Water Security is National Security
Water resources and how they are managed impact almost all aspects of society and the economy, in particular health, food production and security, domestic water supply and sanitation, energy, industry, and the functioning of ecosystems. Under present climate variability, water stress is already high, particularly in many developing countries, and climate change adds even more urgency for action. Without improved water resources management, the progress towards poverty reduction targets, the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development in all its economic, social and environ- mental dimensions, will be jeopardized. UN Water.Org
Friday, November 21, 2014
Thursday, November 20, 2014
HASKELL COUNTY, Kan. — Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons to the surface every minute.
Last year, Mr. Yost was coaxing just 300 gallons from the earth, and pumping up sand in order to do it. By harvest time, the grit had robbed him of $20,000 worth of pumps and any hope of returning to the bumper harvests of years past.
“That’s prime land,” he said not long ago, gesturing from his pickup at the stubby remains of last year’s crop. “I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.” Now, he said, “it’s over.”
The land, known as Section 35, sits atop the High Plains Aquifer, a waterlogged jumble of sand, clay and gravel that begins beneath Wyoming and South Dakota and stretches clear to the Texas Panhandle. The aquifer’s northern reaches still hold enough water in many places to last hundreds of years. But as one heads south, it is increasingly tapped out, drained by ever more intensive farming and, lately, by drought.
Vast stretches of Texas farmland lying over the aquifer no longer support irrigation. In west-central Kansas, up to a fifth of the irrigated farmland along a 100-mile swath of the aquifer has already gone dry. In many other places, there no longer is enough water to supply farmers’ peak needs during Kansas’ scorching summers.
And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains.
This is in many ways a slow-motion crisis — decades in the making, imminent for some, years or decades away for others, hitting one farm but leaving an adjacent one untouched. But across the rolling plains and tarmac-flat farmland near the Kansas-Colorado border, the effects of depletion are evident everywhere. Highway bridges span arid stream beds. Most of the creeks and rivers that once veined the land have dried up as 60 years of pumping have pulled groundwater levels down by scores and even hundreds of feet.
On some farms, big center-pivot irrigators — the spindly rigs that create the emerald circles of cropland familiar to anyone flying over the region — now are watering only a half-circle. On others, they sit idle altogether.
Two years of extreme drought, during which farmers relied almost completely on groundwater, have brought the seriousness of the problem home. In 2011 and 2012, the Kansas Geological Survey reports, the average water level in the state’s portion of the aquifer dropped 4.25 feet — nearly a third of the total decline since 1996.
And that is merely the average. “I know my staff went out and re-measured a couple of wells because they couldn’t believe it,” said Lane Letourneau, a manager at the State Agriculture Department’s water resources division. “There was a 30-foot decline.”
Kansas agriculture will survive the slow draining of the aquifer — even now, less than a fifth of the state’s farmland is irrigated in any given year — but the economic impact nevertheless will be outsized. In the last federal agriculture census of Kansas, in 2007, an average acre of irrigated land produced nearly twice as many bushels of corn, two-thirds more soybeans and three-fifths more wheat than did dry land.
Farmers will take a hit as well. Raising crops without irrigation is far cheaper, but yields are far lower. Drought is a constant threat: the last two dry-land harvests were all but wiped out by poor rains.
In the end, most farmers will adapt to farming without water, said Bill Golden, an agriculture economist at Kansas State University. “The revenue losses are there,” he said. “But they’re not as tremendously significant as one might think.”
Some already are. A few miles west of Mr. Yost’s farm, Nathan Kells cut back on irrigation when his wells began faltering in the last decade, and shifted his focus to raising dairy heifers — 9,000 on that farm, and thousands more elsewhere. At about 12 gallons a day for a single cow, Mr. Kells can sustain his herd with less water than it takes to grow a single circle of corn.
“The water’s going to flow to where it’s most valuable, whether it be industry or cities or feed yards,” he said. “We said, ‘What’s the higher use of the water?’ and decided that it was the heifer operation.”
The problem, others say, is that when irrigation ends, so do the jobs and added income that sustain rural communities.
“Looking at areas of Texas where the groundwater has really dropped, those towns are just a shell of what they once were,” said Jim Butler, a hydrogeologist and senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey.
The villain in this story is in fact the farmers’ savior: the center-pivot irrigator, a quarter- or half-mile of pipe that traces a watery circle around a point in the middle of a field. The center pivots helped start a revolution that raised farming from hardscrabble work to a profitable business.
Since the pivots’ debut some six decades ago, the amount of irrigated cropland in Kansas has grown to nearly three million acres, from a mere 250,000 in 1950. But the pivot irrigators’ thirst for water — hundreds and sometimes thousands of gallons a minute — has sent much of the aquifer on a relentless decline. And while the big pivots have become much more efficient, a University of California study earlier this year concluded that Kansas farmers were using some of their water savings to expand irrigation or grow thirstier crops, not to reduce consumption.
A shift to growing corn, a much thirstier crop than most, has only worsened matters. Driven by demand, speculation and a government mandate to produce biofuels, the price of corn has tripled since 2002, and Kansas farmers have responded by increasing the acreage of irrigated cornfields by nearly a fifth.
At an average 14 inches per acre in a growing season, a corn crop soaks up groundwater like a sponge — in 2010, the State Agriculture Department said, enough to fill a space a mile square and nearly 2,100 feet high.
Sorghum, or milo, gets by on a third less water, Kansas State University researchers say — and it, too, is in demand by biofuel makers. As Kansas’ wells peter out, more farmers are switching to growing milo on dry land or with a comparative sprinkle of irrigation water.
But as long as there is enough water, most farmers will favor corn. “The issue that often drives this is economics,” said David W. Hyndman, who heads Michigan State University’s geological sciences department. “And as long as you’ve got corn that’s $7, then a lot of choices get made on that.”
Of the 800 acres that Ashley Yost farmed last year in Haskell County, about 70 percent was planted in corn, including roughly 125 acres in Section 35. Haskell County’s feedlots — the county is home to 415,000 head of cattle — and ethanol plants in nearby Liberal and Garden City have driven up the price of corn handsomely, he said.
But this year he will grow milo in that section, and hope that by ratcheting down the speed of his pump, he will draw less sand, even if that means less water, too. The economics of irrigation, he said, almost dictate it.
“You’ve got $20,000 of underground pipe,” he said. “You’ve got a $10,000 gas line. You’ve got a $10,000 irrigation motor. You’ve got an $89,000 pivot. And you’re going to let it sit there and rot?
“If you can pump 150 gallons, that’s 150 gallons Mother Nature is not giving us. And if you can keep a milo crop alive, you’re going to do it.”
Mr. Yost’s neighbors have met the prospect of dwindling water in starkly different ways. A brother is farming on pivot half-circles. A brother-in-law moved most of his operations to Iowa. Another farmer is suing his neighbors, accusing them of poaching water from his slice of the aquifer.
A fourth grows corn with an underground irrigation system that does not match the yields of water-wasting center-pivot rigs, but is far thriftier in terms of water use and operating costs.
For his part, Mr. Yost continues to pump. But he also allowed that the day may come when sustaining what is left of the aquifer is preferable to pumping as much as possible.
Sitting in his Ford pickup next to Section 35, he unfolded a sheet of white paper that tracked the decline of his grandfather’s well: from 1,600 gallons a minute in 1964, to 1,200 in 1975, to 750 in 1976.
When the well slumped to 500 gallons in 1991, the Yosts capped it and drilled another nearby. Its output sank, too, from 1,352 gallons to 300 today.
This year, Mr. Yost spent more than $15,000 to drill four test wells in Section 35. The best of them produced 195 gallons a minute — a warning, he said, that looking further for an isolated pocket of water would be costly and probably futile.
“We’re on the last kick,” he said. “The bulk water is gone.” More
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Department of Organic Food Quality and Food Culture, University of Kassel and Department of Archaeology and Heritage Management, Rajarata University, Sri Lanka are pleased to announce about the publication of their new research paper, titled "Water Resource Management in Dry Zonal Paddy Cultivation in Mahaweli River Basin, Sri Lanka: An Analysis of Spatial and Temporal Climate Change Impacts and Traditional Knowledge" in the Special Issue "Changes in precipitation and impacts on regional water resources", Climate Journal International.
The paper may be accessed at http://www.mdpi.com/2225-1154/2/4/329
Abstract: Lack of attention to spatial and temporal cross-scale dynamics and effects could be understood as one of the lacunas in scholarship on river basin management. Within the water-climate-food-energy nexus, an integrated and inclusive approach that recognizes traditional knowledge about and experiences of climate change and water resource management can provide crucial assistance in confronting problems in megaprojects and multipurpose river basin management projects.
The Mahaweli Development Program (MDP), a megaproject and multipurpose river basin management project, is demonstrating substantial failures with regards to the spatial and temporal impacts of climate change and socioeconomic demands for water allocation and distribution for paddy cultivation in the dry zone area, which was one of the driving goals of the project at the initial stage. This interdisciplinary study explores how spatial and temporal climatic changes and uncertainty n weather conditions impact paddy cultivation in dry zonal areas with competing stakeholders' interest in the Mahaweli River Basin.
In the framework of embedded design in the mixed methods research approach, qualitative data is the primary source while quantitative analyses are used as supportive data. The key findings from the research analysis are as follows: close and in-depth consideration of spatial and temporal changes in climate systems and paddy farmers' socioeconomic demands altered by seasonal changes are important factors. These factors should be considered in the future modification of water allocation, application of distribution technologies, and decision-making with regards to water resource management in the dry zonal paddy cultivation of Sri Lanka. More
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Mary Madden feels paranoid. Last fall Madden noticed something suspicious. The water filling the tanks outside her veterinary clinic in Los Gatos, Calif., was disappearing at an alarming rate. Madden checked for leaks but found none. Then she realized: Someone was stealing her water.
"I just couldn't believe it," she said. "You never imagine anyone would do something like that but there it was, vanishing right before our eyes."
Madden decided to act. She installed security cameras. Then she put locks on the tanks. She even strung a chain across her driveway to keep out unwanted visitors. The theft stopped after the locks went on. But Madden never caught the thief, and she can't stop thinking about who did it.
"This is a really small community, so you sit here and start going through everyone you know and wondering if it was them," she said.
Madden is not alone. Water theft has become increasingly common in California as the state suffers through its worst drought on record. There's no reliable tracking of just how much water has gone missing. But reports of theft rose dramatically in the past year. Officials say a black market set up to peddle water is thriving as wells run dry. And law enforcement is scrambling to respond.
Mendocino County has made catching water thieves a top priority. The sheriff's office set up a water-theft hotline and investigates every tip. It also puts out patrols to sniff out suspicious activity.
In August, a sheriff's deputy there followed a trail of water droplets up a dirt road where he discovered a truck outfitted with a water tank. A confession came quickly. The driver had siphoned water from a nearby canal and planned to sell it to the highest bidder.
The Public Works Department in Lemoore, in Kings County, hired someone to scan city streets for thieves after officials found evidence that someone has been stealing water from fire hydrants.
For now, a statewide effort to curb water theft has yet to materialize. So cities and counties have been left to devise their own methods of retribution.
Officials complain that the penalty for getting caught may not be sufficiently strict: Mendocino County counts water theft as a misdemeanor. County Supervisor Carre Brown considers that a slap on the wrist. "To me this is like looting during a disaster. It should be a felony," Brown said.
Contra Costa County fines anyone caught stealing water $25. Amid worsening theft, the county may soon increase the penalty to $250 and up the amount to $500 for repeat offenders.
But even with all the attention from law enforcement, officials say that much of the theft has gone unpunished.
"This is something that's very hard to pin down. If you don't catch someone in the act, how do you prove they did it?" Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said.
As a result, some California residents have taken matters into their own hands. Online forums and community message boards serve as informal channels where people can post a warning. Word-of-mouth has also proven effective at spreading information.
After Madden told people what had happened, neighbors started to keep an eye on her property. "People will tell me if they see a truck lingering nearby when I'm not there," she said. "We all look out for each other."
Rural communities where residents rely on well water and areas of the state that play host to agricultural operations and illegal marijuana cultivation have been particularly hard hit.
Thousands of gallons of water were stolen from a fire station in North San Juan, a town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at the height of wildfire season this summer. The theft was discovered after an engineer hit the station's water tank and heard a hollow ringing sound rather than the usual thud.
"We were just absolutely stunned," said Boyd Johnson, a battalion chief with the North San Juan fire department. "Fires are on everyone's mind during the summer so to see this happen, I think it really scared people."
Residents of North San Juan depend on wells for water. The area is also known for growing marijuana and located just a few hours north of California's Central Valley, an area of the state where farmers rely on massive amounts of water to ensure the success of their crops.
This past summer thieves also made off with water from an elementary school and a public health clinic on the San Juan Ridge.
James Berardi, the principal of the school that was hit, says security cameras have been installed in an effort to catch thieves. The fire department is also taking precautions. After the theft, lockboxes with a combination padlock were put on each of the station's water tanks.
"It slows us down a bit getting to the water, but at least we know it's safe," Johnson said.
A growing number of wells have run dry on the ridge as the drought drags on. And that, according to Caleb Dardick, a resident of nearby Nevada City, means the theft is unlikely to end anytime soon.
"People are becoming desperate," Dardick said. "The situation has become really severe in the last few years."
All this has made water a chief concern for residents of the state who say they never used to give water a second thought.
"I think about water constantly, obsessively," Madden said. "I wake up every day dreading what might happen if we run out." More
Saturday, November 8, 2014
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
Friday, November 7, 2014
Ladakh’s beautiful mountains might be a paradise for tourists, but ask the locals who have to struggle to meet their basic water needs every year. Chewang Norphel put his engineering skills to a better use and created artificial glaciers to provide water in this cold and dry mountainous region. Know more about his remarkably innovative technology and how it works.
Chewang Norphel, a 79-year old retired civil engineer, has always been a solution provider. The story goes back to 1966 when he was posted in Zanskar, one of the most backward and remote areas in Ladakh, as Sub Divisional Officer. He, along with his team, had to construct school buildings, bridges, canals, roads etc. in that area. The task was very difficult to execute due to lack of skilled labour.
So he started doing the masonry work himself and trained a few villagers to help him. After some years, when he went back to that village, he found out that the villagers he had trained had become perfect mistry and were earning handsome salaries.
Today, he is called the “Ice Man of India” and has created 10 artificial glaciers in Ladakh to help people deal with water scarcity in this cold, mountainous region.
Ladakh, a beautiful location with magnificent scenery around and exquisite beauty, takes everyone’s breath away. But, it is not the same with the people of Ladakh as the cold, dry and infertile land makes their lives harder than we could imagine.
Fortunately, the situation is slowly changing as Ladakh now has artificial glaciers to meet their needs and people have Norphel to thank for his amazing contribution.
Born in 1936, Norphel comes from a farming background and has served in the government service for more than 36 years before he had to take an early retirement due to his bad health. Being at home was not something Norphel enjoyed doing, and at the same time, the poor living conditions in Ladakh constantly troubled him. He thought of putting his engineering skills to a better use.
“Almost all the villages in Ladakh have roads, culverts, bridges, buildings or irrigation systems made by me,”says Norphel. But his biggest contribution came in the form of artificial glaciers.
Being a cold mountain desert, Ladakh sees a low average rainfall of 50 mm annually making people dependent upon glaciers as their primary water source.
80 percent of the population depends on farming, and their main source of irrigation water is the water that comes from the melting of snow and glaciers. Because of global warming, the glaciers are receding quickly and as a result, farmers face a lot of difficulty in getting adequate water. On the other hand, a lot of water gets wasted during the winter months as, due to the severe cold climate, farmers cannot grow any crops in that season.
“So I thought that if we could conserve this water in the form of ice, it can be of help to farmers to some extent during the irrigation period, particularly during the sowing season. The artificial glaciers, being quite close to the villages, melt earlier than the natural glaciers. Also, getting water during the sowing period is the most crucial concern of the farmers because the natural glaciers start melting in the month of June and sowing starts in April and May,” he says.
The idea first came to him when he saw water dripping from a tap which was kept open so as to avoid the water from freezing in winter and bursting the tap. The water gradually froze into the shape of an ice sheet as it came in touch with the ground and made a pool.
It struck him that the water that melts from natural glaciers due to high temperatures in summer goes to waste as it flows into the river. Instead, if this water can be stored in summer and autumn so that it can form a glacier in winter, then this artificial glacier would melt in spring and provide water to the villagers at the right time.
It was now time for action, and he put all his engineering knowledge, field experience and passion to work. He started his first experiment in Phutse village. He made canals to divert the water from the main stream to small catchment areas located four kms away from the village. He also created a shaded area to keep the water frozen in winters.
And, as these glaciers are located at a lower altitude of 13,000 feet as compared to the original glaciers which are located at 18,000 feet, they start melting earlier than the mainstream ones and provide water to the villagers when they need it the most in April.
“The main technique used to create artificial glaciers is to control the velocity of water as much as possible. The region is a hilly area and that is why the gradient of streams is very steep. As a result, in the main streams the water usually does not freeze. So what we have done is we have diverted the water to a shadow area by constructing a diversion channel with a mild grade. When it reaches the site, the water is released downward of the hill, distributing it in a small quantity so that the velocity can be minimized, and side by side we have constructed ice retaining walls in series to store the frozen water. This is the entire methodology of the artificial glacier,” he explains.
His first project cost him Rs.90,000. The width of the glacier ranges generally from 50 to 200 feet and the depth from 2 to 7 feet. This low cost model used only locally sourced material and help from the local community. Norphel has successfully built 10 glaciers so far. The smallest one is 500 feet long in Umla and the largest is 2 km long in Phutse.
His efforts have increased the agricultural production, thereby increasing the income of the locals. This has also reduced the migration to cities. His simple technique has brought water closer to the villages, and most importantly, made it available when the villagers need it the most.
In the future, he wants to continue making the glaciers and plans to build in other areas like Lahol, Spiti, Zangskar, etc. The only thing that comes as a challenge is lack of adequate funds.
“As you sow, so you reap. There is no doubt that if one has strong determination and dedication, there is nothing impossible in the world. That is what I believe,” Norphel says.
His simple idea has received acclaim across the globe and he has proved that if man is the one responsible for disturbing nature, he also has the capacity to save it. You just need the right intention to do so. More