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, April 27, 2012

Last Call at the Oasis Official Trailer #1 - Water Documentary Movie (2012)

Last Call at the Oasis Official Trailer #1 - Water Documentary Movie (2012)

Firmly establishing the urgency of the global water crisis as the central issue facing our world this century, this documentary illuminates the vital role water plays in our lives, exposes the defects in the current system and shows communities already struggling with its ill-effects. Featuring activist Erin Brockovich, respected water experts including Peter Gleick, Jay Famiglietti and Robert Glennon and social entrepreneurs championing revolutionary solutions, the film posits that we can manage this problem if we are willing to act now.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Climate Change Has Intensified The Global Water Cycle

Climate scientists have been saying for years that one of the many downsides of a warming planet is that both droughts and torrential rains are both likely to get worse. That’s what climate models predict, and that’s what observers have noted, most recently in the IPCC’s report on extreme weather, released last month. It makes physical sense, too. A warmer atmosphere can absorb more water vapor, and what goes up must come down — and thanks to prevailing winds, it won’t come down in the same place.

The idea of changes to the so-called hydrologic cycle, in short, hangs together pretty well. According to a new paper just published in Science, however, the picture is flawed in one important and disturbing way. Based on measurements gathered around the world from 1950-2000, a team of researchers from Australia and the U.S. has concluded that the hydrologic cycle is indeed changing. Wet areas are getting wetter and dry areas are getting drier. But it’s happening about twice as fast as anyone thought, and that could mean big trouble for places like Australia, which has already been experiencing crushing drought in recent years.

More than 3,000 robotic profiling floats provide crucial information on upper layers of the world's ocean currents. Credit: Alicia Navidad/CSIRO.

The reason for this disconnect between expectation and reality is that the easiest place to collect rainfall data is on land, where scientists and rain gauges are located. About 71 percent of the world is covered in ocean, however. “Most of the action, however, takes place over the sea,” lead author Paul Durack, a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said in a telephone interview. In order to get a more comprehensive look at how water is exchanged between the surface and the atmosphere, that’s where Durack and his colleagues went to look.

Nobody has rainfall data from the ocean, so Durack and his collaborators looked instead at salinity — that is, saltiness — in ocean waters. The reasoning is straightforward enough. When water evaporates from the surface of the ocean, it leaves the salt behind. That makes increased saltiness a good proxy for drought. When fresh water rains back down on the ocean, it dilutes the seawater, so decreased saltiness is the equivalent of a land-based flood. More


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Drying Up: How Should China Deal with Growing Threat of Water Scarcity & Drought?

With its massive population, China’s focused on massive infrastructure projects to address what remain growing problems of water scarcity and drought. In the spirit of a grand scheme that dates back to early medieval Chinese times, China’s government is now looking to build the South-North Transfer, a vast new water pipeline that would transport massive amounts from the country comparatively water-rich south to its more water-starved north, according to a ClimateWire report (subscription required).

Pressed by population growth, climate change and rapid industrialization, China’s now facing a water crisis, one that feats of large-scale engineering alone will not solve, according to “Drying Up,” a new Asian Development Bank report.

The incidence of frequent and severe droughts is on the rise in China, yet it is China’s increasing demand for water, over-extraction of water and its inefficient use that pose the greatest threats to sustainable management. “Over extraction and inefficient use of water resource is creating water shortages in cities and putting large populations at risk when a drought occurs, the ADB notes in a press release.

“The country’s traditional approach of building more infrastructure is not enough to fill the widening gap between water supply and demand,” said Qingfeng Zhang, ADB’s Lead Water Resources Specialist and one of the authors of the report. “An integrated water resources management approach is needed to bring balance and prepare safety net supplies for droughts.”

The Chinese government has been trying to reduce Chinese society’s water use, but doing so is proving very difficult. Local governments are not taking advantage of opportunities to mitigate the impacts of these extreme weather events. Meanwhile, the rapidly industrializing country is experiencing “increasingly frequent and intense droughts.” More


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Water scarcity to drive conflict, hit food and energy –experts

OXFORD, United Kingdom (AlertNet) – Water is increasingly becoming a scarce resource and shortages could drive conflict, hit food and energy production and threaten growth in renewable energy technology, experts warned at a water security conference on Monday.

And climate change – which appears to be bringing more extreme weather events such as droughts and floods – is likely to make the situation even more difficult, they said.

“Climate change will hit more people through water than in any other way,” said David Grey, a University of Oxford water expert, pointing to record floods in Thailand, Pakistan and Australia and record droughts in Somalia, Russia and the U.S. state of Texas in just the past two years.

But cutting waste in water use, particularly in irrigation, as well as making good use of mobile phone technology, gathering better data and putting in place better water use policies all could help stem conflict, improve safety and ensure better water security, particularly for the world’s poorest people, the experts said.

“The scale of the challenge, and therefore the scale of the opportunity it presents, is unprecedented,” said Ian Walmsley, pro-vice chancellor for research at the University of Oxford.

Worldwide, farming accounts for 70 percent of the world’s freshwater use each year. But in agricultural breadbaskets like central India, the northern China plains, and the central western region of the United States, much of the water is drawn not just from rain but from deep aquifers that are quickly being depleted.

Peter Gleick, a leading water expert and head of the U.S.-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, likened the issue to drawing down a bank account. The situation could present huge problems in the future as the world tries to increase food production by at least 70 percent by 2050 to meet growing demand, experts said.

“A substantial amount of our food production worldwide comes from non-renewable groundwater resources, and in the long run that is not sustainable,” Gleick said.

Renewable energy production also is threatened by water shortages, he said. Huge solar energy arrays are planned in the western United States, but many of the best places to locate them also suffer severe shortages of the water needed to cool them.

Conflicts over access to water are as old as recorded history, Gleick said – his institute has created a map of 225 water conflicts dating back 5,000 years – but today “the risks of water-related conflicts are growing,” as shortages loom in many parts of the world. More


Monday, April 16, 2012

Poor Spring Rain Projected in Africa

ScienceDaily (Apr. 12, 2012) — Spring rains in the eastern Horn of Africa are projected to begin late this year and be substantially lower than normal. From March-May, the rains are expected to total only 60 to 85 percentage of the average rainfall in this region. This is a significant deterioration compared to earlier forecasts.

Lower rain amounts would have significant impacts on crop production, rangeland regeneration for livestock, and replenishment of water resources.

This would put greater stress on the region, particularly Somalia which is still recovering from a famine declared last year, as well as Kenya and Ethiopia which also experienced a severe food crisis. An increase in food insecurity and in the size of the food insecure population is likely.

The State Department released a statement on this forecast and their intent to provide additional funding to aid refuges and drought-affected communities.

Famine Early Warning Systems Network

The rainfall projections were completed by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which helps target more than $1.5 billion of assistance to more than 40 countries each year. FEWS NET monitors high risk areas of the developing world with the most food insecurity, identifying critical situations in which food aid will be needed.

FEWS NET is sponsored and led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Food for Peace. Implementing partners include the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Chemonics International, Inc., National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

USGS Science

The USGS led the climate analysis for the recent FEWS NET rainfall projection.

"Rainfall projections were estimated by looking very closely at all the prior droughts from March-May since 1979 in the eastern Horn of Africa," said USGS scientist Chris Funk, who led this research. "We found that sea surface temperatures in the western/central Pacific and the Indian oceans are key drivers of rainfall during that time period. So we compared sea surface temperatures from past years to March 2012, and developed an updated rainfall forecast for this spring season."

Climate modeling analysis was done in collaboration with others, including Greg Husak and Joel Michaelsen with the Climate Hazards Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as Bradfield Lyon at The International Research Institute for Climate and Society. Lyon's research identified the important role of the Pacific Ocean in recent droughts.

The USGS also contributes satellite remote sensing data and analysis of vegetation and rainfall to support FEWS NET activities throughout the world. Remote sensing from space allows scientists to provide rapid, accurate assessments of a broad range of environmental and agricultural conditions. A newly completed vegetation monitoring system allows FEWS NET analysts to track conditions across all of Africa in tremendous detail.

"The concerning picture that emerged from FEWS NET climate monitoring services was that despite the good rains of the past winter, the situation east Africa has deteriorated very rapidly, to a point that the water deficits and vegetation health looked as bad as this time last year," said Funk. More


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Will Permaculture become the new dominant narrative?

The dominant narrative of our culture is that economic growth can continue indefinitely but the realities of resource depletion, peak oil and ecosystem collapse mean this is wishful thinking. Cameron Leckie explains that if permaculture becomes the new dominant narrative, it will ensure that the changes that will eventually be forced upon us will be empowering rather than authoritarian or dictatorial.

Narratives define our society. Pick any significant issue and it is the narrative, rather than the 'facts,' which define it. Narratives have been part of the human experience for millennia and no doubt will continue to do so for millennia to come. They drive how we view the world, the way we live and the decisions that we make.

Narratives do not necessarily reflect reality. Rather they offer a version of reality which suits the group or groups of people that believe in the narrative (or want you to believe). Examples include religious or other groups which try to convince others that the end of the world is nigh but that the true believers will be saved and the cargo cults of the Pacific who believed that a combination of magic and religious rituals would result in more cargo/material goods arriving.

Narratives change over time. Change occurs as societies develop new understandings or differing groups within a society attempt to convince others of a particular narrative. Over time a dominant narrative tends to form. This does not happen by accident but is both perpetuated and strengthened through culture, media institutions, politicians and society at large. More