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.

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Global Water Index: Investments for Privatized Water

economy, international, investments, water privitization, water trade

You may have heard the phrase S&P 500 floating around, background noise as you listen to the news. But if you are a person with even an inkling of interest in the stock market, you will know the S&P 500 is an index exhibiting stocks of the top 500 publicly owned companies primarily from the US.

The S&P 500 shows the market value of the 500 companies in the index and is a good indicator of how the stock market is doing as a whole. The index will rise if the market value of a company goes up (with an increase in individuals interested in purchasing shares), and the index will decrease if the market value of a company goes down.

Well, what does this have to do with water, you ask.

The S&P 500 actually has little to do with water itself, but Standard and Poor’s (the company that created the S&P 500) recently released an index of the top 50 companies in the global water sector called the S&P Global Water Index. The Global Water Index is similar to the S&P 500 except investors use it to track viability of investments in the international water sector. The Global Water Index is comprised of 25 companies in water utilities or infrastructure and 25 companies in water equipment or materials.


Photo courtesy Pixieslayer on flickr.

Events such as the subprime mortgage crisis in the US and rising oil prices have really challenged the future of investments. Water, necessary to life and in demand everywhere on the planet, is thought the next big thing among some economists.

“One man’s challenge is another man’s opportunity. With water shortages an enormous challenge in both the developed and developing world, companies that transmit, purify, or supply equipment should benefit.”

– Forbes, ‘Ways to Play Water

Should individuals with money benefit on global shortages of drinkable water?

Individuals are already investing in the global water sector, and this will influence sustainable and available water supplies into the future. Such investments could drive-up the cost of implementing water infrastructure or treatment facilities for developing countries with dwindling budgets. In addition, among the ten most profitable companies in the Global Water Index are SUEZ Inc. and Veolia Environnement SA. These privatized water suppliers, as well as others in the index, have poor records of providing affordable and dependable water supplies.

For more information on water privatization, see this post on Waterblogged.info or listen to this CBC radio series (a little past due but still great), Water for Profit.

WASH-in-Schools Initiative: Campaign Launch by Water Advocates

drinking water, international, outreach, sanitation, sustainability, united nations

Wash-in-Schools” (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) is a campaign to ensure safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for schoolchildren throughout the world. This program, first introduced by UNICEF and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council at the 3rd World Water Forum in 2003, has been joined by growing list of non-profit organizations, foundations, corporations, and schools.

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Water Advocates, a non-profit organization in Washington DC, will be launching their Wash-in-Schools Initiative on March 12, 2008. This non-profit has the goal to expand the WASH program to 1,000 schools in developing countries while creating the momentum to help as many additional schools as possible worldwide.

The public is invited to the official Water Advocates WASH-in-Schools Initiative Launch:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The National Geographic Society Grosvenor Auditorium
1600 M Street NW, Washington, DC

The event will feature videos of schoolchildren in the developing world as well as comments from individuals including Dr. Peter Gleick, President and Co-founder Pacific Institute; Gil Garcetti, Photographer of “Water is Key: A Better Future for Africa;” and Alexandra Cousteau, co-founder Earth Echo International.

For more information on how you can be involved, please contact Andra Tamburro at 202-293-4047 or atamburro@wateradvocates.org.

To attend the event, please RSVP to Katie Delisio at WaterAdvocatesRSVP@gmail.com.

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.

Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It

drinking water, outreach, sustainability, water privitization, water trade

A new book, Bottlemania by Elizabeth Royt, will focus on the complications of bottled water in today’s society. It will be available on May 13, 2008.

The book will address questions such as:

“Who owns our water? What happens when a bottled-water company stakes a claim on your town’s source? Should we have to pay for water? Is the stuff coming from the tap completely safe? And if so, how many chemicals are dumped in to make it potable? What’s the environmental footprint of making, transporting, and disposing of all those plastic bottles?”

For more information on bottled water, see the new Water Page on AlterNet. Tara Lohan, managing editor of AlterNet, has written several articles on the negative implications of bottled water in our world including This Year Give Up Bottle Water for Lent and What Would You Say to Coke’s Executives? (a review of ” a pioneering campaign that gives new meaning to message in a bottle“).

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

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.

Tap Water for Global Water

international, outreach, united nations

Advertising that will raise awareness of the global water crisis while raising money for UNICEF’s campaign to provide clean drinking water to children in developing countries, sounds better than consumerism to me.

The second annual Tap Project ad blitz will soon arrive in papers and magazines of over twelve US cities including New York City, Boston Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Portland, OR, Richmond, VA, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and several cities in South Carolina, as stated in the New York Times today. Several notable advertising agencies will be producing the outreach material pro bono.

Posters, ads, lapel pins, etc. will highlight fund-raising to begin Sunday, March 16th through Saturday, March 22th. Participating restaurants will invite customers to donate a minimum of a dollar for tap water normally free.

As the Tap Project web-site states, “For every dollar raised, a child will have clean drinking water for 40 days” through UNICEF project implementation. The project is set to coincide with World Water Day on March 22, 2008, an annual event promoted by the UN to promote public awareness of global water issues.

Singapore’s International Water Week 2008

asia, economy, international, research, technology, water privitization, water trade

Singapore is hosting International Water Week from June 23rd to June 27th of 2008. This first-annual event is to be held as a forum for “government officials, industry leaders and water specialists” to discuss policy, business, and water technology. Festivities of the week encompass a Water Trade Show, a Water Summit, and presentation of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize to an innovator in the field of water technology.

In 2006, Singapore began wide-spread governmental investments in water technologies to accelerate economic growth in the water sector. No doubt hosting two-hundred exhibitors of water technologies will be great way for the country to stay abreast of additional investment opportunities.

However, several main sponsors of International Water Week include multinational corporations with questionable environmental and water management track records including:

Enterprising steps in the field of water technology are fundamental to ensure available water supplies now and into the future.

Does sponsorship of International Water Week by the above organizations make this event any less important? Not necessarily, but maybe it does mean that we should pay closer attention to these companies and their water management standards.

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:

World Economic Forum 2008 Wraps Up with Water

agriculture, asia, climate change, drinking water, economy, industrial, international, technology, united nations, water trade

Water was a major topic of conversation at the World Economic Forum 2008 (WEF) now coming to a close in Davos, Switzerland.

At the forum, according to the Environmental News Service, Bill Gates announced a grant of $306 million dollars for development projects to help boost yields of crops for farmers in developing countries. It is unclear whether a portion of this money will be devoted to water conservation practices in conjunction with agriculture. Also discussed was implementation of a cap and trade system for water supplies and the importance of market forces in water allocation.

Leaders at the forum pledged renewed support for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, of which one goal is to increase access to safe drinking water.

Created as a venue for dialogue, research, and networking among economic and political leaders, the WEF is often criticized for more talk rather than action, a membership majority of industrialized countries (primarily USA, Europe, and Asia), and limited media access to specified plenary sessions.

While members of the WEF did review the importance of water in the coming age, no definitive plan was drafted to move our global society in that direction. However, maybe discussions during the event will leave lasting impressions on these economic leaders. And gradually, they will come to the realization that water is more than a commodity, but a necessity of life.

Be sure to check out other blog posts on this issue… our friends at WaterWired give additional perspective on how water was incorporated into the WEF agenda.

Webcasts from this forum are available on the Podcasts, Video, and Web-Mediapage on this blog, as well as on the WEF website.

For an insiders look at the WEF 2008, check out this NPR story: The Wacky World Economic Forum.

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.

‘Voices from the Water’ Film Festival: Call for Submissions

film, india, international, sustainability

The 3rd annual ‘Voices from the Water‘ Film Festival is officially announcing a call for submissions.

The world’s largest international water film festival will be held in August of 2008 in Bangalore, India. Individuals are invited to enter films in categories ranging from water scarcity to water and life. Please e-mail bangalorefilmsociety@gmail.com or waterjourneys@rediffmail.com for submission instructions.

For more information on films and film festivals pertaining to water issues, see the Water Films tab at the top of this page.

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.