Farmers paid to ‘produce’ water
H2O crisis visible
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.
“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.