Saturday, January 16, 2010

Water is the lifeblood of Haiti now: how you can help

Water in Haiti

On 12 January, Haiti was rocked by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. In September 2009, announced its commitment to bring safe water and sanitation to 50,000 Haitians over the coming 36 months. We will implement a staged plan to respond to this natural disaster, building on this existing effort.

As part of that plan, our most immediate concern is helping to restore the ability of our local NGO partner and potential partners to respond to the crisis by repairing and expanding water and sanitation facilities for people in need.’s strength is long-term water and sanitation projects. Sustainable access to such basic necessities will be the area of greatest need as Haiti recovers from the earthquake.

If you would like to donate to immediate relief efforts in Haiti, you’ll find a list of potential organizations to support at: CNN Impact Site. If you are interested in supporting’s efforts to restore and expand water and sanitation services in Haiti, we would gladly accept your donation:

Our heart goes out to all of those affected by yesterday’s earthquake and we thank you for keeping the people of Haiti in your thoughts at this difficult time.

Q&A on Response to Haiti Earthquake
How is water affected during a disaster like this?
Underground water and sanitation pipelines and concrete water storage tanks are highly susceptible to damage from earthquakes and will likely need to be repaired or replaced.

What is the response plan to get people safe water?
The short term response typically includes bottled water and the use of high volume purification equipment. While this is expensive, it can be quickly deployed as a short-term solution. There are many relief agencies involved in these types of efforts. The response of organizations like involves the rehabilitation and expansion of sustainable water and sanitation infrastructure.

What is doing to help?
We will provide assistance to our local partners so that they can restore and expand water and sanitation infrastructure.

How is coordinating with other agencies?
Before the earthquake, was already coordinating with the Clinton Global Initiative, the United Nations, and other agencies. On the ground, will work with local NGO partner organizations, consistent with our approach over the past two decades.

How has this affected’s work in Haiti?
It had made the need for safe water and sanitation even more urgent and will likely mean our focus will initially be rehabilitation, and then expansion of water services.

Is’s staff safe?
Four of our staff members returned from Haiti on Saturday. We’re in touch with our local partner but do not currently know the status of its staff members.

Where can I get additional information and what can I do to help?
A. If you would like to donate to immediate relief efforts in Haiti, you’ll find more information at: CNN Impact Site. If you are interested in supporting efforts to restore and expand water and sanitation services in Haiti, you can donate at:
And for those who are rightfully skeptical, is a reputable organziation that has been around for years and proven their dedication and passion for water issues. Water is now critical to the survival of the people of Haiti as well as many other developing countries. Without it there is no food or medical care.

Water is the lifeblood of humanity.

Please do all you can to help no matter how small.

Also, please be careful what organizations you send money to. My rule of thumb is to stick with organzations that are already trusted. Doctors Without Borders is without a doubt the most trusted organization I can think of to get your donations to where they are needed fast. I donated to them in this case as well.

Doctors Without Borders

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Perspective: Sudan – Land of Water and Thirst; War and Peace

By Dr. Paul J. Sullivan
Special to Circle of Blue

As we approach the January 2011 date for the referendum on the south, and as we see Darfur seemingly in an eerily, but uncertain, peaceful period, we need to look at the water situation in Sudan. Water will be a make or break issue for the peace process in Sudan and in deciding whether the Sudan will move forward in peace and prosperity or more poverty and war. It is a country that went through one of the most brutal civil wars in history. Millions were killed and displaced. Sudan is the country of Darfur, “The lost boys,” and lost generations. One of the driving forces behind the start of the last civil war between the south and the north was the Jonglei Canal. This is an idea that has been around for a very long time. It was to be a canal to bring the water through one of the largest wetlands in the world, The Sudd, more quickly to the north and to Egypt. But those earlier plans did not include much improvement in the lives of the people of the South and along the proposed canal. Dr. John Garang, one of the leaders of the southern rebels wrote his Ph.D. on the Jonglei Canal. The horrors of Darfur can be partly traced back to climate change, rain pattern changes, and water stress. Water is a very big issue in Sudan.

About 80 percent of the people in Sudan find their livelihoods in agriculture. Agriculture is about 40 percent of the country’s GDP and accounts for about 97 percent of the water use. Meanwhile 70 percent of agriculture in Sudan is rain fed. The rest of agriculture can find its water through small traditional spate irrigation and via khors, small mostly hand dug canals, or via huge irrigation projects, such as the Gezira project — which uses about 35 percent of Sudan’s water, and the many giant sugar irrigation schemes. Sudan has the largest area of irrigation in all of Sub-Saharan Africa, but even if this is poorly managed and maintained.

Water is not just income and jobs in Sudan. It is life, most particularly in the dry areas of the country: in Darfur and in the north while most of the wetlands are found in the south. This huge country has many climate and water zones. It has massive underground water reserves that are part of the largest source of freshwater in the world, the Great Nubian Sandstone aquifer. It also has the large Umm Rawaba and other aquifers. Sudan has the Nile, the Atbara and many other rivers coursing through it. The country is also blessed with the Nile River Basin, which is a watered, mostly underground area that can stretch to 80 percent of the country. As much as 80 to 85 percent of Sudan’s population used the Nile Basin waters. Most of the rains happen in the south. Much of the Nile water comes from other places, like Ethiopia, Uganda and more. The waters from the White Nile and The Atbara in the south and west rise and flood at different times from the Blue Nile and other sources in the east and central parts of the country — no real efforts have been developed to coordinate and better manage these flows and stocks.

Sudan not only faces down the threats from a potential new civil war, it also faces external tensions that could build over the sharing, use and abuse of the Nile across countries in the region. There is only one agreement between the many nations who share the Nile and that was established in 1959 between Sudan and Egypt. As the other countries along the Nile, including the most likely new Sudan in the south, want to develop, demand on the water of the Nile for electricity production, irrigation, industry and more will grow greater. Sudan also shares groundwater resources and sources with other countries. Though the ground water flows, the data on this is as scarce as good management of it.

Astonishingly little of its recharged groundwater and its surface water are used in this often water stressed country. What is used is often wasted with inefficient irrigation methods and even quite destructive rain fed farming methods, and livestock overgrazing. Meanwhile the extraordinarily destructive mechanized agricultural system that is causing huge deforestation, land and river bank erosion, salinization, and more negative effects. Water treatment is almost unheard of in the country, especially in the south. Water-borne diseases are rampant and pesticide poisoning via the water-food chains are likely quite common in some areas. The growth of the mesquite tree and water hyacinth has also wreaked havoc on the country’s water systems.

The precious water of Sudan is being degraded in many areas and wasted in others. Basin and catchment degradation are the norm in many parts of the country. The country is, on average, water rich, but it is management and maintenance poor.

Siltation near small and large dams is common. Suspended solids and stagnant water are common near the dams. Sudan needs the hydroelectricity — it is constantly in a severe energy crisis, but the dams could be more costly to the water and the environment than many may think.

Then there are the very difficult problems of what to do with the huge numbers of returning IDPs and the possible movement of southerners from the north to the south. Also, how are the north and the south to coordinate their water management and water uses? These are very big issues that need to be resolved, or at least managed better.
end of excerpt.

Sudan: Land of Water and Thirst; War and Peace
An excellent article on the challenges awaiting Southern Sudan in its referendum. It will be interesting to see if this referendum goes off without fraud and what will then become of the water resources of the Nile. You can find more information on this story at the link for

Current: Sudan: Land of Water and Thirst; War and Peace

Freshwater Crisis Not Included in Final Copenhagen Accord Despite Calls For Action

By Andrew Maddocks
Circle of Blue

The current climate accord negotiated at the United Nations conference in Copenhagen is dangerously inadequate, asserted a team of international environmental organizations.

During a talk at the Bella Center, where the climate conference was held, the Global Water Partnership, Global Public Policy Network on Water Management, Stockholm International Water Institute, and the Stakeholder Forum teamed up to warn that stakeholders were about to make a dangerous mistake – not mentioning the freshwater crisis at all in the historic negotiating text.

As parties embraced a final climate change accord, water was included in one sentence within the latest draft of the treaty and then dropped entirely in the final text. Over the past few months, water-specific language has appeared and disappeared from drafts of the UN climate change adaptation text. In the last preliminary climate talks in Barcelona, water was eliminated from the negotiating texts.

Vulnerable People

Generations of people living in vulnerable coastal nations or farmers face volatile rainfall and could be left unprepared for decades if the treaty’s language isn’t carefully crafted into the next international climate treaty, said GPPN Secretariat Hannah Stoddart, one of the speakers at the “Bridging the Water and Climate Change Agendas” event. Presenters on the panel explored the disconnect between climate and water contingents in the build-up to COP15, and hoped to apply more pressure to integrate water into the treaty.

In Copenhagen, the GPPN and its allies tried to step up the pressure on leaders by putting water in powerful introductory videos and speeches about climate and water-related damage happening around the world.

Though representatives from the GPPN network — which includes partners from SIWI, the GWP and the World Wildlife Fund —had modest expectations for changes to the UN text, they were determined to stress the connections between water and climate change to the 33,000 accredited attendees at the conference, including more than 120 heads of state that attended the 13-day United Nations Conference on Climate Change, which ended on December 19.

Ainun Nishat, a senior climate change adviser for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, opened the panel discussion with a quick summary of the challenges facing Bangladesh — severe weather events, rising sea levels, shifting rainfall patterns and a fragile food supply.

“I feel very ashamed the international community has not done anything about that,” Nishat said.

Demands For Recognition
Nishat gave first-hand examples that supported the GPPN’s central agenda — urgent demand for action, regional and international guidance on water-related issues and a long-term strategy for adaptation by the United Nations.

The subsequent speakers moved through a series of warnings and guidance measures for climate leaders.

Managing water resources will be critical, Stoddart said. She added that effective management requires broad-based cooperation, which starts at the international treaty level. Identifying a disconnect between climate and water advocates, speakers at the event encouraged everyone at the climate conference to break out of their specialities and engage in interdisciplinary discussions and solutions.

Other organizations like the World Water Council suggested that the Copenhagen Accord and its successor climate pacts include an international fund for water.

Many of the panel members’ goals looked beyond Copenhagen.

John Matthews of the World Wildlife Fund supervises freshwater and climate adaptation issues, and has worked with water across cities, energy sectors and fisheries. The scale of potential problems, Matthews said, will require additional resources that are better integrated amongst regions to local institutions. He highlighted transboundary rivers, such as the Rio Grande, which crosses from the U.S. into Mexico, as a key area to bridge both organizations as well as water issues such as mitigation and adaptation to find comprehensive, exemplary solutions.

Treaty Language Neglected
After the prepared speeches, moderator Mike Muller, Special Advisor to the Global Water Partnership opened the floor for questions, which revealed urgent calls for amended treaty language, all of which were subsequently ignored in the final accord. Negotiators in the room anticipated that water might be left out because environmental ministers, rather than water administrators, usually handle these agreements.

But the sense of urgency and pressure for ongoing planning are strong. Environmental ministers from both South Africa and Uganda who attended the event said they would take these messages back to their private delegation meetings.

“We really have to understand water is a key element for the poor and vulnerable,” said Karin Lexen, a project director with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). “If you talk to a woman in Mali, the first thing she will probably ask for is water. That’s why we have a commitment to trying to do our best.”
To say that I am disappointed with the outcome of Copenhagen would be a gross understatement. No real movement forward on GHG emission targets, and no movement forward whatsoever regarding global water scarcity and stress. And to be totally honest, while I believe water is central to any such treaty regarding climate change, I am skeptical as to the reasoning and motives behind certain entities (the WWF for one that also thinks GM soy in Argentina is "responsible") pushing for it, as water needs to be declared a global human right first. Without that action, any such treaty opens the door to more privitization which will only exacerbate the crisis.

It should only be included for the right reasons, and they do not include commoditizing water on the market or allowing water systems of developing countries to be taken over by the World Bank or multinationals with the intent of taking advantage of the crisis for profit. Without this declaration and absolute transparency, it should be looked at with great caution.

The COP 16 is supposedly set for Cancun, Mexico next summer. Let's see if it really is a Cop 16 and not another COP OUT. We can't afford to waste anymore time with political posturing.

Glacier Melt Across The World

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