World's Water Problems

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World's Water Problems

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sun Sep 05, 2010 3:33 pm

Experts, Industry Leaders, Decision Makers Meet to Discuss World's Water Problems


A polluted river

This Sunday, analysts, industry leaders and decision markers from around the world gather in Stockholm to discuss water problems at an annual event called World Water Week. The lack of access to safe drinking water leads to the deaths of millions of people each year.

There's plenty of water - at least in some parts of the world. In Pakistan, far more than anyone wants, just the opposite in Russia, suffering lately from hot weather, fire and drought.

Clean, safe drinking water is another matter. Even with modern advances, a great many people do not have nearly enough, or safe sanitation facilities.

Katherine Bliss is the deputy director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Around one billion people do not have access to an improved water drinking source, whether it is in their home, or even something in their own courtyard or down the street, but a place where they can get reliable and safe drinking water to use for themselves for their cooking and family consumption," said Katherine Bliss.

Each year, 3.6 million die of water born diseases. UNICEF says 5,000 children die each day from diarrhea.

Anders Berntell is the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, the sponsor of World Water Week.

"By sheer numbers this out weighs all the other catastrophes and wars that we have on our planet," said Anders Berntell. "I think it's a tragedy that something that is so easy to fix, still has this enormous effect."

Berntell says it is not just developing countries that grapple with water quality issues.

"One of the emerging challenges that we are facing is the effuse spreading of chemicals, in particular from our households," he said.

Steven Solomon is the author of the book Water: the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization. He says the importance of water is an issue that often is hidden in plain view.

"We don't recognize how much water that it takes to run the kind of society that we live in," said Steven Solomon. "I'll sometimes say, 'Water is taking over oil as the scarcest critical resource.' In a sense, it has always been the most important resource."

Climate change, increasingly crowded cities, industrialization and agriculture all have an impact on water resources and quality.

Again Katherine Bliss of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"There seems to be on the one hand, greater needs per capita for water in areas where population has been growing and perhaps in areas that are dependent on ground water supplies," she said. "We are seeing those diminished or contaminated. And yet by the same token increasing flood cycles whether related to hurricanes, extreme weather events and other kinds of challenges."

Meanwhile, as the flood waters begin to recede in some areas of Pakistan, health officials say the threat from water borne disease and a lack of clean, fresh water present new challenges. The U.N. says 3.6 million hectares of arable land and 1.2 million livestock are already lost. Some 1,600 people are dead - millions of others homeless.

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Re: World's Water Problems

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:25 am

Why water matters

Author: Quentin Grafton, Crawford School, ANU

Despite its importance, water rarely receives the attention it deserves, at least in rich countries, except when there is too much (floods) or too little (droughts) available. Indeed, many people do not even know how much they pay for water which, by weight, is by far the most important natural resource they consume. In high income countries, such as Australia, the average household consumption per capita is 285 L per day or 104 KL or Cu.M per year. Even on a global scale, water withdrawal by humans is substantial and represents about 30 per cent of total accessible runoff and is increasing as global water consumption rose over sixfold in the 20th century.


The lack of attention to water, at least in rich countries, is because many people pay very little for it — it accounts for less than 1 percent of household budgets in wealthy nations — and it is readily available 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. The contrast to poor countries is stark. The United Nations Development Programme estimates that there are over one billion people with inadequate access to water and over two billion who lack basic sanitation. Huge differences exist because of geography (some places are much drier than others), size of the population and income (richer people can afford to access more water and treat it to a higher quality).

Benin — a West African country — has an estimated annual per capita withdrawal of 15 kL of water while the US withdrawal is 1,600 kL. Thus, on average, every American uses, for all purposes, more water in a week than a resident of Benin does in one year. Differences in water consumption are also reflected in terms of water quality. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that about 3,800 children die every day — almost exclusively in poor countries ― as a direct result of unsafe drinking water and lack of proper sanitation. Despite these alarming statistics, water access has increased dramatically over the past few decades with the proportion of those with access to potable water more than doubling between 1970 and 2000. If the targets of the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 are met then 1.5 billion more people will benefit from improved water supply, but this will require very large investments in water infrastructure to be realised.

A growing world population expected to rise by more than one billion in the next 50 years, even under with low growth forecasts, will exacerbate water shortages. Climate change will also have important impacts on water supplies and will make some dry areas even drier, such as south-east Australia. Increased evaporation and transpiration associated with higher temperatures will make it increasingly difficult to adapt to these changes. To the extent that climate becomes more variable with greater extremes of rainfall and temperature existing chronic water shortages may become acute in low-rainfall periods. Apart from the difficulties to water users, this will impose increasing costs on the environment as consumption will rise as a proportion of the amount of water available.

Technical and supply ‘fixes’ can help mitigate increased water scarcity and include water diversions from wetter to drier areas, improved water conservation and water efficiency, especially in agriculture that accounts for about 70% of global water use, and ‘drought proof’ water supplies in the form of desalination and potable water recycling. Such fixes, however, pose their own problems. Diverting water from one area or catchment to another, as is happening in China, is expensive and in many places of the world there are few locations where water is available without imposing substantial costs on users from where the water is being supplied, and also on the environment. Improved technical water efficiency that reduces seepage will also lower return flows and thus, the amount of water available to downstream users and for the environment. Desalination is costly and only economically viable in coastal, urban areas where consumers can afford to pay high volumetric water prices.

The supply approach to water scarcity is not sufficient, and in some cases may not be necessary. Changing water demand and consumption practices, however, is required. A key way to improve water outcomes is to ensure that water prices reflect the value of water in use, and also non-use. In many parts of the world this will require a substantial increase in the price charged to users because water consumers often do not pay the full cost of water delivery and large subsidies are often provided to farmers in the form of below cost pricing for water. These subsidies are very large and are estimated to be as much as US$60 billion per year globally.

Higher per unit charges of water will encourage water conservation and efficiency, and also investment to increase and improve existing supplies. Increased volumetric prices may seem inequitable, but it is the poorest in poor countries that have limited or no access to potable, piped water and suffer the most from the inadequate and underpriced water services. Thus, paradoxically, water reform that includes higher prices and promotes greater access and better delivery coupled with ways to ease the burden of higher water charges for the poorest households can be a genuine ‘win-win’.

The coming decades will see a fundamental shift in how water is managed. Business as usual will simply not be good enough to face the challenges of increasing water security. Careful consideration of both the supply and demand, and use and non-use, of water is required. Anything less than an integrated approach to water reform will not deliver the outcomes we need in a water-scarce world.

This essay borrows from the introduction to Economics of Water Resources, edited by R. Quentin Grafton, published by Edward Elgar, 2009, and is also featured in the APEC Economies Newsletter January/February 2010 edition.

R. Quentin Grafton is Director, Centre for Water Economics, Environment, and Policy (CWEEP), Crawford School of Economics and Government, at the Australian National University.

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Re: World's Water Problems

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:31 am

Global water security: Japan should play key role
Author: Yoichi Funabashi, Asahi Shimbun

The flooding in Pakistan has devastated much of the nation, from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest to regions downriver of the Indus, which cuts a north-south path through Punjab province in central Pakistan and Sindh province in the south.


More than 1,600 people have died and some 20 million people have been displaced. The flood damage has affected about one-fifth of Pakistan’s territory. The United Nations described the damage as ‘exceeding the combined effects of the 2004 Sumatra tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.’

Punjab province is Pakistan’s breadbasket, but farmers in the region have lost their harvest, livestock and homes. Irrigation canals, bridges, power lines and roads have been severed, rendering them useless.

Although the Swat region in north-western Pakistan is a tourist destination noted for its scenic beauty, it is also the scene of fierce fighting for control between Islamic radicals and the Pakistani military. Local residents tried to avoid the fighting in the past, but because of the flooding they have now had to abandon their homes.

The US military has dispatched helicopters to the region to rescue isolated residents. However, it is permitting local residents to board the helicopters only after it subjects them to two body inspections in a search for weapons and explosives.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said: ‘If we are unable to respond adequately, there is the possibility of food riots. That would only play into their hands.’ By ‘they’, Qureshi was referring to Islamic radicals who would not hesitate to resort to terrorism.

I recently received an e-mail from Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, which specialises in conflict prevention. Ahmed said in the e-mail that emergency assistance from the international community should be distributed directly to those affected by the flooding in the form of cash through Islamabad and provincial governments to ‘negate militant propaganda.’

Before the flooding, there was a long dry spell. Mohenjo-daro, known for its ancient ruins, saw the mercury rise to nearly 54 degrees. Farmers in villages across Sindh province held demonstrations to demand more water. Those very same villages have borne the brunt of the heaviest damage from the recent flooding.

It is close to impossible to prove that any single natural phenomenon is directly related to global warming. In the case of floods, various factors such as overdevelopment and deforestation come into play in a complicated manner.

Qureshi described the latest flooding as a ‘perfect storm,’ created through the concurrence of unusually high rainfall in the north, monsoons and the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

Further global warming will lead to climate irregularities and unusual weather. In South and East Asia, those trends could lead to a faster melting of the Himalayan glaciers that now cover the Tibetan plateau.

Pakistan will be unable to maintain its level of civilisation without the water from the Indus river and its tributaries. But the water from the Indus is used for agriculture, industry and daily living to an extent that leaves it all but dry near Karachi before the river can flow into the Arabian Sea.

In a report, the World Bank warned that ‘over the next 100 years, (Pakistan) could face the dangerous prospect of seeing the water levels of its rivers decrease by 30 to 40 percent.’ Major rivers such as the Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Chang, Yangtze and Amu Darya, all have their origins in the Himalayan glaciers.

Moreover, disputes over water are escalating among nations that lie along those rivers. In particular, India and Pakistan have constantly been in conflict over water.

Anti-Indian sentiment in Pakistan naturally heightened after the recent flooding because India released water from its dams up river because of fears the dams would collapse.

India is also locking horns with China over water rights. Although both nations are seeking to become the superpowers of the 21st century, their weak point is water.

Water is the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of the two nations, according to Steven Solomon, author of Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization.

China is strengthening its offensive in controlling Tibet not only because of sovereignty issues, but apparently also for control of water resources in Asia. Pakistan’s key geopolitical position will determine the future of Afghanistan. It also possesses nuclear weapons. Because of Pakistan’s long regional rivalry with India, there is the constant fear of conflict erupting.

One of the largest risks of climate change may be a possible conflict over the water from the melting of the Himalayan glaciers that feed the world’s two most populous nations, China and India, as well as Pakistan, which will be the fourth in the world in the future.

The Earth is often referred to as the water planet because 70 percent of its surface is covered by water. However, only 3 percent of that water is potable, and two-thirds of that fresh water is trapped within glaciers. Twenty percent of the world’s population do not have sustained access to safe drinking water and 40 percent do not ordinarily utilise appropriate sanitation facilities.

Palestinians and Israelis live next to each other and obtain their drinking water from the Jordan river. However, Palestinians only receive about one-fourth of the water that every Israeli receives.

Humans cannot live without water.

In that sense, everyone is equal. But, there is extreme inequality in the location of water, access to water and the quality and quantity of water that is available on a daily basis. There is also a growing gap between the haves and have-nots in terms of water.

Water is also closely tied to food, energy and climate change. In that sense, water is a key component of national security. If the 20th century witnessed the rise and fall of nations over oil, the 21st century could be one in which the rise and fall of nations is determined by water.

While oil ultimately can be replaced by other resources, the same is not true for water.

In 2004, the United Nations established the Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. The current chairman is Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Its main tasks are to promote reaching Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation as well as to heighten public interest in water issues.

Because Japan also lies in the monsoon climate region, it is also a high-risk nation in terms of water, vulnerable to drought and flooding. For that very reason, Japan has polished its management skills in the comprehensive use of water resources, through unified control of water levels and water quality, efficient water usage, reuse of sewage-treated water and protection of the ecosystem.

Those skills have been so widely accepted that sabo, a Japanese term originally meant as measures to prevent landslides due to rain, has become widely accepted in English by international experts.

The dispatch of Ground Self-Defence Force helicopters to provide humanitarian assistance to the flooded regions of Pakistan has been welcomed by local communities. Japan should expand diplomatic relief support for major natural disasters abroad.

Once the situation in Pakistan becomes more settled, Japan should move toward cooperation in national security over water through such measures as comprehensive water resources management, early warning systems for natural disasters and construction of water infrastructure.

An effort should be made to seek out a water resources diplomacy that covers not only Pakistan, but neighbouring Afghanistan as well.

On August 31, the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan held a meeting that brought together such experts as Tetsu Nakamura, who heads the nongovernmental organisation Peshawar-kai, to consider what assistance could be provided to Afghanistan.

At the meeting, Nakamura touched upon the importance of providing support for water usage and said, ‘To provide food assistance requires water. The key points are flood control, irrigation and water for agricultural use. Water is the lifeline of Afghanistan.’

Japan should share with the world its past efforts and the lessons learned in the course of its comprehensive management of water resources.

Yoichi Funabashi is editor in chief, Asahi Shimbun.

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