|Urban Water Security|
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, July 22, 2016
Monday, March 21, 2016
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.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Here is the announcement for Quail Springs permaculture design certification (PDC). course for International Development at Quail Springs this May.
We just heard there is a chance that Steve Gliessman, the grandfather of Agroecology, may be able to teach. We will get confirmation in April as to whether he will be able teach here this year.
Permaculture Design Course for International Development
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Snowpacks are a vital source of water for humans, but they may shrink in some regions as the climate warms. A new study estimates how changes in showfall will affect water supplies.
Justin S. Mankin, an earth scientist at Columbia University, and his colleagues analyzed 421 drainage basins in the Northern Hemisphere that depend on rainfall and snowmelt, and then combined the data with several different climate models.
They found that 97 basins, currently serving two billion people, depend heavily on snowmelt. The scientists calculated that the likelihood the basins would receive less snow in the coming century was 67 percent.
The most sensitive basins in the United States include those in Northern and Central California, and those of the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers. Internationally, the Atlas basin of Morocco and the Ebro-Duero basin, which feeds water to Portugal, Spain and southern France, are also particularly sensitive to change.
Dr. Mankin and his colleagues reported their findings in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The study provides important information for city water managers as they make decisions about where to draw water from and how much to use. The loss of snow may also require cities and farmers to find more efficient irrigation methods, to recycle water and to grow fewer water-intensive crops.
“Water managers need to prepare themselves for the worst outcome,” Dr. Mankin said. The public can help mitigate threats to snowpacks by limiting contributions of greenhouse gas emissions, he added. More
Saturday, August 8, 2015
Fifty years ago Singapore had to ration water, and its smelly rivers were devoid of fish and choked with waste from shipbuilding, pig farms and toilets that emptied directly into streams.
But it’s a very different story today. The world’s most densely populated country now collects rainwater from two-thirds of its land, recycles wastewater and is even developing technology that mimics human kidneys to desalinate seawater.
“In about a lifetime, we have transformed Singapore,” said George Madhavan, an engineer who has worked for the national PUB water agency for 30 years and is now communications director.
“It’s not rocket science – it is more political will … The key success factor is really government – the leadership to pull different agencies together to come up with a plan.”
As governments around the world wrestle with water crises from droughts to floods, many are looking to the tiny Asian city-state of Singapore for solutions.
In many countries, a flood prevention agency focuses on quickly draining away storm water, while another manages drinking water.
In Singapore, PUB “manages the entire water loop”, Madhavan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Its aim is to capture every drop of rain it can and recycle as much used water as possible.
“That means that ideally, we don’t sell you water. We rent you water. We take it back, we clean it. We’re like a laundry service. Then you can multiply your supply of water many, many times,” Madhavan said.
“The water that you drink today is the same water that dinosaurs drank. We don’t create or destroy water. It just goes around. So we are using engineering to shorten the loop.”
Beware of crocodiles
Following independence on August 9, 1965, the new 700 sq km country relied on three reservoirs and water imported from neighbouring Malaysia.
Today, it collects rainwater through an 8,000-km drain network that empties into 17 reservoirs, and reclaims used water from a deep tunnel sewerage system up to 60 metres below ground.
Singapore, which is recognised as a global leader in water technology, set up a water planning unit in 1972. Unlike Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo, it does not have land outside the city to act as huge catchment areas.
Eleven government agencies joined up from 1977 to 1987 to clean the heavily polluted Singapore River and Kallang Basin in the main commercial area.
The city relocated 610 pig farms and 500 duck farms (later barring such farms), transferred 5,000 street hawkers to food centres, and moved boats east to the Pasir Panjang area.
Madhavan said the biggest challenge was relocating 46,000 squatters living in squalid conditions without sewers into housing blocks.
More than 260 tonnes of rubbish were removed, the area was landscaped, and in 1987, fish returned to the waters.
Worried about pollution, authorities initially kept people away from the waterways.
“We even had warning signs about crocodiles (which had been spotted in the reservoirs) to keep people away,” Madhavan said.
Singapore has since shifted its stance, opening waterfront areas such as Marina Reservoir, where people kayak, bike and fly kites against a backdrop of the city’s highrise skyline.
Holy grail of desalination
Singapore’s “four national taps” supply 400 million gallons each day for 5.4 million people.
The island’s two natural sources are rain and, through an agreement that expires in 2061, up to 250 million gallons per day from Malaysia’s Johor River.
As climate change makes nature’s sources less reliable, Singapore is focusing on its reclaimed and desalinated water taps.
NEWater, introduced in 2003, is the name for used water from the sewerage system, treated and further purified through microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection.
Meeting 30 percent of demand, NEWater is potable but mainly used by industries and during the dry season to top up reservoirs. Singapore aims for NEWater to meet 55 percent of demand by 2060.
The island’s first desalination plant opened in 2005, and desalinated water meets a quarter of demand.
Desalinated water and NEWater are fairly independent of the weather but on the downside, require more energy to produce, Madhavan said.
Conventional reverse osmosis requires 3.5 to 4 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to squeeze seawater through a membrane to make 1,000 litres of freshwater.
Singapore is now building a demonstration plant to scale up tests on electrochemical desalting, which uses an electric field to pull salt out of seawater. Madhavan said PUB hopes to halve energy use.
University researchers are also developing “the holy grail of desalination” – technology that imitates the kidneys, he said.
“This will take some years … They more or less understand how the kidney works to do desalting. But it’s now how to engineer it, how to build it, the enzymes that are key to this process.” More
Sunday, July 5, 2015
The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.
Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.
Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.
“The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies.
Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent. Some expect water from aquifers will account for virtually every drop of the state’s fresh water supply by year end
The aquifers under the most stress are in poor, densely populated regions, such as northwest India, Pakistan and North Africa, where alternatives are limited and water shortages could quickly lead to instability.
The researchers used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take precise measurements of the world’s groundwater aquifers. The satellites detected subtle changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull, noting where the heavier weight of water exerted a greater pull on the orbiting spacecraft. Slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013.
“This has really been our first chance to see how these large reservoirs change over time,” said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the studies.
But the NASA satellites could not measure the total capacity of the aquifers. The size of these tucked-away water supplies remains something of a mystery. Still, the satellite data indicated that some aquifers may be much smaller than previously believed, and most estimates of aquifer reserves have “uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the research.
Aquifers can take thousands of years to fill up and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed.
“The water table is dropping all over the world,” Famiglietti said. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”
The health of the world’s aquifers varied widely, mostly dependent on how they were used. In Australia, for example, the Canning Basin in the country’s western end had the third-highest rate of depletion in the world. But the Great Artesian Basin to the east was among the healthiest.
The difference, the studies found, is likely attributable to heavy gold and iron ore mining and oil and gas exploration near the Canning Basin. Those are water-intensive activities.
The world’s most stressed aquifer — defined as suffering rapid depletion with little or no sign of recharging — was the Arabian Aquifer, a water source used by more than 60 million people. That was followed by the Indus Basin in India and Pakistan, then the Murzuk-Djado Basin in Libya and Niger.
California’s Central Valley Aquifer was the most troubled in the United States. It is being drained to irrigate farm fields, where drought has led to an explosion in the number of water wells being drilled. California only last year passed its first extensive groundwater regulations. But the new law could take two decades to take full effect.
Also running a negative balance was the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer, which stretches across the southeast coast and Florida. But three other aquifers in the middle of the country appeared to be in relatively good shape.
Some groundwater filters back down to aquifers, such as with field irrigation. But most of it is lost to evaporation or ends up being deposited in oceans, making it harder to use. A 2012 study by Japanese researchers attributed up to 40 percent of the observed sea-level rise in recent decades to groundwater that had been pumped out, used by humans and ended up in the ocean.
Famiglietti said problems with groundwater are exacerbated by global warming, which has caused the regions closest to the equator to get drier and more extreme latitudes to experience wetter and heavier rains. A self-reinforcing cycle begins. People living in mid-range latitudes not only pump more water from aquifers to contend with drier conditions, but that water — once removed from the ground — also then evaporates and gets recirculated to areas far north and south.
The studies were published Tuesday in the Water Resources Research journal.
Famiglietti said he hoped the findings would spur discussion and further research into how much groundwater is left.
“We need to get our heads together on how we manage groundwater,” he said, “because we’re running out of it.” More
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Thirsty cities, fields and livestock drink deeply from aquifers, natural sources of groundwater. But a study of three of the most-tapped aquifers in the United States shows that overdrawing from these resources could lead to difficult choices affecting not only domestic food security but also international markets.
University of Illinois professors of civil and environmental engineering Ximing Cai and Megan Konar, along with graduate student Landon Marston and Lehigh University professor Tara Troy, studied groundwater consumption from three main systems. Reliance on these aquifers intensified so much from 2000 to 2008 that it accounted for 93 percent of groundwater depletion in the U.S. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. Geological Survey identifies the Central Valley aquifer in California, the High Plains aquifer in the Great Plains states, and the Mississippi Embayment aquifer in the lower Midwest as being managed unsustainably, which means that is being extracted from the aquifer faster than it is replenishing.
"Deep groundwater is like natural gas. If you use it, it takes a while to recharge," Cai said. "Unsustainable usage means the water table is lowered, which makes it more difficult and more expensive to pump water since we have to keep going deeper. It also affects ecosystems associated with the water table, such as streams and wetlands."
The researchers tracked water consumption from the aquifers to see where the water was going, both in terms of geography and usage. For example, when water was used to irrigate a crop, the researchers tracked where those crops were shipped.
"When we think of water, we think of direct water, the water that comes out of our faucets. But we actually use a lot of embodied water in our everyday lives – the water footprint to produce a product," Konar said. "We looked at the water implicitly being transferred between states and countries in the products."
The researchers found that the vast majority – 91 percent – of embodied groundwater from these three aquifers stayed within the U.S. The remaining 9 percent was exported internationally. They identified the states most heavily reliant on each aquifer, and the breakdown of what was produced using water from each aquifer. For example, the largest percentage of water from the High Plains aquifer irrigated grains, while the largest contribution from the Central Valley aquifer in California went to producing meat. See the infographic for the detailed findings.
The researchers hope that having detailed information on how aquifer water is used, and the complex economic and environmental implications of that use, can help policy makers in their decisions about water resource management.
"The issue here is the tradeoffs. That's the difficulty for the decision makers," Cai said. "There is a tradeoff between the environment and economic profit, and there is a trade-off between the current use and future use. The environment is affected, the food markets are affected, the resources for fisheries are affected. That helps the decision makers understand the issue. I think this information is also important for the public to understand the issue."
The researchers feel that the study is also important for international leaders, as any decisions will affect global food production and prices. Although the international exports represented a small percent of the overall water consumption, the exported goods account for a large market share in the countries that import them, the study found.
Next, the researchers plan to study major watersheds in the U.S. to gain a more comprehensive picture of natural water resources in the United States. They are interested in detailing water use under variable conditions, both in terms of economic and environmental impact.
"Managing water resources for the future is especially important because future rainfall patterns are going to be more variable, with more droughts predicted," Konar said. "As we're seeing in California, they were really lucky to have aquifers to rely on during a drought. We don't want to deplete these aquifer supplies, so that when we get into these drought situations, we have some emergency backup." More
More information: "Virtual groundwater transfers from overexploited aquifers in the United States" PNAS 2015 ; published ahead of print June 29, 2015, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1500457112