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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  February 2008

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE February 2008

Subject:

Peak water

From:

Louis Proyect <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 14 Feb 2008 11:34:48 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (109 lines)

Maude Barlow: The Growing Battle for the Right to Water
By Tara Lohan, AlterNet
Posted on February 14, 2008, Printed on February 14, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/76819/

 From Chile to the Philippines to South Africa to her home country of 
Canada, Maude Barlow is one of a few people who truly understands the 
scope of the world's water woes. Her newest book, Blue Covenant: The 
Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, 
details her discoveries around the globe about our diminishing water 
resources, the increasing privatization trend and the grassroots groups 
that are fighting back against corporate theft, government mismanagement 
and a changing climate.

If you want to know where the water is running low (including 36 U.S. 
states), why we haven't been able to protect it and what we can do to 
ensure everyone has the right to water, Barlow's book is an essential 
read. It is part science, part policy and part impassioned call. And the 
information in Blue Covenant couldn't come from a more reliable source. 
Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and 
co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, which is instrumental in the 
international community in working for the right to water for all 
people. She also authored Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft 
of the World's Water with Tony Clarke. And she's the recipient of the 
Right Livelihood Award (known as the "Alternative Nobel") for her global 
water justice work.

She took a moment to talk to AlterNet in between the Canadian and U.S. 
legs of a book tour for Blue Covenant. (Barlow just kicked off her U.S. 
tour; for a list of tour stops and dates, click here).

Tara Lohan: This year in the U.S. there has been a whole lot press about 
the drought in Atlanta and the Southeast, and I think for a lot of 
people in the U.S. it is the first they are hearing about drought, but 
the crisis here in North America is really pretty extreme isn't it?

Maude Barlow: It really is, and it kind of surprises me when I hear 
people, for instance in Atlanta say, "We didn't know it was coming." I 
don't know how that could be possible, and I do have to say that I blame 
our political leaders. I don't understand how they could not have been 
reading what I've been reading and what anyone who is watching this has 
been reading.

I remember attending a conference in Boise, Idaho, three years ago and 
hearing a lot of scientists get up and say, "Read my lips, this isn't a 
drought, this is permanent drying out." We are overpumping the Ogallala, 
Lake Powell and Lake Meade. The back up systems are now being depleted. 
This is by no means a drought ...

The thing that I'm trying to establish with the first chapter, which is 
called "Where Has All the Water Gone," is that what we learned in grade 
five about the hydrologic cycle being a closed, fixed cycle that could 
never be interrupted and could never go anywhere, is not true. They 
weren't lying to us, but they weren't aware of the human capacity to 
destroy it, and the reality is that we've interrupted the hydrologic 
cycle in many parts of the world and the American Southwest is one of them.

TL: How is this happening?

MB: By farming in deserts and taking up water from aquifers or 
watersheds. Or by urbanizing -- massive urbanization causes the 
hydrologic cycle to not function correctly because rain needs to fall 
back on green stuff -- vegetation and grass -- so that the process can 
repeat itself. Or we are sending huge amounts of water from large 
watersheds to megacities and some of them are 10 to 20 million people, 
and if those cities are on the ocean, some of that water gets dumped 
into the ocean. It is not returned to the cycle.

We are massively polluting surface water, so that the water may be 
there, but we can't use it. And we are also mining groundwater faster 
than it can be replenished by nature, which means we are not allowing 
the cycle to renew itself. The Ogallala aquifer is one example of 
massive overpumping. There are bore wells in the Lake Michigan shore 
that go as deep into the ground as Chicago skyscrapers go into the 
ground and they are sucking groundwater that should be feeding the lake 
so hard that they are pulling up lake water now, and they are reversing 
the flow of water in Lake Michigan for the first time.

We are interrupting the natural cycle. And another thing we are doing is 
something called virtual water trade. That is where you send water out 
of the watershed in the form of products or agriculture. You've used the 
water to produce something and then you export it, and about 20 percent 
of water used in the world is exported out of watershed in this way, 
because so much of our economy is about export. In the U.S. you are 
sending about one-third of your water out of watersheds -- it is not 
sustainable.

This is not a cyclical drought. We are actually creating hot stains, as 
I and some scientists call them, around the world. These are parts of 
the world that are running out of water and will be, or are, in crisis. 
Which means that millions more people will be without water. I argue 
that this is one of the causes of global warming. We usually hear water 
being a result of climate change, and it is, particularly with the 
melting of the glaciers. But our abuse, mismanagement and treatment of 
water is actually one of the causes, and we have not placed that 
analysis at the center of our thinking about climate change and 
environmental destruction, and until we do, we are only addressing half 
the question.

I do blame in a very big way, the political leadership in most of our 
countries for having failed to heed the call of scientists and 
ecologists and water managers who've been telling us for years now there 
is a crisis coming -- there are 36 states in the U.S. in some form of 
water stress, from serious to severe. Thirty-six states! Most Americans 
don't know this -- why is this not part of people's everyday concerns? 
That is what I'm hoping this book will help do.

(clip)

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