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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

7 US States Running Out Of Water

From 24/7 Wall St.: The United States is in the midst of one of the biggest droughts in recent memory. At last count, over half of the lower 48 states had abnormally dry conditions and are suffering from at least moderate drought.

More than 80 percent of seven states were as of last week in “severe drought,” characterized by crop or pasture loss, water shortage and water restrictions. Depending on whether the hardest-hit regions see significant precipitation, crops yields could fall and drought conditions could persist for months to come. Based on the latest data provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the seven states running out of water.

U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist and Drought Monitor team member, Brad Rippey, explained that when the drought began in 2012, the worst of the conditions were much farther east, in states like Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan — the corn belt states. Based on pre-drought estimates, corn used for grain lost slightly more than a quarter of its potential. By the Summer of 2012, 59 percent of U.S. rangeland and pastureland was rated by the USDA as being in poor or very poor condition. The growing drought decimated national hay production, causing feed shortages, which in turn drove up prices in livestock.

By the fall of 2012, drought conditions continued to expand westward to its current epicenter — states like Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma. Rippey explained that most worrying is the drought’s effects on the winter wheat crop, which is one of the biggest crops grown in the U.S., and which is grown almost entirely in the states in severe drought. While the region has had some precipitation recently, “winter wheat crop will need ideal conditions heading through the next few weeks just to break even. We’re still trending towards a very poor hard red winter wheat crop at this point,” Rippey said.

In addition to severe drought conditions, relatively large areas in the worst-off states are in “exceptional” drought, which the USDA identifies as “exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses, shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies.” More than 70 percent of Nebraska is currently classified as being in a state of “exceptional drought,” which includes Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies.

The last time the U.S. saw a drought close to this level of severity was in the 1980s, Rippey explained. But even compared to that drought, the current conditions may be worse. “You really need to go back to the 1950s to find a drought that lasted and occupied at least as much territory,” Rippey said.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Water Diplomacy Workshop

The Water Diplomacy Workshop is a five-day joint-learning experience that helps participants master important network-management tools and teach these tools to others. It combines the science of water with the negotiation instruction methodologies developed by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Interactive lectures, problem-solving clinics, and role-play simulations help participants learn the techniques and strategies presented in the Water Diplomacy Workbook. They leave equipped to teach others in their agencies, organizations, universities, or communities.

Workshop Info

Traditional engineering and economic tools are insufficient to resolve conflicting water claims. Joint fact-finding and collaborative problem-solving tools must be added to each manager’s and decision-maker’s toolbox. Instead of thinking in terms of stable and bounded systems that fluctuate in predictable ways, water professionals must think of constantly changing and open-ended water networks.Water problems are complex because they cross physical, disciplinary, and jurisdictional boundaries. Water is a vital and limited resource—but fortunately, knowledge about water is not limited. Water professionals trained to synthesize scientific, societal, and political knowledge into practical solutions to water disputes can effectively transform water from a fixed to a flexible resource. More


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ancient aqueducts [karez] give Iraq a trickle of hope

A millennia-old labyrinth of underground canals may help solve the Middle East's water crisis, say experts.

The ancient karez in Kunaflusa

In the windswept plateaus of northern Iraq, unseen aqueducts which have channelled water to arid settlements for centuries are running dry. Experts say the wide-scale demise of these ancient water systems is an ominous sign of how scarce water in the region will soon become, and the humanitarian disasters that could follow.

For villagers here, tragic consequences have already arrived.

Farez Abdulrahman Ali strides across a muddy field and sweeps a burly arm towards the mountains that loom over Shekh Mamudian village in the wilds of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. This is the rugged terrain of the peshmerga, the Kurdish military whose name means "those who face death".

Ali explains that a subterranean canal - known in Iraq as a karez - once brought water to the village, where it gushed from a rock-lined tunnel into a pool just below the entrance to the local mosque. From there, it was channelled to nearby fields of okra, eggplant, onion and tobacco.

"Farmers would use the water," said Ali. "On hot days, children would play in the water. In the evenings, people would gather at the karez to talk about village things."

"The karez dates back to the time when karez were dug," he added, matter-of-factly. "Nobody in the village knows when it was dug. Even my grandfather doesn't know. It is probably 800 or 900 or 1,000 years old."

"There is now not enough water for farming. If the karez runs dry,

we will be forced to leave the village." - Fadel Salah, Kunaflusa villager

Dry county

In autumn 2011, for the first time in the village's collective memory, the karez in Shekh Mamudian went dry. As the village chief, or mukhtar, Ali sees the loss of the karez as catastrophic for the livestock and crops the village depends on for its hard won self-sufficiency. Unless it is restored, he fears for the end of a community that withstood assaults by Saddam Hussein’s army in the 1980s, and survived as a bloody no-man's land in the Kurdish civil war of the mid-1990s.

"The karez was the source of life," Ali said. "The village now feels like a family that has lost its father."

Echoes of Ali’s lament are being heard throughout the arid mountains and plains of Kurdistan, where the widespread demise of karez is becoming a humanitarian nightmare.

Last year, an inventory of karez systems in Kurdistan - believed to be the first such compiled in modern times - found that decades of war and years of grinding drought, combined with neglect and over-pumping from nearby mechanised wells, had brought these vital water lifelines to the edge of extinction.

According to a UNESCO report, just 116 of the 683 karez networks located in northern Iraq were still supplying water as of August 2009. As many as 40 per cent of the region's karez have dried up in the past four years alone.

Since 2005, more than 100,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes because their karez stopped flowing, and a further 36,000 are at immediate risk of evacuating their villages, according to the UN agency.

Parched land

In Kunaflusa, a rocky 90-minute drive north of Erbil, the village karez was last year producing only a trickle. Village mukhtar Fadel Abdullah Salah said families were allotted one-hour time slots to fill up enough water jugs to last a week.

"There is not enough water now for farming," said Salah. "If the karez runs dry, we will be forced to leave the village."

Water brought in tanker trucks by the Kurdistan Regional Government has helped the people of Kunaflusa. But experts say quick fixes such as hauling in water or drilling new, gas-fuelled wells are expensive band-aids that will ultimately prove unsustainable.

Salah said the village had some 200 houses in 1984, but today only 13 remain occupied. The UN report found that, on average, 70 per cent of residents moved away from their villages after the local karez went dry. More


Friday, March 22, 2013

America's Water: The World's Water

We live in a bountiful land that extends from sea to shining sea. We are home to the world's largest freshwater reserve, the Great Lakes.

The waterfalls and serene lakes from Yellowstone to Niagara to Yosemite to Havasu inspire us as to the wonders of nature. Our inland waterways from the mighty Mississippi to the sinuous Colorado have been the backbone of a nation's exploration, freight and development. Our unseen groundwater reserves, much larger in volume than the fresh water in rivers and lakes, have nurtured our cities and our fields, providing the resource that makes us the most productive agricultural nation on the planet. We live an enviable lifestyle. For most of us, inexpensive, safe drinking water flows from the tap and we use it luxuriously for drinking, bathing, maintaining beautiful yards, golf courses, swimming pools and water theme parks. This access to nature's largess is in clear contrast to the global water crisis that many talk about -- the billion people in diverse countries who lack access to safe drinking water. But so is our wealth.

Today, America's water is at a crossroads. The last decade has been marked by a series of widespread droughts in the West, Southwest, and Southeast that stressed water systems and led to interstate conflict. The large aquifers in the Midwest, in Central California and in Florida are depleting. Recent floods have also stressed our infrastructure, response and recovery systems. These events bring into question our resilience to climate variability. Surely, it is better than in the 12th and the 13th century when the industrious and proud Anasazi vanished following major droughts. But, today we have a larger population with much higher consumption rates, and much of the world depends on our agricultural production that is fueled in part by vanishing aquifers. We have an ever-growing hunger for energy. The availability of water constrains where we can put thermal power plants and the amount of water that can be used for unearthing energy (e.g., hydrofracking), leaving renewable energy development at the forefront.

Regulatory efforts at controlling water pollution from industry and other "point" sources have been by and large successful and have contributed to a dramatic improvement in river and groundwater quality in many places. But, non-point source pollution from farms and cities is largely unabated. Nearly 2.5 million people in Central California are affected by high nitrate concentrations in the groundwater they drink. Nearly 2/3rd of the people who responded to a Value of Water Survey indicated that they had to boil their water at least once in the last year due to a disruption in supply.

Over the last decade, water rates have risen at a rate much faster than inflation, partly because they were too low given past government subsidies, and in part to cover capital expenses associated with renewal or expansion of water and wastewater infrastructure. In many places, the rate increases have stimulated lower consumption. This translated into revenues lower than those before the rate increase, leading to many utilities unable to cover operating costs. The ASCE estimates that nearly $1.5 trillion needs to be invested in the next 20 years to renew aging water and wastewater infrastructure, dams and levees. Federal investment in water declined significantly since the 1980s, and the infrastructure has aged since to the point that major renewal may be needed. The financial burden for providing water services has shifted increasingly to local communities. The ability of these communities to raise funds for capital improvements is under question.

The challenges related to climate-induced risks, to energy and agricultural productivity, to pollution and the quality of water supplied, and to the financing and governance of water systems that we face are universal. Every nation, every community in the world, is increasingly facing these challenges. The challenge is extreme in places like India where the highly variable climate, the pressures of the population and the stasis of the bureaucracy combine to create a living disaster. The same is true in places like Haiti where all aspects of development need attention. Solutions for the world are likely to be easier if places where there is technical and intellectual capacity, which if not constrained by an immediate challenge can innovate systems and principles that lead us to appropriate, sustainable solutions in all our environments so that the world is a healthy place for 9 billion people living in harmony with nature. It is a time for leadership in and from America.

Over time, much of the world adapted the U.S. paradigms for scientific and economic water management and development that were formalized and articulated through public and educational institutions over the last century. Principles of public benefit cost analysis for water systems were articulated. The application of these principles was stimulated by Federal government investment in water research, water storage, distribution and treatment infrastructure projects, and in the monitoring and regulation of water quantity and quality. The idea of the human right to water was made explicit by the U.S. government only recently, but was effectively practiced through its policies and investments. The legacy of these investments includes the vast civil engineering projects that brought us dams, canals, levees, sewers, drinking water and waste water treatment, the Clean Water Act that led to the assurance of water quality, and the Superfund program aimed at hazardous waste sites that severely contaminated water sources. Similar programs have emerged worldwide. More


Water Crisis Hitting Food, Energy – And Everything Else

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 22 2013 (IPS) - How much water does it take to turn on a light? It took 10,000 litres to make your jeans. Another three big bathtubs of water was needed for your two-eggs-toast-coffee breakfast this morning.

We are surrounded by an unseen world of water: furniture, houses, cars, roads, buildings – practically everything we use and make needs water.

“There is no way to generate energy without water,” said Zafar Adeel, co-chair of the UN-Water Task Force on Water Security and director of the Institute for Water, Environment and Health in Canada.

Even solar panels need regular washing to perform well. Wind energy might be an exception, Adeel told IPS from a water conference in Beijing being held during World Water Week.

There is growing recognition that peak oil is nowhere near as important as peak water because there is no substitute for water. The growing shortage of water — 1.2 to 1.7 billion people face scarcity — has alarmed many. Water has been identified as an “urgent security issue”, by a group that last year included both former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the InterAction Council, an association of 37 former heads of state and government.

It’s important that “water security” be recognised by the U.N. Security Council as either as a trigger, a potential target, or a contributing factor to insecurity and potential conflict in many parts of the world, said Adeel.

Defining exactly what the term “water security” means has been challenging, but UN-Water, the United Nations’ inter-agency coordination mechanism for all water-related issues, now has a working definition.

They have defined water security as: “The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.”

The definition was released Friday on World Water Day along with an analytical brief “Water Security and the Global Water Agenda“.

“Water fits within this broader definition of security — embracing political, health, economic, personal, food, energy, environmental and other concerns — and acts as a central link between them,”says Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

It is important to note that conflicts over water are rare. “Historically there hasn’t been a war between nations over water,” said Harriet Bigas, a co-author of the brief and colleague of Adeel at the Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

Driven largely by water and food shortages linked to drought in the Horn of Africa, almost 185,000 Somalis fled to neighbouring countries in 2011. In Sudan, violence broke out in March 2012 in the Jamam refugee camp where large numbers of people faced serious water scarcity. And in South Sudan, entire communities were forced to leave due to scarce water resources as a result of conflict in 2012.

Water insecurity can lead to cascading political, social, economic and environmental consequences, she said.

However, the norm is for nations and regional partners to work out water-sharing agreements, offering important opportunities for dialogue amongst traditional enemies.

“Water is a greater pathway to peace than conflict,” writes noted international water expert Aaron Wolf of Oregon State University. More


Why Palestinians Have No Water - and No, It's Not That Palestine Has No Water by Abby Zimet

In honor of the U.N.'s World Water Day, new graphics from Visualizing Palestine show what happens to the water in Ramallah, which gets more annual rainfall than London. And no, it doesn't go to Palestinians. It just should. Ideas for equity from the Thirsting for Justice Campaign.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Coming Global Water Crisis

What happens when demand for this essential resource starts exceeding supply in many parts of the world?

The recent UN alert that drought in the Sahel threatens 15 million lives is a harbinger of things to come.

In the next twenty years, global demand for fresh water will vastly outstrip reliable supply in many parts of the world. Thanks to population growth and agricultural intensification, humanity is drawing more heavily than ever on shared river basins and underground aquifers. Meanwhile, global warming is projected to exacerbate shortages in already water-stressed regions, even as it accelerates the rapid melting of glaciers and snow cover upon which a billion people depend for their ultimate source of water.

This sobering message emerges from the first U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security. The document predicts that by 2030 humanity's "annual global water requirements" will exceed "current sustainable water supplies" by forty percent. Absent major policy interventions, water insecurity will generate widespread social and political instability and could even contribute to state failure in regions important to U.S. national security. (Look here for a webcast from the Woodrow Wilson Center of experts and U.S. government officials discussing the findings.)

The simultaneous ubiquity and scarcity of water is one of Earth's little ironies. Globally, 97.5 percent of H2O is contained in world's oceans. Of the planet's "fresh" water (the residual 2.5%), more than two-thirds is encased in ice packs and glaciers, particularly in Antarctica and Greenland, another thirty percent in groundwater, and almost one percent in high latitude permafrost. That leaves us with about 0.4 percent of global fresh water to account for: about two-thirds of that is contained in freshwater lakes, with the rest distributed among soil moisture (12 percent), the atmosphere (9.5 percent), wetlands (8.5 percent), rivers (1.5 percent) and vegetation (1 percent).

The need for reliable sources of fresh water is as old as our species, of course. What is new today is the combustible combination of surging global demand for increasingly scarce fresh water in certain volatile regions of poor governance. Several factors are driving this trend.

  • Demographic pressure: By 2025, the world's population will swell from seven to nearly eight billion. The vast majority of this increase will occur in the developing world, particularly Africa. In rapidly expanding urban centers, demand for fresh water will rise for personal consumption, sanitation, industry, and hydroelectric use.
  • Declining Fresh H2O supplies: According to Global Water Security, "one third of the world's population will live near water basins where the water deficit will be larger than 50 percent by 2030." Many regions that are already experiencing water stress will become "extremely more stressed" or even "exceptionally more stressed." In some areas, rapid depletion of underground aquifers will be the culprit. In others it will be reductions in meltwater as glaciers recede. In the Andes, hundreds of glaciers will simply disappear in coming decades, eliminating dry season water supplies. Similar, though more gradual, dynamics will be at play in the Himalayas, sometimes referred to as the world's "third pole".
  • Changing dietary preferences: Meanwhile, the global middle class will surge from 1.8 to 4.9 billion by 2030. Wealthier populations will consume more meat, requiring a shift to more energy and water-intensive agriculture focusing on the raising of livestock and feed grain. Already today, some 93 percent of fresh water consumed is devoted to agriculture (from a combination of riverine, lake, and groundwater sources). Without massive behavioral changes, changing land use and food consumption patterns will place even greater pressures on fresh water resources.
  • Poor Water Management: Adapting to a new era of water scarcity will require enormous investments in integrated water management, particularly in the developing world. This would include improving agricultural efficiency through new irrigation systems and drought-resistant crops; renovating infrastructure to reduce urban "water leakage" (which averages 30-50 percent in many cities); clarifying rights to the use of subterranean, riverine, and lacustrine water resources; and introducing pricing mechanisms that reflect the true economic value of water--admittedly a politically volatile step in societies where free (or cheap) access to water is viewed as an inherent, longstanding right.

Significantly, the intelligence community does not predict that increased competition for water resources will, by itself, be a source of violent conflict--a finding borne out by a rich body of research. And yet the same document warns that water stress may well "contribute to the risk of instability and state failure," particularly "when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions." The accompanying map makes clear that many of the countries likely to be hardest hit are fragile and/or authoritarian states located within the broad arc of instability encompassing North Africa, the Horn, the Arabian Peninsula, and southwest, central, and south Asia. In other words, states least able to cope.

Regional tensions over shared river basins will also rise. States will use diplomatic and other leverage to preserve their water interests, and "upstream" states will be tempted to use water as a diplomatic weapon, including by threatening to impede flow. Nonstate actors, notably terrorists and other extremists, may also seek to sabotage dams and other infrastructure.

Regional stability and peace, therefore, increasingly depend on effective management of the world's 263 shared international water basins. "Today, water basin agreements often do not exist or are inadequate." Analyzing the current capacity to manage seven major water basins, Global Water Security assesses mechanisms to govern the Brahmaputra and Amu Darya to be "inadequate," and those governing the Tigris-Euphrates, the Nile, and the Mekong as "limited." (The Indus and the Jordan rivers earn a higher, "moderate" score.) More

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The least sustainable city: Phoenix as a harbinger for our hot future

Of course, it’s an easy city to pick on. The nation’s 13th largest metropolitan area (nudging out Detroit) crams 4.3 million people into a low bowl in a hot desert, where horrific heat waves and windstorms visit it regularly. It snuggles next to the nation’s largest nuclear plant and, having exhausted local sources, it depends on an improbable infrastructure to suck water from the distant (and dwindling) Colorado River.

In Phoenix, you don’t ask: What could go wrong? You ask: What couldn’t?

And that’s the point, really. Phoenix’s multiple vulnerabilities, which are plenty daunting taken one by one, have the capacity to magnify one another, like compounding illnesses. In this regard, it’s a quintessentially modern city, a pyramid of complexities requiring large energy inputs to keep the whole apparatus humming. The urban disasters of our time — New Orleans hit by Katrina, New York City swamped by Sandy — may arise from single storms, but the damage they do is the result of a chain reaction of failures — grids going down, levees failing, backup systems not backing up. As you might expect, academics have come up with a name for such breakdowns:infrastructure failure interdependencies. You wouldn’t want to use it in a poem, but it does catch an emerging theme of our time.

Phoenix’s pyramid of complexities looks shakier than most because it stands squarely in the crosshairs of climate change. The area, like much of the rest of the American Southwest, is already hot and dry; it’s getting ever hotter and drier, and is increasingly battered by powerful storms. Sandy and Katrina previewed how coastal cities can expect to fare as seas rise and storms strengthen. Phoenix pulls back the curtain on the future of inland empires. If you want a taste of the brutal new climate to come, the place to look is where that climate is already harsh, and growing more so — the aptly named Valley of the Sun.

In Phoenix, it’s the convergence of heat, drought, and violent winds, interacting and amplifying each other, that you worry about. Generally speaking, in contemporary society, nothing that matters happens for just one reason, and in Phoenix there are all too many “reasons” primed to collaborate and produce big problems, with climate change foremost among them, juicing up the heat, the drought, and the wind to ever greater extremes, like so many sluggers on steroids. Notably, each of these nemeses, in its own way, has the potential to undermine the sine qua non of modern urban life, the electrical grid, which in Phoenix merits special attention.

If, in summer, the grid there fails on a large scale and for a significant period of time, the fallout will make the consequences of Superstorm Sandy look mild. Sure, people will hunt madly for power outlets to charge their cellphones and struggle to keep their milk fresh, but communications and food refrigeration will not top their list of priorities. Phoenix is an air-conditioned city. If the power goes out, people fry.

In the summer of 2003, a heat wave swept Europe and killed 70,000 people. The temperature in London touched 100 degrees F for the first time since records had been kept, and in portions of France the mercury climbed as high as 104 degrees F. Those temperatures, however, are child’s play in Phoenix, where readings commonly exceed100 degrees F for more than 100 days a year. In 2011, the city set a new record for days over 110 degrees F: There were 33 of them, more than a month of spectacularly superheated days ushering in a new era.

In flight from the sun

It goes without saying that Phoenix’s desert setting is hot by nature, but we’ve made it hotter. The city is a masonry world, with asphalt and concrete everywhere. The hard, heavy materials of its buildings and roads absorb heat efficiently and give it back more slowly than the naked land. In a sense, the whole city is really a thermal battery, soaking up energy by day and releasing it at night. The result is an “urban heat island,” which, in turn, prevents the cool of the desert night from providing much relief.

Sixty years ago, when Phoenix was just embarking on its career of manic growth, nighttime lows never crept above 90 degrees F. Today such temperatures are commonplace, and the vigil has begun for the first night that doesn’t dip below 100 degrees F. Studies indicate that Phoenix’s urban-heat-island effect may boost nighttime temperatures [PDF] by as much as 10 degrees F. It’s as though the city has doubled down on climate change, finding a way to magnify its most unwanted effects even before it hits the rest of us full blast.

Predictably, the poor suffer most from the heat. They live in the hottest neighborhoods with the least greenery to mitigate the heat-island effect, and they possess the fewest resources for combating high temperatures. For most Phoenicians, however, none of this is more than an inconvenience as long as the AC keeps humming and the utility bill gets paid. When the heat intensifies, they learn to scurry from building to car and into the next building, essentially holding their breath. In those cars, the second thing they touch after the ignition is the fan control for the AC. The steering wheel comes later.

In the blazing brilliance of July and August, you venture out undefended to walk or run only in the half-light of dawn or dusk. The idea for residents of the Valley of the Sun is to learn to dodge the heat, not challenge it.

Heat, however, is a tricky adversary. It stresses everything, including electrical equipment. Transformers, when they get too hot, can fail. Likewise, thermoelectric generating stations, whether fired by coal, gas, or neutrons, become less efficient [PDF] as the mercury soars. And the great hydroelectric dams of the Colorado River, including Glen Canyon, which serves greater Phoenix, won’t be able to supply the “peaking power” they do now if the reservoirs behind them are fatally shrunken by drought, as multiple studies forecast they will be. Much of this can be mitigated with upgraded equipment, smart grid technologies, and redundant systems. But then along comes thehaboob.

A haboob is a dust/sand/windstorm, usually caused by the collapse of a thunderstorm cell. The plunging air hits the ground and roils outward, picking up debris across the open desert. As the Arabic name suggests, such storms are native to arid regions, but — although Phoenix is no stranger to storm-driven dust — the term haboob has only lately entered the local lexicon. It seems to have been imported to describe a new class of storms, spectacular in their vehemence, which bring visibility to zero and life to a standstill. They sandblast cars, close the airport, and occasionally cause the lights — and AC — to go out. Not to worry, say the two major utilities serving the Phoenix metroplex, Arizona Public Service and the Salt River Project. And the outages have indeed been brief. So far.

Before Katrina hit, the Army Corps of Engineers was similarly reassuring to the people of New Orleans. And until Superstorm Sandy landed, almost no one worried about storm surges filling the subway tunnels of New York.

Every system, like every city, has its vulnerabilities. Climate change, in almost every instance, will worsen them. The beefed-up, juiced-up, greenhouse-gassed, overheated weather of the future will give ushaboobs of a sort we can’t yet imagine, packed with ever greater amounts of energy. In all likelihood, the emergence of such storms as a feature of Phoenix life results from an overheating environment, abetted by the loose sand and dust of abandoned farmland (which dried up when water was diverted to the city’s growing subdivisions).

Water, water, everywhere (but not for long)

In dystopic portraits of Phoenix’s unsustainable future, water — or rather the lack of it — is usually painted as the agent of collapse. Indeed, the metropolitan area, a jumble of jurisdictions that includes Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, Mesa, Sun City, Chandler, and 15 other municipalities, long ago made full use of such local rivers as the Salt, Verde, and Gila. Next, people sank wells and mined enough groundwater to lower the water table by 400 feet.

Sometimes the land sank, too. Near some wells it subsided by 10 feet or more. All along, everyone knew that the furious extraction of groundwater couldn’t last, so they fixed their hopes on a new bonanza called the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a river-sized, open-air canal supported by an elaborate array of pumps, siphons, and tunnels that would bring Colorado River water across the breadth of Arizona to Phoenix and Tucson.

The CAP came on line in the early 1990s and today is the engine of Arizona’s growth. Unfortunately, in order to win authorization and funding to build it, state officials had to make a bargain with the devil, which in this case turned out to be California. Arizona’s delegation in the House of Representatives was tiny, California’s was huge, and its representatives jealously protected their longstanding stranglehold on the Colorado River. The concession California forced on Arizona was simple: It had to agree that its CAP water rights would take second place to California’s claims. More


Friday, March 15, 2013

Stimson Environmental Security program Releasing New South Asia Water Report

For people in the Washington, DC area, next week Stimson hopes you can join their Environmental Security Program on Wednesday March 20th from 10 am-12 pm as we release a new report on transboundary water management and climate change impacts in South Asia, entitled Connecting the Drops: An Indus Basin Roadmap for Cross-Border Water Research, Data Sharing, and Policy Coordination.

The event will feature David Michel (Director of the Stimson Environmental Security Program), Winston Yu (Senior Water Resources Specialist for South Asia at the World Bank), and Satu Limaye (Director of the East-West Center). Please join us for a discussion of the current state of India-Pakistan water relations and new potential pathways for water collaboration between the two countries. You can RSVP by clicking the link in the formal invitation below, or by following this link:


Please feel free to forward this invitation to interested colleagues. Thank you, and we look forward to welcoming you to Stimson.


Russell Sticklor

Stimson Environmental Security Program

Stimson's Environmental Security Program invites you to the publication launch of:

Connecting the Drops: An Indus Basin Roadmap for Cross-Border Water Research, Data Sharing, and Policy Coordination


David Michel
Director, Environmental Security Program, Stimson

Winston Yu
Senior Water Resources Specialist for South Asia, World Bank

Satu Limaye
Director, East-West Center

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10 AM – 12 PM

Stimson Center
1111 19th Street NW, 12th Floor

Washington, DC 20036


Decision makers in India and Pakistan will have to overcome a host of overlapping socio-economic, environmental, and political pressures as they endeavor to fulfill their countries’ future water needs and peacefully manage the Indus River Basin that both countries share. Increasingly subject to soaring demand, unsustainable consumption patterns, and mounting environmental stresses, almost all of the basin’s renewable water resources are already allocated for various uses — with little to no spare capacity. Scientific and policy collaboration across national and disciplinary boundaries will be essential to providing decision makers with better understanding of the multiple risks weighing on the Indus Basin and the consequent water resource challenges and choices facing the riparian nations.

The Stimson Center, in coordination with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (Pakistan) and the Observer Research Foundation (India), is pleased to announce the release of a new report, Connecting the Drops: An Indus Basin Roadmap for Cross-Border Water Research, Data Sharing, and Policy Coordination. The report results from a Track II diplomatic initiative that brought together leading Indian and Pakistani scientists, diplomats, water policy analysts and practitioners to analyze emerging stresses on the countries’ shared water resources and identify best practices for cooperative knowledge building and sustainable water management in the Indus Basin.

Please join us for a briefing on the report’s recommendations and a panel discussion of cross-border water management challenges and opportunities in South Asia.

Copies of the report will be available, and the event will be open to the media.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

India, Bangladesh very short of water, among Asia's worst - report

NEW DELHI (AlertNet) - Three out of four countries in Asia and the Pacific are facing a serious lack of water, and some are in danger of a crisis unless steps are taken to improve water management, a report by the Asian Development Bank and the Asia-Pacific Water Forum has said.

A private vehicle crosses a bridge as excavators work at the dam site of Kishanganga power project in Gurez, 160 km north of Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir. Picture June 21, 2012, REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli

The Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 , the first study of the degree of water security of every country in the region, found that 37 out of 49 nations do not have enough water, the worst being India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu.

"South Asia and parts of Central and West Asia are faring the worst with rivers under immense strain, while many Pacific islands suffer from a lack of access to safe piped water and decent sanitation and are highly vulnerable to increasingly severe water disasters," said an ADB statement.

"By contrast East Asia, which has the highest frequency of hazards in the region, is relatively better off due to higher levels of investment in disaster defences, but urban water security remains poor in many cities and towns."

Water security has become an increasing concern across the world in recent years.

More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many Asia-Pacific nations face serious water shortages.

In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams.

The study examined water security in countries at five different levels, including access to clean drinking water and sanitation, water availability for industry and agriculture, and water supply systems in urban areas.

"Much progress has been made in terms of providing drinking water, but when we look at the number of households that have piped water, it is much less," said Wouter T. Lincklaen, lead water resources specialist at the ADB.

Only 35 percent of the region's population have a secure water supply. Even worse, only 23 percent of South Asians and 21 percent of those living in the Pacific have piped water, he said.

ADB experts cited China as a good example of improved water management, in which the government not only promised to double annual investment in the water sector to $608 billion by 2020, but also set performance targets for industry, irrigation and water quality. More


A World At Risk: Water Security


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A World at Risk: Water Security
The issues of water and food security are timely and important to the discussion of the future of sustainable development. Population and climate are major drivers, leading to regional water constraints that are emerging as critical in many places in the world. The ability of societies to deal with these threats is coming into question, whether the issue is the provision of safe drinking water, or of access of industries to water, the rapid depletion of groundwater by agriculture, limits to energy production and mineral extraction, or the impacts of degraded water bodies on ecosystems. What are the innovations that can address these challenges, and what are some examples of sustainable directions towards solution?

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Philippines still far from water security — ADB

Although the Philippines is surrounded by water and experiences at least 20 cyclones in a year, it is still far from achieving water security, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Based on the National Water Security Index, the Philippines comes out of level two out of five, said Wouter Lincklaen Arriens, ADB’s water resources specialist.

“It means it still has some quite a way to go,” Arriens said Wednesday.

The index contained in the Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 measures the water adequacy of 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific region.

Although institutional arrangement and levels of public investment has been increasing, a level two in the index means that the Philippine government had “inadequate” legislation and policy toward securing water.

Focus on Philippines

According to the latest study, the Philippine lagged in urban water security index, which gauges water services and management in cities. The country scored one out of five.

Urban water security also gauges the country’s public infrastructure and utilities, especially wastewater treatment.

To this, Arriens noted: “Much has to be done, especially in cities which is an area of serious concern.”

The fastest increase in water demand now comes from industries and cities, ADB revealed. “Cities occupy 2 percent of the world’s land, [but] uses 75 percent of its resources.”

The city’s wastewater was often released into rivers and lakes with only a fifth or 22 percent of discharges being treated, the study showed.

The study added that 80 percent of Asia’s rivers are in poor health, jeopardizing economies and quality of life. It estimated that about $1.75 trillion “ecosystem services” per year are threatened while rivers devastation continues.

“In Asia and the Pacific, waste water is often released into rivers, lakes and groundwater untreated or only partially treated… This region has the lowest environmental water security, posing huge challenges for sustainable development,” the study read.

“Public investments, market based approaches, and support from the private sector can reduce pollution and finance the restoration of healthy rivers. Every $1 invested in river restoration program can return more than $4 in benefits,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Philippines scored four out of five in the area of economic water security, which measures a country’s productive use of water to sustain economic growth in food production, industry and energy.

Solutions are available but…

ADB’s outlook estimated that the region needs $59 billion in investments for water supply and $71 billion for improved sanitation.

“Countries should double the current rates in sanitation… Every dollar invested in water and sanitation is likely to return $5 to $46 in reduce health care cost and increased economic productivity,” it said.

To prevent a possible water crisis, ADB explained that water governance should be improved.

“Major changes in water governance are needed in nearly all Asian developing countries. If some Asian developing countries face a water crisis in the future, it will not be of physical scarcity of water, but because of inadequate water governance,” the multilateral agency said. More


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rains or Not, India Is Falling Short on Drinkable Water

CHERRAPUNJI, India — Almost no place on Earth gets more rain than this small hill town. Nearly 40 feet falls every year — more than 12 times what Seattle gets. Storms often drop more than a foot a day. The monsoon is epic.

But during the dry season from November through March, many in this corner of India struggle to find water. Some are forced to walk long distances to fill jugs in springs or streams. Taps in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya State, spout water for just a few hours a day. And when it arrives, the water is often not drinkable.

That people in one of the rainiest places on the planet struggle to get potable water is emblematic of the profound water challenges that India faces. Every year, about 600,000 Indian children die because of diarrhea or pneumonia, often caused by toxic water and poor hygiene, according to Unicef.

Half of the water supply in rural areas, where 70 percent of India’s population lives, is routinely contaminated with toxic bacteria. Employment in manufacturing in India has declined in recent years, and a prime reason may be the difficulty companies face getting water.

And India’s water problems are likely to worsen. A report that McKinsey & Company helped to write predicted that India would need to double its water-generation capacity by the year 2030 to meet the demands of its surging population.

A separate analysis concluded that groundwater supplies in many of India’s cities — including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai — are declining at such a rapid rate that they may run dry within a few years.

The water situation in Gurgaon, the new mega-city south of Delhi, became so acute last year that a judge ordered a halt to new construction until projects could prove they were using recycled water instead of groundwater.

On Feb. 28, India’s finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, proposed providing $2.8 billion to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in the coming fiscal year, a 17 percent increase.

But water experts describe this as very little in a country where more than 100 million people scrounge for water from unimproved sources.

Some water problems stem from India’s difficult geography. Vast parts of the country are arid, and India has just 4 percent of the world’s fresh water shared among 16 percent of its people.

But the country’s struggle to provide water security to the 2.6 million residents of Meghalaya, blessed with more rain than almost any place, shows that the problems are not all environmental.

Arphisha lives in Sohrarim, a village in Meghalaya, and she must walk a mile during the dry season to the local spring, a trip she makes four to five times a day. Sometimes her husband fetches water in the morning, but mostly the task is left to her. Indeed, fetching water is mostly women’s work in India.

On a recent day, Arphisha, who has only one name, took the family laundry to the spring, which is a pipe set in a cement abutment. While her 2-year-old son, Kevinson, played nearby, Arphisha beat clothes on a cement and stone platform in front of the spring. Her home has electricity several hours a day and heat from a coal stove. But there is no running water. When it rains, she uses a barrel to capture runoff from her roof.

“It’s nice having the sunshine now, but my life is much easier during the monsoon,” she said.

Kevinson interrupted her work by bringing her an empty plastic bottle. “Water,” he said. Arphisha bent down, filled the bottle and gave it back to him. “Say, ‘Thank you,’ ” she said. “Say, ‘Thank you.’ ” When he silently drank, turned and went back to playing, Arphisha laughed and shrugged her shoulders. More