Why are many people so careless about water harvesting and water stockage in the soil?

 

Photo credit: * Drums – rain harvesting – Photo Vc Lim – 543009_339426419459768_100001772389418_778512_1937205101_n.jpg

 

Managing groundwater – Gestion de la nappe aquifère

 

Originally published at:

https://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/03/08/managing-groundwater-gestion-de-la-nappe-aquifere/

 

RESUME FRANCAIS

Le nombre de forages construits dans des régions arides grandit continuellement et provoque une baisse considérable de la nappe aquifère. Il est donc nécessaire d’appliquer une gestion efficace de cette nappe afin de ne pas créer des grands problèmes de tout genre. Nous recommandons donc de se concentrer aussi sur la collecte de l’eau de pluie et sur le stockage de la pluie dans la zone de l’enracinement des plantes (20-30 cm), p.ex. avec le conditionneur de sol TerraCottem.

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I have been reading today (2007-03-08) an interesting article on “Managing groundwater for dry season irrigation”, written by I.M. FAISAL, S. PARVEEN and M.R. KABIR. Should you look for the full text, please find it on “id21 natural resources highlights – water – 2006“, an annual publication of the Institute of Development Studies – University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, to which you can easily subscribe.

The article mentioned above tells us first:

Using groundwater for dry season irrigation has been the preferred strategy of the Bangladesh govenment for many years. For example, the privatisation of irrigation in the 1990s led to huge growth in the number of shallow tube-wells. However, groundwater must be managed carefully: there is not enough information available on national groundwater resources to understand or predict long-term environmental impacts of continued use“.

Having noticed myself the dramatic fall of the groundwater level over the years 1975-2005 in many African Sahel countries, I could not agree more with the statement above. Most probably, this fall is not only caused by the well-known continuous drought in that region, but also to the ever growing number of wells and pumps. It would be wise to ring the alarm bell for any proliferation of the well-intended “humanitarian” projects to drill more and deeper wells to “bring water to people and animals“. On the contrary, it would be wiser to take better care ofwater harvesting and to look for more efficient water use, like these authors say.  The authors also tell us: “Most water projects in Bangladesh have a narrow focus, such as flood control, drainage or irrigation. Social, economic and environmental factors are largely ignored and there is little monitoring or evaluation. The Barind Multipurpose Development Project (BMDP) consciously tries to overcome these problems to meet the challenges of creating the physical and social infrastructure necessary for groundwater irrigation in a semi-arid area. For example, the project encourages maximum use of carefully spaced deep tube-wells (DTWs), which minimises water wastage.

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The BMDP also constantly monitors quality and quantity of groundwater and aquifer levels. Thousands of poorly maintained rainwater collection tanks have been renovated.

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Several positive features of this approach are mentioned:

° Water use groups, consisting of users from many different social groups and institutions, give feedback to BMDP managers to improve project performance.-

° A large reforestation campaign and distribution of medicinal plant seedlings are examples of the project’s environmental improvement activities.

According to the authors several problems are encountered, the most significant being when hand wells, used to collect drinking water, began to dry up in DTW target areas. It has highlighted a need to integrate the planning of irrigation projects with drinking water supplies. This phenomenon is also widespread in semi-arid areas in Africa, and probably on other continents too.

It brings me to the following question:

Why are many people so careless about water harvesting and water stockage in the soil?

Rainwater that comes free from the sky runs off, infiltrates deep or evaporates without any human action to stop this. Oh yes, we will construct dams (or even little dikes – diguettes) and we will install expensive tube-wells and pumps. In other words, first we do nothing and then we spend a lot of energy (and money) to bring the water back where it belongs, i.e. in the rooting zone of the cultivated fields.

It would be more logic and more efficient to collect that free rainwater mechanically (in drums or bigger reservoirs/tanks) or chemically (with water stocking substances that can easily be mixed with the soil, let us say 20-30 cm/ 1 foot deep).

Ever heard about the TerraCottem soil conditioner developed at my laboratory at the University of Ghent, Belgium? Please have a look at the websitehttp://www.terracottem.com and learn something about efficient use of rainwater.

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Family garden of the Saharawis refugees in the Sahara desert (S. W. Algeria) – (UNICEF project 2005-2007)- Photo WVC P1000375 copy 1.jpg

 

Vegetable garden in the Sahara desert (Smara refugee camp, Algeria). Soil is pure desert sand without any amendment. Drip irrigation every day. Very poor production.

Jardin de légumes au Sahara (camp des réfugiés à Smara, Algérie). Le sol est du sable du désert pur sans aucun amendement. Irrigation goutte-à-goutte tous les jours. Production très pauvre.

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Photo WVC P1000372 copy 1.jpg – Family garden in the refugee camps in S.X. Algeria ( Sahara desert)

Neighbour’s garden in the same Smara refugee camp. Desert sand mixed with 50 g of TerraCottem soil conditioner/25 cm deep. Drip irrigation every two days. Magnificent production.

Le jardin du voisin dans le même camp de Smara. Sable du désert mélangé avec 50 g de conditionneur de sol TerraCottem/25 cm de profondeur. Irrigation goutte-à-goutte tous les 2 jours. Production magnifique.

 

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Instead of letting all the rainwater become groundwater, let us use it for keeping our fields moistened for a longer period. And don’t miss that important information: TerraCottem soil conditioner is only applied one single time ! It stays active in the soil for many years.

You don’t believe it? Give it a try !

El Niño-exacerbated drought, hunger and funding

Photo credit: FAO

Wildlife. UN Photo/E Darroch

 

Funding shortfall threatens UN efforts to counter El Niño-exacerbated drought in southern Africa

With 14 million people facing hunger in southern Africa as the El Niño weather pattern, the worst in over three decades, exacerbates drought, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that it faces critical funding challenges in scaling up food and cash-based aid.

“The number of people without enough food could rise significantly over coming months as the region moves deeper into the so-called lean season, the period before the April harvest when food and cash stocks become increasingly depleted,” WFP said in a news release. “Particularly vulnerable are smallholder farmers who account for most agricultural production.”

The cyclical El Niño pattern of devastating droughts on some regions and catastrophic floods in others that can affect tens of millions of people around the globe, is already leading to even worse drought across southern Africa, affecting this year’s crops.

With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming.

“Driving through southern Zambia, I saw fields of crops severely stressed from lack of water and met farmers who are struggling to cope with a second season of erratic rains,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said at the end of a visit to drought-prone southern Zambia.

“Zambia is one of the biggest breadbaskets in the region and what’s happening there gives serious cause for concern not only for Zambia itself but all countries in the region.”

Worst affected by last year’s poor rains are Malawi with 2.8 million people facing hunger, Madagascar with nearly 1.9 million, and Zimbabwe with 1.5 million and last year’s harvest reduced by half compared to the previous year due to massive crop failure.

In Lesotho, the Government has declared a drought emergency and some 650,000 people, a third of the population, do not have enough food. As elsewhere, water is in extremely short supply for both crops and livestock. Also causing concern are Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland.

Read the full article: FAO

Elevated CO2 concentration, drought and photosynthesis

Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment Helps Plants Recover from Droughts

Changes in leaf relative water content (RWC), a good indicator of leaf hydration status and the level of drought tolerance, of tall fescue in response to 15 days of drought stress and 6 days of rewatering under ambient (400 ppm) or elevated CO2 concentration (800 ppm). Legend key: 800-D = drought-stressed plants under elevated CO2 concentration, 800-W = well-watered plants under elevated CO2 concentration, 400-D = drought-stressed plants under ambient CO2 concentration and 400-W = well-watered plants under ambient CO2 concentration. - http://www.co2science.org/articles/V18/dec/Chenetal2015b.jpg
Changes in leaf relative water content (RWC), a good indicator of leaf hydration status and the level of drought tolerance, of tall fescue in response to 15 days of drought stress and 6 days of rewatering under ambient (400 ppm) or elevated CO2 concentration (800 ppm). Legend key: 800-D = drought-stressed plants under elevated CO2 concentration, 800-W = well-watered plants under elevated CO2 concentration, 400-D = drought-stressed plants under ambient CO2 concentration and 400-W = well-watered plants under ambient CO2 concentration. – http://www.co2science.org/articles/V18/dec/Chenetal2015b.jpg

Paper Reviewed

Chen, Y., Yu, J. and Huang, B. 2015.

Effects of elevated CO2 concentration on water relations and photosynthetic responses to drought stress and recovery during re-watering in tall fescue.

Journal of the American Society of Horticultural Science 140: 19-26.

Introducing their study, Chen et al. (2015) write that “drought stress is one of the most detrimental abiotic stresses for plant growth,” in that it “leads to stomatal closure and reduces photosynthesis resulting from restricted CO2 diffusion through leaf stomata and inhibition of carboxylation activity,” as described by Flexas et al. (2004). And they thus note that “minimizing cellular dehydration and maintaining active photosynthesis are key strategies for plant survival or persistence through dry-down periods,” as is described in more detail by Nilsen and Orcutt (1996).

 

California drought is to blame : Sequoias threatened

 

Photo credit: Nature World News

Giant Sequoias face environmental stress from extreme drought conditions and wildfires in California. (Photo : Flickr: Matthew Fern)

California Drought: Giant Sequoias Threatened By Water Shortages and Wildfires

 

By Samantha Mathewson

Giant Sequoias, native to California’s Sierra Nevada, are some of the largest and oldest living things on earth. Some are over 3,000 years old and are nearly 300 feet tall. These large trees can suck up approximately of 800 gallons of water a day, noted Koren Nydick, a National Park Service ecologist and part of the research team focused on the treasured trees. But recently, researchers have witness an increased amount of brown dead patches scatter throughout this historic forest, and they believe the record-long, widespread California drought is to blame.

 

In an attempt to better manage these forests and control loss, scientists analyzed trees that seem most vulnerable, collecting samples from both healthy and decaying trees. They examined these trees using field surveys and overhead images taken from a plane operated by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory. In combining the data, researchers hope to identify patterns of drought stress that could be used to prevent potential die-off.

Read the full article: Nature World News

A reduced early season irrigation schedule

Photo credit: Nature World News

A pecan orchard used in a research study demonstrated pecan trees can tolerate a 38 percent reduction in irrigation water use with no significant effect on nut yield or quality. (Photo : Lenny Wells.)

New Irrigation Strategies Combat Georgia Water Shortages And Aid Pecan Farmers

Researchers from the University of Georgia have developed water-saving protocols for farmers looking to supply their pecan orchards with the ample amounts of water they require during their kernel-filling stage, which generally falls between August or September. Georgia is considered the largest pecan-producing state in the U.S. However, the state only receives an average rainfall of about 127 cm annually.
Even given the rain shortfall, Dr. Lenny Wells, author of the recent study from the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, says current irrigation schedules are extremely outdated. In fact, he’s noted that procedures used today are based on a 1985 study related to plant water stress, evapotranspiration and soil water depletion generated in more arid climates.
Read the full story: Nature World News

Drought: detrimental impact on the growth and survival of larger trees

Large trees — key climate influencers — die first in drought

First systematic review of patterns, 38 worldwide forests studied

Source:DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

Living trees soak up greenhouse gas and store it for a long time in their woody tissues, but dying trees release it--a carbon sink becomes a carbon source. Credit: © korvit / Fotolia -  http://images.sciencedaily.com/2015/09/150929142248_1_540x360.jpg
Living trees soak up greenhouse gas and store it for a long time in their woody tissues, but dying trees release it–a carbon sink becomes a carbon source.
Credit: © korvit / Fotolia – http://images.sciencedaily.com/2015/09/150929142248_1_540x360.jpg

Summary:In forests worldwide, drought consistently has had a more detrimental impact on the growth and survival of larger trees, new research shows. In addition, while the death of small trees may affect the dominance of trees in a landscape, the death of large trees has a far worse impact on the ecosystem and climate’s health, especially due to the important role that trees play in the carbon cycle.

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In forests worldwide, drought consistently has had a more detrimental impact on the growth and survival of larger trees, new research shows. In addition, while the death of small trees may affect the dominance of trees in a landscape, the death of large trees has a far worse impact on the ecosystem and climate’s health, especially due to the important role that trees play in the carbon cycle.

“Previous studies at a few sites had shown that large trees suffer more than small trees during and after droughts, and our theory suggested this should be a globally consistent pattern, but this project was the first to test this hypothesis globally.” said Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Nate McDowell, a renowned forest ecologist and plant physiologist who coauthored a paper in the journal Nature Plants highlighting this research.

Read the full article: Science Daily

Drought and insurance in Kenya

Kenya Government launches insurance program to protect its northern frontier herders against catastrophic drought

by  – Written by Bryn Davies

Fred Segor, principal secretary in Kenya’s State Department of Livestock in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and member of the board of trustees of the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), recently announced that a large government-sponsored livestock insurance scheme would begin being implemented this October in Wajir, Turkana and Marsabit at a cost of Kshs80.9 million (about USD800,000).

Scenes of IBLI work in northern Kenya (photo credit: ILRI). After almost five years of implementing Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) across northern Kenya, ILRI’ is delighted to partner the Government of Kenya and the World Bank in a new government scheme to scale up pastoral livestock insurance against drought. - https://ilriclippings.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/collageibliinnorthernkenya.jpg?w=500&h=432
Scenes of IBLI work in northern Kenya (photo credit: ILRI). After almost five years of implementing Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) across northern Kenya, ILRI’ is delighted to partner the Government of Kenya and the World Bank in a new government scheme to scale up pastoral livestock insurance against drought. – https://ilriclippings.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/collageibliinnorthernkenya.jpg?w=500&h=432

Fred Segor said the cover would be escalated to cover 14 of Kenya’s northern counties, targeting 5,000 households in the short term, to help them cope with recurring drought.

William Ruto, deputy president of Kenya, lauded this pastoral insurance initiative, noting that it was a culmination of intense research by the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, the World Bank and ILRI to compensate farmers who buy insurance cover against the effects of drought.

Ruto pledged a further KShs200 million from the government towards the cover to hasten its expansion to all 14 counties of northern Kenya: Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Isiolo, Samburu,Garissa, Tana River, Lamu, Kajiado and Narok.

The new Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) is essentially a scaling-up of an insurance product of ILRI’s, known as the Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI), made possible through ILRI’s partnership with the World Bank Group and the Government of Kenya.

Goats instead of dollars

Photo credit: THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION / Isaiah Esipisu – Photo 960-1.jpg. 

Drought-hit Kenyan farmers bank on goats as new currency

Author: Isaiah Esipisu

EXCERPT

The small-scale farmers, who contribute funds to a savings pool and are eligible for small loans from it, aimed to use the funds to improve their farms and boost their harvests of hardy crops like pigeon pea.

“But with this kind of climate, which has dried up even the most resilient pigeon peas on our farms, no other crop can easily survive,”

So the group has instead turned to a safer investment to hold onto their cash: hardy local goats.

So-called “table banking” – conducted over an ordinary family table – was introduced to the Mwingi area in 2011 by ActionAid International Kenya – a humanitarian nongovernmental organisation – as part of an effort to strengthen livelihoods in the difficult region. But changing heat and rainfall have made that difficult.

Read the full article (Marked with highlights): THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

More rains or more desalination plants ? (Google / abc 10 news)

Seen at : Google Alerts – drought-tolerant plants

http://www.10news.com/news/storm-not-enough-to-help-drought-120214

Storm not enough to help drought

Tighter water restrictions touted for 2015

By Bob Lawrence

SAN DIEGO – Scores of water agency experts are in San Diego for a state conference, with the consensus being there would have to be 10 to 12 more storms like the one Tuesday in the next four months to ease the drought.

“That’s the reality as we’re looking at a 10 percent cut in water supplies from the State Water Project,” said Rich Atwater, executive director of the Southern California Water Committee.

A key to holding off drought, Atwater said, is adequate storage, but he said reservoirs are already low.

“By next summer, they’re going to be at emergency low levels, so it’s going to be a real problem,” he said.

The good news for San Diego is that the desalination plant in Carlsbad will be able to add to the water supply once it’s completed. Additionally, the city of San Diego approved a water recycling program much like what Orange County is now doing.

The desal plant won’t be online until 2016, and it will be years after that before a recycling plant is built.

“Outdoor water use is the key, we really need it to be the biggest game changer in terms of cutting back on water use,” Atwater said.

(continued)

Construction of a dam in Zimbabwe (IRIN News)

Read at :

http://www.irinnews.org/report/99269/dam-project-displaces-hundreds-of-families-in-zimbabwe

Dam project displaces hundreds of families in Zimbabwe

Several thousand people in southeastern Zimbabwe’s drought-prone Masvingo Province have had to leave their ancestral homes and villages in exchange for plots of undeveloped land lacking any infrastructure, in order to make way for the construction of a dam.

The Tokwe-Mukosi dam is being built by an Italian company, Salini, with funding from the Zimbabwean government, to provide irrigation to the local communal area of Chibi, which is vulnerable to recurrent food insecurity due to the area’s low rainfall. The dam will also supply water to the city of Masvingo, where severe water shortages have been experienced in recent years.

Construction began in the 1990s but stopped a decade later when Zimbabwe’s economy experienced hyperinflation, and only resumed after the formation of the Government of National Unity in 2009. If successfully completed, Tokwe-Mukosi is set to become the largest inland dam in the country, with a capacity of 1.8 billion cubic meters and a flood area covering more than 9,600 hectares.

“No choice but to vacate”

In October 2013, about 400 families (equivalent to about 2,500 individuals) were moved from their village in Chibi district to Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi district, some 100km away, where each household was given a four-hectare plot of uncultivated land and between US$3,000 and $8,000 as compensation for their previous property. Many are complaining that the money is not enough to compensate for the loss of their homes and livelihoods, and that the area lacks schools, shops, and even toilets.

(continued)

Drought in Malawi (IRIN NEWS)

Read at :

http://www.irinnews.org/report/99315/severe-water-shortages-in-malawi

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.

(continued)

Great Green Wall in China ? (Google / The Washington Post)

Read at : Google Alerts – desertification

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/let-a-billion-trees-bloom-can-a-great-green-wall-of-trees-stop-chinas-spreading-desert/2013/11/22/12908e0e-2d13-11e3-b139-029811dbb57f_story.html

Let a billion trees bloom: Can a great green wall of trees stop China’s spreading desert?

By

Kubuqi Desert, Inner Mongolia, China —We start walking up ridges as high as 10 staircases, slipping as the grains of sand tumble underfoot, grabbing a hand to keep from falling, pushing to get to the top of the next dune to see the sea of sand undulating in the distance.

“We are on the front line of a huge Chinese Dust Bowl advancing east,” says former South Korean ambassador to China Byong Hyon Kwon, an activist in the global fight against deserts on the move.

He is leading a group of volunteers across 21 / 2 miles of desert to a “green wall” of recently planted trees and shrubs aimed at blocking the march of sand and restoring the land. As recently as 50 years ago, this was grassland, Kwon says. People lived here and raised sheep.

But now the Kubuqi Desert is sucking away life. Windstorms threaten the air 800 miles away in Beijing and send plumes all the way across the Pacific to the West Coast of the United States.

Kwon founded Future Forest, a nonprofit organization, to combat desertification in 2001. As ambassador to China from 1998 to 2001, he had experienced firsthand the sandstorms known as the Yellow Dragon, which thicken the skies over Beijing with dust and send people with asthmatic lungs and weak hearts to the hospital. He became convinced then that if action weren’t taken, the march of sand would threaten the viability of the Asian continent.

(continued)

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