Who keeps buying California’s scarce water? Saudi Arabia

Who keeps buying California’s scarce water? Saudi Arabia

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 25, 2019 SNIP: Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. More than half of the town’s 94,000 acres are bushy blue-green fields growing the crop. Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands. Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia. The storehouses belong to Fondomonte Farms, a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabia-based company Almarai – one of the largest food production companies in the world. The company sells milk, powdered milk and packaged items such as croissants, strudels and cupcakes in supermarkets and corner stores throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and in specialty grocers throughout the US. Each month, Fondomonte Farms loads the alfalfa on to hulking metal shipping containers destined to arrive 24 days later at a massive port stationed on the Red Sea, just outside King Abdullah City in Saudi Arabia. With the Saudi Arabian landscape there being mostly desert and alfalfa being a water-intensive crop, growing it there has always been expensive and draining on scarce water resources, to the point that the Saudi government finally outlawed the practice in 2016. In the wake of the ban, Almarai decided to purchase land wherever it is cheap and has favorable water conditions to produce enough feed for its 93,000 cows. In 2012, they acquired 30,000 acres of land in Argentina,...
The U.S. Is Going to See Water Shortages Within the 21st Century

The U.S. Is Going to See Water Shortages Within the 21st Century

SOURCE: Fortune DATE: March 4, 2019 SNIP: Government-backed research on watersheds in the U.S. provide a dire outlook for the future: population growth and climate change are likely to cause “serious water shortages” within the next 55 years, says the study. As both demand and water evaporation increase, up to 96 of the 204 water basins that provide fresh water to Americans are projected to have monthly shortages by 2071, researchers reported in their study, published Thursday in Earth’s Future. Irrigated agriculture is responsible for over 75% of annual consumption in most water basins, according to the researchers. If farmers were to reduce irrigation for their crops, particularly crops grown for animal feed or biofuel, the researchers’ computer models show some hope for fewer...
Concentrations of Pharmaceuticals in Freshwater Increasingly Globally

Concentrations of Pharmaceuticals in Freshwater Increasingly Globally

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: February 25, 2019 SNIP: Concentrations of pharmaceuticals in rivers and lakes have significantly increased across the globe over the past 20 years, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The risk of ecological damage from the residue of two pharmaceuticals, for example — carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug, and ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic — was 10 to 20 times higher in 2015 than in 1995, the study found. Traces of medicines get passed into waterways through the excretion of active drugs in human waste, the disposal of unused medicine down drains, and run-off from livestock farms. The medicines can cause serious environmental harm: Chronic exposure to carbamazepine, for example, has been shown to alter feeding behavior and reduce egg viability in zebrafish, as well as reduce reproductive success in crustaceans. Antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin, can alter major nutrient cycles and decrease the effectiveness of bacteria-based wastewater management...
More Salt in Our Water Is Creating Scary New “Chemical Cocktails”

More Salt in Our Water Is Creating Scary New “Chemical Cocktails”

SOURCE: Truthout and The Royal Society Publishing DATE: February 6, 2019 SNIP: Gene Likens has been studying forest and aquatic ecosystems for more than half a century. In that time he’s seen a change in the chemistry of our surface waters — including an increase in the alkalinity and salinity of waterways — something he and his colleagues have dubbed “freshwater salinization syndrome.” Likens coauthored a report published last month that found that not only is salinity increasing in many surface waters, but when you add salt to the environment it can mobilize heavy metals, nutrient pollution and other contaminants that are combining to create new “chemical cocktails” in rivers, streams and...
Water wars: Are India and Pakistan heading for climate change-induced conflict?

Water wars: Are India and Pakistan heading for climate change-induced conflict?

SOURCE: Deutsche Welle DATE: January 25, 2019 SNIP: Yemen, Somalia and Syria are just some of the places where climate change is increasingly regarded as a root cause of violent conflict. But while much of the focus on climate change-attributed conflict has predominantly been on Africa and the Middle East, a potentially even deadlier clash over resources may be looming on the horizon in Asia. That’s because India and Pakistan — bitter rivals over water — both have nuclear weapons in their arsenal. The two countries have a long but strained agreement over sharing water from the Indus River and its tributaries. Waters from the Indus, which flow from India and the disputed Kashmir region into Pakistan, were carved up between India and Pakistan under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT). The dispute over the Kashmir region — a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than six decades — is hugely intertwined with water security. Both countries claim the whole region, but each only controls a part of it. While the IWT has managed to survive the wars and other hostilities, it is increasingly being strained to its limit. Pakistan has accused India of throttling its water supply and violating the IWT by constructing dams over the rivers flowing into Pakistan from Kashmir. A 2018 report from the International Monetary Fund ranked Pakistan third among countries facing severe water shortages. When the rapidly-melting glaciers in the Himalayas, which feed the Indus waters, eventually disappear as predicted, the dwindling rivers will be slashed even...