Water crisis to be biggest world risk

A catastrophic water shortage could prove an even bigger threat to mankind this century than soaring food prices and the relentless exhaustion of energy reserves, according to a panel of global experts at the Goldman Sachs “Top Five Risks” conference.


The melting of Himalayan glaciers threatens the water supply to the world’s rivers

Nicholas (Lord) Stern, author of the Government’s Stern Review on the economics of climate change, warned that underground aquifers could run dry at the same time as melting glaciers play havoc with fresh supplies of usable water.

“The glaciers on the Himalayas are retreating, and they are the sponge that holds the water back in the rainy season. We’re facing the risk of extreme run-off, with water running straight into the Bay of Bengal and taking a lot of topsoil with it,” he said.

“A few hundred square miles of the Himalayas are the source for all the major rivers of Asia – the Ganges, the Yellow River, the Yangtze – where 3bn people live. That’s almost half the world’s population,” he said.

Lord Stern, the World Bank’s former chief economist, said governments had been slow to accept the awful truth that usable water is running out. Fresh rainfall is not enough to refill the underground water tables.

“Water is not a renewable resource. People have been mining it without restraint because it has not been priced properly,” he said.


Water sector outperformance relative to the S&P 500

Farming makes up 70pc of global water demand. Fresh water for irrigation is never returned to underground basins. Most is lost through leaks and evaporation.

A Goldman Sachs report said water was the “petroleum for the next century”, offering huge rewards for investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom. The US alone needs up to $1,000bn (£500bn) in new piping and waste water plants by 2020.

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California faces water rationing due to drought

Californians could face mandatory water rationing unless they drastically reduce consumption because of a state-wide water crisis, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said.

The warning came as he declared the first official drought in California in 17 years, citing two years of arid conditions that threaten the state’s massive agriculture industry and increase the risk of wildfires such as those that destroyed 1,500 homes last October.


Kern River in California is dry and is expected to remain so

The governor called for a state-wide reduction of 20 per cent and issued an executive order commanding water officials to direct supplies to the driest areas, help districts conserve and aid stricken farmers who have already suffered huge losses.

Mr Schwarzenegger said mandatory restrictions could follow if residents and water authorities failed to make cutbacks and another dry winter ensued.

“We must recognise the severity of the crisis that we face,” the Republican governor said.

California has never resorted to statewide water rationing to cope with shortages. Since the last drought, however, its population has shot up as water supplies have decreased.

The governor himself does not have the authority to impose statewide rationing but the Department of Water Resources could slash water supplies to local authorities, who in turn would have to enforce limits.

Some regions already impose rationing with the threat of punitive measures for violators and many areas have appealed for conservation. Restrictions on outdoor water use, such as bans on washing cars or driveways, are in force in some cities along with orders stopping restaurants from automatically serving drinking water.

This week, Los Angeles approved a fleet of “drought busters” to patrol residential areas and enforce a ban on some types of outdoor water use. More districts are expected to impose limits of some kind as the long, hot days of summer loom.

This spring, the driest on record, follows two years of below average rainfall. The situation has been exacerbated by reduced mountain snow packs, which normally provide much of the state’s supply, and a court order limiting the amount of water that can be taken from a key river delta to protect a threatened fish.

“We’re suffering the perfect storm, if you will,” said Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.

The prospect of cuts alarmed some sectors of the business community who feared it could harm productivity and increase the chance of full-blown recession.

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Canada’s water crisis ‘escalating’


In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario. Photograph by : Allen McInnis, Canwest News Service

Experts expect climate change to present serious water challenges, many of which already exist

In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario.

In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario.

Canada is crisscrossed by innumerable rivers, some of which flow into three oceans.

Yet Canada’s fresh water isn’t as abundant as you may think. And it’s facing serious challenges and the looming menace of climate change, which is expected to exacerbate Canada’s water problems and leave more of the world thirsting after our precious liquid resource.

“They say you need a crisis before people get jerked into taking responsible action,” says Chandra Madramootoo, a water researcher and founding director of McGill University’s Brace Centre for Water Resources Management.

“When are we going to finally say, ‘Jeez, we’re not as water rich as we thought we were and maybe we better start doing something?’ Is it going to be the day when we [must] ration water?”

Some think the crisis is already here. They say it’s time to take action — by, for example, conserving water, cracking down on polluters, preparing for the effects of climate change and coming to the aid of waterless poor in the developing world.

(Important article! Please continue to read. – The Infinite Unknown)

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Prince Charles: Eighteen months to stop climate change disaster

The Prince of Wales has warned that the world faces a series of natural disasters within 18 months unless urgent action is taken to save the rainforests.

In one of his most out-spoken interventions in the climate change debate, he said a £15 billion annual programme was required to halt deforestation or the world would have to live with the dire consequences.

“We will end up seeing more drought and starvation on a grand scale. Weather patterns will become even more terrifying and there will be less and less rainfall,” he said.

“We are asking for something pretty dreadful unless we really understand the issues now and [the] urgency of them.” The Prince said the rainforests, which provide the “air conditioning system for the entire planet”, releasing water vapour and absorbing carbon, were being lost to poor farmers desperate to make a living.

He said that every year, 20 million hectares of forest – equivalent to the area of England, Wales and Scotland – were destroyed and called for a “gigantic partnership” of governments, businesses and consumers to slow it down.

“What we have got to do is try to ensure that these forests are more valuable alive than dead. At the moment, there is more value in them being dead,” he said.

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China – Drought

RSOE Emergency and Disaster Information Service
Budapest, Hungary2008-03-20 15:16:03 – Drought – China

GLIDE CODE: DR-20080320-15931-CHN
Date & Time: 2008-03-20 15:16:03 [UTC]
Area: China, Hebei, Nei Mongol, Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Shandong, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region,

!!! WARNING !!!

Description:

A number of regions in the north and northeast part of China were still fighting a continuous drought that could affect spring farming. Serious drought began to hit many big cities and prefectures of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north, including Hulun Buir, Baotou, Ordos and Xilingol, early this month because of reduced rainfall since December, the autonomous regional meteorological bureau said Thursday.

Different localities received a maximum of 20 millimeters of rainfall over the past four months, up to 70 percent less than the corresponding period of previous years, according to Li Yunpeng, official with the meteorological center of ecology and agriculture. The drought would continue in the region until the first springrain comes in mid April, said Li. Meteorological authorities called for measures to maintain soilmoisture for the upcoming spring sowing. A severe drought in the neighboring Hebei Province had affected 3 million hectares of cropland and left residents in some areas short of drinking water. It is the 12th consecutive spring drought in the province, which only received seven millimeters of rainfall on average since the winter, about 60 percent less than normal years.

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