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Why Care About Water?


Water Scarcity Facing 1/3 of US Counties


AlterNet Environment News Service, August 2, 2010

<<<<<<  Counties shown in dark red are at greatest risk of water shortage by 2050. (Map courtesy Tetra Tech)

 One out of three U.S. counties is facing a greater risk of water shortages by mid-century due to global warming, finds a new report by Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

For 412 of these counties the risk of water shortages will be "extremely high," according to the report, a 14-fold increase from previous estimates.  In the Great Plains and Southwest United States, water sustainability is at extreme risk, finds the report, which is based on publicly available water use data from across the United States.

"This analysis shows climate change will take a serious toll on water supplies throughout the country in the coming decades, with over one out of three U.S. counties facing greater risks of water shortages," said Dan Lashof, director of the Climate Center at NRDC. "Water shortages can strangle economic development and agricultural production and affected communities.  As a result, cities and states will bear real and significant costs if Congress fails to take the steps necessary to slow down and reverse the warming trend."

The report, issued Tuesday, finds that 14 states face an extreme or high risk to water sustainability, or are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050.  These areas include parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Sujoy Roy, principal engineer and lead report author, Tetra Tech, said, "The goal of the analysis is to identify regions where potential stresses, and the need to do something about them, may be the greatest. We used publicly available data on current water withdrawals for different sectors of the economy, such as irrigation, cooling for power generation, and municipal supply, and estimated future demands using business-as-usual scenarios of growth.  We then compared these future withdrawals to a measure of renewable water supply in 2050, based on a set of 16 global climate model projections of temperature and precipitation, to identify regions that may be stressed by water availability," Roy said. "These future stresses are related to changes in precipitation as well as the likelihood of increased demand in some regions."

The report also is based on climate projections from a set of models used in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change work to evaluate withdrawals related to renewable water supply.

Water withdrawal will grow by 25 percent in many areas of the United States, including the arid Arizona-New Mexico area, the populated areas in the South Atlantic region, Florida, the Mississippi River basin, and Washington, D.C. and surrounding regions, the analysis projects.


Nor Any Drop to Drink

 In the many places where water is scarce, people show great ingenuity in getting it: collecting and keeping what little rain falls, drilling wells or—if they can afford it—removing salt from seawater to produce fresh water for drinking or farming. But ingenuity has its limits, and we may be reaching them.

Today, more than a billion people still cannot get enough safe drinking water to keep them healthy. That kind of water scarcity isn't just about too little rain—it's a problem of politics, infrastructure and sustainable use. 

<<<>>> All Earth's lakes and rivers, including the dramatic Godafoss waterfall in northern Iceland, make up less than 1/50th of 1 percent of the water on the planet.  Photo by Craig Chesek

Not Enough

What do you think of as "enough" water? Enough to avoid feeling thirsty? Enough to take a long shower every day? Water experts say the minimum needed to meet the basic human needs of drinking, cooking and hygiene is 20 liters (five gallons) of clean water per person per day. It's far from enough to ensure health and well-being-just enough to get by. For comparison, that's about the contents of an average water cooler.

Yet even that that amount would seem like an abundance to the many people on Earth living under conditions of extreme water scarcity. Those people routinely have less than five liters (1.3 gallons) a day available for use. How much is that? Less than one flush of a low-flush toilet.  Read more ... (American Museum of Natural History) 


A Clean Water Crisis

The water you drink today has likely been around in one form or another since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, hundreds of millions of years ago.

While the amount of freshwater on the planet has remained fairly constant over time—continually recycled through the atmosphere and back into our cups—the population has exploded. This means that every year competition for a clean, copious supply of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and sustaining life intensifies.

Water scarcity is an abstract concept to many and a stark reality for others.  Read more ... (National Geographic)

What is the water cycle?

The water cycle describes the existence and movement of water on, in, and above the Earth. Earth's water is always in movement and is always changing states, from liquid to vapor to ice and back again.

The water cycle has been working for billions of years and all life on Earth depends on it continuing to work. Read more ... (USGS)


Experts call for hike in global water prices


World Bank and OECD say water is a finite resource that must be valued at a higher price in order to repair old supply systems and build new ones

    * Juliette Jowit in Paris
    * guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 27 April 2010 17.32 BST

Major economies are pushing for substantial increases in the price of water around the world as concern mounts about dwindling supplies and rising population.

With official UN figures showing that 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water and more than double that number do not have proper sanitation, increases in prices will be – and in some countries are already proving to be – hugely controversial.

However experts argue that as long as most countries provide huge subsidies for water it will not be possible to change the wasteful habits of consumers, farmers and industry, nor to raise the investment needed to repair old supply systems and build new ones. And price rises can be managed so that they do not penalise the poorest.

Last Friday, the World Bank held a high-level private meeting about water in New York, at which higher prices were discussed. Days before that the OECD, which represents the world's major economies, issued three water reports calling for prices to rise. "Putting a price on water will make us aware of the scarcity and make us take better care of it," said Angel Gurría, the OECD secretary-general. It has also been a key theme at this week's meeting of industry leaders in Paris, hosted by Global Water Intelligence.

The discussion at the World Bank was raised by Lars Thunell, chief executive officer of the International Finance Corporation. "Everyone said water must be somehow valued: whether you call it cost, or price, or cost recover," said Usha Rao-Monari, senior manager of the IFC's infrastructure department. "It's not an infinite resource, and anything that's not an infinite resource must be valued."

Concern about dwindling water supplies has been rising with growing populations and economies. And with climate change altering rainfall patterns, experts warn that unless changes are made, up to half the world's population could live in areas without sustainable clean water to meet their daily needs.

Read more ...


2010 America's Most Endangered Rivers

The Endangered Upper Delaware River Needs Your Help

The Upper Delaware River provides drinking water to 17 million people across Pennsylvania and New York. However, this clean water source is threatened by natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale, where chemicals injected into the ground create untreatable toxic wastewater. Until a thorough study of these critical impacts is completed, the Delaware River Basin Commission must not issue permits that will allow gas drilling in this watershed. In addition, Congress must pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 to help protect all rivers within the Marcellus Shale region.



FLOW - For Love Of Water

FLOW is Irena Salina’s award-winning documentary investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century – The World Water Crisis.

Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel.

Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question “CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?”

Beyond identifying the problem, FLOW also gives viewers a look at the people and institutions providing practical solutions to the water crisis and those developing new technologies, which are fast becoming blueprints for a successful global and economic turnaround.

Watch the trailer:  http://www.flowthefilm.com/trailer