Tag Archive for 'fossil water'

Is Syria The First Water War?

Photo retrieved from: www.carbonated.tv

“In Syria, a civil war has raged for two years, and while many people have ideas about what should be done, few have any hope that the war will soon stop. In California, a forest fire the size of Chicago is now 80% contained, after weeks of coordinated efforts to manage the fire. There is a common exacerbating factor between the California Rim Fire and the Syrian Civil War: water, or, more specifically, the lack of water.

Droughts didn’t cause Bashar al-Assad to be a heartless dictator (and incompetent manager), nor did droughts cause sectarian conflicts to exist in the first place, but the increased heat from climate change has parched the Middle East, particularly Syria, and combined with Syria’s internal strife, the nation is barely holding itself together.

The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman gives an excellent summary of this issue in his column,Without Water, Revolution:

“’The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,’” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work….

“Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported.”

Unless there is a breakthrough in desalination technology, water is likely to be the resource where shortages cause large and unpleasant global shifts. Humans are decimating the water supply through constant usage on one end, and climate change driven droughts on the other. Furthermore, much of the water we use is fossil water, which does not replenish (or it does, but it takes thousands of years).”

Read more: carbonated.tv

 

Underground “Fossil Water” Running Out

Pipes from the The Libyan Great Man-Made River project.

“This story is part of a special series that explores the global water crisis. For more clean water news, photos, and information, visit National Geographic’s Freshwater website.

“In the world’s driest places, “fossil water” is becoming as valuable as fossil fuel, experts say.

“This ancient freshwater was created eons ago and trapped underground in huge reservoirs, or aquifers. And like oil, no one knows how much there is—but experts do know that when it’s gone, it’s gone. (See a map of the world’s freshwater in National Geographic magazine.)

“You can apply the economics of mining because you are depleting a finite resource,” said Mike Edmunds, a hydrogeologist at Oxford University in the Great Britain.

“In the meantime, though, paleowater is the only option in many water-strapped nations. For instance, Libya is habitable because of aquifers—some of them 75,000 years old—discovered under the Sahara’s sands during 1950s oil explorations.

“The North African country receives little rain, and its population is concentrated on the coasts, where groundwater reserves are becoming increasingly brackish and nearing depletion.

“Since Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi launched his Great Man-Made River Project in the 1980s, an epic system of pipes, reservoirs, and engineering infrastructure is being built. It will be able to pump from some 1,300 paleowater wells and move 230 million cubic feet (6.5 million cubic meters) of H2O every day.

“But while fossil water can fill critical needs, experts warn, it’s ultimately just a temporary measure until conservation measures and technologies become status quo.

[...]

Radioactive Worries

“But the project has encountered an unexpected stumbling block. The Disi’s fossil water was recently found to contain 20 times the radiation levels considered safe for drinking. The water is contaminated naturally by sandstone, which has slowly leached radioactive contaminants over the eons.

“Geochemist and water-quality expert Avner Vengosh of Duke University, one of the scientists who first discovered the problem, said the Disi’s situation is not unusual.

“Radiation contamination has been found in Israel, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, and Libya, Vengosh said.

“Fortunately, radiation contamination can be fixed through a simple water-softening process, though it does cost money and creates radioactive waste that must be disposed of properly, he noted.”

read more: National Geographic