Saturday, 23 January 2010

Declining Water Supply in Africa puts many at Risk

While examining the various health and habitat issues that are taking place in Africa, the declining water supply remains one of the top problems. The water supply is decreasing in African lakes, rivers, and wetlands as a result of many different factors; unfortunately humans are the main cause.

Current Challenges

Africa’s decreasing water supply is being caused by both natural and human factors. First, let’s examine what we as humans are doing and how we are disrupting the water supply. Some of the main factors that are putting a stress on the water supply include: rapid population growth, pollution from pesticides and fertilizers, environmental degradation, waste disposal, introducing foreign fish species, and the numerous hydro-development projects that have been constructed in the area.

Humans are interfering with the soil erosion and vegetation, which is drastically stunting the growth of basic natural resources. Fields where crops should be growing, loss of forest resources and fisheries are all increasing problems. The agriculture is disrupted by chopping down trees for firewood, adding new species to the mix that cause an unnatural biological chain, and by adding enhancing chemicals that ruin natural products versus promoting production of the natural products.

While humans are causing the majority of the problems associated with the declining water supply, some of these factors may also be attributed to nature.The natural events occurring in Africa are destructive to the water, which people have no control over. These natural degradation factors include: climatic changes and quantities of rainfall. Periods of both drought and flooding have increased in the past 30 years, drastically influencing the reason why many lakes have been quickly shrinking in size. Increased frequency in flooding and droughts have added stress to the freshwater systems and the water supply networks.

It is important to have regulation of water flow with extreme flooding. If flooding is managed correctly, it is possible to store water from only a few major lakes which can provide water for over 400 million people. But if this management of water is not utilized, the continent will lose a significant amount of water and no one can afford to lose this natural resource.

This is a huge problem for the continent for water is an essential part of human life and a natural resource that many species need for survival. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, more than 300 million Africans still lack access to safe drinking water and 14 countries on the continent suffer from water scarcity. If Africa is unable to find more funding to help their water systems, many lives may be in danger. Water consumption in Africa has tripled over the past 50 years, while the natural water supply has shrunk.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

How Do We Meet the Global Demand for Clean Water?

Water, our most basic need, is poised to be the most baffling challenge of the 21st century. It is being ignored wantonly at a time when more than 1 million people per year die from its scarcity and contamination. Children under age five account for at least 90 percent of water-related deaths. Meanwhile, economic productivity and educational opportunities are lost to illness, leaving millions more in an impoverished state even if they do survive their first five years of life.

Access to water is a human right. Yet that statement makes many people uncomfortable. Most in the developed world can hardly imagine water being anything more than a nominal expense that is easily drawn from a faucet. They think, "Surely it is a commodity to be bought and sold. It hardly costs anything, and it is even reusable, so what's the big deal?"

The big deal is that 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water at all. Most of those people live in Africa and Asia. But if you ask them whether water is a human right, they will laugh the notion off, with appreciation for your kind naïveté. But they will not discount water's importance. They will tell you that they walk up to 2 hours per day to fetch water that is often found in muddy puddles from rain runoff during the few brief months when rain does fall. This kind of water is rife with disease-causing organisms, which they drink unquestioningly.

The areas in which these grateful people live are suffering from soil erosion, decreasing tree coverage, and increasing malaria rates. The environment is deteriorating, and sanitation is simply horrific. Without adequate water for drinking and cooking, hygiene is sacrificed as well. They are forced to eat without washing their hands.

Poor hygiene, in its unrelenting ways, cycles back into the water sources. When people lack decent latrines and sanitation resources, fecal matter and other biohazards circulate back into the muddy puddles from which the people draw their daily water. Even more prevalent are water sources damaged by animal waste.

Dawn of a thirsty century

The amount of water in the world is limited. The human race, and the other species which share the planet, cannot expect an infinite supply.

Water covers about two-thirds of the Earth's surface, admittedly. But most is too salty for use.

Only 2.5% of the world's water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers.

Of what is left, about 20% is in remote areas, and much of the rest arrives at the wrong time and place, as monsoons and floods.

Humans have available less than 0.08% of all the Earth's water. Yet over the next two decades our use is estimated to increase by about 40%.

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Monday, 11 January 2010

Water scarcity: A looming crisis?

The world's water crisis is simple to understand, if not to solve.

The amount of water in the world is finite. The number of us is growing fast and our water use is growing even faster.

A third of the world's population lives in water-stressed countries now. By 2025, this is expected to rise to two-thirds.

There is more than enough water available, in total, for everyone's basic needs.

The UN recommends that people need a minimum of 50 litres of water a day for drinking, washing, cooking and sanitation.

In 1990, over a billion people did not have even that.

Providing universal access to that basic minimum worldwide by 2015 would take less than 1% of the amount of water we use today. But we're a long way from achieving that.

Pollution and disease

Global water consumption rose sixfold between 1900 and 1995 - more than double the rate of population growth - and goes on growing as farming, industry and domestic demand all increase.

As important as quantity is quality - with pollution increasing in some areas, the amount of useable water declines.

More than five million people die from waterborne diseases each year - 10 times the number killed in wars around the globe.

And the wider effects of water shortages are just as chilling as the prospect of having too little to drink.

Seventy percent of the water used worldwide is used for agriculture.

Much more will be needed if we are to feed the world's growing population - predicted to rise from about six billion today to 8.9 billion by 2050.

And consumption will soar further as more people expect Western-style lifestyles and diets - one kilogram of grain-fed beef needs at least 15 cubic metres of water, while a kilo of cereals needs only up to three cubic metres.

Poverty and water

The poor are the ones who suffer most. Water shortages can mean long walks to fetch water, high prices to buy it, food insecurity and disease from drinking dirty water.

Water queue during 2000 Bombay drought
Millions of poor people spend hours every day carrying water
But the very thing needed to raise funds to tackle water problems in poor countries - economic development - requires yet more water to supply the agriculture and industries which drive it.

The UN-backed World Commission on Water estimated in 2000 that an additional $100bn a year would be needed to tackle water scarcity worldwide.

This dwarfs the $20bn which will be needed annually by 2007 to tackle HIV and Aids, and, according to the Commission, it is so much it could only be raised from the private sector.

Even if the money can be found, spending it wisely is a further challenge. Dams and other large-scale projects now affect 60% of the world's largest rivers and provide millions with water.

But in many cases the costs in terms of population displacement and irreversible changes in the nearby ecosystems have been considerable.

Using underground supplies is another widely used solution, but it means living on capital accumulated over millennia, and depleting it faster than the interest can top it up.

As groundwater is exploited, water tables in parts of China, India, West Asia, the former Soviet Union and the western United States are dropping - in India by as much as 3m a year in 1999.

Technical solutions

New technology can help, however, especially by cleaning up pollution and so making more water useable, and in agriculture, where water use can be made far more efficient. Drought-resistant plants can also help.

Drip irrigation drastically cuts the amount of water needed, low-pressure sprinklers are an improvement, and even building simple earth walls to trap rainfall is helpful.

Cow, PA
One kilo of grain-fed beef needs at least 15 cubic metres of water
Some countries are now treating waste water so that it can be used - and drunk - several times over.

Desalinisation makes sea water available, but takes huge quantities of energy and leaves vast amounts of brine.

The optimists say "virtual water" may save the day - the water contained in crops which can be exported from water-rich countries to arid ones.

But the amounts involved would be immense, and the energy needed to transport them gargantuan. And affordable, useable energy will probably soon be a bigger problem than water itself.

Climate change

In any case, it is not just us who need water, but every other species that shares the planet with us - as well all the ecosystems on which we, and they, rely.

Climate change will also have an impact. Some areas will probably benefit from increased rainfall, but others are likely to be losers.

We have to rethink how much water we really need if we are to learn how to share the Earth's supply.

While dams and other large-scale schemes play a big role worldwide, there is also a growing recognition of the value of using the water we already have more efficiently rather than harvesting ever more from our rivers and aquifers.

For millions of people around the world, getting it right is a matter of life and death.

News Release


ATLANTA, March 16, 2009 - The Coca-Cola Company announced today that it has committed US $30MM over the next six years to provide access to safe drinking water to communities throughout Africa through its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN). Implemented by The Coca-ColaAfrica Foundation, RAIN will provide at least 2 million Africans with clean water and sanitation by 2015.

"Africa’s water crisis threatens the health of its population and, therefore, its prospects for economic growth," said Muhtar Kent, President and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. "Communities need strong, healthy people to thrive, and our business needs strong, healthy communities to grow and be sustainable. Helping African communities tackle their water challenges is an important priority for our Company and our bottling partners and is an area where we can make a positive and lasting impact."

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million Africans lack access to safe drinking water, and millions of them die each year from preventable waterborne illnesses. Up to half of the region’s population at any one time suffers from diseases related to unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.

Between 2004 and 2015, the number of people living without access to safe water in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase by 47 million people. Africa is expected to miss the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals target for access to clean drinking water by 111 million people and the sanitation target by 289 million.

"No single organization can resolve Africa’s development challenges, but together with civic society, nongovernmental organizations and government we can make a positive difference in the lives of the people who make up our communities," said William Asiko, President of TheCoca-Cola Africa Foundation. The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation currently has water projects in 19 African countries – Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cote d’ Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia – reaching over 300,000 people.

These water projects are all implemented in partnership with local communities in each country. They also contribute to The Coca-ColaCompany’s aspirational water stewardship goal of returning to communities and to nature an amount of water equivalent to what we use in all of our beverages and their production. The Company’s strategy for achieving that goal has three components:

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Al Gore: A Billion People's Water at Risk From Melting Ice

Climate guru Al Gore warned UN climate talks Monday that record melting of Polar and Himalayan ice could deprive deprive more than a billion people's access to clean water.

Adding to an avalanche of bad scientific news over the last two years, the former US vice president cited new research showing that the Arctic ice cap may have shrunk to record-low levels last year.

"2008 had a smaller minimum, probably, than 2007," Gore said at the release of a report he co-sponsored with the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, called Melting Snow and Ice: A call for Action.

"These figures are fresh, I just got them yesterday," Gore said, alluding to work led by Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

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