin Valley and to the massive coastal cities. The Delta, then, is not only a 700,000-acre place where people live and work, but some of the most important plumbing in the world. Without this crucial nexus point, the current level of agricultural production in the southern San Joaquin Valley could not be sustained, and many cities, including the three largest on the West Coast—Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose—would have to come up with radical new water-supply solutions.”

Ream more: The Atlantic

 

Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war

Photo retrieved from: www.newsecuritybeat.org

“Already a billion people, or one in seven people on the planet, lack access to safe drinking water. Britain, of course, is currently at the other extreme. Great swaths of the country are drowning in misery, after a series of Atlantic storms off the cough-western coast. But that too is part of the picture that has been coming into sharper focus over 12 years of the Grace satellite record. Countries at northern latitudes and in the tropics are getting wetter. But those countries at mid-latitude are running increasingly low on water.

“What we see is very much a picture of the wet areas of the Earth getting wetter,” Famiglietti said. “Those would be the high latitudes like the Arctic and the lower latitudes like the tropics. The middle latitudes in between, those are already the arid and semi-arid parts of the world and they are getting drier.”

On the satellite images the biggest losses were denoted by red hotspots, he said. And those red spots largely matched the locations of groundwater reserves.

“Almost all of those red hotspots correspond to major aquifers of the world. What Grace shows us is that groundwater depletion is happening at a very rapid rate in almost all of the major aquifers in the arid and semi-arid parts of the world.”

The Middle East, north Africa and south Asia are all projected to experience water shortages over the coming years because of decades of bad management and overuse.”

Read more: The Guardian

 

Are We Starting to Run Out of Fresh Water?

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

Peak water is here and unlike peak oil, there is no substitution for water. But like peak oil the low-hanging fruit of our fresh water supply has been picked and what is left requires costly environmental and financial impacts to extract. Peak water is about reaching physical, economic, and environmental limits on meeting human demands for water and the subsequent decline of water availability and use. There is a vast amount of water on the planet but sustainably managed water is becoming scarce.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States—and several other populous countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Mexico.”

Read more: Alternet