Farm­ers paid to ‘pro­duce’ wa­ter

H2O cri­sis vis­i­ble

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PLANALTINA, Brazil, June 14, (RTRS): Sur­vey­ing a field of 50,000 green pep­pers, Daniel de Almeida proudly ex­plains how he “pro­duces” all the wa­ter needed by crops and live­stock on his farm on the out­skirts of Brasilia, a city about to end wa­ter ra­tioning af­ter a se­vere drought.

De Almeida is one of 1,200 farm­ers across Brazil sup­ported by a gov­ern­men­trun pro­gramme that im­proves in­fra­struc­ture on their land to boost ground­wa­ter and con­serve wa­ter sources.

When wa­ter ra­tioning was in­tro­duced in Brazil’s Fed­eral Dis­trict more than a year ago, de Almeida con­tin­ued to wa­ter his crops and an­i­mals from a river source on his prop­erty.

“Those who did not pre­serve the springs, re­store na­tive ar­eas, re­plant or have a pro­tected green area suf­fered in the drought,” de Almeida said, adding that farm­ers were not per­mit­ted to draw wa­ter from the river.

Rollem­berg

Prop­erty

“But here, thank God, we went through the drought with wa­ter in abun­dance,” de Almeida told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion on his 70-acre (28-hectare) prop­erty in Planaltina, Fed­eral Dis­trict, as steers grazed be­hind him.

World wa­ter sup­plies are un­der pres­sure as the planet warms and de­mand grows with the pop­u­la­tion, the United Na­tions says.

About 16 per­cent of Brazil’s 5,570 cities face wa­ter scarcity, data from the Min­istry of Na­tional In­te­gra­tion shows. In the Fed­eral Dis­trict, where Brazil’s cap­i­tal Brasilia is lo­cated, wa­ter sup­plies will be re­stored to nor­mal on June 15 — a date brought for­ward from De­cem­ber.

The dis­trict has suf­fered wa­ter short­ages caused by low rain­fall, and com­pounded by rapid, un­planned ur­ban growth.\ But an ex­panded sys­tem to sup­ply wa­ter from the Bananal River and Para­noa Lake has plugged the gap, Gover­nor Ro­drigo Rollem­berg said in May, an­nounc­ing this week’s end to ra­tioning.

By De­cem­ber, an ad­di­tional 2,800 litres (740 gal­lons) of wa­ter per sec­ond will be pro­vided to the Fed­eral Dis­trict’s 3 mil­lion peo­ple, and the same amount to the sur­round­ing state of Goias, ac­cord­ing to Rollem­berg.

Peo­ple’s ef­forts to save wa­ter, cut­ting con­sump­tion by 12-13 per­cent, and changes to farm ir­ri­ga­tion meth­ods have also been key to end­ing wa­ter re­stric­tions, Rollem­berg said.

“From now on we will use this pre­cious good in a much more ra­tio­nal way,” he said.

Global de­mand for wa­ter is ex­pected to in­crease by nearly a third by 2050, when 5 bil­lion peo­ple could be left with poor ac­cess to wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to a U.N. re­port pub­lished in March. To avoid scarcity, it rec­om­mended “na­ture-based so­lu­tions” that use or mimic nat­u­ral pro­cesses to boost wa­ter avail­abil­ity.

Those in­clude adapt­ing farm­ing prac­tices so that soil re­tains more mois­ture and nu­tri­ents, har­vest­ing rain­wa­ter, and con­serv­ing wet­lands that cap­ture runoff and de­con­tam­i­nate wa­ter.

Pres­sures rise in Pak­istan:

Pak­istan’s wa­ter cri­sis has be­come in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble in re­cent months: lev­els in the largest dams are low; parched ir­ri­ga­tion canals mean farm­ers in the south planted less cot­ton; and the com­mer­cial cap­i­tal Karachi has long queues at hy­drants.

So there was lit­tle sur­prise when, on June 6, dur­ing a spell of un­sea­son­ably high temperatures, the Pak­istan Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Depart­ment (PMD) is­sued a drought alert.

Yet that is un­usual for this time of year when win­ter snows in the moun­tain­ous north typ­i­cally melt and fill the rivers. The lack of run-off is part of the problem, said PMD di­rec­tor­gen­eral Ghu­lam Ra­sul, but the main is­sue is a lack of rain.

Last year’s mon­soon was about a quar­ter below the norm, while the win­ter rains — from De­cem­ber to March — were about half the aver­age, he said.

“Drought-like con­di­tions have emerged over most parts of Pak­istan,” he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion.

Much of the wa­ter used in Pak­istan comes from its two largest dams — the Tar­bela and the Mangla. Both are man­aged by the In­dus River Sys­tem Au­thor­ity (IRSA), a gov­ern­ment wa­ter man­age­ment agency.

In March, IRSA said the dams had, for the first time in 15 years, reached the “dead level”: the point at which their wa­ter can­not be drained by grav­ity, and can only be pumped out.

High temperatures in the north in re­cent days have since caused some run-off from snow and glacier melt, and the level in the Tar­bela dam is start­ing to rise, said Ra­sul.

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