Geo-Strategic Implications of Dwindling Water Resources

Noticed an interesting report on the geo-strategic implications of climate change put together by The CNA Corporation, a nonprofit institution that conducts in-depth, independent research and analysis.  CNA brought together eleven retired three-star and four-star admirals and generals to provide advice, expertise and perspective on the impact of climate change.  Here is what the report had to say about water:

“… Five billion people are expected to live in water-stressed countries by 2025 even without factoring in climate change. Expected changes in climate will exacerbate water-stress in some areas (including most of Asia, southern Africa, and the Mediterranean), while alleviating it in others  (such as the United Kingdom). Areas that depend on tropical mountain glaciers for water (such as Lima, Peru), will face a precarious situation as the glaciers continue to melt and eventually disappear.   Developing nations with little capacity to manage water will be among the hardest hit…

…Most countries in the Middle East and northern Africa are already considered water scarce, and the International Water Resource Management Institute projects that by 2025,  Pakistan, South Africa, and large parts of India  and China will also be water scarce. To put this in perspective: the U.S. would have to suffer a decrease in water supply that produces an 80 percent decrease in per capita water consumption to reach the United Nations definition of  “water scarce.” These projections do not factor in climate change, which is expected to exacerbate water problems in many areas. Coupled with population growth, tribal, ethnic, and religious differences, the competition for land [will turn] violent. Probably more than any other recent conflict, Darfur provides a case study of how existing marginal situations can be exacerbated beyond the tipping point by climate-related factors. It also shows how lack of essential resources threatens not only individuals and their communities but also the region and the international community at large….” 

“…In some areas of the Middle East, tensions over water already exist.  Mountain glaciers are an especially threatened source of fresh water….  Forty percent of the world’s population derives at least half of its drinking water from the summer melt of mountain glaciers, but these glaciers are shrinking and some could disappear within decades. Several of Asia’s major rivers—the Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow—originate in the Himalayas. If the massive snow/ice sheet in the Himalayas—the third-largest ice sheet in the world, after those in Antarctic and Greenland—continues to melt, it will dramatically reduce the water supply of much of Asia. 

…But the problem isn’t just water scarcity— too much water can also be a problem. By 2050, snow melting in the high Himalayas and increased precipitation across northern India are likely to produce flooding, especially in catchments on the western side of the Himalayas, in northern India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

…  Drought and decreased rainfall is projected to also affect the central southern U.S. That could have significant impact on food production and sources of water for millions. The High Plains (or “Ogallala”) aquifer underlies much of the semi-arid west-central U.S. The aquifer provides water for 27 percent of the irrigated land in the country and supplies about 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation. In fact, three of the top grain-producing states—Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska—each get 70 to 90 percent of their irrigation water from the Ogallala aquifer. Human-induced stresses on this groundwater have resulted in water-table declines greater than 100 feet in some areas. This already difficult situation could be greatly exacerbated by a decrease in rainfall predicted for the region.

… The melting of glaciers at an accelerated rate in Venezuela and the Peruvian Andes is a   particular concern because of the direct reliance  on these glaciers for water supplies and hydroelectric power. The Peruvian plains, northeast Brazil, and Mexico, already subject to drought, will find that droughts in the future will last longer. That would lead to further land degradation and loss of food production—a blow to main water source for tens of millions of people …”

This entry was posted on Friday, January 11th, 2008 at 7:47 pm and is filed under Amazon, Colorado River, Ganges River, Great Lakes, Ogallala Aquifer, Tibetan Plateau.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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