The QANAT: June 16-25, 2012

What is The QANAT? A weekly digest of water security highlights. If you have suggestions for next week’s QANAT let me know! The QANAT is named after an ancient water supply system

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When the rivers run dry (by Fred Pearce) – David Zetland’s book review Aguanomics (June 18, 2012)

I give this book FIVE STARS for Pearce’s varied examples, clear analysis and accurate message: we cannot continue to dry out our rivers for special interests and traditional methods of mismanagement. We, the people, will benefit from restoring water flows into their traditional paths, borrowing and repaying water as it passes by.

    • Pat’s thoughts: I completely agree with Zetland about this book. If you are interested in water issues, and want a great overview of serious issues regarding water scarcity, read this. If you like Fred Pearce’s writing checkout some of his other work, including “With Speed and Violence”, “The Coming Population Crash”, and “The Land Grabbers”.
Water security GCC’s top priority. Arab News (June 21, 2012)

According to Assistant Secretary-General Abdullah Al-Shibli, the committee’s meeting discussed water coalition and water security in the Gulf countries and is a reflection of the GCC’s keenness on providing water at any cost and under any circumstances.

    • Pat’s thoughts: The whole “at any cost, and under any circumstances” makes me a little nervous, but since there isn’t really any water that they could take from others, I think it means “we’re going to desalinate, and the environmental impacts are a necessary side effect.”


Water pacts re-examined amid Arab Spring. UPI (June 14, 2012)

In May, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned his neighbors, with Turkey and Syria his main targets, that the region faces conflict unless the issue of dwindling water resources is addressed by regional governments.

    • Pat’s thoughts: I think a key area to watch will be the Euphrates river, particularly between Turkey and Syria. Currently, Turkey broadly respects the flow allocation to Syria – but with increased Syrian military aggression towards Turkey, water cooperation may be among the items to be scuppered. Watch this area, as the weeks proceed.
India’s dam plans anger Pakistan, symbolize global water woes. Brimbank Weekly (May 19, 2012)

The Indus Water Treaty, signed in 1960, gives Pakistan rights over the Indus Valley’s three western rivers. India controls the three rivers to the east. The treaty is important, in particular to Pakistan, which is downstream from India, and relies on its neighbour’s adherence to it for survival. But the treaty is beginning to crack under new pressures, and Pakistan’s increasing anxiety about its neighbour’s activities on its watercourses.

    • Pat’s thoughts: Indian dam development in the Indus basin will increase as long as India needs additional hydropower, flood control, and/or irrigation water. Pakistan must respond like it is, but I doubt that any actual conflict will occur unless India actually harms Pakistan’s access to water.
African nations pioneer natural resource accounting with “Gaborone Declaration”. New Security Beat (June 20, 2012)

…the advantage of knowing that a hectare of mangrove trees in a certain region of Thailand has been calculated to provide approximately $16,000 of flood protection when considering whether to clear-cut and sell the raw wood (worth about $850), convert the region into a shrimp farm ($9,000), or preserve it.

    • Pat’s thoughts: I think that recognition of the value of ecosystem services is very important for conservation, but I think there are important unintended consequences of such valuation. Particularly, if the market is to judge the best use of an area, and wetland is valued at $100,000 of services per year, while a shopping mall is $150,000/yr, then the valuation process has encouraged (rather than discouraged) conservation. I think there need to be other components, including non-monetary valuations, if conservation is the end goal.
South Sudan will join Nile Basin Initiative. Ooska News (June 12, 2012)

Joining the inter-governmental initiative will allow the fledgling state to take part in making decisions and laws related to use of Nile water… However, South Sudanese Water Minister Paul Mayom stressed during a visit to Cairo last month that “we will not sign the Entebbe agreement, and we will not pose harm to Egypt’s water interests.”

    • Pat’s thoughts: South Sudan is hedging its bets by aligning itself with both the NBI and the downstream powers, Sudan and Egypt. As Ethiopia begins to exert its influence more and more, it will be interesting to see whether allegiances shift with changing power dynamics in the Nile basin.


Is thorium a magic bullet for our energy problems? Science Friday (May 4, 2012)

As the search for cheap, safe and non-carbon emitting sources of energy continues, a band of scientists say the answer may be nuclear reactors fueled by thorium. Others caution that thorium reactors pose waste and proliferation risks. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the pros and cons of thorium reactors.

    • Pat’s thoughts: Fascinating, balanced discussion of thorium as a nuclear fuel. Must listen 🙂


Avoiding Future Famines: strengthening the ecological basis of security through sustainable food systems. UNEP (June 20, 2012)

Globally, an estimated one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes per year.

    • Pat’s thoughts: This is a great report from UNEP, and I really appreciate how they draw in some unconventional points, particularly around food waste. Check out the Executive Summary if you like, and then download the full report if you need more detail.
Shortages: Fish on the slide. BBC (June 17, 2012)

The year of Peak Ocean Fish was 1996. Crews hauled in 87.7 million tonnes of wriggling protein. The total sea catch has since fallen to about 80 million tonnes and stabilised.

    • Pat’s thoughts: This is a really important topic; also check out the animation for the expansion of fishing worldwide. Fish provide protein to millions of people globally, without which, we would have even more problems with land-based food production. Sustainable management of fisheries is critical to avoid collapse of fishing-based diets, leading to increased competition for land-based diets.