Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

April 11, 2007

Kazakhs get loan to save Aral Sea

Filed under: Aral Sea,Water Diversion,Water Wars — nemo @ 7:21 pm

From the BBC Asia-Pacific:

The Kazakhstan government has secured a multi-million dollar loan from the World Bank to help save the Aral Sea.

The money will be used to implement the second stage of a project aimed at saving the northern part of the sea.

The United Nations has said the disappearance of the Aral is the worst man-made environmental disaster.

But this new project could mean that at least part of the Aral – once the world’s fourth largest inland body of water – will be saved.

It is an ambitious project aimed at reversing one of the world’s worst environmental disasters.

See a summary of the Aral Sea on the left sidebar.

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December 10, 2006

Lake Victoria (2nd largest lake behind Superior) is dropping fast

Filed under: Aral Sea,Great Lakes News,Water Wars — nemo @ 11:32 pm

Many news sites including SE Florida’s Herald Tribune have carried this story about the dramatic reduction in lake levels in Lake Victoria:

At 27,000 square miles, the size of Ireland, Victoria is the greatest of Africa’s Great Lakes — the biggest freshwater body after Lake Superior. And it has dropped fast, at least six feet in the past three years, and by as much as a half-inch a day this year before November rains stabilized things.

The outflow through two hydroelectric dams at Jinja is part of the problem — a tiny part, says the Uganda government, or half the problem, say environmentalists. But much of what is happening to Victoria and other lakes across the heart of Africa is attributable to years of drought and rising temperatures, conditions that starve the lakes of inflowing water and evaporate more of the water they have.

And the African map abounds with other, less startling examples, from Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, getting half the inflow it once did, to the great Lake Tanganyika south of here, whose level dropped over five feet in five years.

Each troubled lake is a complex story.

There are 30 million people living in the Lake Victoria basin, about the same that live in the Great Lakes basin (33 million). Like our Great Lakes basin, Lake Victoria is a vital source — of livelihoods and food, of water, of transportation, of electric power.

Read the whole story for an examination of causes. You’ll find the usual ones in the list: hydroelectric dams, irrigation, and water diversions. There’s also climate change discussed for about a third of the article and that’s too bad. Climate change is too often used as an excuse for not taking action; i.e., it’s the weather, we can’t do anything about that, let’s just watch the lake dry up. It would be too bad if local initiatives to stem the drastic water loss were delayed.

Think globally but act locally!

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December 3, 2006

Global Water Crisis Worsening

Filed under: Aral Sea,Water Wars — nemo @ 10:29 am

The World Bank has said that the scarcity of freshwater is likely to be one of the major factors interfering with economic development in the coming decades.

A third of the world’s population lives in "water-stressed" countries. Cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta, and Mexico City have heavily overdrawn from their groundwater aquifers. Hydrologists say large areas of northern China and Africa, and parts of the Middle East, India, Mexico, and North America are on the brink of severe water shortages.

"As a result, now 30 years on, we’re growing twice as much food but we’re using three times as much water to do it," says Fred Pearce, Environmental Consultant with the U.K. based New Scientist magazine. "The current generation of crops we’ve got are very thirsty indeed."

While researching his book When the Rivers Run Dry , Pearce traveled the world to investigate the fresh water situation. He discovered that dozens of the earth’s great rivers are running dry before they reach the sea, including the Colorado and the Rio Grande in the United States, the Nile in Egypt, the Yellow River in China, the Indus in Pakistan, the Murray in Australia, the Jordan in the Middle East, and the Oxus in Central Asia. From an interview, Pearce said:

The two biggest per capita water users on the planet are two near-desert states: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. These two former Soviet republics in central Asia are the countries responsible for emptying the Aral Sea, once the world’s fourth largest inland sea but now a wasteland of endless and largely unexplored desert, by decanting the waters of the Amu Darya river onto their cotton fields. Their water crisis is major — and now.

Pearce says "water wars" could easily be seen in the future unless action is taken, as many of the world’s major rivers run through several countries. Egypt has threatened war on any country that takes water from the Nile without its permission, and India has been wrangling with Bangladesh over the Ganges, and with Pakistan over the Indus. The British Foreign Office has identified water as one of the most probable sources of future conflicts in Central Asia.

November 10, 2006

Great Lakes could be region of troubled waters, writer warns

Filed under: Aral Sea,Water Wars — nemo @ 12:34 pm

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an interview with author Peter Annin about his timely book The Great Lakes Water Warsabout the looming issues surrounding water diversion from the Great Lakes:

The title is trying to convince people to read a book that they otherwise might not read, and the water diversion issue in the Great Lakes basin is the spotted owl issue of this region – very polarizing, very bitter, and for the people who have their opinions about this issue, they are very strongly held.

Q. Do you see Wisconsin as a future battleground?

A. There is no doubt southeast Wisconsin is the front lines in the Great Lakes water wars because so many communities there are sitting on either contaminated or declining – or both – groundwater resources. This is where the next forays into this water war are going to take place. We’ve seen it with Waukesha. We’ve seen it with New Berlin, and we saw it in 1989 with Pleasant Prairie.

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