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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

India and Pakistan at Odds Over Shrinking Indus River

Nearly 30 percent of the world's cotton supply comes from India and Pakistan, much of that from the Indus River Valley. On average, about 737 billion gallons are withdrawn from the Indus River annually to grow cotton—enough to provide Delhi residents with household water for more than two years. (See a map of the region.)

Baseera Pakistan Aug 2010

"Pakistan's entire economy is driven by the textile industry," said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "The problem with Pakistan's economy is that most of the major industries use a ton of water—textiles, sugar, wheat—and there's a tremendous amount of water that's not only used, but wasted," he added.

The same is true for India.

That impact is an important part of a complex water equation in countries already under strain from booming populations. More people means more demand for water to irrigate crops, cool machinery, and power cities. The Indus River, which begins in Indian-controlled Kashmir and flows through Pakistan on its way to the sea, is Pakistan's primary freshwater sourceon which 90 percent of its agriculture dependsand a critical outlet of hydropower generation for both countries.

(Related: "See the Global Water Footprint of Key Crops")

Downstream provinces are already feeling the strain, with some dried-out areas being abandoned by fishermen and farmers forced to move to cities. That increases competition between urban and rural communities for water. "In areas where you used to have raging rivers, you have, essentially, streams or even puddles and not much else," said Kugelman.

In years past, the coastal districts that lost their shares of the Indus' flows have become "economically orphaned," the poorest districts in the country, according to Pakistani water activist Mustafa Talpur. Because Pakistani civil society is weak, he says, corruption and deteriorating water distribution tend to go hand in hand.

In the port city of Karachi, which depends for its water on the Indus, water theftin which public water is stolen from the pipes and sold from tankers in slums and around the citymay be a $500-million annual industry.

In the balance is the fate not only of people, but important aquatic species like the Indus River dolphin, which is now threatened to extinction by agricultural pollution and dams, among other pressures. Scientists estimate that fewer than 100 individuals remain.

Threat to Peace?

One of the potentially catastrophic consequences of the region's fragile water balance is the effect on political tensions.

In India, competition for water has a history of provoking conflict between communities. In Pakistan, water shortages have triggered food and energy crises that ignited riots and protests in some cities. Most troubling, Islamabad's diversions of water to upstream communities with ties to the government are inflaming sectarian loyalties and stoking unrest in the lower downstream region of Sindh.

But the issue also threatens the fragile peace that holds between the nations of India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed rivals. Water has long been seen as a core strategic interest in the dispute over the Kashmir region, home to the Indus' headwaters. Since 1960, a delicate political accord called the Indus Waters Treaty has governed the sharing of the river's resources. But dwindling river flows will be harder to share as the populations in both countries grow and the per-capita water supply plummets.

Some growth models predict that by 2025, India's population will grow to triple what it wasand Pakistan's population to six times what it waswhen the Indus treaty was signed. Lurking in the background are fears that climate change is speeding up the melting of the glaciers that feed the river.

Mountain glaciers in Kashmir play a central role in regulating the river's flows, acting as a natural water storage tank that freezes precipitation in winter and releases it as meltwater in the summer. The Indus is dependent on glacial melting for as much as half of its flow. So its fate is uniquely tied to the health of the Himalayas. In the short term, higher glacial melt is expected to bring more intense flooding, like last year's devastating deluge.

Both countries are also racing to complete large hydroelectric dams along their respective stretches of the Kashmir river system, elevating tensions. India's projects are of a size and scope that many Pakistanis fear could be used to disrupt their hydropower efforts, as well as the timing of the flows on which Pakistani crops rely.

(Related: "Seven Simple Ways to Save Water")

"Many in Pakistan are worried that, being in control of upstream waters, India can easily run Pakistan dry either by diverting the flow of water by building storage dams or using up all the water through hydroelectric power schemes," said Pakistani security analyst Rifaat Hussain.

For years, Pakistani politicians have claimed India is responsible for Pakistan's water troubles. More recently, militant groups have picked up their rhetoric. Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Pakistani militant group allegedly responsible for the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, even accused India of "water terrorism."

Hope for the Future

In the past few months, however, the situation has improved, according to Kugelman. "We've been hearing nearly unprecedented statements from very high-level Pakistani officials who have essentially acknowledged that India is not stealing Pakistan's water, and that Pakistan's water problems are essentially a function of internal mismanagement issues," he said. Militants are still griping, he said, "but not as shrilly."

This may be because the two countries are cooperating on water and other issues better than before, and because militants are now focusing less on their archenemy in India and more on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

"But I imagine this is momentary," said Kugelman. "The facts on the ground—the water constraints in both India and Pakistan—have not abated. They're both still very serious and getting worse."

What's needed, he says, is more conservation and adaptation—a smarter way of doing business. More

This Article is part the National Geographic Society’s freshwater initiative and is a multiyear global effort to inspire and empower individuals and communities to conserve freshwater and preserve the extraordinary diversity of life that rivers, lakes, and wetlands sustain.

 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Unity of Water

MOSCOW – In May, Vietnam became the 35th and decisive signatory of the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. As a result, 90 days later, on August 17, the convention will enter into force.

The fact that it took almost 50 years to draft and finally achieve the necessary ratification threshold demonstrates that something is very wrong with the modern system of multilateralism. Regardless of longstanding disagreements over how cross-border freshwater resources should be allocated and managed, and understandable preferences by governments and water professionals to rely on basin agreements rather than on international legal instruments, that half-century wait can be explained only by a lack of political leadership. So, though the world may celebrate the convention’s long-awaited adoption, we cannot rest on our laurels.

Roughly 60% of all freshwater runs within cross-border basins; only an estimated 40% of those basins, however, are governed by some sort of basin agreement. In an increasingly water-stressed world, shared water resources are becoming an instrument of power, fostering competition within and between countries. The struggle for water is heightening political tensions and exacerbating impacts on ecosystems.

But the really bad news is that water consumption is growing faster than population – indeed, in the twentieth century it grew at twice the rate. As a result, several UN agencies forecast that, by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions stricken with absolute water scarcity, implying a lack of access to adequate quantities for human and environmental uses. Moreover, two-thirds of the world’s population will face water-stress conditions, meaning a scarcity of renewable freshwater.

Without resolute counter-measures, demand for water will overstretch many societies’ adaptive capacities. This could result in massive migration, economic stagnation, destabilization, and violence, posing a new threat to national and international security.

The UN Watercourses Convention must not become just another ignored international agreement, filed away in a drawer. The stakes are too high. In today’s context of climate change, rising demand, population growth, increasing pollution, and overexploited resources, everything must be done to consolidate the legal framework for managing the world’s watersheds. Our environmental security, economic development, and political stability directly depend on it.

The convention will soon apply to all of the cross-border rivers of its signatories’ territories, not just the biggest basins. It will complement the gaps and shortcomings of existing agreements and provide legal coverage to the numerous cross-border rivers that are under increasing pressure.

Worldwide, there are 276 cross-border freshwater basins and about as many cross-border aquifers. Backed by adequate financing, political will, and the engagement of stakeholders, the convention can help address the water challenges that we are all facing. But will it?

An ambitious agenda should be adopted now, at a time when the international community is negotiating the contents of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successor to the UN Millennium Development Goals, which will expire in 2015. We at Green Cross hope that the new goals, which are to be achieved by 2030, will include a stand-alone target that addresses water-resources management.

Moreover, the international community will soon have to agree on a climate-change framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Climate change directly affects the hydrological cycle, which means that all of the efforts that are undertaken to contain greenhouse-gas emissions will help to stabilize rainfall patterns and mitigate the extreme water events that so many regions are already experiencing.

But the UN Watercourses Convention’s entry into force raises as many new questions as existed in the period before its ratification. What will its implementation mean in practice? How will countries apply its mandates within their borders and in relation to riparian neighbors? How will the American and Asian countries that have largely ignored ratification respond?

Furthermore, how will the convention relate to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, which is already in force in most European and Central Asian countries and, since February 2013, has aimed to open its membership to the rest of the world? Similarly, how will the convention’s implementation affect existing regional and local cross-border freshwater agreements?

The countries that ratified the UN Watercourses Convention are expected to engage in its implementation and to go further in their efforts to protect and sustainably use their cross-border waters. What instruments, including financial, will the convention provide to them?

Several legal instruments can be implemented jointly and synergistically: the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to name just a few. The UN Watercourses Convention’s long-delayed enactment should be viewed as an opportunity for signatory states to encourage those that are not yet party to cooperative agreements to work seriously on these issues.

Clearly, politicians and diplomats alone cannot respond effectively to the challenges that the world faces. What the world needs is the engagement of political, business, and civil-society leaders; effective implementation of the UN Watercourses Convention is impossible without it.

This is too often overlooked, but it constitutes the key to the long-term success of cooperation that generates benefits for all. Inclusive participation by stakeholders (including the affected communities), and the development of the capacity to identify, value, and share the benefits of cross-border water resources, should be an integral part of any strategy to achieve effective multilateral collaboration. More

 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Famke Janssen addresses the World Youth Parliament for Water

gcint.org

March 14
Dear friends and distinguished members of the World Youth Parliament for Water.

The efforts of youth from all around the world to offer solutions and to work together to tackle the global water crisis both humble and inspire me. You are truly making a difference.

President Gorbachev, who spoke at the opening of the World Water Forum just two days ago, believes in the power of all people, particularly the youth, to make change aimed at protecting the environment. Young people – who will be tomorrow’s leaders -- have a vital role to play to ensure all people can live free of poverty and insecurity, and enjoy a world that conserves – not exploits – its many natural wonders.

I come from the Netherlands, a country that has a lot of experience in "coping" with water. My country is one that is vulnerable to global warming and rising oceans. Fortunately, we have a long history of finding ways to stop the ocean from flooding much of a country that rests largely below sea level. Water is a central part of Dutch life, from our many canals and dikes to the water-powered windmills that are dotted all over the country. Many historians argue that our social organization was built on the need for communities to organize democratically in order to pull together to stop an invading ocean or a broken dike – a recognition that water crises do not discriminate whether they come in the form of floods or drought and, most importantly, that water crises can unite people and not only separate them.

The Netherlands, however, is not a country associated with scarcity of water, a curse for many populations today that will grow much worse. For our world is already buckling under the weight of our 7-billion strong population, and in less than 20 years from now, we will have grown to 8.3 billion . As you know, this will only increase the demand for water. Consequently, by 2025 experts estimate that two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions.

Water scarcity is the problem that our future generations will have to face. Responsibility for solving this global challenge, some might say, lies unfairly in the hands of you and young people around the world. You did not cause the crisis, but it will be up to today’s youth to be prepared for steering our world toward a more sustainable future, a path that will ensure we respond to the water crisis, fairly share our available water resources, promote conservation and end waste, and help millions upon millions of people realize their basic Human Right to have access to safe Water and Sanitation.

Lack of adequate drinking water and poor or non-existent sanitation target the youth unfairly. For example, 443 million school days are missed every year due to sickness caused by water-related diseases, such as diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera. Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is one of the main obstacles to education today. This is bad, but what is absolutely intolerable is that diarrhoea is the world’s second biggest killer of children and accounts for 1.5 million young lives every year. Moreover, in the absence of functioning drainage systems, water forms stagnant puddles that are soon infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes: 3600 people die of malaria each day and 3200 of them are children. These grim statistics do not even take into account the ravages imposed on children as a result of water scarcity, which affects the availability of food and increases the risk of malnutrition among children.

Young girls are especially vulnerable to today’s water problems. For in many communities, young girls fetch water – often walking many miles to do so – placing their health, safety, education and development at grave risk. If a girl’s town or village has no safe source of water, it is often her job to collect it for her family, meaning she cannot attend school. This is a double tragedy that must be overcome.

Another factor against girls is the lack of sanitation facilities in schools, which can force many to stop attending classes when they reach puberty. Without education, futures of children and young women are being lost.

Without access to safe water and education, many young people will find it even harder – if not impossible – to rise out of poverty. As a result, when they become parents themselves, their own children will be trapped by the same problems.

But there are things we can all do today.

You are an extremely powerful voice of change. The more noise you make the more power you have. You have the right to demand a better world, as you are the ones who will inherit the problems we have caused. There are concrete actions that you can take that will result in meaningful change.

Green Crosses’ Green Lane Environmental Diary, which some of you may have participated in, shows ways to reduce our water footprints, from taking shorter showers, to avoiding use of plastic bottles. These basic tips, when practiced by an entire community can result in massive changes in the management of water resources. These are guidelines for individuals but collectively they can have profound impacts.

On a policy level you can demand that countries that have not ratified the United Nations Watercourses Convention do so. Some of you live in places that have not ratified the Convention and just 11 more signatures are needed from governments to validate it. It is the only global set of regulations and measures drafted for governing the more than 270 rivers in the world that are shared by multiple countries. 145 countries share these rivers and the groundwater linked to them. Their basins are home to 40% of the planet’s human population. But only 40% of these rivers are covered by official agreements on how to share and manage them, many of which are unsatisfactory. These weaknesses must be addressed if we are to tackle global challenges such as climate change and growing water demands.

Since you are here you have already developed the taste for politics. As potential future parliamentarians you will demand that the Right to Water and Sanitation is enshrined in your country’s constitutions and laws. It is imperative that you do all in your power to ensure your fellow countrymen and women can realize this fundamental, life-preserving right.

After meeting many of you and seeing what you have done here in Marseille, I have great confidence in your abilities to make a difference when it comes to ensuring all people have access to safe water.

I know you wont forget the experiences you have had here at the World Youth Parliament for Water. But I urge you to apply what you have absorbed, and put it into action, first and foremost in your own communities, and hopefully further afield.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams". I encourage you to start believing. Thank you for the honor to speak with you and good luck. More

 

 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Himalayan Water Security: The Challenges for South and Southeast Asia

The scramble for control of natural resources to support economic and population growth, combined with the uncertain effects of climate change on the Tibetan Plateau, is raising tensions in Asia over Himalayan water resources.

Ten of the region’s largest and longest rivers (the Amu Darya, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Salween, Tarim, Yangtze, and Yellow) originate in the Himalayas. These rivers help provide water, food, and energy for nearly 4 billion people in China and across South and Southeast Asia—nearly half of the world’s population. However, depletion and diversion of these transborder resources to meet growing industrial, agricultural, and urban demands have the potential to trigger far-reaching economic, social, and environmental challenges.

The lack of comprehensive and effective regional frameworks for cooperation hinders sustainable management of these waterways. China, which controls the headwaters of these rivers, has an enormous need for Himalayan water to satisfy economic and energy demands but has little incentive to participate in formal water-sharing and water-management agreements with its neighbors. China’s dam-building and water-diversion projects are a source of major concern to the countries downstream, which often complain about Beijing’s lack of transparency and reluctance to share information. Although managing water-sharing relations with China might be the most prominent challenge, cooperation is not much easier at the middle and lower reaches of the rivers. Collaboration in South and Southeast Asia is frequently frustrated by competing national interests, economic priorities, political disputes, and weak regional organizations. In addition to the environmental impacts of man-made diversion projects and unsustainable freshwater usage, there is also inadequate cooperation on scientific research to understand and prepare for the effects of climate change on the region’s water supplies.

This Asia Policy roundtable contains seven essays that discuss the challenges and implications of water security in Asia and recommend steps that both upstream and downstream countries could take to better manage the region’s shared water resources.

Asia’s Unstable Water Tower: The Politics, Economics, and Ecology of Himalayan Water Projects
Kenneth Pomeranz

China’s Upstream Advantage in the Great Himalayan Watershed
Jennifer L. Turner, Susan Chan Shifflett, and Robert Batten

Melting the Geopolitical Ice in South Asia
Robert G. Wirsing

Himalayan Water Security: A South Asian Perspective
Tushaar Shah and Mark Giordano

Hydropower Dams on the Mekong: Old Dreams, New Dangers
Richard P. Cronin

Climate Change and Water Security in the Himalayan Region
Richard Matthew

Securing the Himalayas as the Water Tower of Asia: An Environmental Perspective
Jayanta Bandyopadhyay

Download PDF


As I have been arguing for a number of years South Asia needs to re-negotiate the Indus Water Treaty to encompass Afghainstan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan before the region starts to suffer from water insecurity and the effects of climate change. Editor

 

 

 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rains Failing Over India:

Feeble 2014 Monsoon Heightens Concerns That Climate Change is Turning A Once-Green Land into Desert

El Nino has yet to be declared. Though signs of the Pacific Ocean warming event abound, they are still in the early stages. But for all the impact on the current Indian Monsoon — the rains this vast sub-continent depends on each year for a majority of its crops — the current pre-El Nino may as well be a monster event comparable to 1998.

For the rains that have come so far have been feeble. By June 18, precipitation totals were more than 50% below the typical amount by this time of year for northern and central India and 45% below average for the country as a whole. A stunted Monsoon that many are saying is about as weak as the devastatingly feeble 2009 summer rains. And with Pacific Ocean conditions continuing to trend toward El Nino, there is concern that this year’s already diminished rains will snuff out entirely by mid-to-late summer, leaving an already drought-wracked India with even less water than before.

Through June 25th, the trend of abnormally frail monsoonal rains continued unabated:

India cloud cover on June 25, 2013 [Left Lower image] compared to India cloud cover on June 25 of 2014 [right upper image].

Note the almost complete lack of storms over India for this year compared to 2013 when almost the entire country was blanketed by rains. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

India’s Rain Pattern Has Changed

It’s not just that 2014 is a bad year for India. It’s that the current weakened monsoon comes at the tail end of a long period in which the rains have increasingly failed. Where in the past it took a strong El Nino to stall the rains, ever-increasing human atmospheric and ocean warming have pushed the threshold for Monsoonal failure ever lower. Now even the hint of El Nino is enough to set off a dry spell. A growing trend of moisture loss that is bound to have more and more severe consequences.

A new study by Stanford University bears out these observations in stark detail. For the yearly monsoon that delivers fully 80 percent of India’s rains has fallen in intensity by more than 10% since 1951. And though a 10% loss may seem relatively minor, year on year, the effects are cumulative. Overall, the prevalence of dry years increased from 1981 to 2011 by 27% and the number of years experiencing 3 or more dry spells doubled.

Meanwhile, though a general drying trend has taken hold, rain that does occur happens in more intense bursts, with more rain falling over shorter periods. These newly intensified storms are more damaging to lands and homes, resulting in both increasing destruction of property while also greatly degrading the land through more intense erosion.

25 Percent of India’s Land is Turning to Desert

Loss of annual monsoonal rains is coming along with a dwindling of water flows from the melting Himalayan glaciers. These two climate change induced drying effects are already having stark impacts.

For according to the Indian Government’s Fifth National Report on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought, a quarter of India’s land mass is now experiencing desertification even as 32 percent is suffering significant degradation due to heightening dryness and erosion. This amounts to more than 80 million hectares of land facing desertification while more than 100 million hectares are steadily degrading. The report also noted that areas vulnerable to drought had expanded to cover 68% of the Indian subcontinent.

From the report: (India Monsoon.)

Desertification and loss of biological potential will restrict the transformation of dry lands into productive ecosystems. Climate change will further challenge the livelihood of those living in these sensitive ecosystems and may result in higher levels of resource scarcity.

Monsoonal Delay, Weakening Continues

By today, June 26, the long disrupted and weakened monsoon continues to sputter. Moisture flow remains delayed by 1-2 weeks even as the overall volume of rainfall is greatly reduced.

Though storms have exploded over some provinces, resulting in flash flooding, much of the country remained abnormally dry.

Overall, preliminary negative rainfall departures remained at greater than 40% below average for most of the nation with only five provinces receiving normal rainfall and the remaining 31 receiving either deficient or scant totals. More

 

 

 

Is the UN turning its back on the human right to water?

One of the biggest threats to economic and social development is that the world's freshwater supplies are rapidly becoming scarce and polluted. A new set of actors are now engaging in the global development arena to define and write the rules ofaccess to water to ensure people's needs are protected.

It is alarming to see that the human right to water and sanitation continues to be marginalised in UN policy discussions. The exclusion of this right to water in the most recent draft of the sustainable development goals reveals policy more conducive to promoting water security for economic growth than ensuring the preservation of watersheds and the equitable distribution of scarce water supplies.

When the UN general assembly passed a resolution in 2010 affirming water and sanitation as a human right, it was celebrated as a victory for communities dealing with the health impacts of polluted water, the indignity of not having access to clean drinking water and sanitation or the inability to produce food owing to water shortages. Social movements saw the human right to water and sanitation as a tool in the fight against a global water crisis produced by inequality, social exclusion and abuse of the water commons.

The global water crisis is also a big concern for industries seeking secure access to water supplies to sustain and expand operations in a never-ending quest for economic growth. The extractive industries, large drinks companies, big banks investing in water stocks, and companies involved in providing water and sanitation services have positioned themselves as stakeholders within global water policy discussions and as being able to provide solutions to the crisis.

The latest trend in global and national water policy is for corporations to participate in decision-making bodies and promote corporate-driven solutions through public-private partnerships. Over the past decade or so, the efforts of corporations such as Nestlé and Unilever to engage in global water policy discussions has shifted the debate from one of injustice and inequality to a depoliticised discussion of scarcity solved by technological fixes. These are offered by multinational corporations and market mechanisms that further deregulate water resource allocation.

When global policymakers – including the working group on sustainable development goals (SDGs) – focus simply on improving "water efficiency" for these ever-expanding industries without anchoring discussions of access to water as a right, they are ignoring communities that are challenging the very presence of the industries that are destroying watersheds.

The human right to water and sanitation holds promise for these communities. It has been invoked in Plachimada, in south India, to challenge Coca Cola's accessto aquifers; by anti-mining activists throughout Latin America; and, more recently, by the Kalahari Bushmen in a struggle to access traditional water sources on land coveted by industries such as tourism, diamond mining and fracking.

It has also been used to democratise water and sanitation services. In Uruguay, recognition of the human right to water led to the ban of private water services. When a recent ruling by a top Greek court blocked the privatisation of the country's largest water utility, in Athens, it was a victory for activists across Europe who had condemned forced privatisation through loan conditions in bailout packages for Greece, Portugal and Italy.

So it is deeply troubling that the human right to water continues to be contested at the UN. For those living without access to adequate drinking water and sanitation, the SDG on water focuses on universal access. As special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque arguesthat an emphasis on universality alone fails to eliminate inequality.

At the very minimum, the human right to water calls for the elimination of discrimination and the adoption of special measures for marginalised communities. Social movements pursuing public control over water supplies, and democratic and participatory governance models, are also drawn to the elements of public participation in decision-making, accountability and access to justice underscored by the human right to water.

While this right is hardly the silver bullet for all global water woes, it goes a long way towards balancing unequal power relationships. More

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Drought in Syria: a Major Cause of the Civil War?

Syria's devastating civil war that began in March 2011 has killed over 200,000 people, displaced at least 4.5 million, and created 3 million refugees.

Figure 1. The highest level of drought,
"Exceptional", was affecting much of
Western Syria in April 2014, as measured
by the one-year Standardized Precipitation
Index (SPI).
Image credit: NOAA's Global Drought Portal

While the causes of the war are complex, a key contributing factor was the nation's devastating 2006 - 2011 drought, one of the worst in the nation's history, according to new research accepted for publication in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society by water resources expert Dr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute. The drought brought the Fertile Crescent's lowest 4-year rainfall amounts since 1940, and Syria's most severe set of crop failures in recorded history. The worst drought-affected regions were eastern Syria, northern Iraq, and Iran, the major grain-growing areas of the northern Fertile Crescent. In a press release that accompanied the release of the new paper, Dr. Gleick said that as a result of the drought, "the decrease in water availability, water mismanagement, agricultural failures, and related economic deterioration contributed to population dislocations and the migration of rural communities to nearby cities. These factors further contributed to urban unemployment, economic dislocations, food insecurity for more than a million people, and subsequent social unrest."

More