Middle East Water

Making Every Drop Count; Even Drinking From The Sea

MANAMA, Bahrain – Concerned about increasing shortages of water in the Middle East, independent scientists have begun working to develop ways of stretching the available fresh water and of converting more sea water for drinking and irrigation.

The region has struggled for centuries with low-rainfall and drought, but the scientists say the water situation is becoming more critical as population continues rising and ever more people are forsaking the countryside for the cities.

More than 80 percent of the water in the Middle East now goes for farming, but in a 266-page report the scientists said that with the combination of more people and perhaps even less water in the years ahead “the priority will increasingly be placed on human consumption.”

To shift the flow from plants to people, the report said, scientists are going to have to help farmers find more efficient ways of irrigation. And more money and research is going to have to go into desalination – the process of turning sea water into drinking water.
In less than 20 years, the report said, roughly 466 million people will be living in the Middle East, up from 325 million now. Sixty-six percent of the people are expected to be living in cities compared with 56 percent now.

The report was the first of what the Arab Forum For Environment and Development, a recently established non-government organization based in Beirut,  says will be a series of studies on the region. The report was published late last year at the organization’s meeting here in Bahrain.

Dr. Abdelrahman Al-Awadi, vice-president of the Forum’s board, said the study, Arab Environment: Future Challenges,” is an independent non-governmental report, prepared by prominent Arab scientists who do not work under government authorities.

Golf Courses Drinking More Than Their Share
The report notes that new golf courses are springing up throughout the Middle East.  Soon, it says, the Gulf States will have 40 golf courses, up from 16 now. The golf courses consume an average of 1.16 million cubic meters or 1.52 million cubic yards of water annually -   roughly a year’s worth of water for 15,000 people.

“Using such an amount of water on leisure projects in an arid desert throws up questions about sustainability and how this could infringe on the water needs of the local community,” the report said.

In making this point, the scientists said they were not issuing “a call to impede development.”

“But rather,” they said, “to allocate more resources toward inventing innovative environmentally-friendly desalination methods and reliable saline agriculture techniques, suitable for the arid desert environment.”

Shifting to another part of the world: A less intense issue on a smaller scale

In Canada, water is much more abundant. But entrepreneurs have come up with a way to make clean drinking water out of – can you guess? – air. :  

The technology is not new, but its application is. It works on the principle of a dehumidifier. It draws moisture out of the atmosphere, cools and filters it, providing ready drinking water, The Telegraph newspaper in London reports.

The appliance can squeeze up to 40 per cent of the moisture out of the air and gets rid of bacteria with the help of ultraviolet light.

It is called the Water Mill and is made by a Canadian company, Element Four. It is capable of producing around 12 liters or 3.17 gallons of water a day. And it does not pinch much electricity.

The manufacturers have also come out with an agricultural version to irrigate crops in dry regions.

Environmentalists have no problem with Water Mill because it uses little electricity and a renewable source – air.

Designers at Element Four are developing variations of the device that they think could be useful to armies on the move and emergency services units.#


Water knows no boundaries, but nations do. And what if two neighboring nations go to war over the use of water beneath their boundaries?

Even the United Nations has no answer in the absence of an international treaty that would spell out the terms for fairly sharing   water in underground lakes or aquifers.

But that is changing.

To fill the gap in international law, the International Law Commission of the United Nations has just completed a draft convention or treaty which provides a code for nations to share, save and conserve the world’s underground water resources or aquifers. The draft went to the United Nations General Assembly in late October.

As a guide to understanding the issue,  the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations, UNESCO,  has published the first-ever world map of shared aquifers, showing their location, the quality of their water and their historic replenishment rates.
The map shows all of the 273 aquifers in the world that stretch, underground, across borders - 68 in the Americas, 38 in Africa, 65 in eastern Europe, 90 in western Europe and 12 in Asia. Globally, 65 per cent of the water is devoted to irrigation, 25 per cent goes for drinking water and 10 per cent to industry.

Some countries in Africa have already set up mechanisms for sharing underground water. But given the growing scarcity of water, the United Nations leadership, with widespread support from member states, is pushing for a formal document that would bind all nations to a protocol for using underground water and serve as a tool for preventing battles in courtrooms and at the world’s frontiers.

Experts on international law welcome the proposed treaty, which has been in the works for two years. (http://www.un.org/law/ilc/—keyword: Convention on Transboundary Aquifers) One respected non-profit organization in Washington, the American Society of International Law, said in a statement that the proposed treaty “would represent the only source of binding international law specific to transboundary aquifers.”

Water With Special Powers?
Jazzed Up “Skinny Water”
Promises to Wash Away Fat

PHILADELPHIA - An American nutrition company has come up with a product that it says makes losing weight easy:  flavored water with zero calories. The Skinny Nutritional Corp., just outside Philadelphia, Pa., has launched Skinny Water in five fruity flavors - including Peach, Mango Mandarin and Acai Grape Blueberry - which, the company claims, all have “clinically proven ingredients to boost metabolism and control appetite”.

Unadulterated water has no calories either, but it lacks the fruity flavor of Skinny Water. Skinny Water also contains an ingredient called Super CitriMax which the company says reduces overeating and “improves weight loss by 350 percent”. It also contains calcium, which is supposed to help burn fat, and potassium to keep body cells hydrated.

Whether Skinny Water flushes away more fat than plain old water is yet to be seen. Two years ago, a British company, Bio-Synergy, began selling a product called Skinny Water through such high-end markets in London as Harrods Department Store and the Selfridges chain of supermarkets.

One consumer of Skinny Water of Britain, writing under the name of Sarah Jim, gave an assessment in a posting on Weblogs Inc., an American network of around 90 weblogs, covering a variety of subjects, from computers and gaming to the likes of food and independent films.

Sarah Jim wrote that a carton of 24 bottles of Skinny Water costs $40, adding:  “I am almost positive, but don’t quote me now, that regular non-skinny tap water that sells for $0, or non-skinny bottled water that sells in a 24-pack at my local grocery store for about $4 works pretty well, too.”

Global Debate on H2O,
Cost Of Pricing Water

LONDON – Do we pay a price to save water? If we do not save water, debaters here contended, we pay the price anyway.

The British magazine, The Economist, organized a worldwide online debate on pricing water - The Value of H2O – and the result was a close call.

The proposition was: “This house believes that water, as a scarce resource, should be priced according to its market value.” At the close of the debate,  44 percent voted “yes,” 56 percent “no.”

Issues up for consideration included:  “Would water supplies be better managed if treated as a commodity, and priced accordingly?” And,  “Is water a basic human right that governments should secure for their citizens?”

The results reflected the differing views of the developed and the developing world. Those favoring pricing according to market value contended that pricing of water was the key to its sustainable management as it “ensures that water is allocated to the most productive use.” Those opposed said that markets for water “reallocate it from the frugal poor to the prodigal rich.”


Photo by Carlesmari From Our Worldwide Correspondent Venkata Vemuri

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