Extreme drought in California has killed 12 million trees in the past year alone, federal officials say. That difficult to believe number comes from aerial surveys conducted between April 8 and 17 by the U.S. Forest Service. KPBS reports on the findings.
As British Columbians face increasing water restrictions due to a
heat wave, forest fires and drought, the province must answer why it is
charging bottled water companies only $2.25 per million litres taken
from B.C. sources. Or why companies using huge amounts of water
for hydraulic fracturing - or “fracking” - to extract oil and natural
gas pay the same price.
“ … So appealing, in fact, that Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz and HSBC Bank are all buying up as many acres of aquifers, lakes and watersheds that they can. George H.W. Bush, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Manuel V. Pangilinan and other billionaires are also investing in water utilities, water rights and shares in water technologies. … “
“ … “Wall Street appears well aware of the investment opportunities in water supply infrastructure, wastewater treatment, and demand management technologies,” goes one JP Morgan equity research document. … “
“ … In 2001, the CIA estimated that by 2015 nearly half the world’s population would be living in “water-stressed” countries. Already, 1.1 billion people on the planet don’t have enough water and, according to Yang, 2.6 billion don’t have adequate sanitation. … “
This is so totally fucked up, and it’s happening right beneath our noses and no one is doing anything to put a stop to it!
Image 1: “Bringing the water is not a simple task,” says Mariam Bakaule of the mountaintop village of Jarso in southwest Ethiopia.. “This is the essence of women. Water and woman are synonymous here.”
Image 2: Women of Tharpakar in the southern Sindh Province of Pakistan work together to pull water from a well. Even when one person is done, they all remain at the well to share in the task.
Image 5: After reaching the dry riverbed, women must spend time scratching the dirt until brackish water appears, scoop it into their containers and carry the 20 kilograms back up the mountain.
Image 6: One of the effects of the flooding was salinity in the ground, which affected the ability for the agricultural region to support itself. Here, sheep graze on small shrubs that continue to grow.
Image 7: A grandmother comforts her great-grand child as he suffers from diarrhea, caused by the unsafe drinking water in the town of Thatta. Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of child mortality worldwide.
Women and young girls are responsible for the collection of water, four times a day, often at distances requiring them to trek across mountains in the morning dark and twilight.
“Projects ‘for the 90%’ mostly fall somewhere between two extremes: charity and business,” designer Gabriele Diamanti tells Co.Design. “Neither was my inspiration!” Instead, spurred on by his own extensive travel and friends’ involvement in NGOs, he developed a fascination with global water scarcity as a graduate student at Milan Polytechnic in 2005; he recently decided to pursue his interest again and the result is Eliodomestico, an open-source variation on a solar still.
It functions by filling the black boiler with salty sea water in the morning, then tightening the cap. As the temperature and pressure grows, steam is forced downwards through a connection pipe and collects in the lid, which acts as a condenser, turning the steam into fresh water. Once Diamanti established the fundamentals were sound, he experimented with a series of concepts for the aesthetic of the object. “My goal was to design something friendly and recognizable for the users,” he explains. “The process developed quite naturally to determine the current shape; every detail is there for a reason, so the form, as well as production techniques, represent a compromise between technical and traditional.” Primary field studies in sub-Saharan Africa revealed the habit of carrying goods on the head–also a common practice in other areas around the world–and this was integrated into Eliodomestico’s plan. And while solar stills aren’t a totally new concept, Diamanti says it’s rare to find them in a domestic context rather than in missions or hospitals, or as large plants overseen by qualified personnel that serve entire communities. “I tried to make something for a real household that could be operated directly by the families,” he says.
The project recently won a Core77 Design Award for Social Impact; already, Diamanti has received international feedback, and hopes to see locals adapt and modify the design to take advantage of their own readily available materials and native environments. “The idea is that instructions for the project can be delivered to craftsmen” with the help of NGOs, he says, then a micro-credit program could be established to finance small-scale start-ups specializing in production. “So the NGO is the spark, micro-credit is the fuse, the local craftsmen are the bomb!”
A third of tribe members lack clean water while cities thrive on rivers running through reservations. New deals are enabling them to take some of what’s theirs.]
Shirley Peaches hails from Tall Mountain in the Navajo Nation, 25 miles from the nearest paved road and functioning water faucet. “My family still uses melted snow to wash dishes, wash clothes,” she says. Drinking water is hauled from Shonto, a reservation town in northern Arizona. It’s a two-hour drive round-trip when the road is passable. In February, Peaches says, it was dicey: “The snow is melting; the road is muddy. You have to get there early in the morning when the ground is frozen, and you can’t get back until 11 p.m. when the ground is refrozen.”
Peaches’ water story is all too familiar in the Navajo Nation, which stretches across parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Thirty-eight percent of people on the reservation don’t have water in their homes and must truck it in from long distances. They typically rely on watering points—simple hoses at public spots such as post offices that are common features in towns bordering the reservation—or perhaps a visit from the “water lady,” Darlene Arviso, who delivers water in a tanker to a couple hundred families in New Mexico (as shown in the video below).
Delivering Water on the Reservation
Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, Canyon de Chelly, and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument lie in or border the reservation. It’s a cruel irony that this landscape so spectacularly crafted by water is so arid today, and climate change promises worse to come. Annual rainfall here averages seven to 16 inches, supporting only sparse farming and livestock. The animals roam free so they can follow the forage, and the reservation’s human population of 200,000 is cast wide, scattered across the plateau.
The San Juan and Little Colorado rivers, tributaries of the most contested river in the West, the Colorado, are the Navajo Nation’s primary water resources, but with the infrastructure necessary to bring that water to homes limited, many on the reservation rely on groundwater. Small wooden buildings housing wells and round tanks topped by windmills dot the land, but many are contaminated from decades of uranium, coal, and other mining in the region, as well as from naturally occurring toxins such as arsenic. Still, people draw from them to water livestock and sometimes for drinking.
The picture makes for a bitter contrast to the Navajo’s growing numbers of neighbors in cities such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Navajo without running water limit their consumption to around 10 gallons a day per person, which doesn’t go far: A low-flow showerhead uses two gallons a minute, and washing dishes efficiently by hand drains eight gallons. Forget about flushing toilets; many Navajo make do with outhouses. Meanwhile, residents of the Southwest’s boomtowns go through 100 to 200 gallons per person a day. The fountain outside Las Vegas’ Bellagio hotel alone loses 12 million gallons of water annually to evaporation and leakage.
These starkly different realities are not unrelated. Lack of water has left the Navajo and other local Indigenous nations languishing in poverty, while access to it has been the single enabling factor for population booms in the Southwest’s desert cities. The excess of the urban Southwest—the misting wands at chain restaurants, the acres of alfalfa and cotton carpeting the floor of the Sonoran Desert—are to no small degree a function of the Navajo not having the resources to develop the water claims to which the law entitles them.
Now the Navajo have the opportunity to secure legal rights to some of their water and much-needed funds to supply water for the first time to thousands of people. In exchange, they must relinquish to the federal government, states, and private interests such as developers and investor-owned utilities their claims to water the rest of the West is using (or wants to use), easing several states’ anxiety about water security. Western Indigenous nations have completed 29 such water rights settlements with the U.S. Department of the Interior since 1978, and 17 more are in process, according to Pamela Williams, the director of the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office at the department.
In January the Navajo Nation Council passed the latest such deal, with Utah, which will bring the Nation’s Utah chapters water and $192 million to build pipelines, water treatment facilities, and irrigation systems. Some Navajo support the settlements, seeing them as a crucible they must pass through to gain economic growth and a better quality of life, and Navajo in New Mexico have already seen benefits from their deal with that state. Others feel they are giving up too much, and the settlements will cut off the Navajo Nation from water it will need to sustain itself in what climate change models predict will be much drier years to come.
Mining corporations in the Mexican state of Zacatecas use 14 million gallons of water annually, which is expected to cause increasing scarcity in the coming years.
A Canadian mining giant sucks up more water than any other in the north-central Mexican state of Zacatecas, where mining corporations use more water than the entire local population and concerns are rising about highly unequal access to the scarce and precious resource, according to a study reported by the Mexican daily La Jornada on Tuesday.
According to the report completed by researchers from the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, the Mexican water authority, known as Conagua, has given the greenlight to national and transnational mining companies operating in Zacatecas to use over 14 million gallons (nearly 56,000 cubic meters) of water per year.
Meanwhile, over half of the aquifers being exploited, or seven of the 12, already suffer a water deficit that isn’t being replenished and is affecting supply in local communities. Overall, 14 of the 34 aquifers statewide show signs of depletion and overexploitation, according to the report.
By far and away the biggest water offender in the region is the Canadian mining giant Goldcorp, through its local subsidiary Peñasquito, at a total of nearly 12 million gallons of groundwater use every year. Goldcorp has repeatedly been accused of being behind massive environmental damage and human rights abuses in the Americas, while Canadian mining corporations in general have a notorious record in Latin America and Africa.
Trailing far behind at 1.5 million gallons of water, the mining company Minera Frisco, owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, is the second largest water user in Zacatecas.
But one of the lead researchers has warned that the bad situation is only expected to get worse, La Jornada reported.
While signs of water shortages have already started to be seen, scarcity is expected to increase in the coming years with nearly 100 mining projects in the “exploitation” phase across more than two dozen municipalities in the state.
“Today 780 million people lack access to drinking water. By 2030 nearly half the world’s population will inhabit areas of ‘high water stress.’ In Central Asia the lack of the precious resource not only traps people in situations of dire need and sanitary hazard; it also foreshadows the rise of “water wars”—cross-border skirmishes over access to water that aggravate ecological strife and give it sharp political overtones.”
Fyodor Savintsev’s photos of Kyrgyzstan foreshadow water conflicts to come in Central Asia. SEE MORE.
four billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population, face
severe water shortages during at least one month every year, far more
than was previously thought, according to Arjen Y. Hoekstra, a professor of water management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
In a paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances, Dr. Hoekstra and his colleague Mesfin M. Mekonnen
designed a computer model to create what they say is a more accurate
picture of water scarcity around the world. Severe water scarcity can
lead to crop failure and low crop yields, which could cause food price
increases as well as famine and widespread starvation.
area experiences severe water scarcity when its farms, industries and
households consume double the amount of water available in that area.
means that groundwater levels are falling, lakes are drying up, less
water is flowing in rivers, and water supplies for industry and farmers
are threatened,” Dr. Hoekstra said in an email.
Researchers used a computer
model to divide the world into grids measuring approximately 1,200
square miles each. They then analyzed the monthly water demand and
availability in each grid to determine scarcity level.
Credit: Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra