Tag Archives: Water Conservation

4 Billion People at Risk as ‘Water Table Dropping All Over the World’

Global scarcity of key life source far worse than thought, new study finds

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-12-2016

"Water scarcity has become a global problem affecting us all," stated study co-author Arjen Hoekstra. (Photo: Oxfam International/cc/flickr)

“Water scarcity has become a global problem affecting us all,” stated study co-author Arjen Hoekstra. (Photo: Oxfam International/cc/flickr)

A new analysis reveals that global water scarcity is a far greater problem than previously thought, affecting 4 billion people—two-thirds of the world’s population—and will be “one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century.”

Previous analyses looked at water scarcity at an annual scale, and had found that water scarcity affected between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people. The new study, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, assessed water scarcity on a monthly basis, more fully capturing the specific times of year when it could be an issue. Continue reading

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Killing A Planet

logoOn Tuesday, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) released the latest Living Planet report, Living Planet 2014. Published every two years, the WWF says it “gives us a picture of the changing state of global biodiversity and the pressure on the biosphere arising from human consumption of natural resources.”

This year’s report points out, as so many reports have done recently, the harm we humans are doing to the planet and the creatures who live on it. The Living Planet Index (LPI) measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and it’s declined by 52 per cent since 1970.

This means that in the last 40 years (or less than two human generations), the population of vertebrate species have dropped by over half because of us. Whether it’s us hunting them for food, or polluting and/or destroying their habitats, we’ve managed to kill off over half the animal population.

Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF, said; “We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now.”  He also stated that more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, and that food and energy needs to be produced sustainably.

Professor Ken Norris, director of science at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), said; “If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news. But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.”

Another index in the report calculates humanity’s “ecological footprint”, in other words, the scale at which it is using up natural resources. As it stands, we are cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans and lakes can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon dioxide than the forests and oceans can absorb.

The report concludes that today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it. Four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, and 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.

The choice couldn’t be much clearer. We either change the way we live, or we die. We either work towards providing equal rights and opportunities for our fellow men, or we go further down the rabbit hole of income and social inequality where a very few people own everything while the rest of us fight for the scraps. We either stop destroying the earth with our wanton waste and pollution, or the earth will destroy us. And, we need to do it now.

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Stay Thirsty

Colorado River Basin. Graphic by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Colorado River Basin. Graphic by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

We at Occupy World Writes talk a lot about water, and with good reason. Our planet’s most valuable resource is water. We need it to stay alive; plants and animals need it. Our industries need it. Almost everything we do or consume uses water somewhere or another. We’ve talked about industries polluting our water, but we haven’t really discussed what’s happening with our water otherwise.

The U.S. has been suffering drought in one place or another since at least the turn of the century. The Colorado River basin has been especially hard hit, The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is the federal water management agency, says that the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.

A new study by scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine finds that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources.  Using data gathered by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission, they tracked changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. 

Monthly measurements of the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed that the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater. This is almost double the volume of Nevada’s Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) — was from groundwater.

Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study’s lead author, said; “We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out. This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”

The Colorado River is the only major river in the southwestern United States. Its basin supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states, and irrigates roughly four million acres of farmland.

Jay Famiglietti, senior water cycle scientist at JPL who’s presently on leave from University of California, Irvine, said; “The Colorado River Basin is the water lifeline of the western United States. With Lake Mead at its lowest level ever, we wanted to explore whether the basin, like most other regions around the world, was relying on groundwater to make up for the limited surface-water supply. We found a surprisingly high and long-term reliance on groundwater to bridge the gap between supply and demand.” He further went on to say;  “Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico.” 

Meanwhile, in drought-stricken California, somebody appears to have plenty of water. And, funny enough, it’s a corporation. Nestle, through its subsidiary Nestle Waters, operates two wells, the water from which is sold as the Arrowhead and Nestle Pure Life brands of bottled water, on property it leases from the Morongo tribe, and has been doing so for more than a decade. Linda Ivey, a Palm Desert real estate appraiser, asked; “Why is it possible to take water from a drought area, bottle it and sell it?” 

Then again, we are talking about Nestle, In an infamous video from 2005, Peter Brabeck, the CEO of Nestle, said that declaring water a right is ‘extreme’, and asserts that water is a commodity best valued and distributed by the free market; in other words, privatized. He’s since said he was taken out of context, but we’ll let you judge for yourself:

I was having a conversation around five years ago with a friend of mine who lives out in LA. He’s what many people would call a futurist; very bright and always looking ten to twenty years down the road. The subject was what we considered to be the biggest limiter or threat to California’s, and hence, to a large extent, the U.S.’s economy in the next ten years. He said not enough energy, and I said not enough water. I’m sorry to say it looks as if I was right.

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Bring Back “Common” Sense

Photo by Tim McCabe, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. (USDA NRCS Photo Gallery: NRCSIA99536.tif) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Tim McCabe, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. (USDA NRCS Photo Gallery: NRCSIA99536.tif) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Centuries ago, communities were formed by placing homes around an area referred to as the “commons;” a place where livestock was grazed, public meetings and gatherings were held and people worked together to protect and benefit from these “common” areas of value. The system was so successful it is used in some parts of the world to this day.

One of the principles America was founded on was the theory of the “commons” – that which belonged to all the citizens – was worth protection. Certain necessities were identified as being “common” for the security and stability of the country. As we grew, so did the things that were considered part of the “commons” belonging to the American people.

Clean water is one of those “common” things that Americans expect when they turn on a faucet to shower, cook, drink or bathe children and infants. We enacted the Clean Water Act as a way to specifically protect this “common”, and established the EPA to enforce regulations designed to further protect it.

As with many commodities in this country, Americans have an insatiable need for mass water usage in their lives. Above our daily survival needs, we play in it. We water lawns, crops, animals and city water features with it. We use it in manufacturing, medicine, food processing and energy production. We use it in mining, oil well drilling, fracking operations and coal ash ponds.

WHY DO WE HAVE THE EPA? This five-acre acid water, oil and sludge-filled pond was used as a dump site by commercial firms before being cleaned up under EPA supervision. It offered no protection to unwary animals. Sheep carcasses are seen in the foreground and at the left along with junked cars and other debris. Photo by Bruce McAllister, 1974, NARA Photographer, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

WHY DO WE HAVE THE EPA? This five-acre acid water, oil and sludge-filled pond was used as a dump site by commercial firms before being cleaned up under EPA supervision. It offered no protection to unwary animals. Sheep carcasses are seen in the foreground and at the left along with junked cars and other debris. Photo by Bruce McAllister, 1974, NARA Photographer, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Yet we seem to have no appetite or desire to continue keeping it clean. Recently, we have heard calls from congressional members to repeal the Clean Water Act and the EPA. Identified as “job killing regulations”, the theory here is to let corporations do whatever they want to produce however much of whatever they want, with total disregard toward consequences or responsibility. But their bottom lines would swell like water-filled balloons, and the bribery lobby money would benefit everyone involved.

Meanwhile, Americans would face more headlines like we’ve seen recently; Galveston Bay has an oil spill in it; Lake Michigan has oil in it from a refinery that is ramping up to double its production; the Dan River in NC has coal ash waste flowing downstream while Duke Energy employees are filmed pumping more of the sludge directly into the river; Keystone XL approval could poison the largest fresh water aquifer in the nation; and PolyMet, who has never operated a mine before, is demanding that Minnesota open the North Shore for copper/sulfide mining which would drain into Lake Superior. PolyMet’s main financial backer (Glencore Xtrata) has hired Tony Hayward as CEO – Hayward is the same guy you recall from the Deepwater Horizon disaster crying to the media that he wanted his life back.

We see attempts to allow drilling, mining and oil exploration in our national parks and reserves – 12 parks already have drilling in them, while an additional 30 parks could see drilling under existing mineral rights. On March 26, the House heard a bill that would abolish the 1906 Antiquities Act, which has protected some of America’s most sensitive and endangered monuments.

The rich everyday colours of a sari-clad rural women fetching water from the village tank. Water supply is a major problem throughout India and many rural areas lack clean water and supply to the home forcing women to fetch and carry water daily. Most villages lack the resources to invest and ensure a clean supply to each home. Photo by McKay Savage from London, UK [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The rich everyday colours of a sari-clad rural women fetching water from the village tank. Water supply is a major problem throughout India and many rural areas lack clean water and supply to the home forcing women to fetch and carry water daily. Most villages lack the resources to invest and ensure a clean supply to each home. Photo by McKay Savage from London, UK [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What are our priorities? Climate change has brought drought to California, Texas and other areas of the southwest, freezing weather in the deep south, the Great Lakes are locked in ice, Alaska’s permafrost is melting at a rate far faster than ever anticipated and areas that have been ideal cropland are either flooding or unable to get sufficient water to grow crops. These pressures will bear economic impact and will continue to manifest and worsen in the coming years.

And what is happening here in America is nothing compared to the struggles taking place around the world in the struggle for enough water to survive just by drinking and cooking. Diseases from unclean conditions are free to exert their atrocities on human life as we brace for more drought and famine in areas that have been fertile in the past. Some regions have not been as affected by climate change yet, but refugees are running for their lives and are not in the areas they normally would be in order to plant the spring crops. Cattle herds that are not wiped out by disease or starvation become targets in the terrorism that plagues remote areas of the globe.

We found an organization that looks at the need for clean water from a much, much larger perspective than America’s water problem. We introduce you to Charity:Water.org. This will not solve the overall problem, but it is clearly a step in the right direction.

How important is clean water? How long can you live with no water, but all the cheap oil you want? How important is LIFE?

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