tagged w/ Water Privitization
Libya’s enormous aquatic reserves could potentially become a new weapon of choice if government forces opt to starve coastal cities that heavily rely on free flowing freshwater.
With only five percent of the country getting at least 100 millimetres of rainfall per year, Libya is one of the driest countries in the world.
Historically, coastal aquifers or desalination plants located in Tripoli were of poor quality due to contamination with salt water, resulting in undrinkable water in many cities including Benghazi.
Oil exploration in the southern Libyan desert in the mid-1950s revealed vast quantities of fresh, clean groundwater - this could meet growing national demand and development goals.
Scientists estimate that nearly 40,000 years ago when the North African climate was temperate, rainwater in Libya seeped underground forming reservoirs of freshwater.
In 1983, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi initiated a huge civil water works project known as the Great Man-Made River (GMMR) - a massive irrigation project that drew upon the underground basin reserves of the Kufra, Sirte, Morzuk, Hamada and the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer - to deliver more than five million cubic metres of water per day to cities along Libya’s coastal belt.
"The Colonel’s GMMR project was discounted when first unveiled as an uneconomic flight of fancy and a wasteful exploitation of un-renewable freshwater reserves," Middle East-based journalist Iason Athanasiadis told IPS. "But subsequently it was hailed as a masterful work of engineering, tapping into underground aquifers so vast that they could keep the 2007 rate of dispersal going for the next 1,000 years."
Lying beneath the four African countries Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan, the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) is the world’s largest fossil water aquifer system, covering some two million square kilometres and estimated to contain 150,000 cubic kilometres of groundwater.
Fossil water is groundwater that has been trapped in underground fossil aquifers for thousands or even millions of years. Unlike most aquifers the NSAS is a non-renewable resource, and over extraction or water mining could cause rising sea levels.
"The GMMR provides 70 percent of the population with water for drinking and irrigation, pumping it from Libya’s vast underground aquifers like the NSAS in the south to populated coastal areas 4,000 kilometres to the north," Ivan Ivekovic, professor of political science at the American University of Cairo told IPS.
"The entire project was drawn out over five phases. Phase one took water from eastern pipelines in As- Sarir and Tazerbo to Benghazi and Sirte; phase two supplied water in Tripoli and western pipelines in Jeffara from the Fezzan region; and phase three intended to create an integrated system and increase the total daily capacity to almost four million cubic metres and provide up to 138,000 cubic metres per day to Tobruk."
With an estimated cost of nearly 30 billion dollars, the GMMR’s network of nearly 5,000 kilometres of pipeline from more than 1,300 wells drilled up to 500 metres deep into the Sahara was also intended to increase the amount of arable land for agricultural production.
"Libya could start an agro-business similar to California’s San Joaquin Valley. Like Libya, California is essentially desert but because of irrigation and water works projects that desert valley became the largest producer of food and cotton in the world, making it the ninth largest economy in the world," Patrick Henningsen, 21st Century Wire editor and founder, told IPS.
"At the moment the only agro-markets in the Mediterranean zone competing to supply citrus and various other popular supermarket products to Europe are Israel and Egypt. In 10 or 20 years, Libya could surpass both of those countries because they now have the water to green the desert."
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) water has created a growing regional crisis and could be an impetus for further unrest. Demand is increasing as populations skyrocket - reserves are rapidly depleting and food inflation has taken its toll on cash-strapped countries dependent on imported food staples.
"In a nutshell, whoever controls NSAS, controls the economies, foreign policies and destinies of several countries in the region, not just north-eastern Africa," explains Saeedi.
Last month, Libyan officials warned that NATO airstrikes on the GMMR’s pipelines could cause a humanitarian and environmental disaster. But pro-government forces could also disrupt the GMMR’s flow if they wish, leaving opposition-held regions in the east with only the Ajdabiya reservoir - this holds just a month’s supply of water.
"Pure freshwater from the south must continue being pumped because without it Benghazi would die," says Ivekovic. "The water pipelines run parallel to the oil and gas pipelines and it’s interesting that with most of the fighting happening around the areas of Ajdabiya, Sirte and Benghazi that none of these pipes have yet been damaged.
"In a desertifying region already wracked by water conflict, Libya's enormous aquatic reserves will be a large prize for whoever gets the upper hand in this struggle," says Athanasiadis. (END)Libya’s enormous aquatic reserves could potentially become a new weapon of... more
Thousands of protesters clashed with Malaysian police to call for an end to privatization of water utilities in the country.
And close to 60 people were arrested for defying a police ban and attempting to march on the streets.
Earlier, opposition legislators gathered near the National Mosque to address the crowd about issues concerning privatization in Selangor, a state which surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysian government has embarked on progressive privatization of water following concerns of water scarcity in the country.
Currently urban Malaysians use 500 liters of water per day.
The government says this could increase to 700 liters per day due to rapid urbanization in the country.
Selangor is the richest state in the country and ruled by the opposition alliance led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
In 2005, the federal government privatized water management in Selangor to Syabas but the opposition said it has only incurred losses and may need to be bailed out.
Selangor wants to take back water management but this effort is being blocked by the government and Syabas.
Research done has projected that by 2050, 65 countries would be hit by water supply problems with a total of seven billion people affected.
The debate about water privatization has been intensifying in Malaysia. However human rights workers say that there are many other avenues of ensuring adequate water supply in the country without burdening the poor as privatization would lead to a hike in tariffs. But they also say that this needs policy changes from the government.
Video at the link.Thousands of protesters clashed with Malaysian police to call for an end to... more
Even though water privatization has been a massive failure around the world, the World Bank just quietly gave $139 million to its latest corporate buddy.
Billions have been spent allowing corporations to profit from public water sources even though water privatization has been an epic failure in Latin America, Southeast Asia, North America, Africa and everywhere else it's been tried. But don't tell that to controversial loan-sharks at the World Bank. Last month, its private-sector funding arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) quietly dropped a cool 100 million euros ($139 million US) on Veolia Voda, the Eastern European subsidiary of Veolia, the world's largest private water corporation. Its latest target? Privatization of Eastern Europe's water resources.
"Veolia has made it clear that their business model is based on maximizing profits, not long-term investment," Joby Gelbspan, senior program coordinator for private-sector watchdog Corporate Accountability International, told AlterNet. "Both the World Bank and the transnational water companies like Veolia have clearly acknowledged they don't want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve water access in Eastern Europe. That's why this 100 million euro investment in Veolia Voda by the World Bank's private investment arm over the summer is so alarming. It's further evidence that the World Bank remains committed to water privatization, despite all evidence that this approach will not solve the world's water crisis."
All the evidence Veolia needs that water grabs are doomed exercises can be found in its birthplace of France, more popularly known as the heartland of water privatization. In June, the municipal administration of Paris reclaimed the City of Light's water services from both of its homegrown multinationals Veolia and Suez, after a torrent of controversy. That's just one of 40 re-municipilazations in France alone, which can be added to those in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and more in hopes of painting a not-so-pretty picture: Water privatization is ultimately both a horrific concept and a failed project.
"It's outrageous that the World Bank's IFC would continue to invest in corporate water privatizations when they are failing all over the world," Maude Barlow, chairwoman of Food and Water Watch and the author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water, told AlterNet. "A similar IFC investment in the Philippines is an unmitigated disaster. Local communities and their governments around the world are canceling their contracts with companies like Veolia because of cost overruns, worker layoffs and substandard service."
The Philippines is an excellent example of water privatization's broken model. After passing the Water Crisis Act in 1995, the Philippines landed a $283 million privatization plan managed partially by multinational giants like Suez and Bechtel. After some success, everything fell apart after 2000, and it wasn't long before tariff prices repeatedly increased, water service and quality worsened, and public opposition skyrocketed. Today, some Filipinos still don't have water connections, tariffs have increased from 300 to 700 percent in some regions, and outbreaks of cholera and gastroenteritis have cost lives and sickened hundreds.
"The World Bank has learned nothing from these disasters and continues to be blinded by an outdated ideology that only the unregulated market will solve the world's problems," added Barlow.
cont.Even though water privatization has been a massive failure around the world, the World... more
Today on the Water Is Life Group I will be participating in Blog Action Day and featuring entries that tell the story of water. The documentary, Flow For The Love Of Water will also be featured so if you have not seen this important documentary about what is happening to our water through privitization please try to make a point of doing so today.
There will be no more important a topic in our future than water. Energy is run by water. Agriculture is run by water. Our lives would not be liveable without water. Yet, so many people today in the 21st century still do not have this basic resource to sustain their lives and health with climate change now bringing new challenges.
So I hope that at least for today you will take some time to reconnect with the water that makes your life enjoyable, also respecting its awesome power, grace, and beauty. The lifeblood of our planet is a reflection of our morality and as it stands now it shows a species weak on that score. In order to preserve this planet for our future generations and all other species, we must begin to pay more attention to what sustains it.
Thanks.Today on the Water Is Life Group I will be participating in Blog Action Day and... more
The Great Lakes Compact while being touted by the parties involved as a good start, leaves holes in it that are actually big enough to unravel it. Leaving the door open to private companies to privitize its water means that the Great Lakes Compact is a document that must be open to more scrutiny in the wake of climate change, water shortages, population increases, and interboundary disputes.
This water is a public trust, not a commodity.
James Olsen in this interview lays these concerns out.The Great Lakes Compact while being touted by the parties involved as a good start,... more
Latest Wave in National Trend Against Private Control
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“Yesterday, residents of Trenton, New Jersey voted by a 4 to 1 margin to reject a measure to sell a portion of the city’s public water utility to the private water provider American Water. A coalition of community organizations, labor unions, and environmental and consumer groups coalesced to make this victory possible, despite having spent a mere fraction of the more than $850,000 that American Water sank into the campaign.
“A historic victory for consumers in New Jersey and elsewhere, the overwhelming denial of the sale prevented what would have been one of the largest water utility privatizations in U.S. history. Combined with last week’s vote in Novato, Calif., where residents rejected the privatization of their city’s wastewater resources by the private operator Veolia, yesterday’s development in Trenton marks the escalation of a national trend against the private control of water systems.
“Both of these votes are further proof that U.S. consumers want these vital resources owned and managed by the public.
“Yesterday’s vote marked the culmination of a long, harrowing battle that also involved the intervention of the New Jersey Supreme Court to uphold the public’s right to vote in this decision.
“The will of the people finally prevailed, further illustrating that a resource as vital as water should not be made vulnerable to the highest bidder. It should also serve as a warning to Governor Christie and his privatization task force that New Jerseyans do not look favorably upon attempts to gamble public resources for balanced budgets.”Latest Wave in National Trend Against Private Control
Statement of Food & Water... more
As demand for freshwater increases globally, a few companies and water-rich countries envision water shipped in large tankers designed for oil as the next big supply-side solution.
Sitka’s Blue Lake receives water from snowpack and glacial melting in the surrounding u-shaped valley. True Alaska Bottling holds the rights to export 2.9 billion gallons annually, at a penny a gallon, from the lake reservoir.
Two American companies and a small Alaska city are drawing closer to an export agreement that ships fresh water from North America to a bulk bottling plant in India in order to supply the thirsty Middle East, according to Terry Trapp, the chief executive of True Alaska Bottling, one of the companies in the partnership.
Trapp’s company holds the rights, at a penny a gallon, to export 2.9 billion gallons (10.9 billion liters) per year from the Blue Lake reservoir owned by the city of Sitka, Alaska. Meanwhile the company’s partner in the venture, San Antonio-based S2C Global Systems, is negotiating with developers in India to build facilities at a deepwater port south of Mumbai.
Sitka’s Resource Piggy Bank is Water Sitka and Alaska Resource Management LLC, the partnership formed by the two companies, are seeking to be the first to introduce bulk supplies of freshwater, transported in huge tanker ships, as a new commodity in global trade. The concept is straightforward. Where local supplies cannot meet demand, a small group of wildcatter companies and water-rich countries are positioning themselves to provide large shipments of water via 80-million-gallon capacity tanker ships and floating polythene bags–bulk water, in the industry parlance.
“The concept we have with our partner is constructing a water depot in India or the Middle East where water is unloaded and stored with an adjacent bottling tank.”“The concept we have with our partner is constructing a water depot in India or the Middle East where water is unloaded and stored with an adjacent bottling tank,” Trapp told Circle of Blue. “The water would then be distributed to countries in two-and-a-half liter or five liter containers.”
The consequences of bulk water exports are not nearly as clear cut. Proposals to export water supplies out of their natural basins has sparked fierce political resistance in some parts of the globe. The Great Lakes region of the U.S. Midwest established laws and regulations over the last decade that sought to ban the practice. Moreover, reliance on imports could perpetuate water-wasting practices in dry regions. And the capacity of wealthier regions to afford their water in five-liter containers could widen the economic and quality of life gulf between rich and poor countries.
Bulk Water’s Past and Present
Bulk water transfers are not new. Diversions out of river basins both within and between countries have occurred for decades: Singapore imports water from neighboring Malaysia; Lesotho sends water to South Africa via the Highlands Project; Southern California exists as we know it today because of water channeled from the Sierra Nevada hundreds of miles to the north. Historically, engineers have moved water through pipelines, canals or rivers under government control and oversight.
Graphic by Aubrey PakerClick on image above to see the full infographic. Sitka, Alaska to sell bulk water exports to India.Water is also exported by bottling companies. But the volumes sold from a single source are much smaller than the volumes available in bulk. Danone, the world’s second largest bottled water producer, sold 18 billion liters (4.8 billion gallons) in 2009 from all its bottling plants combined, a sales volume that is roughly half of the water available from Sitka.
What is new is the idea of shipping water in tankers across oceans. It differs in scale and the notion that big commercial advantages exist when a scarce commodity is supplied to eager communities willing to pay the price. Accompanying the shift in supply also is a shift in perspective, said George Paterson, chief executive of Aquazeal, a New Zealand company with water rights for export.
continuedAs demand for freshwater increases globally, a few companies and water-rich countries... more
The mayor of the Turkish Aegean town of Dikili has escaped charges of "misconduct of office" and "abuse of power" stemming from his decision to provide up to 10 tons of water free of charge to district residents in a stand against water privatization.
Mayor Osman Özgüven and other municipality officials were acquitted Wednesday in a Dikili criminal court after standing trial for not charging local households for monthly water consumption below 10 tons, giving discounts on usage above that amount to municipal employees, making public buses free to ride, providing affordable health services at a government clinic, and selling bread in municipal bakeries at lower than market prices.
According to the mayor, providing a certain amount of water for free also helped encourage people to consume no more than that, in addition to helping meet some of his citizens' financial needs.
Water is a 'Right of Life'
"The court accepted our activities as a public service. It registered that water should not have to be purchased with money and should not be commercialized," Özgüven told the human-rights-focused news service Bianet. "This is what we claimed from the very beginning. This is a right of life and addresses [the needs of] humanity."
The mayor's practices had been cited by the global progressive think-tank the Transnational Institute as an example of "progressive public water management."
Water privatization has been a controversial issue in Turkey, as it has been in other countries around the world. More than a dozen people were arrested in the northwestern city of Edirne in 2008 on corruption charges related to the transfer of the city's water and waste-water treatment facilities to a private-sector firm. And activists protested privatization at last year's World Water Forum in Istanbul, where most people of a variety of income classes drink home-delivered bottled water.
continuedThe mayor of the Turkish Aegean town of Dikili has escaped charges of "misconduct... more
The year is 2050, and Sydney is dry. Climate change has ravaged the city and battles are fought around one of the only functioning water filtration plants.
This is the premise of laser skirmish - a paintball-style shooting game - being played inside a building next to a bowling alley in Moore Park.
Back in the real world, concerns about the ''creeping privatisation'' of Australia's water supply network are again being voiced, as the national water report card shows consumption is again on the rise.
Advertisement: Story continues belowHousehold water bills are spiralling upwards as states struggle to expand desalination and recycling. Further rises are predicted.
Of the 59 main water utilities in urban Australia, 53 increased residential water bills in the 2008-09 financial year, according to the National Water Commission's performance audit.
In Sydney, average household bills went up from $678 to $739 in the 12 months to June last year, and households used 9 per cent more water, the highest year-on-year increase of any capital city. Melbourne had a 4 per cent drop in water use, reflecting changes in water restrictions in both cities.
In NSW, water consumption has only dropped 3 per cent since 2005, compared with 20 per cent in Queensland and the ACT, 18 per cent in Victoria and 15 per cent in South Australia. However, Sydney households do consume 12 per cent less water than they did in 2003.
The changes in water use increasingly reflect the rainfall projections produced by climate change modelling, with people in Melbourne and Adelaide - fed by the ailing Murray River - adapting by using less.
''I don't see Australia ever going back to the days of kids playing under the sprinklers or using hoses as recreational devices,'' said Tom Mollenkopf, the chief executive of the Australian Water Association.
''I think we all understand now just what a fine line we are on with our water resources.''
The association welcomed the national water figures, released yesterday, because it showed growing investment in more diverse sources of supply, such as desalination plants and recycling.
But a new report produced for the Australian Council of Trade Unions said investment in water infrastructure is being dominated by two French water companies - Veolia and Suez - and the public should be wary of a growing push towards privatisation.
''This report points to numerous examples in Australia and overseas where water privatisation has been bad for workers and … the community,'' a spokeswoman for the Australian Services Union, Sally McManus, said.
The union pointed to a case being heard by the Supreme Court in South Australia, where a Veolia subsidiary won the right to operate Adelaide's urban water system in 1995 and has been accused of overcharging taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
The union said it believed a process of gradual privatisation was under way, and said a privatisation of Sydney Water was possible after the next NSW election. The NSW government and opposition both said they have no plans to privatise.
The report comes as the World Bank and the OECD, representing major developed countries, warned that the price of water must go up as supply dwindles and populations multiply.
Higher global water prices were on the agenda of a World Bank meeting in New York last Friday, and last week the OECD issued three reports saying that global prices should rise to recognise water's increasing value.
cont.The year is 2050, and Sydney is dry. Climate change has ravaged the city and battles... more
Last week, the Feria del Agua—a water festival and fair—marked the 10th anniversary of the water wars that thwarted attempts to privatize water services in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Celebrations were kicked off April 15 with a parade from downtown Cochabamba to the Complejo Fabril (home of the Cochabamba Federation of Workers).
Nationally, the water wars not only paved the way for blocking privatization attempts of other natural resources in Bolivia, but also helped change the balance of power there, leading to the successful election of its first indigenous president. Globally, the Bolivian water wars called attention to attempts to privatize water in Asia, Africa and elsewhere in Latin America. In their wake, it became increasingly acceptable to claim water as a basic right.
In 2001, IATP used the Bolivian water privatization case study to successfully persuade the UN office of the Special Rapporteur—who was conducting a detailed study towards the formulation the U.N. General Comment 15 on right to water—to remove overt references to privatization as a strategy for ensuring the water supply and sanitation in realizing the right to water. IATP also made the case that the General Comment must include water for farming and other subsistence livelihood practices to help establish the right to adequate food as a necessary component of realizing the right to water.
The struggle for the right to water continues even now in Bolivia. As several bloggers from the international water fair have pointed out, the gains of the water war have yet to reach la zona su—a wide swath of poor communities at the southern edge of the city that are highly organized and militant—some of the principal protagonists of the struggle in 2000 that led to the expulsion of the multinational Bechtel. Hence the need for small, autonomous water committees that continue to serve the needs of the local population. La Feria del Agua was thus not only a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the water wars, but also a public event celebrating the work of these water committees.
Earlier this week, thousands more arrived in Cochabamba to participate in the People's Conference on Climate Change, at the invitation of Bolivian President Evo Morales and civil society groups. In an attempt to draw attention to the fact that water is in the eye of the climate storm, one of the days at the Feria was celebrated as a climate and water day. It was planned as a day to question the political processes that promote market-based solutions as an answer to the water and climate crises, and to advance alternatives. IATP, along with On the Commons and several other groups from around the world that work on water justice issues, came together to develop a fact sheet, “Water and Climate Change: What’s the connection?” and a draft declaration “On the Connection between Water and Climate Justice: Reviving a healthy climate through commons-based water management practices.” These were presented at the Feria. The purpose was to reach out to other constituencies and to show that their struggle is our struggle too—since water permeates climate, forests, agriculture and life itself.
contLast week, the Feria del Agua—a water festival and fair—marked the 10th... more
By 2030 people worldwide will withdraw more water than the planet can replenish.
March 22, 2010 marks World Water Day, a 24-hour observance held annually since 1993 to draw attention to the role that freshwater plays in the world. In recent years it has focused global concern on the dwindling supply of clean water.
With governments from Australia to India feeling the heat of dryness like never before, multinational corporations pledging to become better global water citizens, and a multitude of nonprofit organizations gaining position in the councils of influence worldwide, the global freshwater crisis is steadily becoming a top public priority.
In January, global business and elected leaders assembled in Davos at the World Economic Forum learned one more striking fact that underlies international concern. By 2030, WEF experts said, people will withdraw 30 percent more water than nature can replenish. Unless practices for using and conserving water shift dramatically, shortages will hit communities and businesses, especially agriculture, which uses 70 percent of the world’s fresh water.
Here is some of what we expect in what promises to be a busy year in the world of water:
■Awareness and action
■Business of water
■GE: One company’s approach, inside and out
■Water Disclosure Project
■United Nations CEO Water Mandate
■Water and Global Health
Awareness and Action
A team of researchers and advocates that includes the Global Water Partnership, Global Public Policy Network on Water Management, Stockholm International Water Institute and the Stakeholder Forum, have been working with hundreds of smaller groups to rally support for water’s role in international climate change negotiations this year.
The work was prompted by the disappointing outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, when water was left out of the Copenhagen Accord. The non-binding agreement calls for modest action on global warming.
If the international climate treaty doesn’t better emphasize the water-climate intersection, people living in vulnerable coastal nations, such as the island of Maldives, and farmers facing volatile rainfall, such as those in Australia, will be unprepared to face major catastrophes, Stakeholder Forum Policy Coordinator Hannah Stoddart told Circle of Blue.
At the international level, Stoddart and her team work directly with UN officials, and also are coordinating an unofficial international water day in Bonn, Germany in June. They are arranging high-level round table discussions that will rally more support for water issues in the months leading up to the next climate change summit in December, in Mexico.
“The eventual goal is for a recognition on an international level that there are currently no operational international treaties addressing water issues specifically,” Stoddart said. “We’re at the beginning of quite a long journey.”
Garnering local support is an important component of making sure the issue gains global prominence, according to marketing experts who work on environmental issues.
“It’s so hard to make people realize that they have a connection to the issue, to the sources of the problem,” said Joel Finkelstein a senior vice president and head of the environment team for Fenton Communications, a U.S.-based firm.
Water offers an even bigger challenge in some ways, he added. It’s still extremely difficult to illustrate the consequences of our current water consumption in countries like the U.S., where citizens can turn on the tap without thinking twice.
But the consequences of water scarcity are more powerfully conveyed through emotional stories than statistical reports. And Finkelstein believes that social media promises new ways to humanize water and environmental issues.
continued.By 2030 people worldwide will withdraw more water than the planet can replenish.... more
What will your contribution be?
Excerpt from link:
Water affects every aspect of our lives, yet nearly one billion people around the world don't have clean drinking water, and 2.6 billion still lack basic sanitation. World Water Day, celebrated annually on March 22, was established by the United Nations in 1992 and focuses attention on the world's water crisis, as well as the solutions to address it.
This year, a collaborative of US-based organizations have joined to raise awareness and call for stronger commitments from governments, the private sector, and US citizens for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives in low-income countries.
By deploying the solutions that already exist, we can save the lives of thousands of children each day, advance education and employment - especially among women and girls - and fuel economic growth around the world.
Learn more about the events planned in Washington DC and around the country for World Water Day 2010 and find out how you can take action to help make clean water and sanitation a reality for people around the globe.What will your contribution be?
Excerpt from link:
Water affects every aspect of... more
It is widely acknowledged that greenhouse gas emission-fueled climate change is having a profound and negative impact on fresh water systems around the world. Warmer weather causes more rapid evaporation of lakes and rivers, reduced snow and ice cover on open water systems, and melting glaciers.
What is less understood is that our collective abuse and displacement of fresh water is also a serious cause of climate change and global warming. If we are to successfully address climate change, it is time to include an analysis of how our abuse of water is an additional factor in the creation of global warming as well as solutions that protect water and watersheds.
There are two major factors. The first is the actual displacement of water from where it is sustaining a healthy ecosystem as well as healthy hydrologic cycles. Because humanity has polluted so much surface water on the planet, we are now mining the groundwater far faster than it can be replaced by nature. New Scientist reports of a “little-heralded crisis” all over Asia as a result of the exponential drilling of groundwater. Water is moved from where nature has put it in watershed and aquifers (where we can access it) to other place where it is used for flood irrigation and food production – where much of it lost to evaporation – or to supply the voracious thirst of mega cities, where it is usually dumped as waste into the ocean.
AUTHOR: Maude Barlow, former senior advisor to the UN on water issues, is co-author of the bestseller Blue Gold (New Press) and chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
Water is also lost to ecosystems through global trade – water used in the in the production of crops or manufactured goods that are then exported (known as virtual trade in water). Over 20% of daily water used for human purpose is exported out of watersheds in this way. Water is also piped across long distances for industry leaving behind parched landscapes.
The second factor is the removal of the vegetation needed for a healthy hydrologic cycle. Urbanization, deforestation and wetland destruction greatly destroy water-retentive landscapes and lead to the loss of precipitation over the affected area.
Slovakian scientist Michal Kravcik and his colleagues explain that the living world influences the climate mainly by regulating the water cycle and the huge energy flows linked to it. Transpiring plants, especially forests, work as a kind of biotic pump, causing humid air to be sucked out of the ocean and transferred to dry land. If the vegetation is removed from the land, this natural system of biosphere regulation is interrupted. Soil erodes, reducing the content of organic material in the ground, thus reducing its ability to hold water. Dry soil from lost vegetation traps solar heat, sharply increasing the local temperature and causing a reduction in precipitation over the affected area. This process also destroys the natural sequestration of carbon in the soil, leading to carbon loss.
Of course, these two factors are deeply related. Just as removing vegetation from an ecosystem will dry up the soil, so too will removing water from an ecosystem mean reduced or non-existent vegetation.
Taken together, these two factors are hastening the desertification of the planet, and intensifying global warming. Even if we successfully address and reverse greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels, Kravcik says, we will not be able to stop climate change if we do not deal with the impact of our abuse of water on the planet.
Unless we collectively address the crisis of fresh water and our cavalier treatment of the world’s water systems, we will not restore the climate to health.It is widely acknowledged that greenhouse gas emission-fueled climate change is having... more
A look back at the concerns of indigenous communities during the historic climate talks in Copenhagen last month.
For two weeks in Copenhagen last month climate negotiators debated carbon levels, emissions, and balancing the financial burden of saving the planet among developed and developing countries. Still, even as international leaders wrestled with the complex mix of geopolitics, science, economics, and diplomacy, another important ingredient in the climate crisis was barely mentioned: the effect of the warming planet on the Earth’s freshwater.
The same oversight, however, was not repeated by public interest organizations and water advocates who also were in Copenhagen, especially indigenous representatives from underdeveloped countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and the diminishing access to fresh water.
Numerous groups, such as the Khapi community in Bolivia and the Tagalog in the Philippines, banded together in Copenhagen to explain at a number of meetings and public events how climate change is already threatening their access to food and water, as well as the sustainability of their thousands years old cultures. Some of the strongest voices were heard during the World Water Movements and COP15: Proposals and Strategies for Water and Climate Justice panel.
Debating Water as a Right to Life
“Almost all countries, except those that are victims of climactic disaster, are not interested in dealing with water,” said Riccardo Petrella, author of The Water Manifesto and founder of the Lisbon Group, a think tank that critically analyzes globalization. “Because if they deal with water, they have to deal with the right to life.”
Petrella, one of the members of the World Water Movements Panel, criticized the economic model that categorizes water as a commodity rather than a “precious community resource and fundamental human right.” Currently there is no international law to regulate the right to freshwater supplies, but Petrella argued that the United Nations climate negotiations, which are expected to continue in Cancun, Mexico near the end of the year, should be the gateway to further reform. If water were to be included in the global climate agreement under negotiation, nations would be responsible for ensuring the preservation of both these “common goods,” Petrella said.
“It is not your right to good energy,” he said. “Nor your right to a good car—your four by four powered by green oil. We need to challenge the type of consumption that is part of today’s [climate] negotiations, which should lead to a global contract—not only on energy and on agriculture—but also on water and the right to life for everybody.”
“We should defend water as a common good,” he added, “because it is an instrument of the right to life.”“We should defend water as a common good,” he added, “because it is an instrument of the right to life.”
André Abreu of France Liberté, a French-based foundation that works to improve access to fresh water, also spoke during the discussion and cautioned that identifying the connections between water and climate isn’t enough. Different policy must take shape. Since the right to water and the right to life are synonymously interchangeable, he claimed that water protection should instead be tied to necessity.
“Floods, dryness, temperature—all are main aspects to climate change have a link to water,” Abreu said. “But we know that it is fuel first at these negotiations. Water is not considered with the importance that it deserves.”
Abreu warned that the presence of transnational companies during negotiations at the Bella Center, where the UN Climate Change Conference was held, was very dangerous. He said he was especially weary of businesses that offered to use green technologies to fight food and water shortages.
The Philippines: A Look at the Hydropower Dilemma
Public restiveness around the world over climate and water issues is increasing in developing nations. In the Philippines, for instance, southern areas of the country could experience intense droughts, while erratic rainfall and typhoons are projected for the north. In September, a flood led to 900 deaths.
In November, more than 100 members of the northern Tagalog indigenous communities marched 100 miles to protest the Laiban dam project on the Kaliwa and Kanan rivers, which could potentially displace 4,500 families.
Although this project—located near the Marikina-Infanta earthquake fault line, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer—is not for energy, critics of the project assert it will divert 1.9 billion liters per day for domestic water supply in the nearby city of Metro Manila by flooding 28,000 hectares of rain forests that previously currently serve as a carbon sink.
Around the same time, indigenous communities protested the Pulangi V dam project in Bukidnon, which would increase the city of Mindanoa’s electricity grid by more than 300 megawatts by 2015, but submerge 80,000 hectares of land—including sections of seven towns and the sacred ancestral lands of the Pulangi-Manobo tribe, according to Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources.
Dianne Roa—co-author of a report on alternative power industry reform in the Republic of the Philippines and another panelist for the event—said that hydropower is a complex issue that involves prioritizing amongst domestic water use, downstream agricultural use, or low-carbon energy.
Roa explained that for several years the water district of the southern city of Davao has been fighting for the possession of the last remaining potable river in the area. Meanwhile the Hedcor corporation has proposed a large hydropower project for the Tamugan River. Opponents claim the dam diverts valuable drinking water and destroys the aquatic ecology while giving corporate control to a public entity.
“Hydropower makes use of climate change in packaging itself,” Roa said, “presenting itself to the public as clean energy, therefore it is good. This complicates things—not simply for ensuring access to water for drinking—but also that our need for water is not exploited for private profit at the expense of our climate and the environment.”
Roa argued that the existing framework that has been used for the last century in water management does not have the capacity to address the complex issues of the intimate reflections between climate change and water, as described in her three Philippine examples. Including water in the UN climate agreement would not be enough. In fact, she said, the issue could become even more dangerous if water is treated as a commodity, allowed to succumb to the same problems that energy and carbon emissions have in the market economy.
“Once water is in the UNFCC, the more difficult step will be creating a new framework such that water doesn’t go down the same path as energy,” Roa said.
Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue On the ground with activists from around the world at one of the biggest demonstrations during the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen last month. Grassroots organizers and underrepresented groups banded together to give voice to the water consequences of climate change.
continuedA look back at the concerns of indigenous communities during the historic climate... more
Groundwater is not being replenished fast enough to keep up with demand and population. This is a direct result of the monsoons not coming as usual, melting of the Himalayas as a result of global warming/climate change, pumping of water by companies like Coca Cola, and massive waste of water through wasteful irrigation practices. We are reaping what we are sowing.Groundwater is not being replenished fast enough to keep up with demand and... more
Maude Barlow gives a talk regarding the global water crisis and her new book, Blue Covenant. She is the national chairperson of The Council of Canadians, co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, and was recently named Senior Advisor on Water Issues by the President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.Maude Barlow gives a talk regarding the global water crisis and her new book, Blue... more
San Francisco, Calif.—Food & Water Watch and the McCloud Watershed Council achieved a major victory today when Nestle Waters of North America announced it would withdraw its proposal to build a bottling facility in McCloud, Calif. The news came after 6 years of intense public debate regarding the plant and its potential impact on water resources in the area. At one point the deal would have allowed Nestle to pump up to 200 million gallons of water from nearby Mt. Shasta springs- enough water for 614 typical U.S. families.
This latest development is one is an escalating trend against allowing private corporations to bottle public water. In July, 2009, the grassroots group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation successfully sued Nestle to limit the amount of water the company could withdraw for one a bottling facility in Mecosta County. Less than a month later, the City of Flagstaff, Ariz. denied Nestle a contract to bottle water from local resources there. Proposed bottling operations in Maine, Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin are also drawing public scrutiny.
“This decision to withdraw the contract for a new water bottling facility is a major setback for Nestle, which has been eyeing water in McCloud for many years,” said Mark Schlosberg, western states director of Food & Water Watch. “It reflects the strength of community opposition towards Nestle’s plans to take local water and highlights a growing consumer understanding that bottled water is expensive, a waste of natural resources and bad for the environment.”
Declining consumer interest in bottled water is further evidenced by the fact that, for the first time in five years, bottled water sales are on the wane.
“It is important for people to realize that they can make a difference. Nestle’s departure proves that ordinary citizens can successfully protect their community resources and way of life,” said Debra Anderson, president of the McCloud Watershed Council.
Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization, works to ensure clean water and safe food in the United States and around the world. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.
For more information, visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org.San Francisco, Calif.—Food & Water Watch and the McCloud Watershed Council... more
"Last week, the Mt. Jewett Borough Water Authority Board in Mt. Jewett, Pennsylvania announced it would deny requests from two separate private companies, American Water and Aqua America, to purchase its water system. Food & Water Watch applauds the decision of the Mt. Jewett Borough Water Authority Board to ensure both the integrity of this vital natural resource and its delivery by keeping the Mt. Jewett water system in public control.
"Both American Water and Aqua America have track records for exorbitantly high rates and shoddy service delivery. In fact, communities across the country have responded to the sky rocketing bills and poor water quality inflicted by both companies by buying back their water systems and placing them in public hands. The residents of Mt. Jewett have wisely avoided such pitfalls by rejecting the privatization of their water in the first place.
"This decision comes on the heels of two other noteworthy water-related victories for Pennsylvanians. The borough of Knox, where in 2007, residents successfully mobilized to prevent the sale of their water to American Water, was recently awarded $4.5 million to replace a sewer line and install a new treatment system. This infusion of funds will help upgrade the wastewater system there and lessen the need to sell its wastewater system to private companies like American Water.
"The final victory took place in Somerset County, where a permit filed by an unnamed company to extract 108,000 gallons of water a day from the Laurel Creek watershed was denied by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The creek flows into the Youghiogheny River, which earlier this year was named one of the nation's ten most endangered rivers this year by the advocacy group American Rivers.
"Food & Water Watch thanks these activists and elected officials in Pennsylvania for supporting publically controlled drinking water and wastewater systems and urges communities elsewhere to emulate their excellent work.""Last week, the Mt. Jewett Borough Water Authority Board in Mt. Jewett,... more
This is the excellent award winning documentary Flow-For Love Of Water, by Irena Salinas that explores all facets of water and the global crisis we now face from pollution, privitization, corruption, and waste, and those working towards solutions. It is a must see. Please watch this and pass it on. This is indeed the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st century. Without water we have no life, and therefore, whoever controls the water controls life.This is the excellent award winning documentary Flow-For Love Of Water, by Irena... more