Turkey, Iraq, and Syria to Form Collaborative Water Institute

dam, drinking water, drought, economy, groundwater, international, rivers, sustainability, technology

The Middle East is an area rich in oil reserves but without ample water supplies to sustain a growing populace. Over 21 politically distinct countries and jurisdictions maintain 5% of the world’s total inhabitants with less than 1% of the world’s water reserves. At times, coming to an agreement on how to share the three river systems (the Jordan, Nile, and Tigris-Euphrates) that traverse the region make water policy a virtual nightmare. Now three countries are coming forward to resolve past arguments on transboundary water issues.

Turkey, Iraq, and Syria will soon form an institute to study water in the Middle East, as detailed in Today’s Zaman (a major Turkish newspaper). Experts, scholars, and professionals from each country will begin meetings at Turkey’s Atatürk Dam to share information and work on resolving past water-allocation problems.

Goals of the institute include:

  • Develop and share information on irrigation and potable water technology.
  • Map water resources in the Middle East.
  • Release a report on effective water management in each country (for release on April 15th).

Management of water storage and dams in the region will be an aspect of the institute’s endeavors. Turkey and Syria will attempt joint construction of a dam on the Asi River. Syria expressed an interest in greater downstream shares from dams on the Euphrates River. Iraq, which had previously filed concerns against Turkey’s dams on the Tigris and Euphrates, approved the construction on the controversial Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River. Also, see this post on Intercontinental Cry on the contested Ilisu Dam and related protests in Turkey.


Above Photo: Ted Thornton at History of the Middle East Database.

Will water supply concerns overshadow the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing?

agriculture, asia, dam, drinking water, drought, economy, industrial, international, sustainability

Over two million people are expected to visit Beijing this year for the Summer Olympic Games. In August, the population of the metropolis will crest 19 million souls.

The arrival of so many visitors to China’s capital will result in exaggerated water use of 2.75 million cubic meters (2,229 acre-feet) a day or, in layman’s terms, enough water to fill 2000 Olympic size swimming pools each day.

Chinese officials may soon begin to worry as North China is currently enduring a severe drought including Hebei (which surrounds Beijing) and other provinces in the north.

The Chinese Ministry of Water Resources indicates the drought has caused 50,000 wells to go dry, with over 170,000 additional wells short of water. Over 3.4 million hectares of crops have been compromised, and 250,000 people are now short of drinking water in the Shandong, Heilongjiang and Hebei provinces.

China’s answer to this Catch-22 is to pipe water to Beijing via extensive water supply canals, often at the expense of local citizens, businesses, or agricultural practices. China hurries to finish 309 km (192 miles) of canals to draw water from behind several dams in the province of Hebei to serve water to Beijing for the Olympics, as stated on Reuters. These canals are actually part of a larger project China is undertaking to pipe massive amounts of water from the Yangzte River in the south to arid regions in the north, widely known as the South-to-North Water Transfer Project (previously reviewed on WaterWired).

                                                                                                    Central route of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project, courtesy of The New York Times.

Concerns about the colossal diversion project by residents of the area are many. During an interview with the Environmental News Network, one farmer said:

“For the country, it’s a good thing. It will bring water to Beijing so everything runs smoothly,” said Shi Yinzhu, herding sheep near the 100-metre wide canal in Tang county. “But for us here, they had to pump away underground water to dig the canal and we’ve lost a lot of land too … Sometimes you wonder if they need all the water more than us here.”

The world’s attention will soon be on Beijing, China for the Summer Olympic Games.

Will the world’s attention also be on the many people currently affected by drought conditions and difficult times in North China?

NEWS UPDATE 

In China, the State Flood and Drought Relief Headquarters has just updated statistics showing currently 5.9 million people face drinking water shortages, more than double that figure of 2.43 million published on Feb. 24, throughout the entire country.

and

China Diverting Major River to “Water” Beijing Olympics – National Geographic

Water Voices from Around The World

drinking water, drought, international, outreach, poetry, rivers, sustainability, united nations

In this “table-top” book filled with awe-inspiring photographs, authors from around the world contributed to each provide their own unique perspective on the water of the earth. Many prominent and knowledgeable individuals, such as Kofi Annan, Maude Barlow, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pete Seeger, and Desmond Tutu, each drafted a portion of the book.

Water Voices from Around The World is published in consideration and support of the United Nations’ effort for the “International Decade of Action ‘Water for Life’, 2005-2015.”

The Water Voices Web-site also hosts a blog for up-to-date information on the book tour and other global water issues.

See the Water Books Page at the top of this web-log for more books on water.

Inner Mongolia Desertification (report by Circle of Blue)

asia, climate change, desertification, drinking water, drought, groundwater, industrial, international

Three million acres of sensitive grassland becomes desert each year in northern China and Inner Mongolia. This process of desertification causes water-tables to drop, groundwater sources to become salty, and dust storms to become more frequent. People from all walks of life are challenged by deterioration of these grasslands (often referred to as Steppe). Nomadic people of the area can no longer graze animals on the land and dust from storms is noticeable as far away as Japan, Korea, and the United States.


Above Photo: Kurt Friehauf.

The non-profit organization Circle of Blue has just released a comprehensive multimedia report on the desertification of Inner Mongolia called Reign of Sand. This inclusive and sensitive picture of Inner Mongolia (on the Circle of Blue website) features articles, an interactive map, a slide show of photographs, and videos. The collection examines linkages between climate change and rapid industrialization of north China to desertification and water unavailability in Inner Mongolia.

See the report on Inner Mongolia by Circle of Blue, REIGN OF SAND.

Island Dilemma = Dry Times Ahead

climate change, drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, water desalination

Drought and dry weather are seemingly the norm recently on two island nations nearly 10,291 miles (16,562 km) apart. Cyprus and New Zealand have been dealing with shortages of water continuing into 2008.

Cyprus

As highlighted previously on this blog,  a dry winter with little rain in Cyprus has diminished water supplies on the island. Reservoirs, now at less than 9% capacity, lack water for the coming summer season. Groundwater wells will provide little relief because they are often over pumped and inundated with saltwater.

The Republic of Cyprus is pursuing alternatives for water supply including construction an additional desalination plant and import of water from other locations on tankers. Regardless, extreme water rationing will be commonplace until the end of the summer in November or December of 2008.

New Zealand

It is summer in New Zealand from December until the end of February, and this year the country has been enduring an unusually severe drought. The Waikato Region on the North Island has been facing dessicated conditions not seen in over 100 years.

Effects of the drought in are far-reaching. Toxic algal blooms are on the rise in waterways, and water restrictions have been put into place. The agricultural industry, primarily dairy production located in the Waikato Region, has been the hardest hit.

The government of New Zealand is engaged in research on climate change and increasing drought events in drought-prone locations.

Officials believe rain will finally come to the region by the end of the fall season in May of 2008.

Cyprus Map courtesy of grhomeboyhmg on flickr.

Drought and the Yangtze

agriculture, asia, climate change, dam, drought, sustainability

A short video clip from the BBC on the current drought occurring around the Yangtze River in China. River levels are at record lows, and Chinese officials are discharging extra water from the Three Gorges Dam. Scientists indicate climate change will increase the frequency of such droughts.

Will the Three Gorges Dam still be relevant if dropping river levels on the Yangtze become commonplace?

More articles on dropping flows in the Yangtze River include:
Yangtze River water level at 140-year low – Telegraph
Yangtze hit by drought in China – BBC News
Parts of China’s Yangtze at lowest level in 140 years – AFP 

Coca-Cola Encouraged to Close Plant in India

agriculture, drought, economy, groundwater, india, industrial, international

Research has just been released that suggests Coca-Cola (Coke) should close a bottling plant in water scarce Rajasthan, India. The Energy and Resources Institute of New Delhi issued the report on January 14, 2008. This report was completed in response to research last year showing high pesticide levels in Coca-cola drinks in India.

The assessment looked at 6 of the company’s 49 bottling plants in India, but highlighted conditions at the Kaladera plant in Rajasthan. The plant’s presence in this area would “continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around,” it said. The company should find alternative water supplies, relocate or shut down the plant, the report concluded.

The New York Times

Atul Singh, director of Coke’s India division, avows Coke will not be shutting down the plant anytime in the near future. Instead Coke declares they will review water conservation measures to be employed. Truth or good PR? I am more inclined to believe the latter given the history of this corporation in the international sector. Coke has a track record of egregious human rights and environmental violations in many countries.

The organization KillerCoke (known as such because of numerous assassinations of unionized employees in Columbia) hosts a campaign to encourage Coke to clean-up its act. The group proposes actions as simple as sending a letter to The Coca-Cola Company requesting an end to human rights and environmental abuses to cutting business contracts with the company. Several universities have already drafted resolutions calling for an end to Coke’s poor practices abroad including Rutgers School of Law, the University of Illinois, Hofstra University, and York University to name a few.

Depleted Aquifers and the Mediterranean

climate change, drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, sustainability, water trade

The azure blue of the Mediterranean Sea makes it easy to forget the arid climate at the edge of this salty body of water. But look a bit inland. Countries in the region are experiencing increased shortages of water and lack of significant rainfall to remedy this problem in the near future.

Photo courtesy of LauraMary on flickr.

I reviewed the current plight of the island of Cyprus with uncertain water supplies and reservoirs at less than two months capacity previously on this blog. One may be inclined to make allowances for one island enduring shortages of water, but a whole region facing dropping aquifer levels is another story. And this is the story unfolding in the Mediterranean Basin.

Countries to the south of the Mediterranean Sea, such as Egypt and Libya, have historically faced water supply issues. Even to the east, Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine have been fighting over water for decades. But,if you follow the sea to the north, you will find water shortages also follow.

A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor details the desiccation of Lake Aksehir and surrounding aquifers located in Central Turkey’s Konya Plain region. It also reviews dropping aquifer levels in Italy. While Turkey plans a water diversion project from the Goksu River (in a similar fashion as the South-North Water Transfer Project), it begs the question “is this the best way to supplement dropping aquifer levels in the region?”

Water shortages in Turkey will most likely curtail water exports to Cyprus and Israel. Egypt and Lebanon may also follow suit as an arid Cyprus looks to these countries for water. Additionally, all countries in the region might begin to factor climate change into the equation, as precipitation begins to decrease annually during winter months. Hopefully, these issues and more will be addressed soon as Turkey hosts the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul on March 15-22, 2009.

Can you imagine?

drinking water, drought, india, rainwater

Can you imagine if rainwater harvesting was as prevalent in the United States as in India?

It would be, and very well could be, an entirely different place if we started to promote and construct widespread rainwater catchment systems across the country.

Prolonged drought occurring in the southeast and southwest of the United States has reminded us that we are not as water-secure as previously thought. And, maybe, we will have to start to think “inside-the-water-catchment-box” to ensure potable water supplies into the future. Most likely, we could probably take a cue from countries, such as India, that are already implementing such progressive systems.

Cyprus and Water Imports from Greece, Egypt, and Lebanon

climate change, drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, water desalination, water trade

The small island country of Cyprus may soon be shipping water on tankers from Greece, Egypt and Lebanon to supplement current dwindling water supplies.

Cyprus has been facing drier than normal conditions for four consecutive years. Winter in Cyprus, November through March, usually serves to fill reservoirs for the coming season. But this winter has been practically rainless, and estimates leave reservoirs at two-months of capacity.

Cyprus typically provides water to citizens through several reservoirs and two water desalination plants. Because of the current water crisis, a third desalination plant is being constructed and emergency groundwater reserves may be rationed. Additionally, the country is contemplating the exorbitantly expensive shipment of additional water supplies.

Importing water, however, is nothing new to the country of Cyprus. As stated in this grotesquely entitled article, How to profit from the world’s water crisis, Cyprus had previously imported water from Turkey via large inflatable floating balloons holding up to five million gallons a piece. Obviously not the most efficient or cheap method for obtaining water, but neither is desalination (for now).

In the late 1990s, Aquarius Water Transportation became the first company to tow bags of fresh water for export, delivering commercial bulk quantities to the Greek Islands. In 2000, another company, Nordic Water Supply, began using 5 million gallon bags 10 times as big as the original Aquarius containers – to float water from Turkey to northern Cyprus.

– From an article in The Christian Science Monitor.

Cyprus

Update: (1/25/08)
Cyprus to extract water from underground reserves through bore holes.

Drought Continues in Kashmir

agriculture, asia, drought, economy

The Kashmir region (India, China, and Pakistan) is hoping for additional precipitation in form of snow.  The region, while traditionally arid, has received little snow or rain over the past several months to replenish waterways. December 22nd commenced an annual season of 40-days known as “Chillai Kalan”, characterized with heavy snowfall and blustery temperatures. However, as of yet, this “Chillai Kalan” has not brought the significant snowfall for which citizens have been hoping. A shortage of rain threatens many farmers in the region, including those who cultivate the famed Kashir Saffron spice (exported on the global market).

Nearly five hundred springs have dried up, and the level in the river Jhelum has fallen to a dangerously low degree. The river through the middle of the city has shrunk so low that at several places children can bee seen playing cricket on the river bed.

Kashmir Observer

River Jhelum near Srinagar, during a time with ample flow.

Walking for Water

drinking water, drought, india, international

This evening, while reviewing yet another small town in India to endure water scarcity, this particular article caught my eye: Sundernagar faces acute water crisis.

Gujarat, located in West India, is bordered by the Arabian Sea and Pakistan. Citizens claim the town of Sundernager is facing water shortages because of mismanagement of water treatment facilities, in combination with recent drought in the area.

Often, for Europeans, Americans, or anyone with ample and seemingly endless supplies of water, it can be difficult to fathom life without access to water. Indeed, we hear about towns enduring desiccated traumas daily (especially on my water web-log), but do we understand…

In this particular article about Gujarat, the words of a local woman clarified well the plight of villagers:

“Our district suffers from a water crisis. Being a woman, I can understand how tough it is for a woman to fetch water from a stretch of two km,” said Tripti Shukla.

She speaks of hiking two kilometers for water, which equates to a distance of 1.3 miles. Obviously, hiking a mile with large water containers is going to be very tiring. There are also many others across the globe that hike long distances to deliver water rations to their homes daily.

In March of 2007, WaterAid premiered this 7.5 hour long film in Union Station that chronicled the journey of a young women from Sudan on her usual walk for a whole day to retrieve enough water for her family.

As they say, how far would you be willing walk for water?

Kashmir Region Prepares for Harsh, Dry Winter

asia, drinking water, drought, groundwater, india

The region known as Kashmir is experiencing water shortages as there has been little rainfall over the past three months. Weather outlooks for the coming weeks predict more dry weather, and main rivers and lakes in the region have water levels that are decreasing.

In Srinagar, the summer capital of Jummu and Kashmir, the central River Jhelum has been reduced to a mere drip through the city. Government officials have implemented some water rationing programs in preparation for water shortages. Researchers at the University of Kashmir are reviewing climate change and possible links to increased fires and weather changes in the Kashmir Valley.

Water Crisis in Cyprus and Climate Change

climate change, drinking water, drought, water desalination, water treatment

The small island of Cyprus is facing a fourth year of drought, with water reservoirs dwindling dry at less than 9% of original capacity. As a recent article on Reuters indicates, climate change is thought to be linked to the continued parched conditions.

Cyprus maintains a Mediterranean climate, with a rainy season between November and March of each year. Reservoirs, which supply the island with water, have time to refill during the rainy season. However, over the past four years, precipitation during winter months has been on the certain decline. The Meteorological Service of the Republic of Cyprus states:

Statistical analysis of rainfall in Cyprus reveals a decreasing trend of rainfall amounts in the last 30 year…The rate of decrease of the average precipitation in Cyprus during the 20th century was one millimeter per year.

For an island half of the size of Connecticut, residential population is approximately 788,457 people and over 2 million tourists visit the area each year. Cyprus provides water to most individuals using supply from the reservoirs, and supplements supply with two desalination plants. The current water crisis has forced the country to utilize emergency groundwater reserves, and a third temporary desalination plant will be on-line next year. As quoted from the Reuters article:

Desalination of seawater is not an ideal choice for the authorities, but it has saved Cyprus before. “We don’t desalinate lightly, without being aware of the consequences,” said Partassiades. “It is energy-consuming … and this causes (greenhouse gas) emissions Cyprus has to pay fines for.

Water restrictions have been put into effect on the island, until the situation improves, with a hope of rainfall to occur this winter.

Cyprus, with Limassol city in the background, photo courtesy, LaRezistance on flickr.

Northeast Brazil: Lasting Drought Conditions

climate change, drought

Northeast Brazil (while typically drought-prone) endured an unusually long dry season and water shortages in Piauí, with the effects reaching as far south as São Paulo. As Latin America Press indicates, water supply reservoirs for São Paulo are at 30% capacity, when this time last year they were at 40% capacity. Climate change is thought to be a factor in the warming trends, as ocean temperatures are rising in the North Atlantic off the coast of Brazil.

Because of an increase in forest fires in the Amazon this year, as well continued drought conditions, the president of Brazil may begin to incorporate climate change into the political agenda. The outcome of continued drought in this tropical region is far-reaching: fires decrease biodiversity, fires reduce vegetation in the Amazon (a massive Carbon Sink), drought conditions obstruct the agricultural economy of Brazil, and Brazilians face severe water shortages.

A Landsat Image of the Amazon River, Brazil, on November 30, 2000. Credit: NASA, Landsat.org, Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, Michigan State University

Scientists with NASA have been researching Amazon Basin conditions through the use of satellite imagery. They have found some surprising results regarding the resiliency of the Amazon Forest to the severe drought conditions of 2005-2006.