International Day of Forests and Water

On the March 21st, International Day of Forests, FAO HQ will host a special celebration in recognition of ‘Forests and Water’. During the event the Land and Water Division will present ‘Forests and Water in Practice’ with examples of watershed management dealing with changes in rural production processes in a framework of market-driven agricultural development.

Read more >>
Watch the webcast LIVE: Monday 21 March 2016 – 12PM CET >>

 

Starved for Energy, Pakistan Braces for a Water Crisis

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages, the Pakistani government warned this week.

A combination of global climate change and local waste and mismanagement have led to an alarmingly rapid depletion of Pakistan’s water supply, said the minister for water and energy, Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

“Under the present situation, in the next six to seven years, Pakistan can be a water-starved country,” Mr. Asif said in an interview, echoing a warning that he first issued at a news conference in Lahore this week.

The prospect of a major water crisis in Pakistan, even if several years distant, offers a stark reminder of a growing challenge in other poor and densely populated countries that are vulnerable to global climate change.

In Pakistan, it poses a further challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose government has come under sharp criticism for failing to end the country’s electricity crisis. In some rural areas, heavy rationing has meant that as little as four hours of electricity a day is available.

In the interview, Mr. Asif said the government had started to bring the electricity crisis under control, and predicted a return to a normal supply by 2017. But energy experts are less confident that such a turnaround is possible, given how long and complex the problem has proved to be.

Now the country’s water supply looms as a resource challenge, intensified by Pakistan’s enduring infrastructure and management problems.

Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Pakistani economy. The 2,000-mile-long Indus River, which rises in the Himalayas and spans the country, feeds a vast network of irrigation canals that line fields producing wheat, vegetables and cotton, all major sources of foreign currency. In the north, hydroelectric power stations are a cornerstone of the creaking power system.

A combination of melting glaciers, decreasing rainfall and chronic mismanagement by successive governments has put that water supply in danger, experts say.

In a report published in 2013, the Asian Development Bank described Pakistan as one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world, with a water availability of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year — a fivefold drop since independence in 1947, and about the same level as drought-stricken Ethiopia.

“It is a very serious situation,” said Pervaiz Amir, country director for the Pakistan Water Partnership. “I feel it is going to be more serious than the recent oil shortages.”

Shortages of resources have climbed to the top of the political agenda in recent years. Fuel shortages last month, for which government officials blamed mismanagement by the national oil company, caused lengthy lines outside fuel stations that embarrassed the government at a time of low global oil prices.

Mr. Sharif’s government was already grappling with the seemingly intractable electricity crisis, which regularly causes blackouts of 10 hours a day even in major cities. And Mr. Sharif has been visibly distracted by grueling political duels, with the opposition politician Imran Khan, who accuses him of stealing the 2013 election, and with powerful military leaders who have undermined his authority in key areas.

Mr. Asif, the water and energy minister, said the government had started to turn the corner. But he acknowledged that the country’s resource problems were, to a large degree, endemic. “There is a national habit of extravagance,” he said, noting that it extended across resource areas, whether gas, electricity or water.

“I will be very careful not to use the word ‘drought,’ but we are water stressed right now, and slowly, we are moving to be a water-starved country,” he said.

Evidence of chronic water shortages have been painfully evident in some parts of Pakistan in recent years. A drought caused by erratic rainfall in Tharparkar, a desert area in southern Sindh Province, caused a humanitarian emergency in the region last year.

“The frequency of monsoon rains has decreased but their intensity has increased,” said Mr. Amir of the Pakistan Water Partnership. “That means more water stress, particularly in winters.”

Water is also tied to nationalist, even jihadist, politics in Pakistan. For years, religious conservatives and Islamist militants have accused rival India, where the Indus River system rises, of constricting Pakistan’s water supply.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, Lashkar-e-Taiba, regularly rails against Indian “water terrorism” during public rallies.

Mr. Asif said that contrary to such claims, India was not building reservoirs on rivers that flow into Pakistan. “We will never let it happen,” he said, citing the Indus Water Treaty, an agreement between the two countries that was brokered by the World Bank and signed in the 1960s.

One major culprit in Pakistan’s looming water crisis, experts say, is the country’s inadequate water storage facilities. In India, about one-third of the water supply is stored in reservoirs, compared with just 9 percent in Pakistan, Mr. Amir said.

“We built our last dam 46 years ago,” he said. “India has built 4,000 dams, with another 150 in the pipeline.”

Experts say the country’s chaotic policies are hurting its image in the eyes of Western donors who could help alleviate the mounting resource crises.

“The biggest looming crisis is of governance, not water — which could make this country unlivable in the next few years,” said Arshad H. Abbasi, a water and energy expert with the Sustainable Development and Policy Institute, a research group based in Islamabad. More

 

Ground water depletion driving global conflicts – NASA scientist

ROME, Nov 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Global ground water supplies, crucial for sustaining agriculture, are being depleted at an alarming rate with dangerous security implications, a leading scientist said.

Cracked ground of the Atibainha dam Brazil

“It's a major cause for concern because most of the places where it (ground water depletion) is happening are major food producing regions,” James Famiglietti, a University of California professor who conducts research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“India is the worst off, followed by the Middle East, and the U.S. is probably number three … the Chinese, particularly on the north China plain, are more water limited than people believe.”

Famiglietti's conclusions are based on his latest research paper “The global ground water crisis” published in the journal Nature Climate Change last month.

The study uses analysis of satellite images to warn that ground water in many of the world's largest aquifers is being exploited at a far faster rate than it can be naturally replenished.

Farming accounts for more than 80 percent of the United States' water use, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the figures are similar globally.

Famiglietti has been called to the Pentagon a number of times to discuss the potential impact of groundwater scarcity with leading military planners.

Water-related conflicts are already happening, he said, and security experts are bracing for more.

“In 90 percent of the world where there are violent conflicts, there are water scarcity issues,” he said.

Water scarcity has been one component driving Syria's civil war, he said. The agricultural sector lacks sufficient water to farm, and a “young generation of unhappy farmers moved to the city and conflict ensued”.

Oil-rich, water scarce countries in the Gulf currently rely on desalinated sea water for much of their water consumption.

Some analysts suggest that more countries will embrace energy-intensive desalination, particularly using nuclear technology, if current trends continue.

Famiglietti said this would not be a good option, as it requires too much energy, and won't be able to efficiently provide the volumes of water needed for large-scale agriculture.

Governments first need to acknowledge there is a problem, he said, and then factor scarcity into pricing, while investing in conservation and new technologies to promote efficiency. More

 

Ongoing drought in Brazil brings rising tensions

The western USA is not the only place suffering from lack of rain, Latin America’s economic powerhouse has been struck hard by a powerful and ongoing water crisis.

The worst drought since records began 84 years ago has constrained the Brazillian economy in many ways, particularly coffee production, agriculture and hydroelectric power generation, which accounted for 80% of electricity generation. This power fuels the economic development on which millions are counting to rise out of poverty, and the loss has slowed the entire economy, due to the need to import expensive fossil fuels in order to keep the lights on and water pumps running (costing $6 billion extra so far this year, while increasing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions).


Water rationing has been imposed in many parts of the country for months, but the situation is approaching a critical point. Nineteen large cities are under water rationing rules, and the water catchment capacity feeding the megalopolis of Sao Paolo (20 million inhabitants and the economic capital of the entire continent) is down to 10%. Carefully husbanded, and tapping water usually deemed of inferior quality, there is enough left to squeeze out of the system for a hundred days consumption. States are now squabbling over allocation of the remaining water resources, and fighting has erupted sporadically in some rural areas.

In Sao Paolo itself, financial incentives to reduce consumption have been accompanied by cutting water pressure at night, effectively cutting off all the poorer areas of the city which sit on hills. In nearby Gaurulhos residents of some neighbourhoods are getting water one day in three. Balancing the competing needs of drinking water and power generation is also having societal consequences, exacerbating general social tension, and helping fuel reactions such as the protests and riots back in June.

The drought may be linked to climate change, since the rains that normally come south from evaporation in the Amazon basin failed to arrive, a potentially very worrying symptom. It also reveals some of the likely types of economic cost and societal tension that will arise and worsen as the world warms further and the consequences begin to bite. Some early spring rains appeared in Brazil this week, enough at least to halt the fall in Sao Paolo’s reserves, but the prognosis for the coming rainy season is still very uncertain.

Via Facebook –The Earth Story

Image credit: Reuters/Nacho Doce

http://www.theguardian.com/weather/2014/sep/05/brazil-drought-crisis-rationing
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/12/us-brazil-economy-fiscal-idUSBREA1B1CY20140212
http://phys.org/news/2012-05-worst-drought-years-toll-northern.html

 

 

 

 

Drought apocalypse begins in California as wells run dry

(NaturalNews) Water wells in central California have begun to run dry, reports the LA Times. (1) “Extreme drought conditions have become so harsh for the Central Valley community of East Porterville [that] many of its residents dependent on their own wells have run out of water.”

Tulare County has confirmed their wells have run out of water, and so far hundreds of homes have no running water.

According to the LA Times, rumors are also spreading that Child Protective Services officials will begin taking children away from families who have no running water, although the county claims the rumor is false.

It begins: the collapse of California's water aquifers

With this news, it is now official that the collapse of California's water aquifers has begun. With each passing month and year, more and more wells will run dry across the state as California plummets into the desert conditions from which it once sprang.

Extreme drought now covers 82% of California, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. (2) Fifty-eight percent of the state is in “exceptional drought.”

During the unfolding of this drought, California farmers and cities have siphoned unprecedented volumes of water out of the state's underground aquifers. This is called “fossil water” and it can take centuries to regenerate. Once this fossil water is used up, it's gone.

35-year “megadrought” may be on the way

“The southwestern United States has fifty percent change of suffering a 'megadrought' that lasts 35 years,” reports the Daily Mail. (3)

“They say global warming has meant the chance of a decade long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a 'megadrought' – one that lasts up to 35 years – ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century.”

One scientist is quoted in the story as saying, “This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region.”

Unless politicians become magical wizards and figure out a way to create water out of nothing, what all this really means is that cities of the American southwest will not be able to support present-day populations. A mass migration (evacuation) out of the cities will be necessary sooner or later.

California's water deficit will lead to ecological and economic collapse

In an almost perfect reflection of California's state budget deficits, the state is also running an unsustainable water deficit. It is a mathematical certainty that when you remove far more water from the aquifers than is being replenished, the amount of water remaining in those aquifers will eventually reach zero.

This “zero day” water reality is still psychologically denied by most Californians. If the reality of this situation were widely recognized, California would be experiencing a glut of real estate inventory as millions of homeowners tried to sell their properties and evacuate the state. The fact that the real estate market has not yet collapsed in California tells us that Californians are still living in a state of denial about the future of their water supply.

Even as California's water supply collapses by the day, local farmers and towns have few options other than drilling for more water. “Drill! Drill! Drill!” is the mantra of the day, creating an 18-month backlog for well drilling companies. Each new well that's drilled must seek to go deeper than the previous wells which are running dry. It's a literal race to the bottom which can only end in catastrophe.

Then again, a willful acceleration toward catastrophe is merely a sign of the times when it comes to human civilization. There is almost no area in which humans have ever achieved balance: not in fossil fuels, metals mining, fossil water exploitation, debt creation, industrial chemical contamination, ecological exploitation or even global population. It's almost as if the human race is determined to destroy itself while racing to see who can achieve self destruction first. More

 

Karachi thirsts for a water supply

KARACHI: On the outskirts of the slums of Pakistan’s biggest city, protesters burning tires and throwing stones have what sounds like a simple demand: They want water at least once a week.

In Karachi people go days without getting water from city trucks, sometimes forcing them to use groundwater contaminated with salt. A recent drought has only made the problem worse. And as the city of roughly 18 million people rapidly grows, the water shortages are only expected to get worse.

“During the last three months they haven’t supplied a single drop of water in my neighbourhood,” protester Yasmeen Islam said. “It doesn’t make us happy to come on the roads to protest but we have no choice anymore.”

Karachi gets most of its water from the Indus River — about 550 million gallons per day — and another 100 million gallons from the Hub Dam that is supplied by water from neighbouring Balochistan province. But in recent years, drought has hurt the city’s supply.

Misbah Fareed, a senior official with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board that runs the city’s water supplies, said that only meets about half the city’s needs — 1.2 billion gallons a day.

Karachi’s water distribution network has exacerbated the problem by forcing much of the city to get its water through tankers instead of directly from pipes. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board operates 12 water hydrants around the city where tankers fill up and then distribute. Even people in the richest areas of the city get their water through tankers that come a few times a week to fill up underground cisterns.

But criminals have illegally tapped into the city’s water pipes and set up their own distribution points where they siphon off water and sell it.

“I personally know some people previously associated with drug mafias who now switched to the water tanker business,” Fareed said. “Just imagine how lucrative the business is.”

Other areas of Pakistan pump massive amounts of groundwater. But in the coastal city of Karachi, the underground water is too salty to drink. Many people have pumps but they use the water for things such as showering or washing clothes.

The water shortage is exacerbated by Karachi’s massive population. Pakistani military operations and American drone strikes in the northern tribal regions, as well as natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes, have pushed people toward a city long seen as the economic heart of Pakistan.

The city is trying to increase the amount of water it gets from the Indus River by building another canal — dubbed the K4 project. But even if they were to get political approval from the capital to take more water from the river, it would take a minimum of four years to build.

But analysts say supply isn’t the only problem. Farhan Anwar, who runs an organisation called Sustainable Initiatives in Karachi, said the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board is horribly overstaffed and many of those are political appointees. The cost for water is also very low and the agency doesn’t collect all that it’s due, Anwar said. That’s made it difficult to upgrade the ageing pipes the system does have, meaning contamination and leakages are common.

Meanwhile, Karachi residents have to spend more money or walk further and further to get water. One elderly resident Aisha Saleem said in recent months even the little water they get from the water board is salty.

“Women and kids have to go miles by foot and carry drinking water every day,” she said More

 

How extensive is California’s drought?

A snake-like trickle of water flows underneath Lake Oroville's Enterprise Bridge — just one striking example of how much California's chronic drought is affecting the state's lakes and reservoirs.

Situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas in Butte County, Lake Oroville is one of the largest reservoirs in California, second only to Shasta Lake. After enduring three straight years of drought, the lake is currently only filled to 32 percent of its capacity.

In any case, the drought in California is getting serious. Phase 2 of Los Angeles' mandatory water conservation ordinance is now in effect, which means a team of water-use inspectors are tasked with enforcing water restrictions and fining water wasters. If the drought continues through fall and winter, the ordinance will move to Phase 3, which entails even stricter rules and some prohibitions.

To get a better idea of the dire situation in the Golden State, continue below for a photo comparison of water levels taken in 2011 and 2014, looking at Lake Oroville and Folsom Lake, another major California reservoir located in Sacramento County that is now filled at 40 percent of its capacity.

Bidwell Marina, Lake Oroville

Folsam Dam, Folsom Lake

Enterprise Bridge, Lake Oroville