Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A flood of stories about water scarcity:

Water scarcity, contamination could become wave of the future

As the planet prepares to mark the 13th annual World Water Day on Tuesday, water scarcity and contamination are becoming both an increasing economic threat to industry and a growing business opportunity, experts said.

More than 1 billion people worldwide don't have safe, reliable drinking water and 2.6 billion don't have access to adequate sanitation services. Between 2 million and 5 million people die each year from water-related diseases.

China, with a population of 1.3 billion, is facing severe water shortages as well as widespread water pollution. Seventy-seven percent of effluent is currently untreated, 70 percent of the Chinese population has no access to safe drinking water, and 400 of 600 cities face water shortages, according to a report released Monday by Helmut Kaiser Consultancy, an international environmental and technology consulting firm in Tuebingen, Germany. Contamination and lack of supply capacity are the leading factors for water shortage. ...

A recent study by the nonpartisan Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif., warned that businesses around the world, from beverage companies to microchip manufacturers, are failing to prepare for the serious risks posed by growing competition for fresh water, the threat of water contamination and rising water-related costs.

In a separate report, the United Nations' Environment Program and the Stockholm International Water Institute said, "The potential risks associated with water scarcity have become an emerging risk of strategic importance to businesses and their financial backers around the world."

Gregoire seeks $12 million for drought relief

- A week after declaring a drought emergency, Gov. Christine Gregoire yesterday proposed $12 million to help with water shortage problems throughout the state in preparation for what she called one of the driest summers in the state's history.

She also said she would allocate an additional $16 million in her proposed state budget to avert future problems by building two Eastern Washington reservoirs and a water-storage system.

Drought could parch Indian reservation

Some 14,000 residents of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation could run out of water by August because of a drought along the Missouri River basin, officials said.

The tribe's list of potential problems stretches from health concerns to fire fighting. The reservation's schools and its only hospital and clinic would have to close.

"It will be more than just running out of water for a couple of days. There will be 14,000 people that have no water whatsoever," said Wayne Ducheneaux, a tribal official and member of a task force working to come up with a water plan.

Water Shortages Are Potential Threat to China's Growth, Stability

A 74-year-old woman struggles to push down the lever of a rusty pump, to draw water from a cistern beneath her house in Shanhou village, about 100 kilometers outside Beijing.

The nearby Juma River used to supply the cistern, but it is now dry, and she depends on rain to fill the tank.

Now, she says, she is lucky to have water left from last year's rains. Since the river dried out, she has sometimes had to depend on friends who have deeper wells than she does.

For as long as anyone can remember, the river has been Shanhou's only source of water. That was until recently, when the government diverted virtually all the river's water to the capital, Beijing.

The woman says she and her sons used to plant wheat, corn and soybeans, but now the river is dry, their fields no longer produce.

Pakistan faces water shortage despite huge rainfall

Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of the deluge for Pakistan as a whole was some relief from the potentially crippling water shortage gripping the nation.

Or was it? Not in the long term, say analysts and officials.

Instead a combination of poor infrastructure and sheer mismanagement means farmers in the heavily agriculture-based economy must still look to the heavens, they add.

Worries over water are also poisoning Islamabad's international relations, pushing it into a damaging dispute with nuclear-armed rival New Delhi over a huge dam being built in the Indian zone of divided Kashmir.


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