Friday, 15 October 2010

it's the water, stupid!

Today is Blog Action Day dedicated to Water!
What a Joy to have some many people around the globe fighting for the same molecule as this blog is doing now for just over 3 years!
I got nothing new to write today...It feels like a dry spell has hit my keyboard.
So, I had a look on what I have written about water...

I got 2 pieces...
one in English, hence the...title of this post.
And one in Greek.


and remember...without water no human can live for more than few hours...
Yannis Zabetakis

1. It's the water, stupid
IN BILL Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against George HW
Bush, the phrase "It's the economy, stupid" was coined by Clinton campaign
strategist James Carville. It referred to the notion that Clinton was a better
choice because during his stint as president Bush had not adequately addressed
the economy, which had undergone a recession. In 2009, world economies are yet
again facing a huge crisis.

But, despite the enormity of the current global economic crisis, it is not the
most crucial crisis facing us today and neither is the food shortage one. It
is the scarcity of clean water that has most people worried. Food at
affordable prices is not enough because, in order to produce food, we need
water. In speaking to The Economist, chairman of Nestle Peter Brabeck-Letmathe
said: "The water shortage is an even more urgent problem than climate change."

Have you ever wondered what the price of 1 tonne (1m3) of water is? Have a
look at your EYDAP invoice and you'll see that it costs about 0.45 euros. But
people sunbathing in Saint Tropez and drinking bottled Evian water have to pay
several hundred euros for the same amount. In Palestine, water is even more
expensive - people have to cross the Egypt-Palestine borders to carry water
back to their homes. So, it seems, water is priceless. We could go so far as
to rephrase Carville - "It's the water, stupid!"

Water availability has been a "casus belli" for years. Six years ago, Israel
warned of a war over water ( 2249599.stm).
Lebanon had opened a pumping station on the River Hasbani in the spring of
2001 to irrigate a drought-stricken village but denied that it planned to dam
the river. Israel controlled the Hasbani during its occupation of southern
Lebanon in 1978-2000.

Today, the water of this river is completely controlled by Israel.

The problem of good water management is of pivotal importance in both food and
agriculture industries and world geopolitics. According to the bank JPMorgan,
five big food and beverage giants - Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola,
Anheuser-Busch and Danone - consume almost 575 billion litres of water a year,
enough to satisfy the daily water needs of every person on the planet
( displaystory.cfm?story_id=11966993)!

Not surprisingly, leading environmental agencies are now using the concept of
the "water footprint" to describe the direct and indirect use of water. The
non-profit organisation Water Footprint Network defines the water footprint as
"the total volume of fresh water that is used to produce the goods and
services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business".

It is thus not only the amount of water that people and industry are consuming
in a country that matters, but also the amount of water that is used for all
food that is imported into the country.

Intriguingly, the production of one kilogram of beef requires 16,000 litres of
water, whereas we need 140 litres of water to produce one cup of coffee. Japan
- with a footprint of 1,150m3 per capita/per year - has about 65 percent of
its total water footprint outside its borders. The US water footprint is
2,500m3 per capita/per year.

The concept of water management in Greece is simply non-existent. The number
of illegal wells is unknown and estimates of boreholes here range from 190,000
to 270,000. The best example that highlights this lack of water management is
Lake Plastira, in central Greece. While the water level of the lake is
dangerously low, wasteful irrigation techniques in the plain of Thessaly and
elsewhere continue unmonitored, according to the Athens News' Thrasy
Petropoulos (Wells sucking Greece dry, published on 29 August 2008).

But it is not only this part of the world where water management is poor. In
Cyprus, all the water reservoirs of the island were full in 2004 but
completely empty at the end of 2008. Cyprus had to import water from Greece
last summer. Half of all households in England and Wales are in areas where
demand for fresh drinking water could soon outstrip supply. The crisis is
greatest in the southeast, where at least 10 million people have less water
available per head than those living in Egypt and Morocco ( uk/news/article-1102724/Less-water-head-Egypt-25million-live-areas-face-drought-rationing.html).

"Water is the oil of the 21st century," Andrew Liveris, the chief executive of
chemical company Dow, said in the 21 August 2008 edition of The Economist.
Like oil, water is a critical lubricant of the global economy. And, as with
oil, supplies of water - at least of the clean, easily accessible sort - are
coming under enormous strain. Investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates that
global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, which it calls an
"unsustainable" rate of growth. Water, unlike oil, has no substitute.
Untrammelled industrialisation, particularly in poor countries, is
contaminating rivers and aquifers. America's generous subsidies for biofuel
have increased the harvest of water-intensive crops that are now used for
energy as well as food. And heavy subsidies for water in most parts of the
world mean that it is often grossly underpriced - and, hence, squandered
( business/displaystory. cfm?story_id=11966993).

The link between food and water

It takes about one litre of water to produce one calorie from food crops. But
the biggest variable is our diet. As Brabeck-Letmathe explains, Europeans and
Americans have for years had high proportions of meat in their diets, but now
this trend is catching on in emerging markets as incomes rise. Meat requires
10 times the water withdrawn per calorie by plants, he explains, so the
average daily diet in California requires some 6,000 litres of water in
agriculture, compared with 3,000 litres in countries such as Tunisia and
Egypt. Compare these figures to the three or four litres we drink daily or the
300-600 litres of water needed for other purposes, such as hygiene and
manufacturing. Unfortunately, politicians have added another drain - biofuels.
It takes up to 9,100 litres of water to grow the soy needed for one litre of
biodiesel and up to 4,000 litres for corn to be transformed into bioethanol.
What is meant to alleviate a serious environmental problem (climate change) is
making another, even more serious problem (water shortage) worse.

Urgent solutions needed

Scientists do have solutions: better irrigation practices in farming may
reduce fresh water withdrawals almost by half. Some crops are better grown in
water-rich countries, while others grow well with relatively little water. If
water had a price and if farm products could be traded freely and without
subsidies across borders, a water-efficient allocation of production would
follow. The political subsidies for biofuels must stop immediately until more
water-efficient crops are established (ie the so-called second- and
third-generation plants). Leading food industries must start using water more
efficiently - soft-drink giants are using about three litres of water for
every litre of soft drink they produce, but one Greek branch is using double
this (ie six litres of water per litre of soft drink).

All in all, politicians and industry people must construct a "water new deal"
as soon as possible. The climate change should stop being the first
environmental priority.


2. [in greek]

Νερό, το μόριο της ζωής

Χιλιάδες έχουν ζήσει χωρίς Αγάπη, ούτε ένας όμως χωρίς νερό [Γ.Χ. Όντεν]

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