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Huge increase in spending on water urged to avert global catastrophe

Juliette Jowit, The Guardian
Countries across the world will have to dramatically increase investment in dams, pipes and other water infrastructure to avoid widespread flooding, drought and disease even before climate change accelerates these problems, experts have warned.

Investment needs to be at least doubled from the current level of $80bn (£45.5bn) a year, an international congress was told this week, and one leading authority said spending needed to rise to 1.5% of gross domestic product just “to be able to cope with the current climate” – one thousand times the current level.

The warnings follow a summer of dramatic events, from hurricane flooding in the Caribbean and the east coast of America to desperate measures in drought-stricken Mediterranean countries, including importing water by ship…
(11 September 2008)

Shrinking Water Supplies and Growing Energy Demands

David Hampton, E Magazine
Shrinking Water Supplies and Growing Energy Demands—an Emerging Strategic Headache
The links between energy and water have significant strategic implications for many businesses and will affect companies outside the energy and utility sectors. The future development of these interrelationships begs the question: Do businesses fully recognize the wider strategic risks posed by water scarcity, the impact of climate change and the implications for energy production and availability? In most cases, the answer is no.

… A careful examination of energy sources uncovers wide linkages with water. Global economic growth, particularly in emerging economies, has led to greater demand for energy, and new power plants are being built at a rapid pace—especially in the developing world. It is estimated that China is building two power stations every week! This need for energy has an environmental cost both water and emissions. In 2000 thermal power stations accounted for 39% of all freshwater withdrawals in the U.S. Conventional thermal and nuclear power stations are typically major users of water in their “wet” cooling systems. They either withdraw and return large quantities of water for cooling purposes or consume smaller, but still significant, quantities in closed cooling systems.

There is much debate around the sustainability of first generation biofuels, and the most heated debate is usually reserved for the comparative carbon benefits of biofuels and their impact on global food commodities. Relatively few commentators have focused on the link between biofuels and water. Agriculture is the world’s largest, and often most inefficient, user of water.

… Many oil companies are producing greater quantities of oil from unconventional sources, too. There is much debate concerning peak oil but regardless of the size of the world’s remaining crude oil reserves, many observers and industry players predict that unconventionals will play an increasingly key role in meeting the future demand for energy. The CO2 impact of extracting these reserves, and their subsequent use, is frequently debated, but the extraction and processing of these resources often requires significant volumes of water.

DAVID HAMPTON is a London-based director at LECG (a global expert services firm) and a leading expert on carbon and climate change.
(September 2008)

California revives program to buy water from farmers

Nancy Vogel, Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO — — Saying California’s water reserves are all but gone, state officials on Thursday announced the revival of a dormant 17-year-old program to buy water from Sacramento Valley farmers and sell it to the thirstiest Southern California agencies in case this winter brings a third year of skimpy precipitation.

“We’re hoping for the best, that we’re going to have a good storm season and be able to meet the needs of California,” said state Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow. “However, we would be negligent if we didn’t prepare for the worst.”

The bounty of the state’s biggest reservoirs, which supplied the state through the last two dry years with Sierra and Cascade mountain snowmelt, is disappearing. Major reservoirs, including Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, are now at half of what is typical for this time of year.

“There are a number of scenarios where we do not regain our snow pack,” Snow said, “and because our storage is low, we’re really in a lot of trouble.”…
(5 September 2008)