July 2009 Archives

( from Kos Blogger Asinus Asinum Fricat)

As a former chef I know too well the importance of fresh, clean water: no water, no food, no life. Water is far more vital for human life than oil as environmentalists, corporations and governments increasingly recognize its unequal distribution around the globe. A severe shortage will lead to concomitant environmental degradation and intense conflicts in the years ahead. Clean drinking water and free access to it will be as important in global geopolitics and economics in the years ahead as oil was in the post war period.

I have observed first hand the gradual soil erosion and the accompanying decimation of cattle in some parts of Australia during the great drought of the seventies and it is no accident that I chose to live in Ireland, a country blessed by generous rainfalls.

Less than 3 percent of the world's water is potable and climate change is already rapidly diminishing the vast stores of freshwater stored in glaciers and polar ice. As a result vultures venture capitalists are starting to take note since water's hot-commodity status has snared the attention of General Electric among a host of others, like French-owned Suez and Aqua America, the largest US-based private water company.

Here is further food for thought: The Water Lords.

There are over ten major corporate players now delivering freshwater services for profit. The two biggest are both from France Vivendi Universal and Suez, considered to be the General Motors and Ford of the global water industry. Between them, they deliver private water and wastewater services to more than 200 million customers in 150 countries and are in a race, along with others such as Bouygues Saur, RWE-Thames Water and Bechtel-United Utilities, to expand to every corner of the globe. In the United States, Vivendi operates through its subsidiary, USFilter; Suez via its subsidiary, United Water; and RWE by way of American Water Works.

They are aided by the World Bank and the IMF, which are increasingly forcing Third World countries to abandon their public water delivery systems and contract with the water giants in order to be eligible for debt relief. The performance of these companies in Europe and the developing world has been well documented: huge profits, higher prices for water, cutoffs to Customers who cannot pay, no transparency in their dealings, reduced water quality, bribery and corruption.

Water for profit takes a number of other forms. The bottled-water (my personal pet hate: over $100 billion is spent annually on bottled water, but it would cost only $30 billion to provide clean drinking water to the entire world) industry is one of the fastest-growing and least regulated industries in the world, expanding at an annual rate of 20 percent. Bottled-water companies like NestlĂ©, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are engaged in a constant search for new water supplies to feed the insatiable appetite of this business. In rural communities all over the world, corporate interests are buying up farmlands, indigenous lands, wilderness tracts and whole water systems, then moving on when sources are depleted. Fierce disputes are being waged in many places over these "water takings," especially in the developing world.  

California illustrates this hot issue right now: most of its rain comes in the winter months and not much in the summer when agriculture and people need it most. The vast majority falls in northern California's National Forests, yet the greatest demand is in southern part of the state. That's the main problem California faces today as water privatization is becoming increasingly politicized, and expensive.

The folks at Public Citizen share my view:

A worldwide crisis over water is brewing. According to the United Nations, 31 countries are now facing water scarcity and 1 billion people lack access clean drinking water. Water consumption is doubling every 20 years and yet at the same time, water sources are rapidly being polluted, depleted, diverted and exploited by corporate interests ranging from industrial agriculture and manufacturing to electricity production and mining. The World Bank predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will suffer from lack of clean and safe drinking water.

However the bigger picture tells us that the population of the world is exploding. According to the World Bank, eight out of ten children born in the next 20 years will be born in the developing world and of these, 88 per cent will live most of their lives in a huge megalopolis such as Mexico City, Lagos or Delhi. These cities will require fresh water. And food.

To be able to feed this population will demand that land across the globe is irrigated more intensely. As things stand right now irrigation is highly inefficient as it absorbs 70 per cent of the world's water supply. Where is that water going to come from? I don't have the answers, all I know is that if politicians world-wide don't hurry with legislating renewable energy policies, agricultural changes and water conservation & replenishment among others, then we're in deep doo-doo.

Before I move on to some pertinent water news, I have collected these links which can address how to save water via rain barrels, how to use reverse osmosis membranes, and how you can collect water with this clever gizmo.

First, this link will provide you with tons of other links to reverse osmosis products. Note that I have no interest in any of these companies, I'm merely linking for those who don't have the time to do so.

How to build a water collector: Source

This energy-saving solar hot water system lets your electric or gas hot water heater: Source

How to Build a Rain Water Collector: Source

Building a Desert Rainwater Garden: Source

Solar water desalination and purification: Source

And finally, measure your water footprint here.


Earth's Most Prominent Rainfall Feature Creeping Northward:

Associate Professor Julian Sachs and colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington State, found that a rain band near the equator that determines the supply of freshwater to nearly a billion people has been moving north for more than 300 years. Source

Court Ruling Puts U.S. Waters At Risk:

The Supreme Court has made it necessary for Congress and the Obama administration to protect America's lakes from mining wastes. Last month, the court ruled that a mining company can fill an Alaskan lake with chemically treated mine waste, killing virtually all life forms. Now, all U.S. lakes are vulnerable. The EPA should immediately rescind a Bush administration memo and rule that redefined toxic mining wastes as "fill material." Congress should pass the Clean Water Protection Act, which would make this change permanent and prevent mines and other industries from using our rivers, lakes and streams as cheap dumping grounds. Source

Not Great News as 60% of Chilean Soil is Eroded:

Loss of agricultural topsoil due to erosion is a major problem in 60% of Chile, reported Rodrigo Alvarez, director of the Center for Information on Natural Resources (CIREN) in Santiago. Source (in Spanish)

Lack of Snowy flows called 'tragic':

Manager Juliette Le Feuvre of Environment Victoria's Healthy Rivers Campaign expressed the group's disappointment with a seven-year-old plan to recharge the Snowy River in New South Wales, Australia. I know this river well, having paddled there in the seventies. Source


Fluorine in the aquifer, not in the taps, in Italy:

Worries about the quality of drinking water in Treviglio, Bergamo Province, Italy increased after the the Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA) found levels of fluorine above the legal limit. Source (in Italian)

About effing time:

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) today urged members of Congress to create a federal water infrastructure bank to help America invest in its aging water systems. Source

Some results:

American Rivers applauded Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) for introducing legislation that establishes a Water Trust Fund to invest in fixing the nation's outdated drinking water and sewage treatment systems. Source

BPA raises its ugly head again:

Safety fears over controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and environmental concerns have prompted one US beverage company to start selling water in cartons. O.N.E World Enterprises has announced the launch of O.N.E Water in a BPA-free Tetra Pak carton as a "sustainable alternative to plastic bottled water." Source

Desalinations News:

Nuno Oscar Branco, an industry analyst, who has been researching the desalination market, said: "Spain is the largest desalination market in the Mediterranean region, but countries such as Algeria, Morocco or Libya, to name just a few, have joined the desalination bandwagon and are investing heavily on this source of fresh drinking water." Source

A ton of useful links here from UNESCO.

Seriously Good News Here: Drinking Water From Air Humidity. Source

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