Iraq: Water and Politics in a War-Torn Country

drinking water, groundwater, international, iraq, middle east, water availability, water conflict, water treatment

Less than half of Iraq’s population of 29 million people have access to clean, drinkable water. According to a recent report by Oxfam, the number of civilians in Iraq without water has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent during 2003 to 2007 (the continued US occupation).


Above Photo: Child cries as a woman fills pans of water from a public water hose on open ground in Najaf, Iraq, in 2006. Alla al-Marjani/Associated Press.

Recent History of Water in Iraq

Iraq had over 140 drinking water and treatment facilities in operation in the recent past. Air attacks in the 1991 Persian Gulf War destroyed many of these plants. At the same time, UN imposed sanctions that disallowed trade between Iraq and other countries. This made import of needed chemicals and supplies for upkeep of the water facilities difficult. By 2003, Iraq’s 140 major water treatment facilities were operating at 35 percent of their design capacity. In March 2003, the US government launched a direct-attack on Iraq. The following continued war rendered useless already deteriorating water infrastructure systems across the country. Years of political upheaval, sanctions against Iraq, consistent mortar attacks, and unstable-transitional governing bodies have made maintenance of the water treatment systems almost impossible. Unsafe water is also taking its toll. Iraq saw the worst outbreak of Cholera in recorded history in 2007.


Above Photo: A man in a village in southern Iraq demonstrates how Bechtel left his village without access to clean water. BanglaPraxis.

While some measures are being taken to ensure water availability in Iraq…

UNICEF provides water on tanker trucks and distributes home-hygiene kits to civilians. UNESCO has assessed water resources available in Iraq and evaluated possible management plans. USAID has refurbished 10 water treatment plants and installed 70 small water treatment systems in rural communities. The transitional Iraqi Government has been developing water policy. The Iraq Water Project (Veterans for Peace in conjunction with LIFE) has sent small, sterilized water units for hospitals and schools and has been working to rebuild six water treatment plants in Iraq.

…these actions are not yet enough.

K2K – In Search of Water

art, climate change, drinking water, drought, floods, groundwater, hydrogeology, india, international, outreach, rivers, sustainability, technology, water availability

One man’s dream will soon raise the world’s awareness about the complexity of water challenges occurring in India. Beginning Saturday April 26th in Bangalore, CS Sharada Prasad will travel 19,000 km (11,807 m) on motorbike to document the meaning and encompassing challenges of water to people in India. Crossing 15 major rivers, 28 states, and 7 territories, Mr. Prasad will document his journey on a blog called “K2K – In Search of Water“. His route will be mapped with a GPS unit attached to his motorbike and uploaded to Google Maps. Geotagged blog posts will be updated everyday and photos from his journey will be available on EveryTrail and Flickr.

The trip will take over two months to complete visiting places such as the Khardung La Pass at 18,380 feet to Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of mainland India. Mr. Prasad will meet with local citizens, organizations, and community leaders to bring light to their accomplishments and challenges regarding sustainable water supplies. This event will be a great opportunity for students, classrooms, and people around the world to follow along with his adventure and become educated about water supplies in India. Sharada Prasad is a project officer for the India Water Portal developed by Arghyam, a non-governmental organization. Arghyam “seeks to support strategic and sustainable efforts in the water sector that address basic water needs for all citizens”.

Visit the cool interactive Google Map of the Journey across India here.

Water Labels for Milk, Fruit, Meat, and More

agriculture, climate change, international, sustainability

Into the local grocery store for my weekly accruals, I browse the aisles for items on my shopping list…

Milk – 65 gallons of water for production per serving
Cherries – 90 gallons of water for production per serving
Eggs – 136 gallons of water for production per serving

I diligently note the amount of water used for production of each product clearly labeled on the back of the container and then place them into my cart.

Sound a bit far-fetched? Well, not so much if you were in Australia this week attending an international water conference in Adelaide.

James Hazelton, a professor from Macquarie University, suggested this approach for labeling of food products in Australia and beyond, according to ABC News. He cited the success of labeling water efficient appliances such as low-flow toilets and washing machines.

Indeed, perhaps if we were more aware of the amount of water used for production of our food products, we might be inclined to conserve water and eat a ‘low-flow’ diet.

Great idea, sir!

Have you checked your Water Footprint lately?

Drying Up Palestine – A Documentary Film

agriculture, drinking water, film, groundwater, international, middle east

“Shot on location in the West Bank over a period of almost a year, Drying up Palestine illustrates the stresses and strains imposed on Palestinian society by Israel’s almost total control over access to water and sewage facilities in the Occupied Territories. Told in the words of ordinary inhabitants, the film creates a compelling portrait of the impact of military occupation on everyday life.”

– Planet in Focus Film Festival

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‘Water is Water’ – Newar Poet on Cultural Earth

agriculture, asia, audio, hydrogeology, international, outreach, rivers

Purna Bahadur Vaidya is a Newar Poet from Nepal with a collection of “84 poems refracted through water” in the language of Nepal Bhasa called LA LA KHA (WATER IS WATER).

Wayne Amtzis (photographer and writer himself) sat down with the author to translate the poems into English. He has so graciously given permission for some of these translations to be featured on the Cultural Earth page on Water for the Ages. His translations have also appeared in The Drunken Boat, a web magazine of international works.

In addition, the Library of Congress has recorded Purna Vaidya reciting portions of LA LA KHA in his native language of Nepal Bhasa.


Photo above courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Mount Everest is the peak with the clouds to the left. Ama Dablam is the peak to the far right.

‘The politics of oil and water’ – Interviews on Big Think

drinking water, economy, film, international, outreach, rivers, water availability, water trade

Several interviews on the ‘politics of oil and water’ are featured this week on Big Think, a website of ideas from people on everything including the environment. The following people and others were asked about “access to oil and water as a human right, sources of alternative energy and the future of global conflicts over resources”.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Natural Water Treatment in Ecuador

agriculture, drinking water, economy, international, south america, sustainability, water treatment

A village in Ecuador was recently recognized on World Water Day 2008 for an innovative yet simple approach to water treatment using aquatic lentil and water lettuce.

The people of San Rafael de la Laguna, an indigenous community of 4,700, constructed a water treatment facility along the edge of Lake Imbakucha to offset polluted discharge from local tourist facilities and agricultural practices.

The water treatment facility removes up to 90% of the contamination, and the clean water is then used for irrigation of reeds. Local artisans create furniture, crafts, and paper from the reeds, and sell the products through the Totora Sisa Cooperative.


Photo above is Lake San Pablo (Imbakucha) in Ecuador.

Quick Story on Water in Africa

africa, drinking water, drought, film, international, outreach, rivers, sustainability, water availability

In Africa, there is a young girl named Christina. She lives with her family in a small village in rural Ghana in West Africa. Ghana is close the equator with a tropical climate, but each year over eight months may pass without a drop of rain. During these dry spells, the one small pond in her village will slowly evaporate in the hot sun. Villagers are forced to seek water elsewhere. It is Christina’s job to fetch her family’s daily ration of water. Each day, she will walk up to four hours to gather enough water. Christina is a hardworking girl, but because she walks so far for water means she has no time to attend school. Christina is a real girl, and this is a true story as told in the short film below by Water Aid. Water Aid is an international organization with a vision of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. Intrigued? Read more about water in Africa below.

Africa Water Facts

Desert, rainforest, and savanna – over 900 million people live in Africa. It is the second largest continent in the world. Of all who live in Africa, 340 million people (38%) lack access to clean water and 500 million people (56 %) lack access to sanitation facilities.

If you lived in Africa, you would have to walk an average of six kilometers (3.72 miles) to carry sometimes dirty or murky water home to your family for use. The burden of this chore often falls on the women and children of a household.

The Nile, Niger, Volta, and Zambezi River Basins cross multiple political borders making water policy difficult and even volatile according to research conducted by the UN as featured on the BBC.


Above Photo: Water availability in Africa.UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library

World Water Day to Highlight the Global Water Crisis

drinking water, drought, film, groundwater, international, outreach, sustainability, united nations, water availability

About 4,500 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities. – UNICEF


‘A mother in Delhi, India, helps her son drink from a public tanker on World Water Day 2007’, photo on BBC News.

World Water Day 2008

Events happening across the globe draw international attention to a lack of available and clean drinking water supplies on World Water Day, whether celebrating March 20th (as so noted in this post on Water Wired) or on the typical March 22nd.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Water Day theme will emphasize ‘Sanitation’ to coincide with the designated International Year of Sanitation.

Confusion about the date of the event this year (to account for a religious holiday on the weekend) certainly has not hindered many from observing the need to focus on global water issues.

March 20th Events (to name a few)

Global Water Challengeand Ashoka’s Changemakers invite people to submit entries for the competition to solve the global water crisis: “Tapping Local Innovation: Unclogging the Water and Sanitation Crisis“. One million dollars in funding is available to help implement these projects, and entries are due by March 26, 2008.

Shekhar Kapur launches a blog on Changemakers.net inspired by his latest film, ‘Paani’ (Water), which will examine the daily struggle for water in the slums of Mumbai.

The Our World – Our Water group on Flickr is launched to encourage those from around the world to share photos and stories about water.

March 22nd Events (to name a few)

WaterPartners Village — a virtual exploration of the water crisis — will launch across social networking sites like Second Life on World Water Day. A virtual concert, with proceeds to support global water organizations, will start at 5:00 pm (PDT) on March 22, 2008 at the WaterPartners Village stage.

Worldwaterday.net is organizing events across the United States that observe World Water Day including organized walks to raise money for the global water crisis.

Gramalaya in association with WaterPartners International and WaterAid – UK is organising World Water Day 2008 in Tamil Nadu, India. The event will be attended by more than 20,000 women from 430 villages and 186 slums in Tiruchi City will be participating. The event will be telecast at Suryan FM 93.5.

WorldWaterDay.org features events happening across the globe and on the Internet.

The Film Connection supports World Water Day by featuring several films about water for viewing and discussion about global water issues. ‘With this film program, we invite you to take a closer look at how individuals experience and utilize this diminishing resource.’

The above poster is part of an outreach campaign by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

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.

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

Raindrop Power

rainwater, sustainability, technology, water treatment

Wind, solar, waves, and rivers…

Could raindrops be another form of alternative, renewable, and sustainable energy?

Experimental research is underway by a team at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in France to study the feasibility of rain and energy production, according to a recent article in New Scientist (Issue 2640, 24 January 2008, page 30).

The team used piezoelectric materials, which generate electricity with mechanical stress, to capture energy from raindrops as they hit the surface. Raindrops the size of drizzle produced approximately 2 microjoules of energy, while large raindrops produced approximately 1 millijoule of energy.

“Although the output is puny compared with that of solar panels, rain power has the advantage of working in the dark and could be used to supplement solar-powered devices.”

New Scientist

Other research is being completed around the world to review possibilities of new forms of water energy including Damless Energy, Blue Energy, and Ocean Energy Thermal Conversion (OTEC).

Animated photo courtesy Ernst Schütz.

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.