Environment Forum

Some good news for a thirsty world

Amid the worry about water and food scarcity, some hints of good news: a five-year, 30-nation analysis suggests there might be enough water – and therefore enough food — for Earth’s hungriest and thirstiest as the human population heads toward the 9 billion mark sometime around mid-century.

Anxiety about food and water supplies stems in part from the effects of climate change, with its projected rise in droughts, wildfires, floods and other events that cut down on food production. Another factor is the increase in population, much of it grouped around water sources in the developing world. But water experts said at a conference this week in Brazil that there could be plenty of water over the coming decades if those upstream collaborate with those downstream and use water more efficiently.

The leader of the study, Simon Cook of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, said this is actually possible. And he said it wouldn’t require the repeal of the more selfish impulses of human nature.

Citing an article in Harvard Business Review, Cook said, “It’s not necessarily human to be totally individualistic. There’s substantial evidence that people can collaborate.”

In fact, Cook said, this kind of discussion between upstreamers and downstreamers — the ones most likely to be at odds over how water should be used — is already taking place. There is evidence that China’s involved in a project to enable hydropower development along the Mekong River, one of several huge river basins examined in the water study. “They’re actually engaged in dialog with the people who will be affected by it” in Laos, Cook said, with a bit of wonder in his voice. “So there are some glimmers of hope.”

The Beer-Water Nexus

Does the path to clean, safe water lead through a brewery?

Andy Wales, head of sustainable development at global brewer SABMiller, maintains it can happen.  The maker of Miller beer — and 20 other brands, from Aguila in Colombia to Zolotaya Bochka Klassicheskoye in Russia — likes the environmental angle, but the main impetus is to ensure production of their products in what is a highly variable business from location to location.

“Water is obviously a critical part of high quality beer,” Wales said by telephone from London. One important part of this equation is figuring out how to use less water and still make good beer.

What this means in practice is working with groups like World Wildlife Fund and GIZ, a German organization that coordinates international development and sustainable development efforts. It also means recognizing the potential for water scarcity and the need for conservation. The four countries seen as having the biggest long-term water risk are South Africa, Ukraine, Tanzania and Peru, Wales said.

from The Great Debate UK:

“Dutch dialogue” aids New Orleans restoration

USA

-Han Meyer is Professor of Urban Design at Delft University of Technology.  He has been a principal organiser of the ‘Dutch Dialogues’ with New Orleans since 2005 and is Editor of ‘New Orleans-Netherlands:  Common Challenges in Urbanised Deltas’. The opinions expressed are his own.-

In August 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated large swathes of the U.S. Gulf Coast and overwhelmed New Orleans causing what then-U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff described as “probably the worst catastrophe, or set of catastrophes" in U.S. history.

Katrina’s punishing storm surge, strong winds and massive rainfall weakened flood protection infrastructure which then failed, flooding coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, including 80 percent of New Orleans:

A better way to clean water?

CHINA WATER

Treating water for human consumption is costly and energy intensive. Is there a more efficient way to do it?

Gunter Pauli thinks so.

In the first innovation explored by PhD, entrepreneur and eco-designer Pauli in the ZERI Foundation’s two-year essay and video project The Blue Economy, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, the self cleansing mechanism found in natural water sources is identified as a possible solution to treating water without the huge cost in chemicals and energy.

Rivers clean their own water all the time, and for free, Pauli says in his essay. Their secret? A combination of gravity and a swirling motion called the vortex. If there were a way to replicate that function in water treatment facilities, it would mean energy savings and less cost for producers down to consumers.

from The Great Debate UK:

Bringing a new perspective to World Water Day

van lier- Dr. Ir. Jules B. van Lier is a professor at Delft University. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The international observance of World Water Day, this year on March 22, is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.  This year’s theme -- ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World’ -- reflects the fact that population and industrial growth are adding new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean water across the world.

Human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are at stake, yet water pollution rarely warrants mention as a pressing issue.

from Russell Boyce:

Don’t drink the water, even if there is any to drink (Update)

One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to  residents of a housing block in Jakarta.  The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.

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Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day.     REUTERS/Beawiharta

Today, March 22 is World Water Day and Reuters photographers in Asia were given an open brief to shoot feature pictures to illustrate it.  The only requirement I asked of them is that they included in the captions, the fact that while the Earth is literally covered in water, more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. At the same time in China 50 million people are facing drought conditions and water shortages and the two stories seemed to tie in with one another.

Rainy Taiwan faces awkward water shortage

jennings Chronically rainy Taiwan faces a rare water shortage as leaders ask that people on the dense, consumption-happy island of 23 million finally start changing habits as dry weather is forecast into early 2010. 

Taiwan, a west Pacific island covered with rainforests and topical fruit orchards, is used to rain in all seasons, bringing as much as 3,800 mm (150 inches) on average in the first 10 months of every year. But reservoirs have slipped in 2009 due to a chain of regional weather pattern flukes giving Taiwan too much dry high pressure while other parts of Asia get more storms than normal, the Central Weather Bureau  says.

Deadly typhoon Morakot  in August brought more than half the year’s rain to much of south Taiwan, washing away drought fears as well as a lot of other things. But the three-day storm dumped too much rain at once for much storage or use. Despite the typhoon, southern Taiwan’s anchor city Kaohsiung was 20 mm below average in the first 10 months of 2009, with the typhoon’s contribution about half the 1,747 mm total. Below-average rainfall resumed after the typhoon, the weather bureau said, and the same is forecast through February.jennings2

Oceans away! U.S. makes federal stab at ocean policy

The seven seas get a single U.S. approach in a draft federal plan for oceans released on Thursday (and dated Sept. 10, when it was given to the prez). The report is a response to President Obama’s request for a plan and says a new National Ocean Council should use ecosystem management to take on the task. Previous efforts have been focused on solving individual problems — saving fisheries, stopping water pollution — which did not always match.

“This is the first time they have declared their intention to adopt a new way of managing the oceans, one that puts a priority on the health of the marine ecosystem, from which all the other benefits flow,” said Chris Mann, director of the Pew Charitable Trust’s campaign for healthy oceans.

Goals include addressing changing conditions in the Arctic, reacting to climate change and ocean acidification and land practices that affect water.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s cry for water

Pakistan is running out of water so fast that the shortage will strangulate all water-based economic activity by 2015, a Pakistani thinktank says.  And that pretty much covers 70 percent of the population  who are involved in farming.

This is not a new warning.  In recent months,  as this blog itself has noted, experts have painted an increasingly bleak scenario of Pakistan's rivers drying up, the ground water polluted and over-exploited and the whole water infrastructure in a shambles.

But Pakistan, as the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies says, is not listening.  Pakistan has gone from a "water scarce" country to a "water-stressed" country, worse than Ethiopia, the Centre says quoting a  2006 World Bank study. In 10 years time, it will become a water-famine country.  

from Global Investing:

Water investments

A growing number of Investors, including state-owned funds, are looking to invest in water to benefit from efforts to tackle climate change.

According to multi-asset manager Armstrong Investment Managers, less than 0.01 percent of water is easily accessible freshwater and global water use has tripled since 1950 -- increasing faster than the world's population.

"Demographic and climate changes will lead to two thirds of the population inhabiting areas with scarce water," the firm says.

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