Water Future & Climate Change

Freshwater problematics ?

This modest contribution is a synthesis of many international reports that pose the problem of the management of water that can be a factor of global tensions between 2020 through 2040.  A drought without precedent according to data from the UN should affect all Africa including North Africa between 2020 and 2030.  To avoid wastage of financial resources by targeting really promising projects, Algeria for instance between 2016 to 2020 must and is already preparing some strategy. 

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It is of its national security.

  1. According to studies by the Intergovernmental Group of Experts of the United Nations on Climate Change, of the International Institute for the Management of Water, the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture and UNESCO, 70% of the Earth’s surface being covered with water, humans collect approximately 4,000 cubic kilometres of fresh water annually for their different uses. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 km³  of freshwater flowing every year on land, and shared amongst 7 billion people, should provide 5,700 m³ of freshwater each, equating to nearly 16,000 litres of water per person per day.  We are currently and taking consideration of all the economic and demographic pressures, well below this and freshwater reserves are theoretically sufficient to meet all the people’s needs provided there were an equal distribution and rational use of this resource. water_scarcity_1

Indeed, the total area of irrigated land has increased five-fold since the beginning of the 20th century.  It has virtually doubled since 1960, mainly in Asia (China, India, Pakistan) and the United States.  How can we forget that about 1,500 litres of fresh water are necessary today for the harvest of a single kilogram of wheat while 80% of the new global food needs, induced by population growth by the year 2030, will have to be satisfied by irrigated agriculture, which already dominates 70% of the global water potential of tourism, industry and irrigation?  With global warming, the atmosphere presents a significant change in the geographical distribution of temperatures, which may lead to a new distribution of climates on the planet.  The temperature may decrease in an area and increase in another with resulting changes in precipitations and such likes.  Thus wetlands may experience catastrophic floods as a result of the intensification of rainfall and arid and semi-arid areas may experience the phenomenon of further desertification.  Algeria, a Mediterranean country that slides toward semi-aridity and desertification risks remain very high.  This presages natural conditions that are significantly more difficult than that of today, whose consequences are beginning to be felt in many parts of Algeria.

  1. The importance of governance and policy-making in the field of water is ultimately linked to the overall socio-economic policy of a country. The major challenge of the 21st century for water will really be that of ensuring the profitability of water management, and that the poor has access to this vital resource.  Huge investments will be needed to upgrade the existing and create not only new structures such as manufacturing plants, distribution networks, sanitation stations, etc., but also to develop new irrigation systems. These investments were evaluated by the World Council of Water at $180 billion per year for the next 25 years, against the current yearly spend of $75 billion / year.  The importance of international regulations and a global market of regulated water institutions cannot be more emphasised keeping above all any speculative monetary calculations for immediate profits. It will therefore be through political decision, at national and international levels through funding agencies, that a decisive role in the future management of the risk of scarcity of fresh water will be played. In North Africa, it will include Maghreb-wide coordinated actions must be implemented in order to also prevent future tensions. What are the measures? I see four. Firstly program the reduction of siltation of dams which for countries such as Algeria becomes worrying. Secondly, adopt an appropriate treatment of wastewater through the required technological mastery. Thirdly, fight against waste. Overall, only 55% of water withdrawals are actually consumed. The remaining 45% are either lost through drainage, leakage and evaporation during irrigation and leak in drinking water distribution networks, is returned to the environment after use which is the case for example of the water used for cooling of power stations. In some major cities of Africa, Asia or Latin America such as Cairo or Mexico City, up to 70% of the distributed water is lost through leakage in the networks. Another example: more than half of the water required by the traditional modes of irrigation that is still most commonly used is lost through evaporation. Furthermore, groundwater natural reservoirs recharge being over exploited are replenished very slowly, therefore, leading to the aquifer not being able to renew itself. Experts estimate that the thresholds of what it is possible to take in the natural environment are already exceeded in many places. These could even lead to the very possible and complete exhaustion, within the coming 30 years, of several important aquifer stretches, whose exploitation has intensified. In Algeria, and according to the calculations of the World Bank, the average loss rate is 32% for distributed on a 40,000km network. In other words it is necessary to produce 625,000 m³ to sell a volume of 425,000.  Of all the Mediterranean capitals, Algiers comes out as to possess the most obsolete distribution networks, but with water desalination projects. Fourth measure, the desalination of sea water for the production of water but using gas and solar energy. This possible operation was financially costly back in 2012 but all depend on the evolution of the prices of the different energy sources and on whether large-scale production can reduce medium-term costs.
  2. Energy problems are paramount, which puts the price of the cubic metre of water at a price currently excessively expensive. In General, the measures referred to previously will require huge investments.  Algeria increased in ten years,  its water allocations of large irrigated areas multiplying by two the aggregate area. The irrigated small and medium areas have also increased by 180%, from 350,000 hectares in 2000 to 980.000 ha in 2011, thanks notably to hilly deductions Park which currently have 444 siteworks through the national territory. Finally, the five-year plan 2010-2014, which reserves for the water resources sector a budget of 870 billion Dinars, provides the completion and equipment of several large irrigated as well as the realization of 137 new hilly dams.  Algeria made admittedly, significant progress in this area, the national ratio per capita to 600 meters cubes, for a daily allocation per capita of 170 litres and having planned the construction of 15 new dams. Thus the capacity of mobilization in 2012 and 7.4 billion metres cubic, to move to 9.1 in 2014, the water potential 17 billion. Yet the above ratios are global, raise the question of distribution.  Moreover, at the time where we talk about development of shale gas, subject to the technological mastery of horizontal drilling, water consumption is a million cubic metres for a billion gaseous cubic metres not to mention the negative effects on the environment. If the future strategy should focus on desalination, Algeria as an arid country where it is important to discredit any claim of food self-sufficiency, there is need to review the water policy by an appropriate pricing policy so as to avoid waste and to think about a government reorganization coupling energy and water.
  3. At the global level, the question of water supply is becoming more worrying. Already precarious in certain regions of the globe, the situation can only get worse in the years to come. The formidable demographic expansion in the next 25 years will inevitably be accompanied by a burst of water consumption and degradation of its quality. This could seriously jeopardize supplies in fresh water for a large part of humanity. During the 20th century for example world population rose from 1.7 billion people in 1900 to more than 6 billion in 2000, up in 2012 more than 7 billion and 8 billion by 2025, while the population has been multiplied by 4.11 water consumption of humanity was multiplied between by 6 to 7. But most importantly, there is an unequal distribution of the human population on Earth and that of the available water resources.  Water is so poorly distributed and even worse is unevenly carried. Thus, according to studies by the United Nations, Asia concentrates 60% of the human population, but has only 30% of the available water supply. Arid regions that receive less than 250 mm of water per year cover nearly 20% of the land surface and 1/5th of the continents has no own resources in river water. Water consumption inceases with the standard of living of the populations, facilitated by all amenities appear rigt in homes.

Thus, Europeans consume 8 times more fresh water than their grandparents for their daily use. a resident of Sydney for example consumes on average over 1000 litres of water per day, an American from 300 to 400 litres, and a European of 100 to 200 litres whereas in some developing countries, average per capita consumption does not exceed a few litres. On average, if a Tunisian 100 m3 of water per year, merely a French consumes five times more, or 1,400 litres per day. As are the operating modalities different years the use of water. Thus always according to the UN, Britain devoted 27% of its water to domestic needs, 71% to its industries and only 2% in agriculture, and the 2% India for its domestic needs, 2% for its industry and 96% for agriculture. If at the same time the current trend to the increase in water withdrawals continue, between half and two-thirds of humanity should be in situations of water stress by 2025, alert threshold adopted by the Organization of the United nations (UN) and corresponding 1700 metres cubic of freshwater available per inhabitant and per year. Today, already an inhabitant in five is not access. According to the United Nations, on 33 mega-cities more of 8 million people that will exist in 15 years, 27 will be located in the less developed countries and therefore the least able power meet the needs. One of the major problems for fresh water and food is made by irrigation, as to feed the entire population of our planet, agricultural productivity will strongly increase. While irrigation absorbs already today 70% of global levies, considered to be very excessive consumption, it should still increase by 17% over the next 20 years. Where the importance of using other irrigation techniques more appropriate as the drop by drop as the determinant of the future supply of freshwater will be the rate of expansion of irrigation. In other words, only a net improvement in the overall management of irrigation to actually control the growth of consumption.

  1. The risk of a shortage of fresh water are therefore indeed, with risks of world wars for the control of blue gold. According to a United Nations study, the water might even become, within 50 years, a much more valuable than oil. Hence the importance of this resource that to some people call “blue gold”. With the increase in population and increasing water needs, these tensions could multiply in the future. Where the importance of common management as a factor of peace. Access to water has therefore become a powerful economic issue on a global scale which could become, in the next century, one of the leading causes of international tensions. More than 40% of the world’s population is based in the 250 transboundary river basins of the globe where these populations must share their water resources with residents of a neighbouring country. However, such a situation may be the cause of recurrent conflicts, especially when a watercourse crossed a border, as water becomes a real instrument of power in the hands of the countries upstream. Today, disputes about water are many around the world, including North and South of Africa, in the Middle East, Central America, the Canada and the West of United States. In the Middle East tensions may accelerate. In the Middle East, according to the UN, a dozen of hotbeds of tension exist. Thus the Egypt, entirely dependent on the Nile for its water resources, should share these with ten other States of the Nile basin: including with Ethiopia where the Blue Nile has its source, and the Sudan where the River meanders before unclogging the Egyptian territory. As the Iraq and the Syria, they are both at the mercy of Turkey, where the two rivers that feed them, the Tigris and the Euphrates, originate. Thanks to the many dams it has built on the upper reaches of the River, the Turkey regulates the flow downstream.

Conclusion. Today, more than a third of humanity is more than 2 billion people survive on less than 5 litres of water per day, less than 1700 litres per year, so attending “water stress” concentrated in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. According to the UN, at the current rate of growth of the population and its freshwater needs, by 2025 the average amount of available freshwater should fall from 6600 to 4800 m3 per capita and per year, representing a reduction of close to one-third. At this date, experts estimate that 5 times more inhabitants than today ‘ hui will be affected by water scarcity, representing 2.8 billion people or 35% of the estimated population of the Earth at this time. A drought without precedent according to data from the UN should touch all of North Africa including the Algeria which must already prepare a coping strategy.  Generally, the water shortage facing humanity cause wars for survival.

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