Cities need to safeguard water sources
The question is no longer just whether climate change will kill us, but also whether climate change will make us kill each other.
Almost 25 percent of armed conflicts in ethnically divided countries occur around the same time as climate-related disasters. This is the main take-away of a new study by researchers that adds crucial data to a debate that's been simmering for several years: Is there evidence (PDF) that ties war and civil unrest to the changing climate? Another finding directly applies to this and humanity's key climate change choke points: food and water. Over the three decades ending in 2010, 9 percent of wars took place in the wake of heat waves or droughts.
The water level in Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, had plunged to less than a third of normal by the end of last year. Then came the El Niño rainfall, which by April had tripled the volume of water in the lake. The story is similar in Trinity Lake, part of the same network of federal projects in the far northern portion of the state that regulate the flow of water to the Sacramento River on its journey south toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay.
In the northern Sierra, water levels were also perilously low in the state’s second-largest reservoir, Lake Oroville on the Feather River. But snowmelt in that region has revived the lake and given some relief to the State Water Project, which also controls the water that eventually finds its way down the Sacramento River – and into the delta and the California Aqueduct, down the San Joaquin Valley, over the Tehachapi Mountains and into Southern California. If only it were that simple.
For the next two months, the news from Lake Mead could sound like a broken record.
The nation’s largest man-made reservoir slipped to a new record low sometime after 7 p.m. Wednesday, and forecasters from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expect see its surface drop another 2 feet through the end of June.
The latest dip into record-low territory comes as officials in Nevada, Arizona and California consider a new deal to prop up the declining lake by giving up some of their Colorado River water.
But some river advocates argue that those voluntary cuts could be rendered meaningless by proposed water developments that will further sap the overdrawn and drought-stricken river before it ever reaches Lake Mead.
Gary Wockner is executive director of Save the Colorado, a nonprofit conservation group based in Fort Collins, Colorado. He said the first round of cuts proposed by Nevada and Arizona would leave an extra 200,000 acre-feet of water in the lake, while the river system as a whole stands to lose approximately 250,000 acre-feet under new diversion projects being planned in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.
“At the same time the agencies in the lower basin are discussing cuts, the agencies in the upper basin are working to suck more water out of the river,” Wockner said. “It’s a zero-sum game.”
As the U.S. labor market continues to gain momentum, concerns over wage stagnation and income inequality persist, especially at a regional level. In response, many public, private, and civic leaders across a variety of metropolitan areas are forging new collaborations and launching innovative strategies to support greater economic opportunity. Infrastructure investment represents a key priority in this respect, whether aimed at boosting transportation access, increasing broadband adoption, strengthening freight connectivity, or improving water quality.
Arizona, California and Nevada negotiators are moving toward a major agreement triggering cuts in Colorado River water deliveries to Southern and Central Arizona to avert much more severe cuts in the future.
As state water officials now envision the agreement, it would also ultimately require California to cut its use of river water. That’s despite a 48-year-old law that says the Central Arizona Project must relinquish all its supply during shortages before California loses any
The California drought is not over. The great hope for major replenishment of California's surface and groundwater supplies — the “Godzilla” El Niño — has failed thus far to live up to its super-sized hype, delivering only average amounts of rain and snow, primarily to the northern half of the state.
Average, however, is welcome. Average means that snowpack is visible atop the Sierra, water levels are rising in many reservoirs and a drought-fatigued public is getting a little emotional relief after enduring one “hottest-ever, driest ever” winter after another.
Average also means the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, California's two major north-south water transfer aqueducts, can increase surface water deliveries to farmers and to Southern California cities in 2016, which will reduce groundwater pumping across the state in the months to come.
But, unfortunately, average is no drought-buster.
El Niño has brought much-needed rain back to California, but this doesn’t mean we should stop talking about water policy as the state can quickly veer back into drier conditions. Dealing with the problem that lies at the heart of the water crisis now will help ensure the state is able to prosper through the toughest times, because the state has plenty of water — it just uses it in very wasteful ways.
Some 1 billion people in Asia could be without water by 2050, according to new research.
A group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says there is a "high risk of severe water stress" across large patches of Asia, home to a big chunk of the world's population.
The primary driver of this water stress will not necessarily be climate change, according to the study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS One.
Tuesday is World Water Day, an annual celebration started as part of a United Nations campaign to raise awareness about water scarcity and safety issues around the world. But while water covers almost three-fourths of the Earth’s surface, it makes up a small portion of the global conversation.
Few people realize the important role water plays in our daily energy use, or the energy required to heat, treat, and supply water. Powering one 60-watt bulb for 12 hours a day over the course of a year can require 3,000 to 6,000 gallons of water — enough to fill a large tanker truck. Meanwhile, the electricity used for water treatment can be as much as one-third of a city’s energy bill.
Most companies’ value chains are heavily dependent on water and energy resources. Automobile manufacturers, for example, create products that rely on metals, chemicals, oil, and gas, which are among the most energy- and water-intensive industries. Others, including technology and telecommunications companies, are major customers of — and suppliers to — those industries. Almost everyone has some skin in this game.
For many westerners, concerns over the future of water are as important as the economy and unemployment, according to results from Colorado College's 2016 Conservation in the West poll.
The sixth annual State of the Rockies Project poll of thousands of residents in seven western states shows many people fear for the future of water in the West. The sentiment might come from a change in national economics and a rash of news about drought, said Eric Perramond, the director of CC's State of the Rockies.
"I would say that the concerns for water use now equal and just barely exceed concern about unemployment. And that's not unexpected given the economic recovery," Perramond said. "(And) like most Americans, we tend to pay more attention when something is in our face."
Conducted through phone calls to 2,800 people, the poll also gauged public opinion on federal public lands, another hot topic in the West where a Sagebrush-style rebellion in Oregon broke out in protest of federal ownership. The poll indicated public opinion seems to favor certain public lands remaining under federal oversight.
FRIANT, Calif. — Californians suffering through the fourth year of a punishing drought have a new worry. With fierce storms predicted for the winter, they are bracing for floods by stockpiling sandbags and rushing to buy insurance.
Yet those who need water the most, farmers, are in a poor position to take advantage of any deluge. If El Niño floods pour into the Central Valley, the farmers will inevitably watch millions of gallons of water flow to the sea.
This state, forward-looking on other environmental issues, has been stymied for decades over how to upgrade its plumbing system, an immense but aging network of reservoirs and canals that move water from the mountainous north to the drier south.
Whatever the conclusion of COP21, adapting to climate change will only become more urgent, as its impacts become harsher. These impacts are, and will be, felt primarily through water: rising sea-levels, dwindling snowpack, droughts, and floods.
As countries all over the world grapple with these challenges, there’s been a lot of talk about innovative water-saving approaches, such as desalination, recycling, novel irrigation systems for farmers, and conservation tools for homes. But there’s another variable in the equation when its comes to adapting water use to climate change, and that’s storage—how we hold onto water when it’s available, so that supplies meet demand in unsteady times.
Building more dams and reservoirs is probably the first solution that comes to mind. Especially in the last century, they’ve been the primary way that the U.S.—and many other countries like China, India, and South Africa—have collected water. By providing a steady stream of water and electricity to cities and farmers, dams and reservoirs have buttressed economic and population growth all over the world.
But that’s once they’re already built. Penning up rivers for human gain comes at tremendous costs. Dams interfere with the natural direction of waterbodies and often devastate the wildlife dependent on those flow. And especially when compared to their enormous financial burden, the capacity of dams to supply humans with water is often pretty limited.
Few places would benefit more from a winter of El Niño-driven rainstorms than this massive, rapidly depleting reservoir in the desert 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
On Thursday, a new federal forecast said El Niño is continuing to strengthen, with experts saying it's on track to produce potentially record rainfall.
The Owens lake bed lies between the Sierra Nevada to the west and the Inyo Mountains to the east. Spanning 110 square miles, the bed is vast enough that, observed from a helicopter, you cannot make out its shape. (In satellite images, its form looks something like the outline of South America, if South America were melting in the desert heat.) As you fly clockwise around the perimeter, a grid of sorts begins in the north, an ad hoc mosaic that runs the eastern length of the bed and wraps around its southern end. Many of the mosaic pieces are trapezoids, and most are gray plains of dried, cracked earth.
All week, we've been looking at how our relationship to water will likely change in the hotter, drier, more populous California of the year 2040. Today, we look at water rights; who can use water and how much. Much of California's arcane system of water rights stretches back to the Gold Rush. Basically, people who first claimed access to a water source have the first right to use it. It's a seniority based system: older claims trump younger ones when water is scarce.
But can a 19th Century approach to water allocation survive in the 21st Century?
Land degradation, such as a spread of deserts in parts of Africa, costs the world economy trillions of dollars a year and may drive tens of millions of people from their homes, a U.N.-backed study said on Tuesday.
Worldwide, about 52 percent of farmland is already damaged, according to the report by The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD), compiled by 30 research groups around the world.
It estimated that land degradation worldwide cost between $6.3 trillion and $10.6 trillion a year in lost benefits such as production of food, timber, medicines, fresh water, cycling of nutrients or absorption of greenhouse gases.
"One third of the world is vulnerable to land degradation; one third of Africa is threatened by desertification," it said.
Water used in fracking makes up less than 1 percent of total industrial water use nationwide, study finds
Durham, NC - Energy companies used nearly 250 billion gallons of water to extract unconventional shale gas and oil from hydraulically fractured wells in the United States between 2005 and 2014, a new Duke University study finds.
During the same period, the fracked wells generated about 210 billion gallons of wastewater.
Large though those numbers seem, the study calculates that the water used in fracking makes up less than 1 percent of total industrial water use nationwide.
While fracking an unconventional shale gas or oil well takes much more water than drilling a conventional oil or gas well, the study finds that compared to other energy extraction methods, fracking is less water-intensive in the long run.
Water supplies across the Middle East will deteriorate over 25 years, threatening economic growth and national security and forcing more people to move to already overcrowded cities, a new analysis suggests.
As the region, which is home to over 350 million people, begins to recover from a series of deadly heatwaves which have seen temperatures rise to record levels for weeks at a time, the World Resources Institute (WRI) claims water shortages were a key factor in the 2011 Syria civil war.
FOLSOM, Calif. — Evert W. Palmer has a vision for this city famous for its state prison: 10,200 new homes spread across the rolling hills to the south, bringing in a flood of new jobs, new business and 25,000 more people.
Yes, Mr. Palmer, the city manager, is well aware that Folsom Lake, the sole source of water for this Gold Rush outpost near Sacramento, is close to historically low levels, and stands as one of the most disturbing symbols of the four-year drought that has gripped this state. And that Folsom is under orders to reduce its water consumption by 32 percent as part of mandatory statewide urban cutbacks.
The Texas Water Development Board is poised to approve nearly $4 billion in financing for dozens of projects to increase water supplies across the state, and a handful to promote conservation. But even environmental groups are praising the board for embracing every conservation project that sought state help, which they hope will inspire even more local water utilities to dip into a new pool of state money for water-related projects.
From pipelines to a seawater desalination plant feasibility study, the agency's staff is asking the board to approve financing for 32 water-related projects Thursday, doling out $1 billion within the next year and another $2.9 billion over the next decade. Cities as small as Marfa and as large as Houston are on the list, and several entities are slated to receive help with multiple projects.
The plans will be the first round of many that receive money from the revolving water fund Texas voters overwhelmingly approved in 2013 with the passage of Proposition 6 — when half the state was in drought. Awards likely will be made annually, according to water board staff.
Bech Bruun, the newly appointed board chairman, said the initial wave of projects — if approved — would be “a big step” toward leveraging the $2 billion the board received into $27 billion of low-interest loans and other financing over the next 50 years to implement the state water plan, a blueprint that spans half a century.The Texas Water Development Board is poised to approve nearly $4 billion in financing for dozens of projects to increase water supplies across the state, and a handful to promote conservation.
But even environmental groups are praising the board for embracing every conservation project that sought state help, which they hope will inspire even more local water utilities to dip into a new pool of state money for water-related projects.
IMF Warns that water is underpriced globally, fostering shortages.
The International Monetary Fund has already declared the world isn’t paying enough to emit greenhouse gases and energy consumption. Now it is worried that water isn’t priced right either.
Governments should be charging consumers higher prices to encourage more sustainable water use and improve access for the poor, the IMF says in its latest staff discussion note. The IMF typically steers clear of issues its sister institution, the World Bank, manages as part of its development mandate. But the world’s emergency lender said the issue is worth the IMF wading into because water challenges affect economic growth and public finances, particularly as amid shortages.
“The IMF can—and should—play a helpful role in ensuring that macroeconomic policies are conducive to sound water management,” the fund economists argue. And, as California’s drought has highlighted in recent months, water isn’t just a developing-country issue.
The Santa Ana River is a robust and beautiful sight these days. Five miles west of the Prado Dam in Yorba Linda, the water has cut a narrow channel in a sandy bed and courses briskly over submerged rocks and tree limbs.
The water is a complicated cocktail that comes from many sources. As it flows 96 miles from its headwaters to the ocean, it provides a glimpse of the future: a picture of water management set into place nearly 50 years ago that can be seen as a model for California's long effort to keep the state from withering away.
Our pilot, David Kunkel, asked me to retrieve his oxygen bottle from under my seat, and when I handed it to him he gripped the plastic breathing tube with his teeth and opened the valve. We had taken off from Boulder that morning, and were flying over Rocky Mountain National Park, about thirty miles to the northwest. We were in a Maule M-7, a single-engine “backcountry” plane, and Kunkel was navigating with the help of an iPad Mini, which was resting on his legs. “People don’t usually think altitude is affecting them,” he said. “But if you ask them to count backward from a hundred by sevens they have trouble.” What struck me at that moment was not how high we were but how low: a little earlier, we had flown within what seemed like hailing distance of the sheer east face of Longs Peak, and now, as Kunkel banked steeply to the right to give a better view of a stream at the bottom of a narrow valley, his wingtip appeared to pass just feet from the jagged declivity beneath. Snow had fallen in the mountains during the night, and I half expected it to swirl up in the plane’s wake.
FRESNO, Calif. — When residents of this parched California city opened their water bills for April, they got what Mayor Ashley Swearengin called “a shock to the system.”
The city had imposed a long-delayed, modest rate increase — less than the cost of one medium latte from Starbucks for the typical household, and still leaving the price of water in Fresno among the lowest across the entire Western United States. But it was more than enough to risk what the mayor bluntly admits could be political suicide.
It wasn’t that long ago,” Ms. Swearengin said, “that people here were fighting the installation of water meters.”
Nearly 15 years ago and 1,000 miles away in Santa Fe, N.M., officials faced a similarly dire predicament when a drought came within a few thousand gallons of leaving the city without enough water to fight fires. But Santa Fe’s response was far more audacious
Authorities in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, recently announced that if current drought conditions persisted, they would be forced to restrict water availability for the city of 20 million to only two days per week. The economic and social implications of such a decision are staggering. One senior water official admitted that residents might have to “get out of São Paulo” in order to bathe.
Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California's winter was as well.
As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too.
California water agencies are on track to satisfy a state mandate to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020. But according to their own projections, that savings won’t be enough to keep up with population growth just a decade later.
A 2009 state law requires urban water agencies to reduce per-capita water consumption 20 percent by 2020, compared with use at the start of the century. Most agencies are on track to reach that goal, and have made even more progress thanks to emergency cuts over the past year triggered by the ongoing drought.
However, by 2030, the data show, these savings will be more than erased by anticipated population growth. According to projections by the water agencies themselves, their total water deliveries will increase 16 percent by 2030 compared to their estimates for 2015.
The water main break that flooded Nowita Place in 2013 wasn't the kind of spectacle that brought TV cameras. Water sprayed a foot in the air through a hole in the buckled asphalt, leaving residents in the Venice neighborhood without water service for hours.
But the break fit an increasingly common pattern for L.A.'s aging waterworks: The pipe was more than 80 years old. It was rusted out. And it was buried in corrosive soil.
About one-fifth of the city's water pipes were installed before 1931 and nearly all will reach the end of their useful lives in the next 15 years. They are responsible for close to half of all water main leaks, and replacing them is a looming, $1-billion problem for the city.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages, the Pakistani government warned this week. A combination of global climate change and local waste and mismanagement have led to an alarmingly rapid depletion of Pakistan’s water supply, said the minister for water and energy, Khawaja Muhammad Asif. “Under the present situation, in the next six to seven years, Pakistan can be a water-starved country,” Mr. Asif said in an interview, echoing a warning that he first issued at a news conference in Lahore this week. The prospect of a major water crisis in Pakistan, even if several years distant, offers a stark reminder of a growing challenge in other poor and densely populated countries that are vulnerable to global climate change.
Around the world cities are creating dramatic water savings with water metres, pressure management, groundwater conservation and more. But is it enough?
From fixing leaks in Johannesburg, to topping up groundwater in Salisbury, to flushing toilets with seawater in Hong Kong, municipalities around the world are working to save water and make their distribution systems more efficient.
The need for action to secure future water supplies is clear enough.
“The issue of water is paramount, and the pressure on cities is increasing,” says Seth Schultz, director of research of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a global network of cities taking action to reduce carbon emissions and climate risks.
Among other things, he cites a recent C40 survey of major cities around the world in which 65% of these municipalities are expecting “substantive risks” to their water supplies. These risks include water scarcity, declining water quality, flooding and an inadequate or ageing water infrastructure.
THOSE of us who live in the United States are fortunate; generally we don’t have to give a lot of thought to the safety of our tap water. This makes our collective experience with water very different from that of hundreds of millions of people across the globe who lack access to clean water.
In the first installment of a series on the threat of water scarcity, Pilita Clark describes the cost to companies. The river Nar, a minor waterway is barely known and at first glance it is hard to understand why anyone would want to have anything to do with it.
Arizona could be forced to cut water deliveries to its two largest cities unless states that tap the dwindling Colorado River find ways to reduce water consumption and deal with a crippling drought, officials of the state’s canal network said Tuesday. The warning comes as the federal Bureau of Reclamation forecasts that Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir that is the network’s sole water source, will fall next month to a level not seen since the lake was first filled in 1938. Officials of the Central Arizona Project, which manages the 336-mile water system, say the two cities, Phoenix and Tucson, could replace the lost water, at least in the short term, by tapping groundwater supplies, lakes and rivers. If they do not reduce consumption, the cuts could be necessary by as early as 2019, according to an analysis by the water project, and officials said that depending on drought conditions, the chances of water cutbacks by 2026 could be as high as 29 percent.
According to Professor Mike Young of Adelaide Australia. Young was the keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted at Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth April 25, sponsored by Water Asset Management, LLC. Young holds a Research Chair in Water and Environmental Policy at the University of Adelaide, and for the past academic year, served as the Gough Whitlam and Malcom Fraser Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard University.
He spoke on Australia’s response to severe water scarcity in his presentation “Is Texas Missing and Opportunity? Lessons From Australia.” The presentation was part of the School of Law’s Water Lecture Series: Perspectives on Law and Policy. Young gave a related presentation April 28 at Texas A&M University in College Station entitled “Allocating and Sharing Water: Lessons From Australia.”
Young described the water entitlement and allocation regime in Australia as akin to holding shares in a corporation. Like shares, water entitlements can be traded within basins and a regulated market helps determine best uses. Moreover, the environment is an equal participant in the Australian system and similarly is allotted shares that are used as deemed appropriate by environmental managers. Young encouraged Texas to understand its water scarcity situation and learn how water can be an investment leading to community prosperity. “Water is so critical to so many Texas businesses. If you get it right, people will come here and prosper,” Young said.
As part of the School of Law and Texas A&M University Water Management and Hydrological Sciences Program’s pursuit of a better water future, this joint series is intended to increase awareness of water challenges facing our state, explore similar challenges plaguing other communities and nations and consider various water management, allocation and conservation strategies from around the world.
Americans have flocked to Texas in search of a piece of the state's booming economy as much of the rest of the country struggled. Now, the state's largest cities are seeing crowded highways, strained water supplies and other pressures that have come with the growth. And Texas politicians—protective of the small-government, low-tax policies many of them believe are at the root of the state's success—are grappling with how to pay the price of prosperity.
Aided by the promise of plentiful employment and a low cost of living, Texas added 1.3 million people from 2010 to 2013, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Lone Star State's population has pushed past 26 million and is projected to reach 40 million by 2050.
Half of the 10 American cities with the largest population increases in the 12 months ended July 1, 2012, were in Texas, according to the Census Bureau. Houston, the nation's fourth-biggest city with about 2.2 million people, added 34,625 residents, second only to New York. Austin added 25,395 and now has some 843,000 residents, more than San Francisco.
The state's outsize growth is a matter of pride for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has touted the "Texas Miracle" as proof that its lower taxes and lighter regulations are effective job creators. Texans paid 7.5% of their income in state and local taxes in 2011, compared with 11.4% in California and 9.2% in Florida, according to the most recent data from the Tax Foundation, a research organization.
But the size and pace of the population spurt is becoming more difficult to manage, presenting public officials with a challenge: How to beef up public infrastructure without straying from their small-government philosophy.
"We are already straining our systems for water, power, schools and roads," says Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter, appointed by Mr. Perry in 2010. "And they'll continue to be stressed unless we invest more heavily."
Farmland is parched. Companies are worried. The global demand for water will soon outstrip supply. What's the solution? Simple, say some business leaders and economists: Make people pay more for the most precious commodity on earth.
Hood, California, is a farming town of 200 souls, crammed up against a levee that protects it from the Sacramento River. The eastern approach from I-5 and the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove is bucolic. Cows graze. An abandoned railroad track sits atop a narrow embankment. Cross it, and the town comes into view: a fire station, five streets, a tiny park. The last three utility poles on Hood-Franklin Road before it dead-ends into town bear American flags.
I've come here because this little patch of land is the key location in Governor Jerry Brown's proposed $25 billion plan to fix California's troubled water transport system. Hood sits at the northern tip of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a network of manmade islands and channels constructed on the ruins of the largest estuary from Patagonia to Alaska. Since the 1950s, the Delta has served as the great hydraulic tie between northern and southern California: a network of rivers, tributaries, and canals deliver runoff from the Sierra Mountain Range's snowpack to massive pumps at the southern end of the Delta. From there, the water travels through aqueducts to the great farms of the San Joaquin Valley and to the massive coastal cities. The Delta, then, is not only a 700,000-acre place where people live and work, but some of the most important plumbing in the world. Without this crucial nexus point, the current level of agricultural production in the southern San Joaquin Valley could not be sustained, and many cities, including the three largest on the West Coast—Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose—would have to come up with radical new water-supply solutions.
THE first rule for staying alive in a desert is not to pour the contents of your water flask into the sand. Yet that, bizarrely, is what the government has encouraged farmers to do in the drought-afflicted south-west. Agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption in California, for example, but only 2% of economic activity. Farmers flood the land to grow rice, alfalfa and other thirsty crops. By one account, over the years they have paid just 15% of the capital costs of the federal system that delivers much of their irrigation water. If water were priced properly, it is a safe bet that they would waste far less of it, and the effects of California’s drought—its worst in recorded history—would not be so severe.
LAKE MEAD, Nev. — The sinuous Colorado River and its slew of man-made reservoirs from the Rockies to southern Arizona are being sapped by 14 years of drought nearly unrivaled in 1,250 years.
The once broad and blue river has in many places dwindled to a murky brown trickle. Reservoirs have shrunk to less than half their capacities, the canyon walls around them ringed with white mineral deposits where water once lapped. Seeking to stretch their allotments of the river, regional water agencies are recycling sewage effluent, offering rebates to tear up grass lawns and subsidizing less thirsty appliances from dishwashers to shower heads.
But many experts believe the current drought is only the harbinger of a new, drier era in which the Colorado’s flow will be substantially and permanently diminished.
Faced with the shortage, federal authorities this year will for the first time decrease the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, from Lake Powell 180 miles upstream. That will reduce even more the level of Lake Mead, a crucial source of water for cities from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and for millions of acres of farmland.
Reclamation officials say there is a 50-50 chance that by 2015, Lake Mead’s water will be rationed to states downstream. That, too, has never happened before.
SAN JOSE, Calif.—Record-low precipitation in 2013 has worsened California's drought, draining reservoirs, forcing farmers to keep fallow thousands of acres of fields and leaving some ski resorts high and dry during the busy holiday season.Urban and agricultural customers, including Southern California's huge Metropolitan Water District, have been told by the state to expect to receive this year, on average, just 5% of the water they historically request, after a year in which rainfall totals hit record lows in many parts of the state. Last year, customers received 35% of requested supply, on average.
It is also mobilizing emergency drought plans to convey water from places that have more abundant supplies to those in need.A drought emergency could be called by Gov. Jerry Brown early in the new year, officials said, following an unusually dry start to the state's rainy season—which usually begins in late October—in addition to two years of drought.
Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the nation, is shrinking drastically—with consequences that could ripple across the West.
More than a decade into a drought that has plagued the Southwest, federal officials for the first time plan a sharp cut in the amount of Colorado River water that flows 360 miles from Lake Powell into Lake Mead. In the year starting Oct. 1, officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Friday, that supply will drop by nearly 10%—roughly equivalent to the annual water usage of about 700,000 families.
The cut will translate into a reduction in hydroelectric power generation in some areas served by the reservoir—Nevada, Arizona and California—and brings the reservoir level close to a federal declaration of a water shortage. Such a declaration would mean that Nevada and Arizona would face having their water allocations cut.
"This drought continues and we can't really tell when it's going to end," said Terry Fulp, director of the bureau's lower Colorado region. "It points out we have to be cautious with all of our water use."
Chairman Udall and members of the Subcommittee, I am Michael Connor, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) at the Department of the Interior (Department). Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee today regarding the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (Study). The Colorado River Basin (Basin) is one of the most critical sources of water in the West. The River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use, for irrigation of nearly 5.5 million acres of land, and also it represents the lifeblood for at least 22 federally recognized Indian tribes (tribes), seven National Wildlife Refuges, four National Recreation Areas, and 11 National Parks. Hydropower facilities along the Colorado River provide more than 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity, helping to meet the power needs of the West and offsetting the use of fossil fuels. The Colorado River is also a vital component in fulfilling Mexico’s agricultural and municipal water needs in Baja California and Sonora. Today, the Colorado River is facing a record drought.
Lester Brown says grain harvests are already shrinking as US, India and China come close to 'peak water'
Wells are drying up and underwater tables falling so fast in the Middle East and parts of India, China and the US that food supplies are seriously threatened, one of the world's leading resource analysts has warned.
As population rises, overpumping means some nations have reached peak water, which threatens food supply, says Lester Brown
Peak oil has generated headlines in recent years, but the real threat to our future is peak water. There are substitutes for oil, but not for water. We can produce food without oil, but not without water.
We drink on average four quarts (4.5 litres) of water per day, in one form or another, but the food we eat each day requires 2,000 quarts of water to produce, or 500 times as much. Getting enough water to drink is relatively easy, but finding enough to produce the ever-growing quantities of grain the world consumes is another matter.
SOMETHING odd happened here last week. It rained.
But the relief, an answer to desperate prayers, is likely to be short-lived. The drought that has gripped much of Texas since the fall of 2010 shows few signs of abating soon. The latest forecasts say that parched West and South Texas will remain dry, and that the state is likely to see above-average temperatures this spring, increasing evaporation from already strained reservoirs. The conditions could lead to severe water restrictions in some parts of the state.
The implications have finally sunk in among lawmakers and business leaders here, who like to boast about the economic appeal of Texas’s low taxes and relaxed regulatory environment: no water equals no business. In a state fabled for its everything-is-bigger mentality, the idea of conserving resources is beginning to take hold. They are even turning sewage into drinking water.
On February 8, 2013, Goldman Sachs (GS), General Electric (GE), and World Resources Institute (WRI) convened a summit on "Water: Emerging Risks & Opportunities."
More than 250 representatives from private sector companies; local, state and federal agencies; investors; as well as non-governmental organizations participated to help address key questions related to the intersection of capital, technology, and policy in meeting the U.S. water challenge.
The event coincided with the Northeast blizzard, Nemo, which brought home the acute impact of weather extremes. Despite the significant undertaking of addressing our nation’s water infrastructure deficit and the considerable economic consequences of extreme drought that has affected more than half the continental U.S., the discussion throughout the day was notably optimistic and highlighted a number of significant opportunities.
After several years of the Great Recession, America’s underground infrastructure – already stretched thin before the economic crash – is rapidly approaching crisis levels, say city respondents to the 15th Annual Underground Construction Municipal Sewer & Water Survey. However, a majority of the survey participants believe that their city’s financial woes bottomed out in 2011 and anticipate the beginning of a slow turnaround late in 2012.
Concrete patches on the canals snaking through Nico Greeff’s vineyards betray constant repairs to an outmoded irrigation system that’s the lifeblood of farming in South Africa’s arid west.
“The water infrastructure is about 60 years old and the lifespan of a surfaced canal is about 40 years,” Greeff, 55, said on his farm near Vredendal, north of Cape Town. “Sometimes there are breakages on the canal system, which interrupts supplies. We can have a lot of damage to our crops.”
Crumbling canals, dams and pipelines and a lack of funds to expand, replace and maintain them threatens to stymie economic growth and efforts to tackle a 25% unemployment rate in Africa’s biggest economy.
Water infrastructure requires investment of R670bn ($76 billion) over the next decade, the Department of Water Affairs said in an Aug. 17 study. That’s almost double the available funding, leaving a gap of R338bn. The report says businesses need to anticipate supply disruptions, higher bills and more regulation in a country that gets less rain than neighbors Namibia and Botswana, famed for their deserts.
South Africa’s platinum and coal industries, two of the country’s top four exporters, are already struggling to secure water supplies for new projects.
“Water is certainly one of the major risks that we look at,” said Paul Skivington, group executive for strategy and risk at Impala Platinum Holdings, the world’s second- largest producer of the precious metal. “It’s not something you can generate. It’s either there or it’s not.”
BY many measurements, this summer’s drought is one for the record books. But so was last year’s drought in the South Central states. And it has been only a decade since an extreme five-year drought hit the American West. Widespread annual droughts, once a rare calamity, have become more frequent and are set to become the “new normal.”
Until recently, many scientists spoke of climate change mainly as a “threat,” sometime in the future. But it is increasingly clear that we already live in the era of human-induced climate change, with a growing frequency of weather and climate extremes like heat waves, droughts, floods and fires.
As predicted by many the coming decades not only are we running short of resources but the warming of the globe will cause even more shortages and migrations of huge populations for survival!
Water management will play an increasingly crucial role in energy globally as well as in the US, experts at Deloitte LLP’s 2012 Washington area energy conference forecast on May 21. Their assessments came as the financial services firm released a report, "No water, no energy, No energy, no water." as the conference got under way at National Harbor outside Washington, DC.
Isn’t it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting?
With a crucial water rights decision already pending, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is asking the state to let it increase by almost 80 percent the amount of groundwater it can draw from rural areas north of Las Vegas.
The reuse of municipal wastewater will be important to meeting future demand for freshwater in the United States, a new report from the National Academy of Sciences says.
Dependable water remains a mirage. The facts of the dispute are not comforting.
If solar energy is eventually going to matter — that is, generate a significant portion of the nation’s electricity — the industry must overcome a major stumbling block, experts say: finding a way to store it for use when the sun isn’t shining.
That challenge seems to be creating an opening for a different form of power, solar thermal, which makes electricity by using the sun’s heat to boil water. The water can be used to heat salt that stores the energy until later, when the sun dips and households power up their appliances and air-conditioning at peak demand hours in the summer.
Jeff Sterba, President and CEO of American Water (NYSE: AWK), the largest publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater company, cited the American Society of Civil Engineers' newest report, Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure as further evidence that public and private sectors must come together to address water challenges in the U.S.
Jeff Sterba, President and CEO of American Water (NYSE: AWK), the largest publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater company, cited the American Society of Civil Engineers' newest report, Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure as further evidence that public and private sectors must come together to address water challenges in the U.S.
Chicago Mayor Emanuel launches 10-year effort to replace 900 miles of century-old water pipe, a water-main-modernization that he promised would be the largest public-works initiative by any city in the country.
This story is part of a special National Geographic News series on global water issues.
Glaciers like those on Vulture Peak in Montana's Glacier National Park are receding around the world, putting critical water supplies at risk.
From the cotton field in rural India to the local rag bin, a typical pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons of water during its life cycle, Levi Strauss & Company says, or enough to fill about 15 spa-size bathtubs. It fears that water shortages caused by climate change may jeopardize the company’s very existence in the coming decades by making cotton too expensive or scarce.
California farmers share water - the challenges and benefits.
Three generations of Al Kalin’s family have worked their 2,000 acres of carrots and sugar beets, wheat and alfalfa for almost a century in the Imperial Valley, a scorching swath of Southern California desert that was unfit for farming until water from the Colorado River was diverted here in 1901.
But now Mr. Kalin and his brother can continue to farm their land, or they can stop farming some of it and earn more than $500 an acre -- more than the market value of a crop like alfalfa -- simply by not using the water needed to nourish those crops. Water saved is sent on to thirsty cities and suburbs to the west: San Diego, Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
There are large-scale desalination projects centralized all up and down the east coast of China,” ERI’s chief executive officer, Thomas S. Rooney Jr., said in an interview. “Our company has the most advanced technology in the entire desalination industry. And one of the beautiful things about China is that they like to adopt the most advanced technologies.”
“You can either fight them or join them, and our philosophy is that China likely is going to be the next big desalination market,” he added. “I would rather develop technology for China in China and take a more open approach than play the secrets game.
This report estimates the economic and job creation impact of a major investment in water infrastructure in the U.S. An investment of $188.4 billion --is the amount necessary, as estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. The $188.4 billion investment, spread equally over the next five years, would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million direct and indirect jobs and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.
The report analyzes the nature and scale of the global water challenge and proposes solutions to close the demand/supply gap. It ranks the solutions on the basis of cost, and produces a "water cost curve," that can be used by policy makers as well as investors, to arrive at low-cost solutions to water security. In-depth studies were conducted in four countries/regions facing challenges in the water sector - China, India, South Africa and Brazil - and in each country, the potential measures to close the gap between demand and supply was evaluated.
Special Report. This paper discusses the impact of water resources in every type of power plant and describes the different aspects of the water-energy nexus.
The 72 year-old, financial analyst Jeremy Grantham, has been noticed for what some call economic doomsday predictions, typically in open letters to investors. He argues that the late-18th-century doomsayer Thomas Malthus was pretty much right but just had bad timing with his predictions about unsustainable population growth on the eve of the hydrocarbon-fueled Industrial Revolution. Grantham is saying the same thing that both economists and scientists have been saying for decades and basically reaching the same conclusions, with updated numbers.
Grantham asserts that this already overpopulated world will vie increasingly for scarce resources over the next century. Further, capitalism, he says, is ill-equipped to deal with its impact on the earth. The contest over the world’s commodities is just beginning, Grantham says, and a Malthusian, run-out-of-resources economics could eventually take hold.
With China’s late-2014 completion of the Zangmu dam, the largest hydropower dam on the Brahmaputra River (known in Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo River), many Indian and international security experts have been warning of the coming of “water wars” between the two countries.
Those who worry about this scenario have three major arguments. First, China will face serious water shortages in the future and so will begin to divert water flow from the Brahmaputra River to its dry north. Second, this would be catastrophic for downstream countries. Third, China’s unwillingness to sign any binding agreement with downstream countries over trans-boundary rivers is evidence of Beijing’s insistence on absolute sovereignty over water, to the significant detriment of downstream countries.
While water issues could well emerge as one of the major threats to Sino-India relations given rapidly rising demand, competing water usage, and threats from climate change, the water wars narrative still seems to be premature. Read More