Australians cut water consumption in half

Photo credit: The CS Monitor

A traditionally dressed Australian Aboriginal performer has a drink of water as he prepares to participate in a traditional dance during an event on Sydney’s Coogee Beach May 27. Australians have had to cope with water shortages through innovative and practical means.

How Australians survived a 13-year drought by going low-tech

Residents of Melbourne, Australia, cut water consumption in half by capturing rainwater and using efficient toilets and washing machines.

If you think California’s four-year drought is apocalyptic, try 13 years. That’s how long southeastern Australia suffered through bone-dry times.

But it survived. When the so-called Millennium Drought ended in 2009, residents of Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, were using half the amount of water they had when it began.

A group of researchers from the University of California, Irvine, set out to investigate how Melbourne, a city of 4.3 million people, dramatically cut water consumption, and whether the city’s experience might hold lessons for California and other drought-stricken regions.

The short answer? Salvation came from a $2,000 rainwater tank rather than a $6 billion desalinization plant.

As the Millennium Drought dragged on, authorities approved the construction of costly infrastructure projects similar to those now being considered in California, including that expensive desalinization plant.  But the researchers found that conservation and recycling were the keys that got Melbourne through year after rainless year, according to the study published May 26 in the journal WIREs Water. 

Melbourne residents took advantage of government rebates for home rainwater tanks to capture runoff from roofs, using it to water plants and flush toilets. The state of Victoria also changed the building code to require the tanks in all new homes.

By 2009, about a third of homes were capturing free water from the sky and supplying 2 percent of Melbourne’s potable water.

Read the full article: The Christian Science Monitor

What if people refuse others the access to safe drinking water ?

Photo Credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Flickr/ EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Thousands die in Yemen in fights over water

by Rehab Abd Almohsen

“The conflict in Yemen is exacerbating water scarcity by reducing access to safe drinking water. If urgent action is not taken, the country will fall into further humanitarian crisis.” by Fawzi Karajeh, FAO Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa

Speed read

  • Up to 4,000 people die each year in fights over scarce water resources
  • The civil war means around 20 million people are without clean drinking water
  • Solar power could pumps working during power cuts, but this adds to depletion problems

Clashes over water are killing up to 4,000 people a year in Yemen, its government says.

These conflicts, which predate the country’s civil war, include raids on wells and other fights over water access involving armed groups, according to Yemen’s interior ministry.

This compares with more than 2,500 deaths so far in the civil war that began in March and involves an alliance led by Saudi Arabia fighting supporters of Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former president who was ousted in 2012.

According to a regional representative of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the civil war has left around 20 million Yemenis without access to drinking water.

“With the current conflict, the number of people that don’t have access to clean water is believed to be more than 80 per cent of the population,” says Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, who represents the FAO’s Near East and North Africa region.

Yemen has the highest water scarcity in the world, he says, with more than half the population lacking a regular supply of drinking water even before the fighting began.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

You want clean drinking water ? Pay for it !

Photo credit: IPS News

Whether they like it or not, many Africans faced with the possibility of having to access water through prepaid meters have resorted to unprotected and often unclean sources of water because they cannot afford to pay. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Prepaid Meters Scupper Gains Made in Accessing Water in Africa

By Jeffrey Moyo

Despite U.N. recognition that water is a human right, international financial institutions such as the World Bank argue that water should be allocated through market mechanisms to allow for full cost recovery from users.

While many countries appear to have met the U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, rights activists say that African countries which have taken to installing prepaid water meters have rendered a blow to many poor people, making it hard for them to access water.

“The goal to ensure that everyone has access to clean water here in Africa faces a drawback as a number of African countries have resorted to using prepaid water meters, which certainly bar the poor from accessing the precious liquid,” Claris Madhuku, director of the Platform for Youth Development, a Zimbabwean democracy lobby group, told IPS.

Prepaid water meters work in such a way that if a person cannot pay in advance, he or she will be unable to access water.

As a result, African rights activists like award-winning Terry Mutsvanga from Zimbabwe and other civil society organisations are against the idea of prepaid water meters.

“If one has to pay upfront before accessing water, then it would mean those in most need would be denied access,” Mutsvanga told IPS, adding that water is a global human right.

Read the full article: IPS News

Nihil sub sole novum (Latin)

There is nothing new under the sun

Photo credit: Pixabay

Africa: Water Crises Seen As a Top Threat in Next Decade

Pressure on fresh water resources may be the main global threat in the next decade, but the world is failing to mitigate the risk and avoid a crisis, according to a survey of leaders from business, government, universities, international organisations and NGOs by non-profit foundation the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Published in its Global Risks 2015 report released ahead of the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, this week (21-24 January), the survey reveals a belief that water crises pose the greatest risk in terms of global impact. This places it ahead of hazards such as the spread of infectious diseases, the failure to adapt to climate change and interstate conflict, prompted by the rise of the Islamic State.

The WEF defines water crises as a significant decline in freshwater quality and quantity, resulting in damage to human health or economic activity or both.

The report points to a study projecting that, by 2030, the global demand for water will exceed sustainable supplies by 40 per cent. Most of the world’s water supply is currently used in agriculture, according to the UN, with the World Bank predicting that food demand will rise by fifty per cent in the next two decades, as population grows and dietary habits change.

The looming shortages may be aggravated by an 85 per cent increase in water demand from the energy sector by 2035, the International Energy Agency anticipates.

Problems will be particularly severe in areas where factors such as urban sprawl, make it harder to manage available water resources.

By 2050, the report says, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. In countries such as India and regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, urban centres are predicted to expand up to five times.

Read the full article: allAfrica

Drought in Malawi (IRIN NEWS)

Read at :

Severe water shortages in Malawi

Parts of Malawi, including large parts of the northern region, have not received rain since February 2013 and are now experiencing severe water shortages. Women in the affected areas are leaving their homes in the early hours of the morning and walking up to 40 minutes to fetch water from the closest source.

“One will have to be up and on their way to the nearest borehole by midnight if she is to be in a position to get water, because by that time several other people will already have lined up for the same,” said Lucky Chadewa, who lives in Chikwawa in northern Malawi’s Rumphi district.

The water table has dropped as the rainless days have continued and boreholes yield less water or even dry up. The women wait for them to refill rather than return home empty-handed. “It is totally just by luck that one gets… [any] these days because after filling just a few buckets, the borehole stops producing water,” Chadewa told IRIN.

Women often leave their buckets in the queue at the borehole and rush back home so they can get their children ready for school. But when they return they find that their buckets have been pushed to the back of the queue and they may spend the rest of the day waiting to fill them.

Erratic rains

In its latest update, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) – composed of the government, UN agencies and NGOs – has identified 24 districts across the country that are experiencing critical food shortages as a result of erratic rains. Rumphi is one of three such districts in the northern region. The MVAC update estimates that 1.85 million people will need food assistance until the next expected harvest, in March 2014.


China has been paying farmers to grow corn instead of rice (Science Daily)

Read at :

China’s Clean-Water Program Benefits People and the Environment

Sep. 5, 2013 — Rice farming near Beijing has contaminated and tapped the city’s drinking water supply. For the past four years, China has been paying farmers to grow corn instead of rice, an effort that Stanford research shows is paying off for people and the environment.

Rice farming is more lucrative than corn for Chinese farmers, but flooded paddies contribute to decreased water quality and quantity.


Threats to freshwater supplies (Google / RTCC)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

Photo #21 – why Rio+20 must deal with threats to freshwater supplies

Photographer: Iain Crockart
Publication: Rio Conventions Calendar

Water is indispensable for all forms of life. It is needed for almost all human activities.

Access to safe freshwater is now regarded as a universal human and the Millennium Development Goals include the extended access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Sustainable management of freshwater resources has gained importance at regional and global levels.

The climate and freshwater systems are interconnected in complex ways. Climate change is set to exacerbate water stress in areas already vulnerable, particularly in the Pacific Islands, where the problems has already been witnessed.


“Some” risk of shortages of fresh water for drinking, farming and other uses (Science Daily)

Read at :

Climate Change May Increase Risk of Water Shortages in Hundreds of US Counties by 2050

ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2012) — More than 1 in 3 counties in the United States could face a “high” or “extreme” risk of water shortages due to climate change by the middle of the 21st century, according to a new study in ACS’s Journal of Environmental Science & Technology. The new report concluded that 7 in 10 of the more than 3,100 U.S. counties could face “some” risk of shortages of fresh water for drinking, farming and other uses. It includes maps that identify the counties at risk of shortages.


Israel : Water quota mulled if drought continues (Google / Haaretz)

Read at : Google Alert – drought

Water quota mulled if drought continues

By Zafrir Rinat

Israelis’ lifestyles may have to be drastically altered if there is a drought this year, the Ministry of National Infrastructures warned during a special discussion on the water crisis during yesterday’s cabinet meeting. Among the possible actions the water authority may be forced to take are a drastic cut in water for public parks and gardens, and a significant increase in water rates to lower consumption. Extreme measures, such as water quotas for households, are also under consideration. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during the meeting that bureaucratic mistakes were responsible for the lack of needed desalinization plants in recent years, which could have provided an answer to the present water crisis. The cabinet made a number of decisions, including the establishment of a ministerial committee to remove barriers to building a large desalinization plant in Ashdod. Continue reading “Israel : Water quota mulled if drought continues (Google / Haaretz)”

Canada : largest freshwater conservation area / EC : Natura 2000 (IISD / EU)

Read at : Linkages Update 2007-12-13


As recently announced by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the largest freshwater protected area was established at Lake Superior, the biggest of the Great Lakes, encompassing more than 10,000 sq. km and including lake bed, islands and north shorelands.
In related news, the European Commission (EC) adopted four decisions that significantly extend the Natura 2000 network of protected areas in four biogeographical regions, concerning the adoption of an initial list of Sites of Community Importance in the Pannonian region in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, and the updating of the existing lists in the Atlantic, Boreal and Continental biogeographical regions.

Links to further information
Reuters News Service, 29 October 2007
EC press release, 13 November 2007

The Seawater Greenhouse

Read at : 

The Seawater Greenhouse




The Seawater Greenhouse is a unique concept which combines natural processes, simple construction techniques and mathematical computer modeling  to provide a low-cost solution to one of the world’s greatest needs – fresh water. The Seawater Greenhouse is a new development that offers sustainable solution to the problem of providing water for agriculture in arid, coastal regions. The process uses seawater to cool and humidify the air that ventilates the greenhouse and sunlight to distill fresh water from seawater. This enables the year round cultivation of high value crops that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to grow in hot, arid regions. Continue reading “The Seawater Greenhouse”

Withdrawing fresh water and seawater intrusion (EMWIS)

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EMWIS Flash N°49-50, July- August 2007 

 Withdrawing fresh water

Withdrawing fresh water faster than it can be recharged near a coastline results in seawater intrusion. The Mediterranean basin and other similar areas encounter this common, yet serious problem more often than not. Experts in Spain have identified the Mediterranean and south Atlantic coastlines as being the biggest victims of seawater intrusion, the culprit in groundwater pollution in a country that is located on a peninsula. In the EU-funded project SWIMED, researchers aimed to develop an integrated approach combining advanced computational tools and GIS for sustainable water resources management in coastal aquifers of the Mediterranean. Further information on EMWIS website

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