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NASA: Huge Freshwater Loss In the Middle East 228

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the should-have-used-six-sigma dept.
dstates writes with news from NASA about the state of available water in the Middle East. From the NASA article: "'GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India,' said Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine. 'The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws.'" dstates adds: "Water is a huge global security issue. To understand the middle east, you need to understand that the Golan Heights provides a significant amount of the water used in Israel. Focusing on conflicts and politics means that huge volumes of valuable water are being wasted in the Middle East, and this will only exacerbate future conflicts. Water is a serious issue between India and China. And then there is Africa. U.S. food exports are in effect exporting irrigation water drawn from the Ogallala aquifer. Fracking trades water for energy, and lack of water limits fracking in many parts of th world. Think about it."
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NASA: Huge Freshwater Loss In the Middle East

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:07PM (#42885665) Journal
    Yeah, I know it sounds stupid but Saddam Hussein drained 7,700 sq miles just to try to flush out people [wikipedia.org] during the first gulf war. Before that the British had tried to drain all that fresh water out of there to stop the breeding of mosquitoes. Which, in the near future, is going to be looked back upon with disgust.

    I don't think people yet understand or truly appreciate how much destruction they can bring to ecosystems. I wish conservation was given more respect than treating advocates like tree hugging hippies that have no clue about industry and economy. The area between these two rivers was once so lush and full of life that it was thought to be the origin of the Garden of Eden myth [wikipedia.org].
  • by Sun (104778) <shachar@shemesh.biz> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:11PM (#42885713) Homepage

    Quite a bit of Israel's water consumption is already either from desalination (domestic) or recycled (agriculture) water. It created quite a spike in the water prices, but otherwise greatly increased Israel's water reserves (the Kineret, as well as a couple of big underground reservoirs, one of them shared with the Palestinians).

    Shachar

  • by Githaron (2462596) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:27PM (#42885943)
    It is renewable just not at the rate that it is being used. In any case, I think it is likely we will find ways to cheaply desalinate ocean water before the threat of massive death by dehydration is imminent. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Also, grey water systems would probably become more culturally acceptable as water prices increased. Here [kurzweilai.net] is one interesting reverse osmosis technology that is being researched using graphene.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:30PM (#42885979)

    There is a big difference between conservation and tree-huggers, namely who benefits from their policies. Conservation puts people first, tree-huggers put "the earth" first. For example, when faced with a dilemma of either eradicating a species or facing an epidemic of disease caused by that species, a conservationist would wipe out the pest while a tree-hugger would not.

    Imaginary scenarios that have never happened are always brought up to bash "tree huggers." The reality, however, is that if you express any concern for wildlife or the unregulated and unmonitored growth of damaging industries like drilling, people write you off by labeling you a tree-hugger.

  • Re:Welp (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:32PM (#42886017)

    The technical issue of distribution (and to a lesser degree storage) is the issue for many of the water problems.

    This is not really a technical issue. It is more of an economic policy issue. Here in California, farmers receive subsidies, and subsidized water, to grow water intensive crops like rice and cotton. If you remove the subsidies, farmers will switch to crops and irrigation practices that actually make sense, and the "water shortage" will disappear. The problem in the Middle East is similar. For instance, Saudi Arabia pays huge subsidies to domestic wheat farmers, when for a fraction of the cost they could just import wheat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:44PM (#42886169)

    I understand that for poor (3rd world)people, and for wasteful agriculture, the cost of water is a big deal and should be managed, but the _actual cost_ of desalinated water is ridiculously low for a first world country, and will never be an issue. According to wikipedia (I'm lazy), as of 2005, it was 0.2 cents (US) per gallon. I pay at least an order of magnitude more than that right now in the US, getting water from Lake Michigan - clearly the "cost of the water" is mostly things other than "making" clean water - presumably it's the infrastructure for moving it around, and oversight / corruption. My monthly water bill is over $30, and I don't use the 500 gallons a day that my $30/month should buy - and I'm guessing processing Lake Michigan water is 1-2 orders of magnitude less expensive than desalination.

    Now if you want cheap corn and beef and certain consumer goods (paper for example), then if water gets more expensive, agriculture and industry will have to quit wasting it - but they will, because it won't be cheap anymore. Funny how changing the price does that. Oh wait, no it isn't funny, it's basic economics - when something is nearly or actually free, people use it without a thought.

    How you make it "not free" when anyone can put in a well and pump until the aquifers are empty is a different, mostly political issue. Presumably a tax on the sale of things that require water for their production would be the simplest, but there are smarter people than me who can figure that part out.

  • Re:Where's Waldo (Score:5, Informative)

    by plover (150551) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:49PM (#42886233) Homepage Journal

    Weather patterns carry evaporated water off the oceans and over land, where it can fall as rain or snow. If the rain falls on the ocean, or on the shore running back into the sea, it doesn't replenish inland reservoirs. If a winter is very mild, less polar water will be frozen in place, meaning the snowmelt won't be enough to keep the rivers full all summer. The evaporation process is also the natural desalinization process, making rainwater the most critical supplier of freshwater. That's why droughts and global patterns like El Niño and El Niña so important.

      The overall amount of water on the planet is (mostly) constant, bet the amount of accessible freshwater is a tiny fraction of it, and is highly dependent on the weather and the rate of consumption.

  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ear ... t ['hli' in gap]> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:05PM (#42887189)

    That's an insightfully humorous comment.

    Yes, Teddy Roosevelt was the essentially the founder of the conservation movement (along with John Muir, Ansel Adams, etc.). And he was a big game hunter. He created the national park system. But he also believed that only the rich would have an opportunity to enjoy them. He was consistently favoring certain wealthy interests. (I believe he also founded the FDA after his son got poisoned by some bad food.) And he founded "Trust Busting". But he chose his battles carefully, and didn't offend his core supporter...except that he didn't hold enough support so that when he ran for re-election he had to create a new political party, the Bull Moose Party, to promote him. (This didn't work. He had popular support, but the Democrats and the Republicans both held the levers of power in different places. The design of the system intentionally renders third parties ineffective. That's why a plurality is sufficient to elect a candidate. If a majority were required, it would be a different story.)

  • by Troed (102527) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @08:46AM (#42894573) Homepage Journal

    I would prefer that we stop popping out new people at the present rate. will that happen? I doubt it.

    The rise in population growth has been declining for decades. The UN median projection is that we will top out just below 10 billion around 2070 and then shrink.

    No doubt needed.

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