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NASA: Huge Freshwater Loss In the Middle East 228

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 gpronger ( 1142181 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:06PM (#42885639) Journal
    It would be nice to think that a regional water shortage would pull these countries together to solve a mutual problem.

    And I've recently been in the market for the London Bridge; have one for sale?
    • by NevarMore ( 248971 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:11PM (#42885711) Homepage Journal

      And I've recently been in the market for the London Bridge; have one for sale?

      My fair lady, I did have one on the market but it has fallen down, fallen down.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just like our shortage of oil has pulled the west together.

    • It would be nice to think that a regional water shortage would pull these countries together to solve a mutual problem.

      Oh, you mean like the GCC? :) Now, it's a long way from finished, but it's what you asked for.

      The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and located on or near the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab

    • by cod3r_ ( 2031620 )
      Hilarious! Sad though. If the middle east came together as one (like we refer to them as) they could seriously do some good.
      • Like they did before the Crusaders started bothering them. I wish the Middle East would go back to the way they were during the Feudal period of the West. They sold books on the street corners, while the richest king in the West had a few measly volumes at most. They were performing surgeries, while the West still thought salamanders were born from fire. I wish the Catholic church of the time had never invented the crusades. I wonder if we would have half the problems we have now.

        • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:35PM (#42888985)

          I wish the Catholic church of the time had never invented the crusades. I wonder if we would have half the problems we have now.

          If not for the Crusades, the knowledge accumulated in the Muslim world might never have percolated to Europe.

          It should also be noted that the downfall of that educated, scientifically oriented Muslim world was NOT European Crusaders, but a Muslim conqueror - Tamerlane (more properly, Timur the Lame).

          You ought to remember him - he's the guy who destroyed Persia, killed everyone there who could read or write, that sort of thing.

    • It would be nice to think that a regional water shortage would pull these countries together to solve a mutual problem.

      And I've recently been in the market for the London Bridge; have one for sale?

      Funny you should mention that. I think there's one in the Arizona desert.

  • Someone needs to convert all that oil into water. Now THAT would be a miracle!
    • That's a terrible idea. Leave the oil as oil, please. Water is much more important to basic survival needs than oil. Oil is about $98 per barrel so that should put water easily around $750 per barrel, This should take care of the mideast trade deficit in short order and the silliness of sheiks riding around in private A380's.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> 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 [] 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 [].
    • Teddy Roosevelt was a real O.C. (yeah, original conservationist. i just did that).

      I challenge anyone to call him a tree-hugging hippy.
      He will haunt your dreams. Possibly hunt them as well. Not a situation I want to be in.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <<charleshixsn> <at> <>> 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.)

      • Teddy was an avid hunter. Hunters are, without question, the most conservation minded people I know. I realize it's common to think of them as the big bad hunters killing animals but anyone who knows anything about hunting understands it is much much more than that. Teddy understood that well.

        Modern day tree huggers? Not so much....
  • by Sun ( 104778 ) 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).


    • by phayes ( 202222 )

      The submitter "dstates" has presented the results of study as being essentially Israel vs the rest of the region. This is coming from his bias & not the study itself as the video is centered on the Tigris/Euphates basin (Turkey/Syria/Iraq) where the loss of water reserves is much more severe.

      Because you see, a Palestinian suffering from thirst is apparently somehow worse than an Iraqi...

    • Well, not really. Israel imports substantial quantities of grain (approximately 80% of local consumption) [] What does that have to do with water? Grain trade is essentially a trade of water, in concentrated form. Growing wheat, for example, takes 584 lbs of water per lb of crop produced [] (it might even be worse, since I'm not sure if that is the entire wheat plant or just the grain). So importing 1 lb of wheat equates to importing about 600 lb of water. Maybe we think "water" means drinking water or t
    • The fact is that the 500 000 Israeli settlers in their colonial outposts in the occupied West Bank use about ten times the water that the millions of Palestinians do in the West Bank. Fact is it's the gardens, farms, pastures, groves & orchids of West Bank Palestinians that are the most efficient Water wise - they have no choice, the Israeli settlers steal 95% of their water.

  • by concealment ( 2447304 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:13PM (#42885733) Homepage Journal

    We knew we'd reach this point inevitably. Earth is finite, and humanity keeps reproducing.

    Now we've hit the point where resources are limited. By the rules of nature, this means we're going to fight it out and someone's going to hoard the resources. They will then outreproduce others and replace them.

    A game changer could be a nanofilter that desalinates water, but that could make the problem worse. If every nation on earth was able to keep overpopulating, the resulting land clashes could be catastrophic.

    In the meantime, take careful notice of where you are. You want to be able to tell your grandchildren (or fellow Mars base refugees) where you were when the water wars began.

    In other words... [] (NRSFW)

  • by ixarux ( 1652631 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:16PM (#42885783)
    Ok. Seriously. There is a problem, but there are solutions too. Water conflicts have been around for a long time now in the Middle East since the beginning of civilization tiself.
    4500 years ago, the control of irrigation canals vital to survival was the source of conflict between the states of Umma and Lagash in the ancient Middle East. 2700 years ago, Assurbanipal, King of Assyria from 669 to 626 B.C., seized control of wells as part of his strategic warfare against Arabia. In the modern era, the Jordan River Basin has been the scene of a wide variety of water disputes. In the 1960s, Syria tried to divert the headwaters of the Jordan away from Israel, leading to air strikes against the diversion facilities. The 1967 war in the Middle East resulted in Israel winning control of all of the headwaters of the Jordan as well as the groundwater of the West Bank. In these cases, water was certainly an important factor in both pre- and post-1967 border disputes.
    But contrast this to cases in Africa, like the Okavango delta (the world's largest inland delta) which through a negotiation by Angola, Botswana and Namibia has received a fresh lease of life. I think the key is how likely countries are to negotiate rather than go to war. The current Middle East does not seem like a place where cooperation can or will replace conflict.
  • Dear Middle East, we are happy to trade you our water for your oil. -- The Western World
    • That may be a bit short-sighted.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        It wouldn't be shortsighted, but it also wouldn't make economic sense. Transportation costs for water would be excessive. Europe or Russia might manage it via a pipeline, I guess, but it would need to be around 500 times the size of an oil pipeline. The problem is extending it far enough to reach the areas where there is a great surplus of water. A secondary problem, since the best place to collect the water is at the mouths of rivers, is processing it to remove pollutants.

        All in all, desalinization is

  • Earlier in the year, while pointing out several areas across the globe suffering significant droughts, the other person asked: "Well, where is it all going?" I had no ready answer. I guess the oceans? Though I thought the sea level rises were due mainly to ice melt (even more water!), not increased rainfall and runoff.
    • 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 jvkjvk ( 102057 )

        I thought we learned that the overall water content of the planet is steadily increasing due to gravitational attraction of the planet sucking in comets water deposits and the like. Sure in a few hundred years it's not much, and I don't imagine water mining the asteroids or capturing comets technologically.

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:26PM (#42885913)
    Even ten years ago it was getting obvious that the main problem we'll face this century isn't energy it's water. People worry about cheap energy but cheap or even availibility of food should be the bigger concern. In the US we won't face a lack of water but it'll get expensive and food prices are likely to double and could triple or more in adjusted dollars. If you're spending a $100 a week what happens when that's $200 or $300? Some families I'm sure the number is already $200 or more a week. They'll face $400 to $600 food bills. That's $1,600 to $2,400 a month. It'll equal or exceed their mortgage. That was mostly from droughts and higher chemical prices. If the water used to irrigate those crops is polluted then the prices could be much higher. We can simply spend more of our cash on food. The third world will starve.
    • In the US we won't face a lack of water but it'll get expensive and food prices are likely to double and could triple or more in adjusted dollars.

      There have been areas of the US that have had to face water shortages already, actually: Los Angeles periodically has to ban watering of front lawns, for example. It's kind of interesting living where I do, less than 5 miles away from the world's largest supply of fresh water anywhere: there have been numerous attempts to convince the various governments that have access to it to divert as much of it as possible in various directions, thankfully none of them successful. Generally speaking, liberals want to

    • Except that cheap energy = cheap food. If you look at the logistics of farming in America, unless you are a factory farm and use hundreds and thousands of acres of land, you simply cannot profitably produce (much) food. Energy is needed to provide the power to run tractors and combines, energy is needed to ship the food. We are healthier today than we were in 1813 partially because we can have a wide variety of foods in our diet. If you lived in a non-tropical area 200 years ago, you couldn't eat tropical f
    • For desalination and filtering plants, it seems one of the bigger obstacles is energy. So if we had cheap (renewable) energy, we could also have more abundant potable water .

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      look, the problem with water isn't that there wouldn't be enough of it.
      the problem is that all the good fresh water is elsewhere from where you'd need it(well, plenty of places where you need it have plenty but for some reason people insist on living on dry patches of desert that have been rape farmed for thousands of years..).

      water wars are local. in middle east they're limited to middle east. it's not like they're going to invade greenland for the water or some shit like that, they'll just go upstream of

    • Does fracking require fresh water? Why not use salt water / dirty water.
    • by lennier ( 44736 )

      Some families I'm sure the number is already $200 or more a week. They'll face $400 to $600 food bills. That's $1,600 to $2,400 a month. It'll equal or exceed their mortgage.

      So the invisible hand of the market will respond by moving investment from old, tired, mortgages to a whole new and exciting class of debt to all these families so they can meet their monthly food and water bills. And then even more debt to meet the interest payments on the other ones.

      There is nothing that could possibly go wrong with this scenario.

      Growth forever!

  • Ice Pirates (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stele ( 9443 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @02:53PM (#42886277) Homepage

    I watched the documentary "Ice Pirates" back in the 80s. It shows a far future without much water, and people turning to piracy to get it. I bet they never knew how quickly we'd be getting to that point.

    Oh and Bruce Vilanch.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You can live without oxygen for 3 minutes, on average, if not a bit longer.

    You can live without water for 3 days, depending on the environment.

    You can live without food for 3 weeks, but in the case of Americans more like 3 months.

    You can live without gasoline forever.

    Now, can any of you bright people guess the order of importance of the above resources ?

  • I wonder how much water is now being stored in the increased population of humans and domesticated animals.

    Using wikipedia articles on average water in a human body and world population growth you get about 40billion liters of water being stored in humans in the year 1800, up to 280billion liters being stored in humans in the year 2012. A more indepth study would be interesting.
  • evolution (Score:5, Funny)

    by WillgasM ( 1646719 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @03:10PM (#42886533) Homepage
    Let's hurry up and evolve to live off salt water. Go forth, and have sex with sweaty people.
  • Here come the zombie creating virus we are all now preparing for .....
    We have been warned by Hollywood countless times, yet our greed still pushes us to go out there and bring back
    things that are not from here.... mmmmm... wonder what sort of DNA might be encased inside the meteor that
    some scientist could bring back to life.....

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?