What do we do about the water supply?
It never rains, it’s really dry.
Turn off your hose, keep showers short,
‘til we get a favourable weather report.
I wrote the above poem years ago and it can definitely be said that the current water situation around the world is just as dire and also very mysterious.
I wonder if there’s only a certain amount of water to go around and if it doesn’t fall in say three places where it usually falls then that allotment has to all fall somewhere else. It sure seems that this is the case. But I’d also like to make my prediction for the year 2025. That should give enough time for the world to accumulate another five billion people that it can’t support adequately.
I predict that the new currency of the future will be clean water. Yep, we’ve had shells, salt and rum as currency, so why not water? I’d say the challenge will be locating it but that’s what a currency is all about, isn’t it? If it was easy to locate then it wouldn’t be worth anything!
I read with interest that Queensland has recently purchased a drought breaking technology from Thailand. http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/thai-rain-maker-to-fight-drought-in-queensland/story-e6frfku9-1225902740744. The technique largely relies on cloud seeding using chemicals that promote the formation of water droplets within the cloud formations.
As a matter of interest you might like to see a graph of the global distribution of water and then you’ll see that there is water everywhere, but indeed, not a drop to drink – http://pndblog.typepad.com/pndblog/2009/12/water-water-everywhere-but-not-a-drop-to-drink.html
I have recently travelled to a couple of countries where water (or lack of it) is most definitely a problem.
Firstly there was Turkey which is one of only a handful of countries that are self sufficient with regard to agricultural production. Turkey has a severe water problem and to counter this it has built a large number of dams. These dams are often controversial as they have flooded or are about to flood ancient ruins.
The Ilisu Dam Project and the Yortanli Dam will both drown ancient Roman ruins when they are completed. Also, due to dry conditions in Turkey, soil erosion is a serious issue and has caused dams to break up. The Southeast Anatolia Project will harness the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and could well cause political problems between Turkey and its neighbours downstream who also depend on the waters from these rivers.
Then there is Israel.
Well this one is no surprise really. Israel is a country that has been carved out of desert land. The Israelis have done a fabulous job making the desert flourish. Date, olive, almond and fruit tree plantations grow in extreme heat and in the middle of the most uncompromising desert land. I understand that Israel is self sufficient and we ate the most delicious fruit and vegetables during our trip.
However, they most definitely have a water problem. According to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/scarcity.html dated August, 2010, the situation has developed into a crisis so severe that it is feared that by next summer it may be difficult to adequately supply municipal and household water requirements.
Fears are held for the agricultural sector which has suffered most because of the crisis. Due to the shortage, water allocations to the sector have had to be reduced drastically causing a reduction in agricultural productivity.
Placards around Israel feature a woman with a cracked face. The message on the poster warns about conserving water.
Tracts of water which have been in existence for thousands of years are now drying up. The Dead Sea is shrinking at an alarming rate and, according to the observations of a local, the Sea of Gallilee has also receded significantly.
Israel is such a resourceful country that they might consider lassoing the huge ice island of 259 square kilometres which broke off from one of Greenland’s two main glaciers in August, 2010. Blamed on global warming, and threatening to become a hazard on international water ways, it could certainly be put to good use in an arid land like Israel.
Jordan shares the Dead Sea with Israel and they are also very concerned. They have their own water problems.
The Dead Sea has shrunk so much that the Jordanians are planning to funnel water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. This plan worries environmentalists who are concerned about the effect of blending the two disparate waters.
There are of course other reasons for the drying up of the waters besides lack of rain. The number of locals depending on the water has also increased and this has placed strain on the water supply.
Given that water is such a precious commodity, you would think that we should cherish the water we do have and treat it with respect. Well apparently not so.
The holiday resort of Herzlia in the Dan Acadia is a case in point. It is a favourite of Israelis on holiday and Americans on business. My friend tells me that while body boarding in the sea he found himself swimming in garbage. There were all sorts of plastic bags and items floating in the sea. It was so bad he couldn’t bring himself to go back in again.
Our next port of call was Kerala in India and we had specifically timed it to coincide with the monsoon season in July. Having been assured that there would be deluges of rain every day we were disappointed when it only rained heavily for three days in two weeks. The rest of the time the seas were rough and churning like a washing machine, but the weather was terrific – neither hot nor cold and with a pleasant breeze blowing. This of course was delightful for us, but since the Keralites depend on water from the monsoon season to fill their backyard wells, it can only be hoped that they will have enough water to tide them through the boiling hot summer.
The Hindu Times is also lamenting the invasion of the giant African snail which is devouring their crops. Apparently the snail has been in Kerala for many years but has only just recently begun to proliferate uncontrollably. An article in the newspaper was speculating that climate change was behind the invasion. Maybe the snails also like the lack of rain and the delightful weather?
Usually by the first week of July, the entire country experiences monsoon rain and on average, South India receives more rainfall than North India. If the monsoon rain fails then there are widespread agricultural losses and economic growth is affected.
So if it wasn’t raining in Kerala, where was it raining?
While Kerala has been enjoying wonderful dry and balmy weather, 1600 people have died in extreme floods in Pakistan.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said today that, “this is the worst flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country’s history.”
According to http://www.news.com.au http://www.news.com.au/world/pakistan-flood-toll-nears-900/story-e6frfkyi-1225899710474 thousands of homes and vast swathes of farmland have been destroyed in the northwest and Pakistani Kashmir. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where many poor families live in remote mountain villages, has been the hardest-hit province. The floods have affected 14 million people, of whom at least 1600 have died and some 3 million have been left homeless. The World Bank said yesterday that an estimated $1 billion worth of crops have been wiped out, raising the specter of food shortages. Damage to irrigation canals, the bank added, will reduce crop yields once the floodwaters are gone.
Also North Korea has been hit with devastating floods. According to http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/338264,floods-hit-north-korea.html Chinese media reported on Wednesday that the worst floods for up to 100 years have brought misery to hundreds of thousands of people near the country’s border with North Korea. The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin province was suffering its worst flooding for 100 years, with some 500,000 of its 2.2 million residents affected, the official Xinhua news agency said.
In one of the Doofuzz Dudes books – the Space Spiders to be precise – I played with the concept of water rights in another world. However, water rights is a big issue in this world.
In 1999 in Cochabamba in Bolivia, the mayor sold to a foreign company the rights to all the city’s water, including their rainwater. Thereafter, the price of water skyrocketed and since the inhabitants of Cochabamba are poor people, there were riots in the streets. The foreign corporation was driven out and they went straight into Ecuador to do the same thing there!
In fact water rights are now a big issue throughout the world and in particular in South America, India and Africa.
In Australia, water rights are an issue particularly in regard to the Murray-Darling Basin. The worse drought since record keeping began in the 1890s has caused storage levels to fall so low that it will take many years for the Murray-Darling Basin to recover (http://www.waterforgood.sa.gov.au/rivers-reservoirs-aquifers/river-murray/drought-in-the-murray-darling-basin).
This area is critical for agricultural reasons as the Basin provides one third of Australia’s food supply and much of its agricultural exports and also because the area feeds water into South Australia where it is used in irrigation for agriculture, horticulture and country communities. Low flows are also having an environmental impact on wetlands and wildlife.
The Labor Rudd Government spent almost a billion dollars on water buy-backs but a relative pittance on improved irrigation infrastructure, even though this could more than pay for itself through the value of water saved.
According to http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/more-to-protecting-the-murraydarling-than-water-buybacks-20100114-ma0g.html too much money has been spent buying “rights” rather than actually saving water.
Meanwhile, along the Hawkesbury River, farmers are furious that the NSW Office of Water has released a draft water-sharing plan that will most likely slash the amount of water they can pump from the river for irrigation. The area affected is a prime food-producing area for Sydney and the plan which includes cease-to-pump days during peak summer times when water levels are low, threatens to destroy their crops and businesses.
This is I think, part of a concerted plan to destroy primary production in Australia. The old Maltese and Chinese market gardeners have moved on after selling their prime agricultural land on the outskirts of the Sydney Metropolitan Area to developers.
Sadly there just isn’t enough rain and hence enough water in the waterways to go around.
Maybe the solution is to switch to something other than water. But is there something else that plants like to drink?
In a number of carefully controlled trials scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 litre of water each day, by the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. Coli) – bacteria found in feces. Yuck!
As Ben Franklin said:
In wine there is wisdom,
In beer there is freedom,
In water there is bacteria.
You have been warned!