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Water — On Women’s Burdens, Humans’ Rights, and Companies’ Profits
Zuhal Yeşilyur Gündüz, Monthly Review
How is it possible that a person living in a water-rich region uses more water by flushing the toilet than a person in a water-scarce region has available for drinking, food-preparation, hygiene, and cleaning—for a whole day?
How is it possible that a woman living in a water-rich region only needs to open the tap to get enough water for herself and her family, while a woman in a water-scarce region has to…walk for miles and miles to get far less water of much worse quality?
Why is that so? Is it bad fortune? Unfair? Destiny? Undeserved? Is it unjust? It is all these, but also much more. Water is the essence of life. It is the precondition of life. Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote an homage about water, calling it “indescribable….We do not just need you to live: you are life itself! You are the Earth’s most precious possession.…You are a delicate divinity.” Just like the air we breathe, we need water to survive. Clean water, for sure: unsafe, unclean water kills.
This article has two parts. The first deals with dominant positions concerning water: the neoliberal agenda, consequences of water privatization, and the UN stance. The second part looks at what is missing in this picture and ignored by the dominant perspectives—namely, global inequalities and gender discrimination.
Peak Water: What Is it — and Are We There Yet?
Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute, AlterNet
Increasingly, around the world, in the U.S., and locally, we are running up against peak water limits.
Peak water is coming. In some places, peak water is here. We’re never going to run out of water — water is a renewable natural resource (mostly). But increasingly, around the world, in the U.S., and locally, we are running up against peak water limits. The concept is so important and relevant that The New York Times chose the term “peak water” as one of its 33 “Words of the Year” for 2010 (along with “refudiate,” “top kill,” and “vuvuzela”), a term that a colleague and I defined in a new research paper in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (available here).
Water Number: Three (3) definitions of “peak water.”
Peak Renewable Water: This is the limit reached when humans take the entire renewable flow of a river or stream for our use. Water is renewable, but there is a limit to how much can be used. Humans
… Peak Non-Renewable Water: While much of our water supply is renewable, there are “non-renewable” water sources as well, where our use of water depletes or degrades the source. This most typically takes the form of groundwater aquifers that we pump out faster than nature recharges them — exactly like the concept of “peak oil.”
… Peak Ecological Water: The third definition, and perhaps the most important (and difficult) one, is peak “ecological” water — the point where any additional human uses cause more harm (economic, ecological, or social) than benefit. We’re good at measuring the “benefits” of more human use of water (semiconductors manufactured, or food produced, or economic value generated), but we’re bad at measuring on an equal footing, the ecological “costs” or harm caused by that same use of water. As a result, species are driven to extinction, habitat is destroyed, water purification capabilities of marshes and wetlands are lost. For many watersheds around the world, we are reaching, or exceeding, the point of “peak ecological water.”
California as a whole may not have quite reached peak water, but parts of California and some of our water systems are long past the point of peak water, in all three definitions of the term
(27 January 2011)
Scientists warn California could be struck by winter ‘superstorm’
Liz Goodwin, The Lookout, Yahoo! News
A group of more than 100 scientists and experts say in a new report that California faces the risk of a massive “superstorm” that could flood a quarter of the state’s homes and cause $300 billion to $400 billion in damage. Researchers point out that the potential scale of destruction in this storm scenario is four or five times the amount of damage that could be wrought by a major earthquake.
It sounds like the plot of an apocalyptic action movie, but scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey warned federal and state emergency officials that California’s geological history shows such “superstorms” have happened in the past, and should be added to the long list of natural disasters to worry about in the Golden State.
… The risk is gathering momentum now, scientists say, due to rising temperatures in the atmosphere, which has generally made weather patterns more volatile.
(17 January 2011)