Water Words – Quote of the Day

poetry, quote of the day

The Peace of Wild Things

“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

– Wendell Berry

From The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1998.

Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground


This book, available through 100 Fires, was recently released by The Greywater Guerrillas, a water-aware environmental group out of the Bay Area focused on river restoration, dam removal, and installation of grey-water systems.

Both radical history of water and DIY guide to sustainable technologies, Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground combines an analysis of water’s history with the active fight for its future. Bringing together hundreds of national and international projects, organizations, and strategies, Dam Nation investigates political economy and environmental impact of water consumption. It also gives readers easy, cheap, and thought-provoking ways to join the ‘water underground’ themselves.

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?

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!

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.

Floating Nuclear Water Desalination

drinking water, international, technology, water desalination

Yes, you read correctly. Floating nuclear water desalination, and it is one of many proposed solutions to the coming water crisis. These reviews on Earthtimes and C-Net delve into a few details about this type of project, but essentially the concept is to harness excess heat produced in the nuclear process to run desalination plants (while the whole contraption floats in the ocean).

Immediately, many problems arise in my mind as I evaluate this concept:

  • What about the contamination of water supplies with radioactivity?
  • Nuclear power plants are not environmentally sustainable. Should we even continue to utilize nuclear energy?
  • Is it wise to locate nuclear power plants in the ocean on a floating device? What about emergencies or the collapse of the structure? Would that mean drifting nuclear contamination?
  • Is a floating nuclear reactor in the middle of the ocean a secure place for nuclear materials? Would there be a circle of submarines acting as security for this sudo-building?

These are just a few of my questions, and I am sure that you can come up with many more.

Not an actual nuclear desalination plant, for illustrative purposes only.  Photo gimped by Moon.

Like Oil, Like Water

drinking water, water trade

Just this week, oil prices have reached a record high, exceeding $98.00 a barrel for crude oil on the world market.

But, how does this increase of the price of crude oil measure-up to the price of water on the global market?

A price comparison of water and crude oil is challenging because of the variability of water pricing around the globe. Water is primarily supplied in the following venues:

  • water sold in the commercial marketplace (bottled water)
  • water sold as a market commodity (privatized water)
  • municipalities (public) serve water to the general population, private entities, and public entities
  • water rights are sold and traded through water markets in various parts of the world (virtual water)

Of these four water services, the cost of bottled water has already surpassed the current cost of oil, while the prices of the others are rising steadily.

  •  Oil $2.33 per gallon (11/22/07)

There are 42 gallons in one barrel of crude oil. If we divide the recent price per barrel of oil by 42 gallons, this equates the price of oil at roughly $2.33 cents a gallon on the world market.

  • Bottled Water $16.00 per gallon (estimate)

Consumers often pay exorbitant prices in upwards of $2.00 for just over 16 ounces of bottled water. This would equal approximately $16.00 per gallon for so-called designer water, by a conservative estimate. Of course, prices will vary in the commercial water trade, but generally exceed the global price of oil.

  • Privatized WaterVaries

The cost of privatized water varies greatly depending on water availability, timing, and the cost of transport. Individuals in locations without access with municipal water often have to purchase water from private vendors in large quantities.

Municipal water falls behind world oil prices, primarily because of subsidization of these water water supplies ranging from .66 in the US to $2.50 in Denmark for a cubic meter of water as indicated in a recent study of 14 countries (Earth Policy Institute). There are approximately 264 gallons in one cubic meter of water, so this would amount to approximately ¼ cent to one cent per gallon of water.

  • Water Marketsup to ¼ cent per gallon

In this description by the Earth Policy Institute, water traded in “water markets” has been known exchange for a high of .75 cents a cubic meter in Australia. This equates to approximately ¼ cent per gallon of water. Obviously, well below the current price per gallon of oil.

Photo courtesy, Fábio Pinheiro on flickr.

Although most water prices (besides bottled water) have not yet exceeded world oil prices, according to many, it is thought to be imminent. And, many more tout the promise of water investments. This recent article highlights Norway’s 5-fold increase in bottled water exports over the past seven years and states:

A study on global water import and export trade by the Political Economy Research Center of the Hoover Institution said water has shifted from being a political commodity to a market commodity, by providing innovative solutions to water shortages in different parts of the world. The study said while the water business may not fetch profits as high as oil trading does, more water crises will boost the business in the coming years.

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.

Sustainable Innovations: Rainwater Harvesting in India

drinking water, india, sustainability

Thanks to Nilam Agrawal for informing me about the important work of Sustainable Innovations:

Sustainable Innovations is a non-profit corporation committed to serving vulnerable populations through innovations in systems, science, engineering and social enterprises. We take pride in finding out-of-box approaches to problems that have defied solution.

This organization is currently working on developing rainwater harvesting systems for villages in arid Rajasthan, India.

Check the Sustainable Innovations website for updates.

New Delhi Water Utilities Shut Down

drinking water, india, water treatment

Two major water utilities servicing New Delhi, India shut down last week due to high and untreatable ammonia concentrations in the Yamuna River. Many in New Delhi, an approximated tens of thousands of people, were without water for three days straight, and uncertain supplies of water for hours at a time over the weekend.

Yamuna Sacred
Large industries dumping waste-water into the Yamuna upstream of New Delhi, are thought to be the culprit for unexpected rises in ammonia concentrations. Water problems are not unusual in New Delhi, as the New York Times so succintly states, infrastructure is in disrepair, sources are polluted, population is on the rise, and the government is blamed with poor water management. The Yamuna River, the central source of water for New Delhi, has been battling pollution problems for many years.

Check out this recent NPR piece on the Yamuna River.

Print: Yamuna Maharani holding a garlands of lotus petals near the Yamuna River, artist unknown.

Is the Amazon longer than the Nile?

international, rivers

The prospect of categorizing large rivers of the world was more difficult than one might imagine because of standing controversy regarding lengths of the supposed longest rivers of the world.

Rivers are meandering in nature, changing shape, with tributaries that may be disputed as part of the original waterways. This list compiled on Wikipedia is great because it groups large river systems by length including the tributaries. Maybe, in the future, satellite images from space could be analyzed for an accurate portrayal of river length.

Other compilations have differing views that list tributaries separately or highlight disputed tributaries. Now, geographers say, Is the Amazon longer than the Nile?

Israel’s Stance and Expanding Water-Technology Markets

international, technology, water trade

If you pay attention to international water issues, you will soon realize the small country of Israel is slowly attempting to make a name for itself in the field of water technology. In fact, Israel recently hosted an international water technology conference, WATEC, from October 30 to November 1 of 2007.

Israel, though lacking in natural water resources, is exporting its water technology across the globe, billing itself as the “Silicon Valley of water technology,” in the words of Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer.

Israel hopes to increase export revenues from water technologies to 2 billion US dollars by 2010. The Israeli government has just launched a program to maximize technical knowledge of desalination, water purification, irrigation systems, water treatment, reclaimed water, water security, and water infrastructure.

Given the increase in global water scarcity, Israel is one of many entities ready to step into an open-economic playing field to double their dollar in the field of water technologies.

This report, Growing Markets for Water and Wastewater Technologies, issued by BCC Research, likely explains markets available for growth in the water technology sector, but specifics of the report are not known because I could not afford to pay the $4850.00 to purchase a copy (yes, the water technology industry must be growing…). However, one of the report highlights states:

The expenditures for municipal water and wastewater applications were $8,066 million in 2005, $9,575 million in 2006, and $11,290 million in 2007. They are expected to grow at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.2% and reach $39,709 million by 2012.

We can apply the economic model of supply and demand very clearly to the water scenario. As demand for water increases, the price of water (water technologies, etc.) on the world market will also increase. Consequently, there will be an accrual of entities hoping to profit on the commodity of water, alas we are seeing such happening presently.

Author’s Postscript: This post highlights global water technology markets and Israel’s current standing in such world markets. However, there are many critical water issues relating to Israels continued occupation of Palestinian territories in areas of the region with greater access to water.

Additionally, Israel maintains water technology, yet continuously fails to supply Palestinians with assistance for development of water infrastructure or access to reliable water supplies.  In the near future, I will attempt to address these issues.

50,000 Dams and Growing

dam, international

This short selection was composed by International Rivers Network, a widely regarded environmental non-governmental organization that focuses much of it’s attention on the effects of dams on world rivers.

International Rivers works to protect rivers and rights, and promote real solutions for meeting water, energy and flood management needs.

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.

Kid Power = Well Water


Kids twirl around on a Merry Go-Round while water is pumped into a large reservoir holding tank. The PlayPump, under PlayPump International, is not cheap by any means at 14,000 dollars for one system, but is supposed to be more efficient and fun than a traditional hand-pump. Currently, there are over 700 installed and plans to install 4,000 more in rural locations in arid Africa by 2010.

Check out this blog post on Alcateia Design Group News for an interesting view on the system.