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Mumbai disrupted by water shortages

Delnaaz Irani, BBC
In a suburban Mumbai home, simple tasks like doing the dishes are made difficult for busy mother-of-two Neeta Mehta.

Water is supplied to Ms Mehta’s home only once a day for a few hours in the morning, which means she has to try and store water while the taps are running…

…Millions of Mumbai residents are in the same boat.

The city needs four billion litres of drinking water every day to service the needs of all its residents.

The population is so huge that it is not at all possible to bring water from some other place

However, the main civic body responsible for the city’s water supply, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), reports that it can only supply 3.3 billion litres a day.

Anil Diggiker, the BMC’s additional commissioner, says they are trying to address the shortage…

…There are fears that if the population continues to grow and demand for water hits new highs, then the crisis could escalate and the city may run out of water within fifteen years.

Unless a longer-term solution and a collective effort to conserve water is put in place, then many analysts worry that Mumbai’s 20 million or so residents could be left high and dry.
(2 August 2009)

Colorado River running on empty by 2050

One-in-two chance of fully depleting reservoir storage by 2050, says University of Colorado study.

The lifeblood of the American West, the Colorado River, is running dry under current usage, according to a study from the University of Colorado.

Travelling almost 1,500 miles, the river supplies drinking and irrigation water for about 30 million people from Colorado to the Gulf of California.

The study looked at how water supplies would be affected by climate fluctuations and water demand.

…If climate change results in a 10 per cent reduction in the Colorado River’s average stream flows, as some recent studies predict, the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage will exceed 25 per cent by 2057…
(28 July 2009)

The wildebeest river is running dry

Daniel Howden, The Independent
The scale of it is hard to comprehend. Even standing on the dented roof of an old jeep in the Serengeti and seeing hoofed animals stretching out to the horizon in all directions only affords you a glimpse of it. The great wildebeest migration is underway and more than a million of them, together with hundreds of thousands of zebras, are heading north from the endless plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti region into the pastures of the Masai Mara in Kenya, seeking water and grass.

The quintessential image of the migration is the crossing of the Mara river: the surprising vulnerability of the wildebeest horde as they scramble down one bank and up the other, their fierce horns and grey-bearded heads turning nervously in search of predators. It’s a spectacle routinely referred to as the seventh wonder of the world and one thatdraws tens of thousands of top-dollar tourists to both banks of the Mara every year.

But this year there is something missing – the water. “This is the first year we’ve ever seen the river this low,” says Will Deed, who works with the Mara Conservancy, a not-for-profit group which manages one third of this huge reserve.

“In parts there’s just small channel, one or one-and-a-half feet deep.” In the same stretches of the river last year the water was as deep as five feet and “the wildebeest and zebra were up to their chests or necks, or even swimming,” he adds.

…The drying-up of the river, which should be at its highest point at the end East Africa’s long rainy season, is one of a series of ominous signs that conservationists believe could add up to an ecological disaster.

The sun-scorched boulders that ring the shore of Kenya’s Lake Baringo are cut by a sharp brown line, running horizontally, that shows the watermark of the past. Beneath the dark divide is an expanse of white stone freshly bared to the elements as the lake has receded dramatically.

A report released last week by Kenya’s Water Resource Management Authority has dismissed any hopes that these phenomena could be unrelated.

In the report, Simon Mwangi, the authority’s Rift Valley regional technical manager, said that the River Perkerra, which feeds Lake Baringo, and the Malewa which drains into Lake Naivasha, were at their lowest levels on record.

The picture was similarly bleak, he reported, with the Ewaso Nyiro and Mara rivers. The country’s great lakes from Turkana in the north to Nakuru, and the economically vital Naivasha, home to Kenya’s flower industry, were also alarmingly low.

…The answer to the riddle of the Mara’s dwindling waters, and the general drought conditions, lies upstream, in the Mau forest.

The Mara river originates on the Mau escarpment, eventually draining into Lake Victoria. The largest remaining forest in Kenya, Mau functions as a water tower for the East African country, feeding rivers and helping to regulate rainfall.

However shocking reports this year have a revealed that the eco-system is under siege from illegal loggers and land-grabbing farmers, as well as large and small recipients of political patronage. Many of those are smallholders receiving parcels of the forest as “land for votes”, while Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper named two of the children of former president Daniel arap Moi as among the bigger owners.

There effect is a devastating fragmentation of what environmentalists call an ecological utility whose services stretch from watering Kenya’s tea estates to feeding the rivers powering its hydroelectric plants, and regulating temperature and rainfall throughout an often arid land. Despite being home to the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme, Kenya has systematically ignored warnings over the importance of conserving the Mau forest. While the troubled coalition government in Nairobi has belatedly begun to recognise the problem, it has so far done next to nothing about it…
(10 Aug 2009)