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Splash and grab: The global scramble for water
Fred Pearce, New Scientist
AS FRENCH troops battled with jihadists in Mali at the start of the year, some people had reason to be thankful for the chaos. Two million fishers, farmers and herders live on the inner delta of the River Niger, a huge wetland on the fringe of the Sahara. They hoped the fighting would end foreign investors’ plans for irrigation projects that would suck water out of the river and destroy their livelihoods.
Even before fighting broke out, rumours of impending insurrection had encouraged the food giant Associated British Foods to abandon a massive sugar cane project. Since then, "land-grabbers" from the US, Libya, China and elsewhere have departed. The Mali government’s hope of using the river to irrigate up to a million hectares of desert looks doomed. The wetland – and the people who prosper from it – are saved. For now.
But the same is not true elsewhere…
(4 March 2013)
Peak water worries energy experts
What are the key takeaways from the World Economic Forum’s latest report on energy?
One, global energy demand is showing no signs of slowing down, despite “peak driving” having arrived already in the US and Europe. Two, if we’re going to ease energy poverty for the large chunk of the world population that still goes without modern supplies, demand is likely to keep going much higher.
And, three, buried deep toward the end of the report — “Energy Vision 2013 – Energy Transitions: Past and Future” — with little further elaboration is that, well before we begin running out of fuel, water might become a serious problem. And less water could mean less energy, because so many types of energy production are highly dependent on water. In fact, water plays a critical role in energy production from coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas … which together supply 92 percent of the world’s energy…
(6 March 2013)
Water Wars between Texas and New Mexico Are Nothing New—But the Times Are Changing
Laura Paskus, The Utton Center
It has been hard enough for states to share water during the best of times—when winters provide decent snowpack and rivers flow steadily. Add drought to the equation, factor in depleted groundwater levels and burgeoning populations, and the problems become even more extreme. Next, toss in a few lawsuits, competing water users, and climate change—and you’ll have some idea of the morass New Mexico is facing over at least the next decade. Earlier this year, Texas filed a request with the United States Supreme Court to sue New Mexico and Colorado for alleged violations by New Mexico of the 1938 Rio Grande Compact.
Now, Texas is alleging that New Mexico has violated its obligations under the Rio Grande Compact by repeatedly “intercepting” water intended for use in Texas. New Mexico has allegedly done this in two ways: By allowing diversions of surface water and by allowing groundwater pumping downstream of Elephant Butte Dam. Texas alleges that by increasing the amount of groundwater pumping, New Mexico is depleting the amount of surface water available to Rio Grande Project users in Texas…
While it’s fair to say that the lawsuit has caused some political panic, two critical words are still missing from most public discussions about water use along the Rio Grande: climate change. And yet, climatic shifts in the southwestern United States are already affecting the amount of surface water available to municipalities, states, and irrigators…
(4 March 2013)
Water splash image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.