Schools Water Portal for Students, Teachers, and Everyone Else


The new Schools Water Portal website promises to be one of the most comprehensive, progressive, and exciting compendium of free resources available for teaching about water. The website provides materials for students, teachers, principles, and schools. Others are encouraged use the materials, too.

For example, how many schools do you know about in the United States with rainwater harvesting systems? Among other things, this website provides basic information on rainwater harvesting in schools in India. Arghyam, the founding organization, says:

The portal contains several colourful presentations, plays, debate topics, quizzes, water storiesfun water science, and more all with water as the focal theme. The busy teacher could use these for enlivening the class or to teach better a difficult topic. All these materials follow the set syllabus and are for free download.

The high caliber of this web resource is not surprising. Arghyam previously developed the India Water Portal and the India Sanitation Portal websites.

Vital Water Graphics

international, outreach, photos, united nations

I’ve uploaded a new link to the Podcasts & Web-Media page on Water for the Ages. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has just released an updated 2008 version of a report called Vital Water Graphics: An Overview of the State of the World’s Fresh and Marine Waters. The goal of this report “is to produce a clear overview, through a set of graphics, maps and other illustrations, of the current state of the world’s fresh, coastal and marine waters.”

Some graphical topics in this report include:

  • Freshwater Resources
  • freshwater-world

    • Water and Climate Change


    Water and the G8: Hokkaido Toyako Summit

    climate change, drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, industrial, international, investments

    As most have heard by now, the 34th annual G8 Summit is underway in Japan from July 7th to July 9th in Toyako, Hokkaido.

    Leaders from eight of the world’s industrialized nations, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States (in addition to the president of the European Union and representatives from fifteen other nations) are busy talking and talking some more about the global economy. Again this year, some of these conversations address environmental concerns which embrace the issue of water.

    The agenda for the G8 Summit is prioritized something like this:

    1. Global Economy (Sub-prime Crisis, Rising Inflation, Economic Growth)
    2. Environment and Climate Change (Carbon Reduction, International Cooperation, Global Food Security)
    3. Development in Africa (Development, Water, Health, and Education)
    4. Political Issues (Nonproliferation, Nuclear Safety)

    Water is linked to the global economy, a changing climate, food security, and is necessary to consider for future development in Africa, but it is unclear exactly how G8 leaders will tackle the matter of water. Many international organizations have been lobbying delegates of the 2008 Summit to focus on the topic of water. The Asia-Pacific Water Forum encouraged G8 leaders to highlight the importance of water security in the region. Water Aid issued a plea for G8 leaders to provide additional funding for sanitation projects abroad. UNICEF met with G8 leaders earlier in the spring to inform participating nations of the one billion people worldwide without access to clean, drinkable water.

    Deliberations on water by G8 nations are nothing new. In 2003, global water was discussed at the Summit in Evian, France. Participants from this Summit produced a G8 Water Action Plan outlining an agreement for better global water management “particularly taking into account the importance of proper water management in Africa…” But indistinct steps have been made towards realization of these goals as evidenced by talks on similar subjects at this year’s Summit and a “reaffirmation” of the G8 Water Action Plan.

    So far, the following agreements relating to water (sort of) have been reached at the Hokkaido Toyako Summit:

    • Environment and Climate Change – The world should cut carbon emissions by 50 percent before 2050 with each nation having individual targets.
    • Development and Africa – G8 nations pledge 60 billion dollars over five years to help the continent fight disease. G8 nations reaffirm Millennium Development Goals for water, health, and sanitation in Africa. G8 nations hope to reinvigorate efforts to implement the Evian G8 Water Action Plan from 2003 with a progress report at the 2009 Summit.
    • Global Food Security – Nations in the world with sufficient food storage should release food to the market. Worldwide removal of food export restrictions is necessary.

    Repetitions of past/existing goals seem to highlight the 2008 Summit list of accomplishments in the environmental realm. Agreements similar to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol ‘reduction of greenhouse gas’ initiative to a repeat of the 2003 Evian G8 Water Action Plan.

    Well, you know what they say, maybe the third time is a charm (or the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh)…

    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.


    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.

    Saltwater Farming and an End to Rising Seas

    agriculture, audio, climate change, technology

    One man claims an idea that will deter damages of rising seawater influenced by climate change and produce biofuels capable of powering your vehicle without one drop of freshwater. Sound to good to be true? You be the judge.

    Atmospheric scientist Carl Hodges of the Seawater Foundation has two novel ideas: absorb rising seawater through recharge of defunct aquifers with seawater and saltwater farming of Salicornia bigelovii for biofuel production. When speaking of farming of salicornia during a public radio interview on MarketPlace:

    They pack as much high-quality vegetable oil as soybeans, making salicornia an ideal biofuel crop — and a highly profitable one. Especially if the fertile effluent from those shrimp farms we saw from the air is used as the irrigation source.

    – Carl Hodges

    Listen to the full interview entitled Seeing opportunity in rising oceans here:

    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 

    Nepal Discontent Over Climate Change Talks in Bali

    asia, climate change, india, united nations

    Nepal is a land on the edge of the mighty Himalayas. Although rather small, only the size of Arkansas, Nepal is known the world over for Mount Everest which is the highest mountain globally at an elevation of 29,029 feet.

    As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change wraps-up in Bali, Nepali officials are worried water supplies may become even more stressed with loss of glacial sources in the Hindu-Kush. Their concerns are exasperated with the hesitancy of the US and Canada to agree to any definitive carbon emission cessation.

    Water shortages in Nepal are nothing new. The diverse elevation and terrain leaves lowlands hot and humid while alpine regions are cold and remote. Sanitation and water infrastructure have continuously presented difficulties in places such as Madhyapur Thimi and areas of Kathmandu Valley. Approximately 13,000 children die each year from lack of potable water.

    Individuals who reside in mountainous regions in Nepal use less than 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of water per day. Still Nepal’s rivers, driven by snow-melt, are already showing signs of decreasing flows. Further, water wars are expected to ensue between many countries that rely on glacial melt in the Himalayas for water supply including India and China.

    A step in the right direction, organizations such as Nepal Water For Health are encouraging better access to sanitation and utilization of alternative water supply systems such as rainwater collection and fog collection systems (such as the one depicted below), and water conservation measures as drip irrigation.

    Peter Gleick and Water for the Future (NPR Interview)

    audio, climate change, drinking water, international

    Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institue (an environmental think-tank), talks about global water supply, climate change, and alternative water supply options for the future on NPR’s Fresh Air.

    Thanks to my friend Seldom for sending this link!

    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.

    Climate Change and Global River Flow: How Will Countries Prepare or Adapt?

    climate change

    A recent posting on Science Daily highlights research in collaboration with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences on climate change and river flows.

    The article, Climate change and the world’s river basins: anticipating management options, is coauthored by authors from the United States, Sweden, Germany and Australia. This work was supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Global Climate Change Program, the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Research Council Formas, Land and Water Australia, Water CRC Australia, the DFG – German Research Foundation and the International Water and Climate Dialogue.

    Their research states global river flow could change drastically with the advent of climate change as early as the 2050’s depending on geographic location. Some basins could experience bouts of increased flooding while other basins will face decreased water supplies. Their research also identifies specific watershed management techniques to lessen negative effects of such widespread river flow regime changes.

    A presentation was also recently given on this same research at the 3rd International Symposium on Riverine Landscapes in Queensland, Australia from August 27 to September 1, 2007. Christer Nilsson, Leader of the Landscape Ecology Group at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science of Umeå University in Sweden, provided this abstract and talk on the issue of climate change and international river management.