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
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
U.S. Drought Monitor.
Take a look at the streamflow forecast for the West this summer compared to last year at this time. The orange and red hues this year indicate well below average streamflow conditions are likely, as unusually thin and dry snow cover yields less water than usual. Last year at this time, the same map showed above average streamflow conditions for most of the West. More
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Today on our series "Food for 9 Billion," Jon Miller went to India to meet a man who's trying to do something about it.
Jon Miller: Rajendra Singh lives in a patch of forest hours from anywhere in the dry hills of eastern Rajasthan. It's dark when I get there. We eat dinner on the ground by an open fire, then he leads me to his office, lights a candle, settles on a mattress and tells me how he came to be famous as the "water man."
This was the 1980s, and Singh had recently finished a degree in traditional Indian medicine. Inspired by Gandhi, he decided to move to the poorest, driest, most godforsaken place in his area and build a health clinic and a school.
Rajendra Singh: When I came here I don't know about the water management, I don't know the water engineering. My background is in the medical science.
Singh: After seven month, one old man told me, Rajendra, we not need medicine and education. We need water. Without water we can't survive. More
Sunday, May 6, 2012
A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted.
More than 5,000 wells were drilled in the Marcellus between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to the study, which was published in the journal Ground Water two weeks ago. Operators inject up to 4 million gallons of fluid, under more than 10,000 pounds of pressure, to drill and frack each well.
But the study, using computer modeling, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as “just a few years.”
“Simply put, [the rock layers] are not impermeable,” said the study’s author, Tom Myers, an independent hydrogeologist whose clients include the federal government and environmental groups.
“The Marcellus shale is being fracked into a very high permeability,” he said. “Fluids could move from most any injection process.”
The research for the study was paid for by Catskill Mountainkeeper and the Park Foundation, two upstate New York organizations that have opposed gas drilling and fracking in the Marcellus.
Much of the debate about the environmental risks of gas drilling has centered on the risk that spills could pollute surface water or that structural failures would cause wells to leak. More
Saturday, May 5, 2012
If you were to fly over the great continental expanse of China at night, you would find clusters of bright lights hugging near the eastern coast — sprawling, populous cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. But the farthest west you travel, the fewer such illuminated megalopolises you would encounter. To be sure, China also has large cities in its interior, but they are fewer and farther between. Rather like the United States, China’s major centers of population and industry are concentrated near its eastern seaboard. So, too, are its energy needs.
Yet ironically, China’s great and untapped opportunities for developing both traditional fossil fuels and alternative energy lie primarily in its western hinterlands. For instance, the sparsely populated, sun-drenched northwestern province of Gansu is fast becoming a hub of China’s efforts to develop domestic wind and solar energy. Likewise, as eastern coal reserves are gradually depleted, new mining operations are under development in the western provinces of Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu. But they also lie far from where most of the energy will eventually be consumed — and that’s the rub.
Transporting coal from western mines over long distances – via railroad or truck, or by barges drifting down the Yangtze River — is a costly, troublesome undertaking; freight charges can add more than 50 percent to the cost of coal. In adverse weather conditions, shipment becomes a precarious obstacle. When a 2008 blizzard blanketed southeastern China in snow and shut down major rail lines, the lights went off in several southeastern cities to which coal shipments were delayed. When last summer’s severe drought grounded barge traffic on the lower Yangtze, the largest utility company in downstream Shanghai announced that nearby factories would face rotating blackouts (despite its sheen of modernity, even mainland China’s wealthiest city is not immune to power failure).
The country’s top leaders have made provisions for both increasing overall coal production and easing the coal-transportation bottleneck. The most recent Five-Year Plan, the central government’s primary planning document, calls for significantly increasing coal production, which will be achieved by developing and expanding 14 large "coal-industry bases" across western China; these bases will include facilities for coal mining, petrochemical processing, and coal-fired power plants. More