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 30, 2012

How will climate change impact on fresh water security?

Fresh water is crucial to human society – not just for drinking, but also for farming, washing and many other activities. It is expected to become increasingly scarce in the future, and this is partly due to climate change.

Understanding the problem of fresh water scarcity begins by considering the distribution of water on the planet. Approximately 98% of our water is salty and only 2% is fresh. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere. Climate change has several effects on these proportions on a global scale. The main one is that warming causes polar ice to melt into the sea, which turns fresh water into sea water, although this has little direct effect on water supply.

Another effect of warming is to increase the amount of water that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn can lead to more and heavier rainfall when the air cools. Although more rainfall can add to fresh water resources, heavier rainfall leads to more rapid movement of water from the atmosphere back to the oceans, reducing our ability to store and use it. Warmer air also means that snowfall is replaced by rainfall and evaporation rates tend to increase. Yet another impact of higher temperatures is the melting of inland glaciers. This will increase water supply to rivers and lakes in the short to medium term, but this will cease once these glaciers have melted. In the sub-tropics, climate change is likely to lead to reduced rainfall in what are already dry regions. The overall effect is an intensification of the water cycle that causes more extreme floods and droughts globally.

When planning future water supplies, however, the global picture is less important than the effect of warming on fresh water availability in individual regions and in individual seasons. This is a much more complicated thing to predict than global trends. The IPCC technical report on climate change and water concludes that, despite global increases in rainfall, many dry regions including the Mediterranean and southern Africa will suffer badly from reduced rainfall and increased evaporation. As a result, the IPCC special report on climate change adaptation estimates that around one billion people in dry regions may face increasing water scarcity.

However, the degree to which this will happen cannot be predicted with confidence by current models. In many regions different models cannot even agree on whether the climate will become wetter or drier. For example, a recent study of future flows in the River Thames at Kingston shows a possible 11% increase over the next 80 years relative to the last 60 years. However, under an identical emissions scenario, the same report shows an alternative projection of a 7% decrease in flows.

Especially little is known about future declines in regional groundwater resources because of lack of research on this topic, even though around 50% of global domestic water supply comes from groundwater. Although scientists are making progress in reducing uncertainty about fresh water scarcity, these kinds of unknowns mean that water supply strategies must be adaptable so that they can be effective under different scenarios.

The direct impact of climate change is not the only reason to be concerned about future fresh water scarcity – a fact highlighted by a recent United Nations Environment Programme report. The increasing global population means more demand for agriculture, greater use of water for irrigation and more water pollution. In parallel, rising affluence in some countries means a larger number of people living water-intensive lifestyles, including watering of gardens, cleaning cars and using washing machines and dishwashers. Rapidly developing economies also result in more industry and in many cases this comes without modern technology for water saving and pollution control. Therefore concerns about climate change must be viewed alongside management of pollution and demand for water.

The most common solution to increasing demand, and a way of insuring against possible climate change impacts, is the engineered redistribution of freshwater over space and time: reservoirs to store it, pipelines to transfer it, and desalination to recover freshwater from the oceans. Efforts are also being made to increase water saving, reuse and recycling, and in the UK there is currently major investment into education and water-saving technology by the government and water industry. More


Thursday, November 29, 2012

DJIBOUTI: Rising food insecurity fuels migration

BALBALA, 27 November 2012 (IRIN) - Successive years of poor rains have eroded the coping mechanisms of pastoralists in Djibouti’s rural regions, even as high food prices and unemployment rates afflict the country’s urban areas. These factors are increasing the vulnerability to food insecurity and spurring migration.

Checking for malnutrition in Balbala
The area of Balbala, about 12km outside of Djibouti City, has become home to families fleeing both harsh conditions in the countryside and dwindling livelihood opportunities in the city.

“What we need most is food”

Awale Farah, 65, migrated with his family of seven from the rural Ali Sabieh area, near the southern town of Dikhil, to Balbala three months ago. Dikhil lies along the border with Ethiopia and has a large number of migrants, complicating access to scarce basic resources there.

Farah says that back in Ali Sabieh, residents are moving closer to the Ali Addeh refugee camp, hoping to obtain some of the assistance meant for the camp’s 16,778 refugees. “I don’t know how they are getting along. What we need most is food,” he said.

At present, about 70,000 people in rural Djibouti are food insecure. More than 60 percent of household food supply is being met by food assistance in the northwest pastoral zone, according to an October-to-March 2013 food security outlook by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET).

In the southeast pastoral border area, “households are marginally able to meet minimum food needs only through accelerated depletion of livelihood assets and adoption of unsustainable coping strategies such as charcoal sales,” the outlook says.

The areas most affected by hunger include Obock in the north, Dikhil and Balbala. According to 2010 figures, 42.9 percent of the children in Obock showed signs of wasting. In 2006, Djibouti ranked second in the world for prevalence of wasting in children under five, at 21 percent.

But life in Balbala is not easy, either. “The situation here is very hard. Sometimes we get money from family members in town,” Farah said. “In Dikhil, at least we had livestock that would always provide us with food.” Even so, many pastoralists have lost their livestock to the successive droughts.

''Today, I left at 4am to go and look for work and came back home with nothing. There are days when we eat nothing''
To cope, Farah has split up his family - two of his children are staying with relatives in Djibouti City.

Unemployment and high prices

Meanwhile, a lack of jobs is causing city residents to migrate to peri-urban areas such as Balbala.

Abdillahi Djama Abdiguedi’s family moved to Balbala from Gagada, an area closer to the city where rent cost them 5,000 Djibouti francs (about US$28.20) per month.

“Here, we pay nothing,” he said. “Most of the people around here moved from the city.”

Abdiguedi works as a casual labourer every morning, heading to town to search for work at construction sites. “Today, I left at 4am to go and look for work and came back home with nothing. There are days when we eat nothing,” he said. “The children have forgotten what milk is." More



Monday, November 26, 2012

Nile dam project a hydropower hope, but regional sore point

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AlertNet) – Ethiopia has begun construction of a 6,000 megawatt (MW) hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile river, a move that has been greeted enthusiastically by many Ethiopians but that is causing concern in the downstream nations of Sudan and Egypt.

The project, which is scheduled to take six and a half years to complete, is being managed by the state-owned power utility company, Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo). The dam is being built about 900 km (560 miles) north-east of the capital, Addis Ababa, and just 40 km (25 miles) from the Sudanese border.

Ethiopia’s government hopes to capitalize on the energy potential of a river that is revered by the Ethiopian population but that until now has not been significantly exploited to feed the country’s growing need for electric power.

Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile, and its territory contributes up to 86 percent of the river’s water. The Blue Nile in turn is responsible for more than half of the water in the Nile, the world’s longest river system. The other main source, the White Nile, originates on the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria.

The new project is not the first dam to be constructed on tributaries of the Nile in Ethiopia. Three smaller projects with a combined capacity of about 760 MW have already been completed, and EEPCo is seeking financing for a 278 MW dam on another tributary, the Chemoga-Yeda River. But the planned Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) dwarfs these projects in scale and cost.

The 6,000 MW dam will be built by Italian construction company Salini Costruttori, which received the construction contract in late 2010, while electromechanical work is being done by a local company, Metal and Engineering Corporation.

Ethiopia has been dubbed “the water tower of east Africa” because of its numerous river and lake systems. The Nile is an emblematic part of the country, immortalized in poems and songs and even on coins and bank notes. But its potential for hydroelectric power has until now gone largely unused.

For many Ethiopians, the new planned dam is not only about lighting their houses and providing power for businesses and to export, but it also holds a symbolic significance, a way of looking forward from memories of famine and conflict.


Despite its popularity among Ethiopia’s population, the dam project has caused consternation in neighbouring Sudan as well as in Egypt, both downstream countries that rely upon the Nile for almost all their water and fear the dam will cause a reduction in water available to them.

The new dam will eventually create a lake containing more than 60 billion cubic metres of water, twice as much as Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest body of water.

There are also concerns about the potential environmental impact of the dam, although the scale of opposition has been smaller than that provoked by the Gibe III dam. Gibe III has provoked opposition from groups concerned about the drying up of Kenya’s Turkana Lake, the world’s largest desert lake, which is fed by the Gibe river, and the possible displacement of tribal people in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Gossaye Mengiste, an official of the ministry of water and energy, which oversees EEPCo, said he believed the environmental impact of the project would be minimal and that because the area around the dam is sparsely inhabited, no mass relocation of people would be necessary. More


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Water Challenges and Cooperative Response in the Middle East and North Africa

On May 29-31, 2012, the Stimson Center convened a workshop on Water Challenges and Cooperative Response in the Middle East and North Africa as a component of the 2012 US-Islamic World Forum held in Doha, Qatar.

Participants included scientists, academics, policy analysts, and practitioners from several MENA countries, as well as US and European experts. The interdisciplinary working group identified the principal water resource issues facing decision makers and stakeholders in the region, assessed the MENA states’ existing governance capacities and resources to address these emerging pressures, and recommended priority areas and approaches for advancing international and intersectoral cooperation and for identifying and strengthening intellectual and technical resources, tools, lessons, and best practices that could be shared, applied, or adapted across the region.

This report first provides a brief overview of available water resources in the MENA region. It then discusses the salient socio-economic and environmental stresses and trends that will drive and condition water supply and demand over the coming decades. Next, the report sketches prevailing water management approaches that are being developed or might be brought to bear. With this foundation in place, the report then seeks to illuminate the water governance policy options and obstacles confronting the region by examining three case studies: the Tigris-Euphrates basin, the Nile basin, and a side-by-side consideration of water stewardship in Yemen and Oman. Finally, the report concludes by presenting some recommendations suggesting strategies for the MENA countries to build their water management capabilities and bolster collaborative alternatives to managing scarce water resources at both the domestic and regional levels. More

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UK water resources 'left to weather's mercy'

A new report blames the government for leaving the UK's water resources at the mercy of the weather.

The document from 16 leading environmental organisations says it took the wettest ever summer to avert serious drought.

It warns that another series of dry winters would put Britain back on drought alert.

The government said its draft Water Bill would build resilience into the UK's water infrastructure.

The Blueprint for Water report measures the Government's performance against 10 steps to sustainable water by 2015.

It applauds ministers' commitment to tackle unsustainable abstraction from rivers and wetlands, extend the use of metering at a fair price and develop a catchment-based approach to managing the water environment.

But it says ministers are still failing to produce a long-term, sustainable approach which works with our natural water systems.

The groups want much more use of moors, marshes and plants to store and clean rain water, instead of allowing it to run straight into rivers and thus increase the risk of flooding. This would help tackle droughts as well as floods.

The chair of the Blueprint for Water coalition, Carrie Hume, said: "Lack of action to fix our broken water system is a false economy. We cannot continue to lurch between flooding and drought which is damaging for people, businesses and wildlife."

The Blueprint for Water was launched in November 2010. The Government is scored every two years on its progress. More


Monday, November 5, 2012

Indian monsoons may fail more often due to climate change - study

(Reuters) - The Indian monsoon is likely to fail more often in the next 200 years threatening food supplies, unless governments agree how to limit climate change, a study showed on Tuesday.

The monsoon rains could collapse about every fifth year between 2150 and 2200 with continued global warming, blamed mainly on human burning of fossil fuels, and related shifts in tropical air flows, it said.

“Monsoon failure becomes much more frequent” as temperatures rise, Anders Levermann, a professor of dynamics of the climate system and one of the authors at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Reuters.

India’s monsoon, which lasts from June to September, is vital for India’s 1.2 billion people to grow crops such as rice, wheat and corn. India last faced a severe widespread drought in 2009 and had to import sugar, pushing global prices to 30-year highs.

The researchers defined monsoon “failure” as a fall in rainfall of between 40 and 70 percent below normal levels. Such a drastic decline has not happened any year in records dating back to 1870 by the India Meteorological Department, they said.


“In the past century the Indian monsoon has been very stable. It is already a catastrophe with 10 percent less rain than the average,” Levermann told Reuters.

The study, in the journal Environmental Research Letters, projected a temperature rise of 4.6 degrees C (8.3 F) over pre-industrial times by 2200. U.N. scenarios indicate a gain of between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees C (2.9-11.5F) by 2100. More


Rethink ways to tackle food, water, energy security: Nestle chief

New Delhi : Nestle's global chief Peter Brabeck has called for a radical rethink on how governments are addressing the triple challenges of food, energy and water security, warning of imminent crises if left unaddressed.

The fallout can be an acute global food shortage at high prices, water riots and severe environment degradation, Brabeck feared, as he exclusively spoke to IANS during a visit here for Nestle's global conclave on "Creating Shared Value".

"During the last 10 years, productivity in agriculture has not kept pace with population growth -- every second, we have two more people to feed, while arable land is shrinking by 0.2 hectares," said the chairman on the Nestle board, who will turn 68 Nov 13.

"Genetically modified food is one of the possibilities to enhance productivity," Brabeck said, while also trying to address the philosophical concern that such farm practices could be seen going against Mother Nature.

"Mankind has tried to play god ever since agriculture was started. Animal husbandry has involved domestication of wild animals to suit our needs. I see these new technologies as only a continuation of such practices," he said.

Brabeck, who presided over Nestle's first conclave on "Creating Shared Value" that was held in an emerging economy in New delhi, also came out strongly against the use of bio-fuels, saying it was pushing up food prices, while adding to water shortages.

Created by Harvard's Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, "Creating Shared Value" goes beyond corporate social responsibility with the philosophy that for a company to succeed in the long term and create value for shareholders, it must also create value for society.

"Producing one litre of pure ethanol takes 4,600 litres of water and one litre of bio-diesel takes 9,100 litres of water," Brabeck said, adding: "I do believe food is for people and only waste can be used for fuel."

He, accordingly, felt bio-fuels are only affordable because of the high subsidies they receive, particularly in countries like the US. "Bio-fuels are heavily subsidised, otherwise it cannot be affordable."

Switzerland-based Brabeck, who started his career in Nestle as an ice-cream vendor in 1968, also said water must be priced adequately, and warned that this life-giving resource will be adequately available only for 15 years if wastage continues.

"We are already using more water than what is available to us. Supplies are also not growing. This means, we have to use measures on the demand side more than on supply side," he said.

"For that, water must be priced properly so that there is an incentive to invest. Nobody will make investments in water if it is given away free. We have to give adequate value to water," he said.

According to him, water was a fundamental right as far as a human's direct need goes, which is 25-50 litres per day -- five litres for hydration and the rest for hygiene. "This accounts for just 1.5 percent of total water use," he said. More


Sunday, November 4, 2012

PEC Supports Water Access Projects in Palau, Marshall Islands

26 October 2012: The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) has reported on recent grants to Palau and Marshall Islands from the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund, which PIFS administers.

Palau will receive US$4 million to establish a solar-powered desalination project, to ensure a regular and reliable supply of safe drinking water to residents in Peleliu, Palau. The project includes the installation of a solar-powered Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant that desalinates groundwater using solar energy, producing fresh water. The solar power generation system will produce approximately 98,820 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year, contributing 0.11% electricity towards Palau’s current power generation. Palau’s Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce through the Energy Office will be the focal point for the project, and the Bureau of Public Works will operate and maintain the systems upon completion.

A similar project was approved for the Marshall Islands, which will receive US$3,150,105 to establish the Potable Water Solutions for Outer Islands by Photovoltaic (PV) Reverse Osmosis (RO) System Project. This project will assist islands in maintaining water supply while minimizing the effects of long, dry periods of little to no rainfall. Under the project, small portable solar PV powered RO systems will be installed at community elementary schools in each outer atoll, providing 150 to 300 gallons of fresh potable water daily.

The PEC Fund is a commitment by the Government of Japan to provide 6.8 billion Japanese yen (approximately US$66 million) to Forum Island Countries for the establishment of solar and desalination initiatives to address environmental challenges. Islands which have accessed the fund include Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, the Republic of Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. [PIFS Press Release: Palau] [PIFS Press Release: Marshall Islands] More


SIWI Releases Outcomes of World Water Week on Water and Food Security

29 October 2012: The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has released a report of the overarching conclusions of the 2012 World Water Week, which convened 2500 participants to discuss the theme of water and food security.

The report, titled “Overarching Conclusions World Water Week in Stockholm 2012: Water and Food Security,” includes sections on: prizes and awards; overarching conclusions; convening organizations; 2013 World Water Week; and 2012 World Water Week supporters and sponsors. The report also contains reports on: achieving good water and food governance; human and environmental health; establishing water and food equity; building a water wise economy; and the young professional's vision.

Among key lessons from World Water Week, the report stresses that water and food security are inseparable, and underscores the importance of producing more with less in order to: minimize movement of pollutants; maintain downstream flows; provide habitat to support pollinators and biodiversity; prevent floods; and sequester carbon to help prevent climate change. It stresses investing in small-holder farmers to increase productivity and water efficiency.

The report calls for: closing leaks in the global food supply chain; improving early warning systems to respond to agricultural emergencies; safeguarding ecosystems while expanding agriculture; promoting fair and effective food trade; refining the nexus approach to address water, food and energy; and collaboration.

The 2012 World Water Week took place from 26-31 August 2012, in Stockholm, Sweden. The 2013 World Water Week will take place from 1-6 September 2013 on the theme “Water Cooperation - Building Partnerships.” [SIWI Press Release] [Publication:Overarching Conclusions World Water Week in Stockholm 2012: Water and Food Security]


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Water crisis could be solved through planned reuse

The aptly named Black Mountains behind my home have been turned a beautiful shade of green by recent and relatively abundant rainfall. Even a brief rain event in Southern Nevada is welcome, but the last month or so has been exceptional and has me thinking of potential opportunities.

Each time I see water dripping off my roof or running down the gutter, I think of the lessons I've learned from architect and visionary Michael Reynolds and his revolutionary Earthship structures, as well as Brad Lancaster and his excellent series of books, "Harvesting Rainfall for Drylands and Beyond."

For example, Reynolds' homes harvest rainwater, store and filter it on site, then reuse every gallon as many as four times before returning it, relatively clean, to the environment. Lancaster's common-sense ideas about water harvesting are equally beneficial. I like to think that the long-term solution to our water issues, and our quest for sustainability, lie in adoption of concepts like these rather than the business-as-usual, environmentally destructive approach of massive engineering projects (think pipeline) that move us in the opposite direction.

Here's how an Earthship water system works. The roof is used to gather rainwater, which flows through a natural filtration system before being stored in a cistern. A pump and modern filtration system sends potable water to a pressure tank to provide conventional household water. Water is used in a conventional way for bathing, washing, etc. That is beneficial use No. 1. Then the fun begins.

Every Earthship has a built-in biological gray water treatment and containment system, or in layman's terms, an interior, lined, sealed and plumbed planter. They typically run along the south side of the home near south-facing windows that provide plenty of light and warmth. These systems are full of plants that clean the air and water while providing an aesthetically pleasing feature to the home. In certain cases they may even grow food. Beneficial use No. 2.

Next, the cleaned gray water is used for flushing toilets, putting an end to the ridiculous practice of flushing with potable water. Beneficial use No. 3. More