Increased pressures on water could make it less available

By A.D.McKenzie
Source: IPS

As non-governmental organisations question the relevance of the World Water Forum being held here this week and slam its “corporate” nature, the United Nations says that a coordinated approach to managing and allocating water is critical.

Sub-Saharan Africa could experience severe freshwater scarcity by 2020

The fourth edition of the triennial World Water Development Report (WWDR), which brings together the work of 28 U.N.-Water members and partners is being officially launched Monday at the Forum. It stresses that water “underpins all aspects of development” and needs to be a key element in global policies and regulations.

Titled ‘Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk’, the comprehensive report paints a somber picture of what could result from failure to deal with water issues. Experts warn of increased political conflicts over resources, the endangering of future availability and reduction in economic and social welfare.

“We want to be optimistic but there are increased pressures on water that could make it less available for normal consumption, and that’s the bleak picture,” said Dr. Olcay Ünver, coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme which produced the report.

“The other side is that there’s a lot that leaders of government and civil society can do, especially by working together to ensure sustainability,” he told IPS.

The stakes are high as more than one billion people lack access to safe water, and about 1.4 billion lack access to electricity (which can be generated through hydropower). With the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, demand for water will surge over the next decades, experts say. Continue reading

Cross-border plan to manage the Okavango

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 12 March 2011

Postwar Angola is keen to expand irrigation for much-needed development, Namibia is prioritising clean drinking water and sanitation, while Botswana wants to preserve the integrity of the world-renowned Okavango Delta for tourism.

The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta

All three depend on an equitable share of quality water from the Okavango River, the fourth largest in Africa, running 1,600 kilometres from Angola to its inland delta in Botswana.

In other parts of the world, conflicting interests like these, against a backdrop of uncertainty due to climate change, have led several observers to predict water wars might lead to water wars. But the three countries are putting in place a cross-border plan to manage the river.

A trans-boundary diagnostic analysis of the basin led to a strategic action plan which encompasses national priorities. To this end National Action Plans (NAPs) are currently being formulated in the three countries.

“The realisation has dawned that issues in the basin are much larger than just the river that runs through it,” says Steve Johnson head of the USAID funded Southern African Regional Program (SAREP) that facilitates the NAPs. Continue reading

World water conflicts

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 03 July 2010

Fifteen years ago Ismail Serageldin, an Egyptian who was vice-president of the World Bank, shook politicians by predicting that the wars of the 21st century would be fought not over oil or land, but about water.

The Mosul dam on the Tigris River in Iraq. Photo AFP

So far he has been proved wrong, but escalating demand for water to grow food and provide drinking water for burgeoning urban populations has raised political tensions between many countries.

In Asia, there are disagreements over the right to dam shared rivers. India and Pakistan are in semi-permanent dispute over hydropower on the river Indus.

China, Nepal, India and Bangladesh all spar over the rivers rising in the Himalayas that flow through neighbouring countries, providing water for nearly 500-million people on the way.

Tensions run high between Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over the Amu Daria and Syr Daria rivers.

Argentina and Uruguay have taken their dispute over the river Plate to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, whereas Mexico and the United States argue over rights on the Rio Grande and Colorado.

Last month, Baghdad demanded that Syria cease pumping water from the Tigris. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Palestine and Israel, and Iraq and Iran, quarrel over water supplies from the Shatt al-Arab waterway and Turkey’s dams. Continue reading

Demand management to meet India and China’s huge water needs

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 31 May 2010

A fight breaks out as student Vikas Dagar jostles with dozens of men, women and children to fill buckets from a truck that brings water twice a week to the village of Jharoda Kalan on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Wei River

Several thousand kilometres away, in central China, power-plant worker Zhou Jie stands on the mostly dry bed of the Wei River, remembering when he used to fish there before pollution made the catch inedible. Dagar and Zhou show the daily struggle with tainted or inadequate water in India and China, a growing shortage that the World Bank says will hamper growth in the world’s fastest-growing economies.

It also pits water-intensive businesses such as Intel’s China unit and the bottling plants of Coca-Cola against growing urban use and the 1.6 billion Chinese and Indians who rely on farming for a living.

“Water will become the next big power, not only in China but the whole world,” said Li Haifeng, the vice-president at sewage-treatment company Beijing Enterprises Water. “Wars may start over the scarcity of water.”

Water demand in the next two decades will double in India to 1.5 trillion cubic metres and rise 32 percent in China to 818 billion cubic metres, according to the 2030 Water Resources Group, a research collaboration between the World Bank, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company and industrial water users such as Coca-Cola. Continue reading