Thursday, November 6, 2008

Water Makes The World Go Round...con't

Archeology has proven that many ancient civilizations, whose ruins now lay buried in the unrelenting sands of modern deserts, were originally settled because of the abundance of water. Due to misuse of the land and water plus natural climate changes, these paradises changed to barren, almost waterless lands that forced these peoples to leave everything but the most important of possessions behind and find new lands to populate.

The farmers in Wadi Faynan are not alone. Communities all around the world are paying the price for thousands of years of exploitation of our environment and our water in particular. Right now, in the 21st century, when we are supposed to have the highest standard of living ever achieved on earth, 1 billion people do not have enough clean water to drink. At least 2 billion people cannot rely on adequate clean water to drink, clean and eat with; let alone have enough let over to share with the land.

Millions of deaths each year occur from disease and malnutrition. Chronic hunger keeps children away from school which is the only hope of a better life. These and other looming crises are being blamed on either the lack of or mismanagement of our most precious resource – water. Up until now, it has been mostly the poor who have suffered; so, (in my mind) efforts were not as vigorous as they could have been to alleviate the problem. However, increasingly rich nations are beginning to struggle with this problem also.

Climatologists are saying that Australia has been “gripped by drought” for so many years that the time has come to accept and admit that the lack of rain is permanent. Residents in the town of Orme, Tennessee were shocked last autumn when the Red Cross delivered water parcels. One resident, Susan Anderson, told a reporter, “I thought, that can’t be the Red Cross. We’re Americans!” This year in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the first state-wide drought in 17 years. Barcelona, Spain has begun importing tankers of water from cities along the coast. The United Kingdom, home to more rainy day horror stories (rising damp and all that) than anywhere I know, has developed such a problem in the crowded southeast that one company plans to build a desalination plant. This is the type of measure the desert states are investigating to increase their rainfall in the coastal areas.

The phrases being tossed about now are designed to raise awareness through fear. Unfortunately, the time has come that fear may be necessary. Every other tool in our “raising awareness” tool belt seems to have failed. As usual, the love of money has closed the developed countries eyes to the damage being done. The facts have not been delivered to the public in a straightforward, easy to understand manner, and we are now reaping the rewards of that deception.

The Stockholm International Water Institute warns of 'an acute and devastating humanitarian crisis'. The founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, alludes to a climatic 'perfect storm'. Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General, has chosen to raise the specter of 'water wars'.

Experts are predicting that unless is something is done to alleviate this problem, billions more will suffer lack of water bringing on hunger, disease, migration and finally war.

Politicians, economists and engineers are pressing for dramatic changes to the present water management system in Wadi Faynan and like areas. They are looking at everything from tree planting and simple storage wells, to more costly (multibillion dollar) schemes such as a dam and pipe system that would, in effect, replumb the planet. Relatively new technologies such as making freshwater from sewers and seawater are also being looked at.

In theory, there is plenty of water on earth for all its approximately 6.5 billion people with plenty left over for crop irrigation and other uses.

"There's certainly enough water for every person on the planet, but too often it's in the wrong places at the wrong times in the wrong amounts," says Marq de Villiers, author of the 2001 book Water Wars.

Three hours to the north of Wadi Faynan is the much greener Wadi Esseir; but, even there the effects of living in one of the driest countries of the world is being felt. Orchard owners receive water only once a week from the local irrigation co-operative to sustain trees such as fig, lemon, olive and grenadine plus any vegetables the family may grow. Any additional water must be obtained from the infrequent rainfall.

Human water demand has risen sixfold in the last 50 years due to the ever-increasing population, economic development and a growing consumption of meat, dairy and fish. Toss in diminishing supplies: approx. 845,000 dams block most of world’s rivers depriving downstream communities of water and sediment. Damming also increases evaporation of the dammed water and up to 50% of the water is lost due to leakage. An estimated 1 billion people do not have the proper infrastructure necessary to transport the water effectively and safely. Much of the uncovered water is often polluted by chemical and heavy metals from farms and industry. The UN blames water contaminated in this way for poisoning more than 100 million people. The last of the diminishing supplies is the rain. Every year it gets less reliable. Soon it may not come at all.

More next blog.

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