Managing rain key to eradicating poverty

Without improved management of rainwater, the future development goals currently being discussed are unrealistic, say leading scientists at World Water Week.

World Water WeekScientists and experts joining the 2014 World Water Week in Stockholm are deeply concerned that sustainable management of rainwater in dry and vulnerable regions is missing in the goals and targets proposed by the UN Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on poverty, hunger and freshwater.

Some of the world’s leading water, environment and resilience scientists and experts have published a call to the United Nations (UN), saying that rain, and the way it is managed, is what will determine whether hunger and poverty can be eradicated in the world.

Unpredictable rainfall a problem

More than two billion people live in some of the driest and poorest areas of the world, also home to the fastest growing populations. These regions depend on highly variable, unreliable and unpredictable rainfall.

When it rains, it pours, making agriculture extremely challenging. However, over time these areas do receive enough rain, and with better methods of using the rainwater, food production could be drastically improved.

Add a target on rainwater management

Attempting to eradicate global poverty and hunger without addressing the productivity of rain “is a serious and unacceptable omission.” The SDGs, as currently proposed, “cannot be achieved without a strong focus on sustainable and resilient management of rainfall for resilient food production,” the scientists say.

The signatories call upon the UN to add a target on rainwater management to any Hunger Goal in the Sustainable Development Goals, which are to be agreed on in 2015. 

Signatories
The signatories of the declaration are:

  • Malin Falkenmark, Stockholm International Water Institute, Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • Torgny Holmgren, Stockholm International Water Institute
  • Mohamed Ait Kadi, Global Water Partnership
  • Tony Allan, King’s College, Stockholm Water Prize Laureate 2008
  • Naty Barak, Netafim, Stockholm Industry Water Award winner 2013
  • Jeremy Bird, International Water Management Institute
  • Fred Boltz, Rockefeller Foundation
  • Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute
  • David Grey, University of Oxford
  • Jerson Kelman, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Roberto Lenton, University of Nebraska
  • Julia Marton-Lefévre, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Source: Infrastructure news

Future water supplies lie in demand management

By: Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor (Founder of Water Rhapsody Conservation Systems and winner of a WWF Green Trust Award)

Water is in the news again, but never has the situation been as dire as today.  Quite simply – Cape Town is out of water. Any new augmentation schemes are not sustainable.

The following are proposed non-sustainable schemes:

  • Damming the Lourens River at Somerset West:  This will add less than one percent capacity to our beleaguered situation.  There are no more rivers that can possibly be dammed to provide any more water for Cape Town.
  • Extracting water from the berg by pumping to the Voëlvlei Dam:  The well-respected head of the Freshwater Research Unit at UCT, Prof Jenny Day, commented that this was a “no-no”.  Already the salinity of the Lower Berg River is rising to unacceptable standards, and any further extraction will make this worse.  The situation of the Lower Breede River is equally parlous.
  • Desalination of sea water:  this is not sustainable as it is too costly on any scale let alone on a large scale.  Costly because each kilolitre of water desalinated from sea water will cost more energy than we have got or we likely will get. Desalination costs eight kilowatt hours per kilolitre of desalinated water.  Further problems of desalination are that a super saline concentrate is returned back to sea, which turns valleys in the sea into a place where neither plants nor animals can survive.
  • Pumping from the TMG (Table Mountain Aquifer):  Already we have seen deep boreholes dry up and collapse in this aquifer and any extraction from this aquifer will have a negative impact on the river systems as this is most likely where the recharge of the aquifer will come from.  These are the same rivers that are now dammed to extinction throughout the Western Cape.
  • Recycling of sewerage effluent:  while this is to be supported, it must be understood that this will not be acceptable to some of our religious groups.  It should also be noted that our sewerage systems are in an unsafe condition, and we need some 6.6 billion Rand to upgrade and build new sewerage treatment works.  Here too energy plays a huge role, as 90% of the running cost of our sewerage treatment works is the energy cost of pumping water around the various treatment sewerage works.  At last check there was only 300 million on any long term budget for upgrading sewerage works. Continue reading

Green Building Council urges SA to set world example

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 26 Aug 2011

With the international community poised to arrive in South Africa for the UNFCCC’s 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) climate change talks in Durban in December 2011, the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) is urging South African industry, business and government to work together to achieve the mitigation potential offered by greening our built environment, and thereby set an example for the rest of the world.

Water tanks store harvested rainwater for use at False Bay Ecology Centre.

“Worldwide, buildings are responsible for about a third of all carbon emissions,” says Bruce Kerswill, Executive Chair of the GBCSA.  “Consider that this translates to one in every three tons of carbon released into the atmosphere is from buildings – so the built environment has a major role to play in climate change.”

At the previous climate talks in Cancun, Mexico (COP 16) in 2010, South Africa  committed to reducing our carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025. Given that we are heavily reliant on coal for our electricity, one of the fastest and easiest ways to reduce our emissions is through the greening of our built environment (our homes, offices, shops, etc).

In fact global experts have recognised the potential reductions in emissions from the built environment through green buildings as a “low hanging fruit” of carbon emission mitigation – a relatively quick and easy way to turn things around with readily available tools and technologies. Continue reading

Cape Town on brink of water restrictions

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 01 Aug 2011

A University of Cape Town climatologist on Monday warned that the Mother City’s water situation is critical.

Using grey water for irrigation

Recent figures indicate Cape Town received about 20 millimetres of rainfall in July. That is well below the month’s average figure of 140 millimetres.

Dams are currently at about 70 percent capacity, but climatologist Peter Johnstone said if it does not rain soon, dams may run dry by summer.

Johnstone said it may become necessary to impose strict water restrictions.

“After September the rainfall gets very low and if it comes to October, November, December with very little rain, we start using a lot of water, then we find that our dams are running at 30 percent full and that is very, very risky…”

He added, “At that sort of levels we are going to have very strict water restrictions.”

Farmers are also battling.

Chief Executive Officer of Agri Wes-Cape, Carl Opperman, said they are desperate for more rain.

“The rain that we received last week was not enough, but it was basically just enough to tick us over the critical phase that was busy developing. We are looking for some more rain,” he said.

By: Rafiq Wagiet
Source: Eye witness news

Mine levy to fund treatment of acid water

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 March 2011

The government is looking at introducing a tax on mines as a way to force them to pay for the drainage of acid mine water into the water system.

Acid mine drainage seepage above an old abandoned underground coal mine near Witbank. Picture by: Christy van der Merwe

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Johannesburg on Saturday that even though the government had provided R400 million for clearing and cleaning derelict mines, it was not going to “keep quiet and sit back”.

“Other mines will become derelict into the future. That is when the drainage starts,” she said.

“We have decided that even though we are funding this project, we will follow up with users and operators and using Section 19 and 20 of the Water Act to try and retrieve money for them,” she said.

“We are investigating a possible environmental levy of some sort or a tax, which is money we will be able to use to clean up where a problem of this nature occurs.”

Molewa said the department was working closely with mining houses to recycle mine water.

“We are investigating whether we can use this water as grey water for industry or potable water for drinking,” she said, adding that the department was exploring a range of ways to improve the efficiency of South Africa’s water usage. Continue reading