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UN warns of widespread water shortages

Martin Mittelstaedt, Globe and Mail
The world faces a bleak future over its dwindling water supplies, with pollution, climate change and rapidly growing populations raising the possibility of widespread shortages, a new report compiled by 24 agencies of the United Nations says.

The warning from the UN is based on one of the most comprehensive assessments the global body has undertaken on the state of the world’s fresh water and was commissioned for use at a major international water conference being held next week in Istanbul.

“Today, water management crises are developing in most of the world,” the report says, citing a single week in November of 2006 when there were local news reports of shortages in 14 countries, including parts of Canada, the United States and Australia.
(12 March 2009)

Climate change accelerates water hunt in U.S. West

Peter Henderson, Reuters via Yahoo!News
It’s hard to visualize a water crisis while driving the lush boulevards of Los Angeles, golfing Arizona’s green fairways or watching dancing Las Vegas fountains leap more than 20 stories high.

So look Down Under. A decade into its worst drought in a hundred years Australia is a lesson of what the American West could become.

… Water raised leafy green Los Angeles from the desert and filled arid valleys with the nation’s largest fruit and vegetable crop. Each time more water was needed, another megaproject was built, from dams of the major rivers to a canal stretching much of the length of the state.

But those methods are near their end. There is very little water left untapped and global warming, the gradual increase of temperature as carbon dioxide and other gases retain more of the sun’s heat, has created new uncertainties.
(9 March 2009)

Have we reached peak water?

Paul Hanley, The Star Phoenix (Canada)
We all know about peak oil, but peak water? Water expert Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute poses the possibility that, despite the vast amounts of water on “Planet Ocean,” we may be running out of sustainably managed water.

What is sustainably managed water? This term relates to the way we use, manage and abuse the fresh water that is regularly replenished by precipitation. In several places in the world, such as the southwestern United States and China, so much fresh water is withdrawn that rivers have actually dried up before they reach the sea.

“Humans already appropriate over 50 per cent of all renewable and accessible freshwater flows,” said Gleick, “and yet billions still lack the most basic water services.” It could be difficult in many places to find additional fresh water to bring the level of water services to a higher standard for those without sufficient water.

People are increasingly turning to aquifers to supply water, but the deeper aquifers are not replenished from precipitation, at least not in the short term, so cannot be classed as sustainable(10 March 2009)

Congress to Examine Link Between Energy & Water

Justin Moresco, earth2tech
The U.S. Senate is starting to look harder at the nexus between energy and water. Tomorrow, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a bill introduced last week that would direct the Department of Energy to develop a roadmap for addressing the linkages between energy and water. The relationship between the two sources has been a growing concern among energy and water experts. Large amounts of water are needed to produce energy at power plants, and significant energy is used to treat and transport water to consumers. In other words, each is dependent on the other, but energy and water are rarely integrated in policy.

Peter Gleick, president of Oakland, calif.-based Pacific Insitute, a policy group, will testify before Congress tomorrow. According to excerpts of his planned testimony provided to Earth2Tech, Gleick will argue that considering energy and water together could offer substantial economic and environmental benefits.
(9 March 2009)