Many residents said that the lack of household water forced them to wait for water at boreholes for up to five hours a day, and that violence frequently erupted when lines were especially long. People believe these boreholes – 200 of which were drilled by international agencies during the cholera epidemic – are the safest water option available, yet one-third of boreholes tested in Harare by Harare Water, the city agency in charge of water, showed contamination.
The abuses being carried out by the Ethiopian government in the Lower Omo are incontrovertible. Thousands of agro-pastoralists are being evicted by government fiat and without compensation from their most valuable agricultural land along the banks of the Omo in order to make way for large-scale commercial irrigation schemes. By far the largest of these schemes is being set up by the state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corporation. The evictions are being accompanied by a resettlement or ‘villagisation’ programme which, although described by administrators as ‘voluntary’, is forced in the sense that those affected have no reasonable alternative but to comply.
This is a glaring example of how not to do river-basin development. No impact assessments , feasibility studies or resettlement plans have been published. No plans have been announced for compensation, benefit sharing or livelihood reconstruction. And no attempt has been made to give the affected people a genuine say in decision making. In short, the project appears to have been conceived as a quasi-military operation, with the police and army acting as an occupying force amongst a recalcitrant and ‘backward’ civilian population. Not surprisingly in these circumstances, there have been reports of beatings, arrests and sexual violence by military personnel.
Wudel described the stretch between the Iraqi capital south to Amarah, where the environmental group was carrying out a river cleanup early last week, as “dirty and smelly.” He said local residents reported seeing far fewer migratory birds and catching far fewer fish than they had in the past.
Industrial and urban pollution, inefficient irrigation practices, and badly damaged infrastructure in Iraq all play a role in the current state of the Tigris. But the biggest threat is being created upstream, particularly in Turkey, which already has more than 2,000 dams and aims to nearly double that number by 2023 to meet burgeoning energy demand.
“This whole area has changed since the age of dams began,” says Dr. Mukdad Al-Jabbari, a professor of water resources and environmental studies at the University of Baghdad. In the early 1950s, the biggest environmental challenge facing Iraq was floods, “but when these dams began being built, we had to start talking about desertification, about drought,” Al-Jabbari says. “Declines in water volume also create sharp increases in the concentration of pollution in the water.”
Though the governments of both Iraq and Syria have criticized Turkey for years over the impacts of its dams on downstream water supplies, Turkey is currently building its largest hydropower project yet, the Ilısu Dam in the country’s southeast. The dam is controversial because if it is built as planned, a nearby archaeologically rich Turkish town with a history of settlement dating back to 9500 BCE will be flooded andwater flows to the Iraqi marshes would be greatly restricted.
Officials are not ready to declare a statewide drought. And managers of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s wholesaler of imported water, said they have sufficient supplies in regional storage to avoid mandatory cutbacks for at least another year.
But two dry years in a row have pushed water levels in the state’s biggest reservoirs to below normal. Lake Shasta is at 66% of the average for this time of year and Lake Oroville is at 73% of average.
More than a decade of severe drought in the Colorado River basin — the source of about a quarter of urban Southern California’s supplies — has left both Lake Powell and Lake Mead less than half full. The last two years on the Colorado have been among the driest on record in about a century of measurements.
China is using up water at an unsustainable rate. Thanks to overuse, rivers simply disappear. The number of rivers with significant catchment areas has fallen from more than 50,000 in the 1950s to 23,000 now. As if that were not bad enough, China is polluting what little water it has left. The Yellow River is often called the cradle of Chinese civilisation. In 2007 the Yellow River Conservancy Commission, a government agency, surveyed 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) of the river and its tributaries and concluded that a third of the water is unfit even for agriculture. Four thousand petrochemical plants are built on its banks.
The water available for use is thus atrocious. Song Lanhe, chief engineer for urban water-quality monitoring at the housing ministry, says only half the water sources in cities are safe to drink. More than half the groundwater in the north China plain, according to the land ministry, cannot be used for industry, while seven-tenths is unfit for human contact, ie, even for washing. In late 2012 the Chinese media claimed that 300 corpses were found floating in the Yellow River near Lanzhou, the latest of roughly 10,000 victims—most of them (according to the local police) suicides—whose bodies have been washing downstream since the 1960s.
The scarcity of water resources and the increasing gaps between demand and available supply in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is a major challenging issue facing the development sectors. GCC countries have extremely dry climate with rare rainfall, high evaporation rates and limited non-renewable groundwater resources. At present all GCC countries except Oman fell in the critical water scarcity category which is about 500 m3 of renewable water/cap/year. In addition, governmental policies with regard to increasing the level of food self sufficiency through subsidies and other incentives, have contributed to a major expansion in and unrestricted use of non-renewable groundwater resources. This coupled with a lack of defined policies and strategies geared toward optimizing and managing the scarce water supplies within the GCC region, have contributed to wasteful and uneconomic practices, as well as to the inefficient mining of nonrenewable supplies. To meet the present and future water demands of the region the available options are limited to either long distance water transfer and import from other countries or investing in large scale seawater desalination production. In this paper the economical, technical, sustainability and the political criteria affecting the two alternatives have been evaluated. Economic analysis revealed that the cost of long distance water transfer can escalate to more than 0.83 US Dollars per cubic meter. When sustainability considerations are taken into account this figure may reach up to 2.35 US Dollars per cubic meter. While these figures were competitive with the cost of seawater desalination twenty years ago, the situation has been recently shifted in favor of seawater desalination which dropped from 5.5 US Dollars in 1979 to less than 0.55 US Dollars in 1999 using the RO technology. It is concluded that sustainable development of GCC countries will depend in the future on large scale desalination. Presently planned water transfer projects should be substituted by this fast growing technology as the best option. Expanding desalination capacity in the next 20 years will be possible by building new plants or upgrading the existing facilities in GCC countries. This process, however, will require high economic investment
Kenya’s government announced last week the discovery of two huge aquifers in drought-stricken areas in the north of the country. The underground water sources reported in Turkana contain at least 250 billion cubic meters of water. The revelation has raised hopes of more such finds in Africa; like oil (also discovered in Turkana), new aquifers are being discovered across the continent . Analysis suggests that underground water volumes in the region equal about 100 times the amount of water found on the surface.
Yet the discovery of these new aquifers won’t have much impact unless the world takes measures to ensure more effective access to, and use of, the water sources we already have. Even for Kenyans, a new aquifer in one part of the country isn’t that much help. For some people in rural Turkana, the new find will help simplify access to clean water by providing nearby boreholes. But the country’s annual freshwater withdrawal from lakes, aquifers, and rivers is 2.7 billion cubic meters, compared to close to 21 billion cubic meters in renewable supplies. For most of Kenya (and the rest of Africa), the most pressing problem isn’t a countrywide lack of water; it’s the lack of immediate, reliable access to it.
Environmentalists are again raising concerns about the controversial Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River, saying efforts to make the project in Laos more “fish friendly” are not serious, and employ untested technology.
The builders of the dam, which Laos hopes will make it a key regional hydropower producer, have introduced modern fish passage techniques in an attempt to deal with the concerns of scientists that it will lead to the devastation of fisheries and food security.
The controversial project is hotly opposed by Thailand and Cambodia downstream, as well as various NGOs.
Tens of millions of people depend on the 4,300km long Mekong for fishing and agriculture.
The aquifers, located hundreds of feet underground in the Turkana region that borders Ethiopia and South Sudan, contain billions of gallons of water, according to UNESCO, which confirmed the existence of the subterranean lakes discovered with the help of a French company using technology originally designed to reveal oil deposits.
"The Lotikipi Basin Aquifer is located west of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest permanent desert lake, which nonetheless contains alkaline and unpalatable water. The second discovery is the smaller Lodwar Basin Aquifer."
"This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole," Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, said. "We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations," she said.
"If we use the water sustainably, when it comes to water resources we become very secure," Wakhungu said.
Like dot-com moguls in the ’90s and real estate gurus in the 2000s, farmers in western Kansas are enjoying the fruits of a bubble: Their crop yields have been boosted by a gusher of soon-to-vanish irrigation water. That’s the message of a new study by Kansas State University researchers. Drawing down their region’s groundwater at more than six times the natural rate of recharge, farmers there have managed to become so productive that the area boasts “the highest total market value of agriculture products” of any congressional district in the nation, the authors note. Those products are mainly beef fattened on large feedlots; and the corn used to fatten those beef cows.
But they’re on the verge of essentially sucking dry a large swath of the High Plains Aquifer, one of the United States’ greatest water resources. The researchers found that 30 percent of the region’s groundwater has been tapped out, and if present trends continue, another 39 percent will be gone within 50 years. As the water stock dwindles, of course, pumping what’s left gets more and more expensive—and farming becomes less profitable and ultimately uneconomical. But all isn’t necessarily lost. The authors calculate that if the region’s farmers can act collectively and cut their water use 20 percent now, their farms would produce less and generate lower profits in the short term, but could sustain corn and beef farming in the area into the next century.
As well as causing ill health, open defecation – as with travelling long distances to collect water – makes women vulnerable to sexual predation. Describing the situation as “almost unimaginable” to Westerners, Lynne Featherstone, the UK’s International Development minister with responsibility for Wash, explains: “If you are a woman or a girl, you would have to wait until dark and go outside your village so you could have some privacy to defecate in the open; you would expose yourself to violence or the threat of rape. In the UK, you go into the kitchen and turn the tap on; you can’t imagine the sort of danger created by that not being available, yet so much of the world is in that condition.
An estimated 760 million, however, still rely on unhygienic sources, damaging them and their children’s health and education, and wider economic wellbeing. Progress is slowest overall in sub-Saharan Africa, in conflict-hit states such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are, however, also some star performers, notably Malawi, which has improved Wash (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) for almost half of its population since 1990, and Rwanda.
"We projected that Beijing’s water capacity could support 12 million people, but Beijing’s population has now reached 20 million people,” Xu has said .
Aquatic environment expert Wang Jian suggested that the capital’s overpopulation was the fundamental problem: “Beijing’s population has grown from four million to 20 million, and that is why our water consumption grows every year…Beijing’s population should not increase to 25 million or even 30 million in the future.”
Though limiting the city’s population is one possible solution, the water authority is placing its hopes on the multibillion South to North water diversion project. It has been claimed that this will bring an extra one billion cubic meters of water into Beijing when construction is completed in 2014.
Yet recent reports of pollution in Danjiangkou , a crucial water source for the diversion project, raises questions over the ability of the water diversion project to solve Beijing’s water shortage. Four out of the five rivers that flow into the Danjiangkou are plagued with pollution and do not meet the quality standard for daily use.
“Water shortages will severely limit thermal power capacity additions,” said Charles Yonts, head of sustainable research at brokerage CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Hong Kong. “You can’t reconcile targets for coal production in, say, Shanxi province and Inner Mongolia with their water targets.”
[…] About half of China’s rivers have dried up since 1990 and those that remain are mostly contaminated. Without enough water, coal can’t be mined, new power stations can’t run and the economy can’t grow. At least 80 percent of the nation’s coal comes from regions where the United Nations says water supplies are either “stressed” or in “absolute scarcity.”
[…] “In an absolute worst case you’d see a large-scale shift in economic activity and population further south for lack of water, and manufacturing increasingly moving abroad,” said Scott Moore, a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Sustainability Science Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts .
A federal Bureau of Reclamation study released Friday says the Colorado River’s worst drought in a century will force reduced water releases from Lake Powell in Arizona that could affect agriculture, downstream business and hydroelectric power production.
Groups urging conservation warned of drastic water cutbacks and severe economic implications, while state officials and the Central Arizona Project sought to downplay the alarm.