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Water - Feb 14

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Is Agriculture Sucking Fresh Water Dry?

Sid Perkins, Science Magazine
The average American uses enough water each year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and global agriculture consumes a whopping 92% of all fresh water used annually. Those are the conclusions of the most comprehensive analysis to date of global water use, which also finds that one-fifth of humankind’s water consumption flows across international borders as “virtual water”—the water needed to produce a commodity, such as meat or electronics, if the ultimate consumers were to make it themselves rather than outsource its growth or manufacture.

The new study “is the most comprehensive and finest-resolution analysis to date,” says Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project, which is based in Los Lunas, New Mexico.

Humans consume water in a number of ways: They pump it from rivers and reservoirs, draw it from underground aquifers, and render it unusable by polluting it, says Arjen Hoekstra, a water policy analyst at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands. Expanding on previous studies by them and others, he and colleague Mesfin Mekonnen analyzed humankind’s water footprint at high geographical resolution for the decade from 1996 to 2005, the most recent such interval for which comprehensive data are available. In the study, the researchers divided Earth’s surface into blocks about 85 square kilometers or smaller and then used data compiled by individual nations to estimate water-consumption patterns for all agricultural and industrial processes and for all household uses taking place in each.
(13 February 2012)

More on the report:
The water footprint of humanity
Arjen Y. Hoekstra1 and Mesfin M. Mekonnen
Abstract: This study quantifies and maps the water footprint (WF) of humanity at a high spatial resolution. It reports on consumptive use of rainwater (green WF) and ground and surface water (blue WF) and volumes of water polluted (gray WF). Water footprints are estimated per nation from both a production and consumption perspective. International virtual water flows are estimated based on trade in agricultural and industrial commodities. The global annual average WF in the period 1996–2005 was 9,087 Gm3/y (74% green, 11% blue, 15% gray). Agricultural production contributes 92%. About one-fifth of the global WF relates to production for export. The total volume of international virtual water flows related to trade in agricultural and industrial products was 2,320 Gm3/y (68% green, 13% blue, 19% gray). The WF of the global average consumer was 1,385 m3/y. The average consumer in the United States has a WF of 2,842 m3/y, whereas the average citizens in China and India have WFs of 1,071 and 1,089 m3/y, respectively. Consumption of cereal products gives the largest contribution to the WF of the average consumer (27%), followed by meat (22%) and milk products (7%). The volume and pattern of consumption and the WF per ton of product of the products consumed are the main factors determining the WF of a consumer. The study illustrates the global dimension of water consumption and pollution by showing that several countries heavily rely on foreign water resources and that many countries have significant impacts on water consumption and pollution elsewhere.

Link to full report
The water footprint of the world – map from The Guardian



UAE bans export of groundwater

WAM, Gulf News
The Ministerial Service Council has banned the export of groundwater due to a decline in its levels in the country.

The ban was taken at the council's meeting chaired by Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

The move came upon a recommendation from the Federal National Council (FNC) following a study carried out by the Ministry of Environment and Water.

The study shows a decline in underground water and the depletion of water resources as a result of exports...

Last year, General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, called for placing the issue of water scarcity at the top of the UAE's national agenda.

He recently said water is more important than oil in the UAE. This is a bold and clear signal that an economy based on oil is placing water at the top of its priorities.
(13 February 2012)



Permission granted for Britain's first amphibious house on banks of Thames

Murray Wardrop, The Daily Telegraph
Architects have been granted permission to build Britain’s first amphibious house on the banks of the River Thames.

The property is designed to be flood-proof as its pioneering design allows it to float on the surface when water levels rise.

Created by London-based Baca Architects, the project could provide a solution for communities built on flood plains to avoid the devastation inflicted on thousands of homes beside the Thames during the 2007 floods.

The timber-framed three-bedroom property, due for completion this year, rests on a concrete hull to create a free-floating pontoon set in a dock made of four guideposts to keep it in place.

In the event of the river bursting its banks, the water pressure will unlock the home from the dock and allow it to float up to the water level.

The garden will also act as a natural early warning flood system, with terraces set at different levels designed to flood incrementally and alert the occupants well before the water reaches a threatening level.
(14 February 2012)
Images with story

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