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Water security threatens China and the Mid East

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China’s water resources are running scarce. Farming and other human activities are turning large parts of the country into deserts and forcing residents to migrate. The FT’s Leslie Hook reports from Gansu province.  (3m 30sec) 9:00 PM
Satellites Reveal Depletion of a Vital Middle East Water Supply: vía @nytimes

The visualization shows variations in total water storage from normal, in millimeters, in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, as measured by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, from January 2003 through December 2009. Reds represent drier conditions, while blues represent wetter conditions. The effects of the seasons are evident, as is the major drought that hit the region in 2007. The majority of the water lost was due to reductions in groundwater caused by human activities. By periodically measuring gravity regionally, GRACE tells scientists how much water storage changes over time. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Just in case you needed more reasons to be concerned about the stability of the Middle East, new research using data from NASA’s gravity-sensing Grace satellites shows a substantial decline in the volume of groundwater reserves in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins. Data gathered between 2003 and 2009 show the seasonal recharge of the region’s aquifers (the blue pulses in the illuminating animation above) but then the onset of a potent drought in 2007 followed by a persistent big drop in water amounts, 60 percent of which is ascribed to unsustainable rates of pumping in a study to be published on Friday in the journal Water Resources Research. (By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NYTimes, February 12, 2013, 3:20 pm)

 In his post, Revkin mentions the position taken in this issue on February 2013 by NASA and the University of Califonia, Irvine.


Jay Famiglietti, a study author from the University of California, Irvine, has posted an excellent overview of the work and its context for policy, and noted that he and other authors are doing a «water diplomacy» tour to brief officials in the region.]

Here are some useful excerpts from a joint news release from NASA and the University of California, Irvine:

 Scientists at the University of California, Irvine; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., found during a seven-year period beginning in 2003 that parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs…. MORE

The easternmost leg of the South-North Water Transfer Project began operations June 10. This enormous engineering undertaking will eventually divert up to 44.8 billion cubic meters of Yangtze River water — about 10 percent of the river’s annual flow and more than 170 times the amount consumed by Los Angeles yearly — to the water-scarce North China Plain. The project reflects the Communist Party’s heightened fear that a lack of water resources in northern China could constrict both short- and long-term economic growth in some of the country’s most densely populated and industrially significant provinces.

The eastern route of the project runs from Jiangsu through Shandong and Hebei. The middle route, which runs from Hubei province through Henan and Hebei to Beijing, is due to be completed by 2014. This route, more than its eastern counterpart, has raised concerns over its impact on communities that rely on the Han River, one of the Yangtze’s major tributaries and an important source of water for farming in the northern Hubei and southern Shaanxi provinces. The more technically challenging and politically controversial western route, which will link the Yellow and Yangtze rivers nearer to their sources on the Tibetan Plateau, has yet to begin construction. According to some reports, it may not be completed until 2050, if ever.

The South-North Water Transfer Project reinforces the geopolitical significance of the Yangtze River not only as a key transport throughput linking central and coastal Chinese provinces, but also as the economic and social foundation — through the transport of water — of northern China’s industrial and agricultural heartlands. Still, questions remain about the long-term environmental and social consequences for much of rural central China and for the rice-farming regions south of the Yangtze, which rely heavily on rainfall from the river’s wider watershed. (STRATFOR. JUne 12, 2013)

Afrique du Nord: Les eaux du Nil une nouvelle fois source de tension entre l’Egypte et l’Ethiopie

Voilà un nouvel épisode dans la tension entre l’Egypte et l’Ethiopie à propos de l’utilisation des eaux du Nil. Le jeudi 13 juin 2013, le Parlement éthiopien a ratifié un accord-cadre, signé en 2011 avec d’autres pays de la région, qui traite de la gestion du bassin du Nil, lequel bassin avec ses affluents concerne dix pays. Ce document va permettre de remettre en cause le traité de 1959 qui garantissait l’exploitation exclusive des eaux du Nil par le Soudan et l’Egypte.

Cet accord-cadre est une première étape vers un partage équitable de l’eau : c’est intolérable pour l’Egypte. Cette ratification intervient alors que les deux pays sont engagés depuis deux semaines dans un bras de fer, l’Egypte menaçant son voisin de représailles violentes si la construction du barrage Grande-Renaissance se poursuivait.

C’est à l’unanimité de ses 547 membres que le Parlement éthiopien a ratifié l’accord-cadre de L’Initiative pour le bassin du Nil (IBN) prouvant ainsi sa détermination à bouleverser l’équilibre hydraulique d’une grande partie de l’Afrique de l’Est. Car dès que cinq autres pays concernés en auront fait de même, les vannes seront ouvertes pour une large redistribution des cartes alors que l’héritage colonial a fait que depuis un siècle, seuls l’Egypte et le Soudan peuvent tirer un bénéfice direct du fleuve… continuer à lire

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