Libmonster ID: TJ-476
Author(s) of the publication: N. PETROV


Only a lazy person does not speak about the imminent water shortage and the upcoming "water crisis". And most people perceive this kind of conversation as an inappropriate joke. What is the "water crisis", what is the water shortage? Yes, look-how much it is around! In rivers and lakes... In the rain and snow... In rowing channels and swimming pools... In process pipelines of enterprises and agricultural irrigation channels... And the world map - which is mostly blue in color-is mostly made up of oceans and seas...

Indeed, 94% of the water available on Earth is concentrated in the world's oceans. Another 4% is groundwater; 1.6% is ice and snow surrounding the North and South Poles. And only 0.4% is water from rivers, lakes, and swamps. It is from these 0.4% that humanity draws water for its vital activity. In total, people annually consume 3.5 thousand cubic kilometers of water from various sources, mainly from rivers. But only 1.4 thousand cubic km is returned to these sources after human use, mostly in a highly polluted state.

Of course, river water resources are far from exhausted - the total flow of river water is close to 40 thousand cubic kilometers per year. But the fact is that these resources are very unevenly distributed across the Earth. River drains are also used unevenly. In Europe, a large part of the United States, as well as in the Ganges River basin of India, in the north-eastern provinces of China, in Latin America - mainly in the Amazon basin, the world's most abundant river - there is still enough water, although there are no significant surpluses here either. But in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, as well as in the Middle East in the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates basins, the situation with water supply to the population is extremely acute. In total, there are 1.1 billion people in the world. a person, or about one-fifth of the world's population, experiences water scarcity to some extent. Someone lacks it for irrigation of fields, someone-for ensuring the normal operation of industrial enterprises, someone - for maintaining normal sanitary and hygienic conditions in everyday life-for washing clothes, cooking food, etc.

The Development Goals set out in the 2000 United Nations Declaration on Sustainable Development. The Millennium Development Goals have helped to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, which certainly encourages people living healthy and productive lives to take more care of those living in poverty and vulnerable to various diseases. The implementation of the global water and sanitation agenda, as set out in the Declaration, is crucial for the eradication of poverty and hunger and the achievement of other development goals. To move forward in this area, it is necessary to improve water management at all levels, promote the introduction of technologies in this area and mobilize large financial resources, and disseminate best practices and practices*.

Experts have been predicting for decades that the struggle for the possession of drinking water sources may eventually become one of the causes of"water wars". Now this statement has almost no opponents left. Moreover, such conflicts, fortunately still local and not yet bloody, have already taken place. We are talking about the conflicts that have arisen in the last century between Turkey and Syria (over the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers), between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia (over the waters of the Nile River), between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan (over the Jordan River basin). At the time, the late King Hussein of Jordan claimed that "...the only issue that will plunge Jordan into war is water." The same opinion is shared by former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, who claimed that " ... the next war in the Middle East will be for water."

Of course, the Middle East is far from Russia, and we are not yet in danger of an acute shortage of water. In terms of water flow from rivers to the ocean, we are the second largest country in the world; Brazil and its Amazon are the first. But we have huge reserves of fresh water concentrated in lakes, including the deepest lake in the world - Lake Baikal, which contains about 23% of all fresh water on Earth. Suffice it to say that if all Russian rivers flowed into the Baikal Basin, they would be able to fill it in only 6 years!

The flow of our rivers is 10% of the world's total river flow. This is exactly how much water humanity spends today on its household and household needs. In other words, Russia is able to supply water to the entire population of the planet. Of course, so far only" theoretically": the transfer of water from one region to another, not to mention the transfer from one continent to another, is extremely expensive and technically complex.

But history says that sooner or later humanity solves all the scientific and technical problems that arise before it. Who knows, maybe in a few decades the vast resources of drinking water will bring Russia as tangible economic benefits as the export of hydrocarbons brings today. Therefore, today we need to know what problems are caused by water shortage, where the most promising areas are located.-

* "UN-Water Resources".

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water markets and where people need it most.


The period from 2005 to 2015 was declared the "International Decade for Action "Water for Life" by the United Nations, and the day of March 22 - "World Water Day". Regular UN reports indicate that the situation is not without hope, and that Governments and civil society organizations in many countries are making efforts to improve the supply of drinking water to the population.

A total of 1.1 billion people gained access to quality drinking water between 1990 and 2002. human. The greatest progress has been made in South Asia, where the proportion of the population with access to clean water has increased from 71% in 1990 to 84% in 2002. But in sub-Saharan Africa, the same indicator increased slightly over the same period - from 49% to 55%. If we talk about the situation around the world, it is also improving very slowly. According to the UN, in the 12 years from 1990 to 2002, the proportion of people with access to improved drinking water sources (i.e., using running water or dispensers) increased by only 4 points , from 79% to 83%. At the same time, much more than a billion people, as well as centuries ago, draw water buckets from the nearest lakes, rivers and streams (and drain household waste there as well).

Irrigation water withdrawals have increased by more than 60% over the past half-century, and the area of irrigated land in the world has doubled. Combined with the growth in agricultural productivity that underpins the green revolution, expanding the area of irrigated land can feed the growing population of many countries. In South Asia, for example, the annual grain yield per capita increased from 162 kg in the mid-60s of the last century to 182 kg by the beginning of the new millennium. The production of the main irrigated crops, such as rice and wheat, increased 2-4 times, with more than 2/3 of the increase in yields. However, we should not ignore the fact that due to inefficient irrigation systems, especially in developing countries, more than half of the water is lost due to evaporation or returns to the underground horizons, i.e. it is consumed without any benefit.

Freshwater ecosystems are constantly deteriorating. Humans drained more than one-fifth of all the marshes on Earth a century ago, and they were the main sources of water for lowland rivers. In developing countries, about 90% of domestic wastewater and 70% of industrial waste is discharged into watercourses without treatment, resulting in (in many cases irreversible)pollution rivers and lakes.

All this leads to tragic consequences - a sharp deterioration in the health of millions of people. More than 2.2 million people, mostly in developing countries, die each year from diseases caused by poor water quality. At any given moment, half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from water-borne diseases. It is also estimated that every week 42 thousand people die from diseases caused by poor quality of drinking water and unsanitary conditions, and at least 35-37 thousand of them are children under the age of 5. Among children, the most common diseases associated with the use of dirty water are diarrhea (diarrhea) and malaria. In sub-Saharan Africa, infants are 520 times more likely to die from diarrhea than in Europe or the United States. Poor health caused by poor water quality and unsanitary conditions means that many children are unable to attend school and adults are unable to earn a living.


It is clear that in Asia and Africa, the lion's share of fresh water will be used for irrigation in the foreseeable future. And it is equally obvious that as these countries industrialize and the urban population increases, water consumption in industry and for household purposes will increase, and, consequently, water resources that can be used for agriculture will decrease. New water sources for irrigation are already becoming more expensive. For example, from 1980 to the present, the cost of irrigation in India, Indonesia and Pakistan has more than doubled. Traditional sources of water for irrigation, such as rivers, have also been depleted for centuries. In large areas of China, South Asia, and the Middle East, irrigation is currently supported by underground sources or by excessive water withdrawal from rivers.

Further prospects for the use of water resources in agriculture have recently been studied by the International Institute for Industrial Policy Studies, the International Institute for Water Resources Management and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Although the research results differ markedly from each other, scientists have identified some common trends.

Water consumption increased sixfold worldwide in the 20th century, more than twice as fast population growth. The stratification between rich and poor countries in terms of water consumption is also growing.

Almost all of the population growth will occur in developing countries. If in 1960 2/3 of the world's population lived in rural areas, by 2050 2/3 of the world's population will live in urban areas. To feed such a rapidly growing urban population, rural workers will need to significantly increase labor productivity, improve agricultural technology and the entire agricultural culture. But the farmers of the third world countries, alas, do not have to count on a significant increase in water consumption.

Water consumption for irrigation in developing countries should at least double by 2025, based on modern technologies. But experts hope that the latest agricultural technologies will significantly reduce this expense, and some researchers suggest that it will increase by only 4%. In principle, everyone agrees that the required number of-

page 4

water consumption for irrigation will grow much more slowly than water consumption in industry, urban centers, and livestock production.

It is estimated that due to the growing demand for food in Asian countries, the growth of agricultural production there should be at least 1.4% per year until 2030. But the reserves for expanding irrigation areas in these countries will soon be exhausted, as will the water resources that can be used for this purpose. In Asia, the volume of irrigation water will increase by just 1%, while the use of water for other purposes will increase by 14%.

Continued population growth and rapid urbanization will have a huge impact on agricultural water needs over the coming decades. Over the next 30 years, the world's population will grow by almost 80 million people a year, reaching 9 billion by 2050. a person (to stabilize then, as expected, at this level).

How to solve the problem of water shortage in agriculture? Only through the use of new varieties that are able to provide crop yields 1/3 higher than now. It is also necessary to expand the area under non-irrigated agriculture. Although it is necessary to take into account the fact that one non-irrigated hectare in Asia and Africa produces on average half as much grain as irrigated.


Experts believe that the time of wars over water has not yet come. But the number of local conflicts in Asia and Africa is growing at an alarming rate.

For example, in India's Pallakad district in Kerala, the extraction of underground water by a multinational soft drink company has depleted the aquifer, dried up several wells and caused serious environmental damage. A real storm of protests from farmers was caused by the actions of the same company on the outskirts of Mumbai (Bombay), where it pumped water to produce mineral water, which was in demand among the local population. Outbreaks of water-related violence have repeatedly occurred in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Serious opposition from Chinese farmers was met by the Chinese government's $ 2.7 billion program to divert water from irrigated areas in Shanxi and Hebei provinces. Along the entire length of the Yellow River and in all the water-poor northern plains, the authorities are forced to settle conflicts over water between farmers, municipalities and industrial enterprises. In July 2000, there were protests in Shandong Province against a publicized plan to redistribute water from a reservoir that served agriculture in the region in favor of developing industry in these places.

In the Pakistani province of Sindh, hundreds of farmers living in the "tail" part of the irrigation system have repeatedly protested against such a canal management system, when most of the life-giving moisture goes to areas located upstream. Disputes over access to irrigation systems are also frequent. In June 2006, 14 people were killed in village conflicts over irrigation water.

In Yemen, farmers are protesting against the transfer of water from agricultural areas to the fast-growing cities of Taiz and Sanaa.

Across the developing world, the government's plans to transfer water use rights from the state to private companies have sparked a heated debate. In Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, such plans have raised concerns that large-scale producers and industrial enterprises that dominate the market will deprive small farmers of access to irrigation water. And these concerns are quite justified. In addition, it occurs

page 5

there is a real danger that farmers will be forced to sell their water use rights at a time of crisis due to drought or crop failure.


The threat of an impending water crisis has forced many Asian and African States to streamline their water legislation and implement water management reforms. At the same time, two areas of reform were clearly identified. Ghana, Indonesia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Sri Lanka and a number of other countries have officially declared water state property in their legislation. Water use rights are allocated only by Governments; there are also integrated water resources management programs. Another group of countries permits or licenses to take water and sell it to specific consumers based on market pricing. Unfortunately, both systems are far from ideal. In both groups, there is a common trend: the politically influential voices of urban and industrial water users often prevail over the demands of rural residents. Therefore, there is a search for a "third way" to solve the problem.

For example, in Indonesia, water distribution is managed on a commercial basis through official permits that limit the amount of water sold. Licenses cannot be traded, and illegal water trading is strictly prohibited. In practice, everything depends on the ability of the State to exercise its control over water use. Due to the weakness of this control, violations of the established rules are not uncommon. A textile factory in West Java "unofficially" bought water rights in the upper reaches of a nearby river, depriving farmers from villages downstream of it of water.

In Africa, water management issues are often complicated by the fact that local tribes are guided by customary law when dealing with water issues, that is, without fixing agreements on paper and acting in accordance with traditions that sometimes go back hundreds of years. But life itself forces them to resort to the norms of modern law. For example, residents of several villages located in the area of the Disler Canal in Senegal have cooperated and entered into quite modern contracts with companies that perform maintenance of canals and drainage systems, as well as with companies that develop and implement drip irrigation systems.


Above, we talked mainly about traditional forms of water use and pointed out ways and methods of improving these forms. But modern science and practice can offer fundamentally new ways of using water, which can delay the "water crisis" in the countries of Asia and Africa for several decades, if not solve the problem altogether forever. We are talking about drip irrigation systems that, based on computer technology, are able to supply the optimal amount of water to crops at the right time. A decade ago, drip irrigation was considered a kind of technical exoticism, but now, thanks to the sharp reduction in the cost of the equipment used, it is used on a wide scale, and in some countries it has become the main form of irrigation. So, in the UAE, it is used on 99% of the irrigated territory, in France-on 90%, although in India and China - only on 1 - 3%.

Micro-irrigation is at the forefront of water management. It has a huge potential. Drip irrigation systems need less water than surface irrigation, and water is delivered precisely to the acreage, which eliminates salinization and waterlogging of the soil. Field tests in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and Nepal have shown that the use of drip irrigation can double the area of crops with the same water consumption. In India, low-cost micro-irrigation kits are widely used by farmers already on an industrial scale in the semi-desert regions of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Here, water consumption in different farms decreased by 30-60%, and farmers ' incomes increased by 5-50%. Farmers in Burkina Faso, Kenya and Sudan who use drip irrigation report a three-to four-fold increase in income.

The application of drip irrigation promises a revolutionary breakthrough in irrigation agriculture in many countries, as well as the entry of small and medium-sized farmers into the export market. However, in the vast majority of cases, you can't do without state support. And the point is not only in loans for the purchase of necessary equipment, but also in the fact that it is necessary to train farmers to work with micro-irrigation systems.

It should be noted that incentives for development and reimbursement of costs for the introduction of new technologies in water use in most developing countries are not developed at all. Instead of spending heavily on upgrading existing irrigation networks and building new ones, Governments could offer targeted support for water conservation through micro-irrigation. So far, this has been done only in Tunisia on the basis of the National Water Conservation Program.

* * *

Today, no one disputes that the right to water is an inalienable human right. However, to fix such a right in the constitutions of different countries does not mean that States undertake to ensure it in practice. Meeting the inevitable water shortage that is coming means, first of all, developing precise, concrete and comprehensive measures aimed at conserving water resources. Without this, we cannot avoid water crises, or-God forbid, of course-wars over water.

The article uses materials from chapters 2 ("Water and consumption") and 5 ("Competition for water and agriculture"). UN document " Human Development Report. 2008 "and the UN Internet site" Water for Life, 2005-2015".


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