NANFA-- water news

Christopher Scharpf (
Fri, 02 Feb 2001 08:52:53 -0400

Fresh water systems around the world are becoming so environmentally degraded
that many are losing their ability to support human, animal and plant life,
according to a recent World Resources Institute report. The report is part of a
comprehensive study by the Institute on how human activity is changing the
world's ecosystems.

Four out of every ten people worldwide now live in river basins with water
scarcity, the report says, but only about one percent of the planet's water is
fresh water available for human use. Agriculture accounts for 93 percent of all
fresh water use, but produces runoff, sediments and chemicals that degrade the
very resources upon which it depends. The World Resources Institute can be
found at:

A recent assessment of the State of Washington's water resources by the
Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has also concluded
that many of the rivers, lakes and bays of that state are badly polluted, and
that the Puget Sound water systems in particular shows early signs of
catastrophic declines. The 133-page report, released by DNR's outgoing
State Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher, "Changing Our Water Ways,"
highlights patterns of decline she attributed partly to the state's growing
population, now more than 5.8 million, and partly to poor management.
Among the findings are that a quarter of the state's waterways cannot meet
the water needs of people or fish, that water rights in most of the state's
basins are over appropriated while populations continue to grow, and that
Washington's 1,025 dams have greatly changed river hydrology. Among
the report's recommendations are designating aquatic reserves for special
protection, purchasing or leasing water rights to devote to instream fish and
wildlife needs, cleaning up contaminated sediments and removing some
dams. The report is available from the Department and soon to be
available from its web site at:

The February 2001 issue of Scientific American has just been released, with a
cover section and special report devoted to the world's water problems. Three
separate articles describe the magnitude of the world's pressing water problems,
prospects for improving water use efficiency in all sectors, the challenges
facing irrigated agriculture and world food production, and some innovative
approaches that might help contribute to solving the worst problems, including
desalination, water bags, recycling and reclamation, and increased efficiency.
As the Editors of Scientific American note, "A water crisis may be in the cards
for some, but not if we act quickly to develop all the solutions at our
disposal." The three articles are:

"Making Every Drop Count," by Peter H. Gleick,
describes the history of water and human civilization and the nature of the
worst water problems facing humanity, and it offers strong arguments why
water planners in the new century should focus on improving water-use
efficiency rather than building new supply projects. Gleick, of Berkeley's
Pacific Institute, also offers examples of conflicts over freshwater
resources from his more comprehensive water-related conflict chronology
(available at

"Growing More Food with Less Water," by Sandra Postel, here the
author argues that severe water scarcity presents the single biggest threat
to future food production and urges that low-cost irrigation devices, high-
efficiency systems, and environmentally sound technologies be produced,
distributed, and used. To view this article, go to:

"How We Can Do It," by Diane Martindale and Peter Gleick, following
the two lead articles, the authors offer four short essays on possible
solutions to some of the world's water problems, including desalination,
transporting freshwater in enormous bags towed through the oceans, fixing
leaks, and recycling wastewater for other uses. To view this article, go to:

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