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Water - Aug 24

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Driving new changes in Asian irrigation

OneWorld Southasia
Without major reforms and innovations in the way water is used in agriculture, many developing countries will face severe food shortages in future, warns a new report Revitalizing Asia’s Irrigation: To Sustainably Meet Tomorrow’s Food Needs. It suggests the shift to a more economically viable approach.

By 2050, one and a half billion more people will live in Asia as the regions population swells to five billion.

Asia’s food and feed demand is expected to double. Relying on trade to meet a large part of this demand will impose a huge and politically untenable burden on the economies of many developing countries.

With land for agricultural and irrigation expansion limited in most parts of the continent, Asian countries urgently need to boost productivity from existing farmlands.

The new comprehensive document released by the IWMI-FAO and partner researchers point out that the need for dramatic increases in water productivity to reduce the risk prospect of having to import more than a quarter of the rice, wheat and maize...
(19 August 2009)
The report can be accessed here.


Nile Delta: 'We are going underwater. The sea will conquer our lands'

Jack Shenker, The Guardian
Maged Shamdy's ancestors arrived on the shores of Lake Burrulus in the mid-19th century. In the dusty heat of Cairo at the time, French industrialists were rounding up forced labour squads to help build the Suez Canal, back-breaking labour from which thousands did not return. Like countless other Egyptians, the Shamdys abandoned their family home and fled north into the Nile Delta, where they could hide within the marshy swamplands that fanned out from the great river's edge.

As the years passed, colonial rulers came and went. But the Shamdys stayed, carving out a new life as farmers and fishermen on one of the most fertile tracts of land in the world. A century and a half later, Maged is still farming his family's fields. In between taking up the rice harvest and dredging his irrigation canals, however, he must contemplate a new threat to his family and livelihood, one that may well prove more deadly than any of Egypt's previous invaders. "We are going underwater," the 34-year-old says simply. "It's like an occupation: the rising sea will conquer our lands."

Maged understands better than most the menace of coastal erosion, which is steadily ingesting the edge of Egypt in some places at an astonishing rate of almost 100m a year. Just a few miles from his home lies Lake Burrulus itself, where Nile flower spreads all the way out to trees on the horizon. Those trunks used to be on land; now they stand knee-deep in water...
(21 August 2009)


Our Water Supply, Down the Drain

Robert Glennon, The Washington Post
In the United States, we constantly fret about running out of oil. But we should be paying more attention to another limited natural resource: water. A water crisis is threatening many parts of the country -- not just the arid West.

In 2008, metro Atlanta (home to nearly 5 million people) came within 90 days of seeing its principal water supply, Lake Lanier, dry up. Rainstorms eased the drought, but last month a federal judge ruled that Georgia may no longer use the lake as a municipal supply. The state is now scrambling to overturn that ruling; but Alabama and Florida will oppose Georgia's efforts.

In Florida, excessive groundwater pumping has dried up scores of lakes. In South Carolina, a paper company recently furloughed hundreds of workers because low river flows prevented the company from discharging its wastewater. That state's battle with North Carolina over the Catawba River has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Water has become so contentious nationwide that more than 30 states are fighting with their neighbors over water.

...In the United States, we've traditionally engineered our way out of water shortages by diverting more from rivers, building dams or drilling groundwater wells. But many rivers, including the Colorado and the Rio Grande, already dry up each year. The dam-building era from the 1930s to the 1960s tamed so many rivers that only 60 in the country remain free-flowing. Meanwhile, we're pumping so much water from wells that the levels in aquifers are plummeting. We're running out of technological fixes...
(23 August 2009)


Cattle, crop losses mount in Texas drought

Ed Stoddard, Reuters
A vast swathe of Texas remains in the grip of a scorching drought, which has cost billions of dollars and is cleaving America's largest beef cattle herd.

One county has seen its entire cotton harvest wiped out and losses for cattle, crops and the state's fast growing game farming industry are seen mounting with no relief in sight. Texas is second only to California in U.S. farm production and the sector's sales for the state topped $21 billion in 2007.

The drought-stricken area straddles the central Texas hill country, near the capitol Austin, and stretches south through San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S./Mexico border, which is a key citrus and cattle region.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor here, much of this area is experiencing exceptional drought conditions. That is the worst possible ranking and it is the only part of the country that currently falls into this category...
(20 August 2009)

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