The Great Water Challenge

The Middle East and North Africa is the region most affected by water scarcity in the world, and for the moment, the situation seems set to worsen.

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Water scarcity features among FAO’s five new strategic objectives. Credit: Bigstock

“In Yemen, we do not have many sources of fresh water and rain water is certainly not enough for our needs,” Gunid Ali Abdullah, planning director at Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture, tells TerraViva in Rome. “We are all the time having to dig deeper and deeper to get water from aquifers.” Read more

Dwindling Water Supplies Make Every Drop Count

Drought and chronic water shortages played a significant role in sparking Syria’s civil war and in unrest throughout much of the Middle East, water experts now believe.

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Drought has left some parts of Sri Lanka’s dry zone scorched and crops devastated. Credit: Photostock

Around the world, water demand already exceeds supply in regions with more than 40 percent of the world’s population. That may climb to 60 percent in the coming decade, a new study has found. Read more

Protecting America’s Underwater Serengeti

WASHINGTON, Aug 15 2014 (IPS) – U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed to more than double the world’s no-fishing areas to protect what some call America’s underwater Serengeti, a series of California-sized swaths of Pacific Ocean where 1,000-pound marlin cruise by 30-foot-wide manta rays around underwater mountains filled with rare or unique species.

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The move would create giant havens where fish, turtles and birds could reproduce unhindered and edge back to their natural levels. Credit: ukanda/cc by 2.0

Obama announced in June that he wants to follow in the steps of his predecessor George W. Bush, who in 2010 ended fishing within 50 nautical miles of five islands or groups of islands south and west of Hawaii. Bush fully protected about 11 percent of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a total of 216,000 km2, by declaring them marine national monuments under the Antiquities Act, which does not require the approval of Congress. Read more

Climate Policy Goes Hand-in-Hand with Water Policy

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 27 2014 (IPS) – Concerned that climate change could lead to an intensification of the global hydrological cycle, Caribbean stakeholders are working to ensure it is included in the region’s plans for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

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Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. High irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use.

Contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems. If water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops. Read more

Oil, An Invasive Water Species in the Carnival Capital

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 12 2015 (IPS) – “We ran down to the beach and found a black tide, whose waves didn’t make the sound of water, but the slurp of a thick paste,” said Alexandre Anderson, describing the oil spill in Guanabara bay in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro which turned him into an activist and leader among the local small-scale fishing community.

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Fishermen row their small boat out into Guanabara bay from a beach on Gobernador island. In the background can be seen an oil tanker and an island with oil silos belonging to Petrobras. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The January 2000 disaster marked a low point for environmental conditions in the bay, and drew global attention because of the impact of the sudden massive spill of 1.3 million litres of oil from a leaking underground pipeline. Read more