This week, 16-22 August, 2009, is World Water Week, put together by The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). The theme this year is Responding to Global Changes: Accessing Water for the Common Good. Participants from the scientific, business, policy and civic communities will discuss, among other things, sustainable and unsustainable water use. BBC reports on their plans for a sustainable water use certification program.
In August 1995 World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldinsaid that "if the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water -- unless we change our approach to managing this precious and vital resource." This statement has been reported by the most important media and frequently used as a relevant reference in the analysis of future international relations and water resources management.
A research of the Oregon State University, however, shows a different course of historical events up to now. In the last 50 years water has rarely been object of disputes: only 37 of them involved violence, and most of these were connected to other political or social arguments.
An article published on BBC News tries to explain why “today, more than ever, it is time to stop propagating threats of ‘water wars’ and aggressively pursue a water peacemaking strategy”.
Conservationists have long believed that irrigation methods that send trickles of water to fields were more efficient than methods that involve flooding them.
A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that in the long run, drip irrigation actually consumes more water than traditional irrigation methods. Crops grown using the drip method grow faster and produce higher yields, necessitating use of more water. Also, dripping means that there is no runoff to be recaptured in local aquifers. When water is dripped onto fields, the excess just evaporates from the ground.
The international charity WaterAid has recently released the discussion paper "Turning slums around: the case for water and sanitation," presented at the UN World Urban Forum, held in Nanjing, China last week.
Summary: There is an unacceptably weak global policy response to the water and sanitation crisis in the rapidly expanding slum areas of the developing world. Without a serious commitment to redress the low political and financing priority given to sanitation and water in housing and urban development, and slum upgrading, the growing challenge of urbanisation risks setting off an unmanageable health, education and economic crisis.
Wasted food means the waste of the water that went into its production as well.
Consumers were horrified this past year, for example, at the amount of food wasted when the Hallmark/Wetland Meat Packing Company (USA) voluntarily recalled approximately 143,383,823 pounds (65 million kgs.) of beef products.
But not too many of us even considered what that meant in terms of water resources. According to the authors of the report:
The production of 65 million kgs of beef requires an extimated 650 billion liters of water. . . that is, enough water to irrigate about 1000000 ha of dry land for a year, or supply more than enough for Las Vegas' annual [water] supply...
The Journal of International Afriars in its Spring-Summer 2008 issue analyses water from a number of angles: as a right, a commodity, a source of disease, in sustaining ecosystems and modern lifestyles. FAO staff have access to this journal through ProQuest.
A water news feature in Nature 452 (7185) considers the problems involved in providing safe and adequate water for all. FAO staff member Pasquale Steduto is interviewed in the article More Crop per Drop, which looks at the role of biotechnology in increasing crop yields in countries with poor water supplies. Nature is available online to FAO staff.
The March 20, 2008 issue of Nature magazine is a special issue that tackles the science, economics and the politics of the global water crisis. The issue features articles such as:
A Fresh Approach to Water The water shortage that threatens humanity will have wide-ranging consequences for agriculture and energy production, requiring significant shifts in the way this precious resource is managed.
Water: A Long Dry Summer In parts of the world already facing unreliable food supplies, an uncertain climate adds to the future stress for soils, plants and people. Quirin Schiermeier reports on water strategies for a drier world.
Improving on Haves and Have-Nots All-or-nothing targets for global access to basic amenities such as drinking water and sanitation are outdated. The time has come, says Jamie Bartram, for a more fluid approach.
The Energy Challenge Global energy consumption is expected to grow by 50% by 2030, squeezing already scarce water resources. Mike Hightower and Suzanne A. Pierce recommend ways to integrate water and energy planning.
Nature is available to FAO staff members via library subscription.