The Emerging Water Wars - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

Growing up in Israel inrepparttar 1960's, we were always urged to conserve precious water. Rainfall was rare and meager,repparttar 132310 sun scorching, our only sweet water lake under constant threat byrepparttar 132311 Syrians. Israelis were being shot at hauling water cisterns or irrigating their parched fields. Water was a matter of life and death - literally.

Drought often conspires with man-made disasters. Macedonia experienced its second worst dry spell duringrepparttar 132312 civil strife of last year. Benighted Afghanistan is having one now - replete with locusts. Rapid, unsustainable urbanization, desertification, exploding populations, and economic growth, especially of water-intensive industries, such as microprocessor fabs - all contribute torepparttar 132313 worst water crisisrepparttar 132314 world has ever known.

Governments reacted late, hesitantly, and haltingly. Water conservation, desalination, water rights exchanges, water pacts, private-public partnerships, and privatization of utilities (e.g., in Argentina andrepparttar 132315 UK) - may have been implemented too little, too late.

Rising incomes lead torepparttar 132316 exertion of political pressure onrepparttar 132317 authorities by civic movements and NGO's to improve water quality and availability. But canrepparttar 132318 authorities help? According torepparttar 132319 World Bank, close to $600 billion will be needed by 2010 just to augment existing reserves and to improve water grade levels.

The UNDP believes that halfrepparttar 132320 population in Africa will be subject to wrenching water shortages in 25 years. The environmental research institute, Worldwatch, quoted byrepparttar 132321 BBC, recommends food imports as a way to economize on water.

It takes 1000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain and agriculture consumes almost 70 percent ofrepparttar 132322 world's water - though only less than 30 percent in OECD countries. It takes more thanrepparttar 132323 entire throughput ofrepparttar 132324 Nile to growrepparttar 132325 grain imported annually by Middle Eastern and North African countries alone. Some precipitation-poor countries even grow cotton and rice, both insatiable crops. By 2020, saysrepparttar 132326 World Water Council, we will be short 17 percent ofrepparttar 132327 water that would be needed to feedrepparttar 132328 population.

The USA withdraws one fifth of its total resources annually - proportionately, one half of Belgium's drawdown. But according torepparttar 132329 OECD, Americans arerepparttar 132330 most profligate consumers of fresh water, more than doublerepparttar 132331 OECD's average inrepparttar 132332 1990's. Britain and Denmark have actually reduced their utilization by 20 percent between 1980 and 1996 - probably due to sharp and ominous drops in their water tables.

Stratfor, a strategic forecasting firm, reported on May 14 that Mexico andrepparttar 132333 USA are inrepparttar 132334 throes of a conflict over Mexico's "failure to live up to its water supply commitments under a 1944 treaty", which allocates water fromrepparttar 132335 Colorado, Rio Concho, and Rio Grande amongrepparttar 132336 two signatories.

Mexico seems to have accumulated a daunting debt of 1.5 million acre-feet overrepparttar 132337 last 8 years -repparttar 132338 result of a decade long drought. Each acre-foot is c. 1.2 million liters. Mexico's reservoirs are less than 25 percent full. Some ofrepparttar 132339 water, though, has been used to transform its borderland into a major producer of fresh vegetables forrepparttar 132340 American market - atrepparttar 132341 expense of Texas farmers.

Faced withrepparttar 132342 worst drought in more than a century in some states,repparttar 132343 Bush administration has announced on May 3 that it is considering sanctions, including, perhapsrepparttar 132344 suspension of water supplies fromrepparttar 132345 Colorado to Mexico. Texas lawmakers demanded to re-open NAFTA and amend it punitively.

Mexico is a typical case. Only 9 percent of its streams and rivers are fit for drinking. Its underground water is almost equally polluted. Its infrastructure is crumbling, leading to severe seepage of more than two fifths ofrepparttar 132346 water. Half ofrepparttar 132347 rest evaporates in open canals.

Moreover, water is under-priced, thus encouraging wasteful consumption, mainly by farmers. Stratfor cites an estimate published inrepparttar 132348 May 5 issue Fort Worth Star-Telegram - more than $60 billion will be needed overrepparttar 132349 next decade to refurbish Mexico's urban and rural networks.

William K. Reilly, former administrator ofrepparttar 132350 EPA, writing inrepparttar 132351 "ITT Industries Guidebook to Global Water Issues", mentionsrepparttar 132352 human cost of water scarcity: a million dead children a year, a billion people without access to treated water, almost double this number without sanitation.

More than 11,000 people died in a cholera epidemic induced by polluted water in Latin America inrepparttar 132353 1990's. Every year, according torepparttar 132354 World Bank,repparttar 132355 amount of water polluted equalsrepparttar 132356 quantity of water consumed. In many parts ofrepparttar 132357 world, notably in Africa, people walk for hours to obtain their contaminated daily water rations.

Water shortage hobbles industrial production in places as diverse as Sicily and Malaysia. The lower estuaries ofrepparttar 132358 Yellow River - China's most important - are now dry two thirds ofrepparttar 132359 year. The water table beneath China's fertile northern plane is falling by 1.5 meters a year.

The Emerging Water Wars - Part II

Written by Sam Vaknin

Allrepparttar lakes around Mexico City have dried and it is now sinking intorepparttar 132308 cavernous remains of its withered reservoirs. Soil subsidence is a major problem in cities aroundrepparttar 132309 world, from Bangkok to Venice. According to "The Economist",repparttar 132310 town of Cochabamba in Bolivia, once a florid valley is now a dust bowl. Some of its residents receive water only a few hours every two or three days. A World Bank financed project attempts to piperepparttar 132311 precious liquid from mountain rivers nearrepparttar 132312 city.

Singapore, concerned by its dependence on water from capricious Malaysia, decided last November to purchase water from private sector suppliers who will be required to build one or more desalination plants, capable of providing it with 10% of its annual consumption.

Singapore is so desperate, it even considers importing water fromrepparttar 132313 strife-torn Aceh province in Indonesia. The cost of Malaysian fresh water skyrocketed following a bilateral accord with Singapore signed September 2000.

Control of water sources has always served as geopolitical leverage. In Central Asia, both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan often get their way by threatening to throttle their richer neighbors, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - and by actually cutting them off fromrepparttar 132314 nourishing rivers that traverse their territories. This extortion resulted in inordinately cheap supplies of gas, coal, and agricultural products.

To avoid such dependence, Turkmenistan has decided to divert water fromrepparttar 132315 catchment basin of one ofrepparttar 132316 rivers -repparttar 132317 Amu Darya - to a $6 billion artificial lake. This inane project is comparable only to China's much-disputed Three Gorges Dam -repparttar 132318 $30 billion, 180 meters tall hydroelectric plant that will blockrepparttar 132319 fierce Yangtze River.

On January 2000, a Kinshasa-based firm, Western Trade Corporation, and an American partner, Sapphire Aqua, proposed to raise financing for a $9 billion set of 1000-2000 km. pipes fromrepparttar 132320 Congo River torepparttar 132321 Middle East and South Africa. Stratfor justly noted thatrepparttar 132322 water were to be given free, casting in doubtrepparttar 132323 viability - orrepparttar 132324 evenrepparttar 132325 very existence - of such a project.

Con-artists and gullible investors notwithstanding, water is big business. Water Forum 2002, sponsored and organized byrepparttar 132326 World Bank, attracted many NGO's, donors, and private companies. The Agadir conference next month is expected to attract scholars and governments as well. According torepparttar 132327 government of Morocco, it will deal with "views and experiences on water pricing, cost recovery andrepparttar 132328 interactions between micro and macro policies related to water".

T. Boone Pickens, a corporate raider, has bought water rights from Texans during last year's drought. He succeeded to amass c. 200,000 acre-feet worth c. $200 million.

Economic competition coupled with acute and growing scarcity often presage conflict.

"Water stress" is already onrepparttar 132329 world's agenda at least as firmly as global warming. The Hague Ministerial Declaration released on March 2000 identified seven 'water-related challenges'. This led torepparttar 132330 establishment ofrepparttar 132331 'World Water Assessment Program' and UNESCO's 'From Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential' (PC to CP) which 'addresses more specificallyrepparttar 132332 challenge of sharing water resources primarily fromrepparttar 132333 point of view of governments, and develops decision-making and conflict prevention tools forrepparttar 132334 future'."

Simultaneously, Green Cross International and UNESCO floated "Water for Piece" project whose aims are "to enhancerepparttar 132335 awareness and participation of local authorities andrepparttar 132336 public in water conflict resolution an integrated management by facilitating more effective dialogue between all stakeholders." In its efforts to minimize tensions in potential and actual conflict regions,repparttar 132337 project concentrates on a few case studies inrepparttar 132338 basins ofrepparttar 132339 Rhine,repparttar 132340 Aral Sea,repparttar 132341 Limpopo/Incomati,repparttar 132342 Mekong,repparttar 132343 Jordan River,repparttar 132344 Danube, andrepparttar 132345 Columbia.

Peter Gleik ofrepparttar 132346 Pacific Institute suggested this taxonomy of water-related conflicts (quoted in

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