In Search Of A Solution For Water Scarcity In The Caribbean

"Access to clean drinking water is the most threatened right of Caribbean people," says Zachary Harding, CEO of Hyperion Equity, the Private Equity firm that manages the Caribbean Climate Fund.
Harding, in his post as the first CEO of the Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator, facilitated the implementation of a water harvesting technology that has effectively taken a Jamaican children’s hospital off the water grid.
This is a massive achievement in the local context, where one in four people (usually among the poorest 20 per cent) does not have domestic access to piped water and droughts and infrastructural issues result in periodic “lock-offs” for the remainder of the population.
To put the situation in context, Barbados, given its lack of fresh water resources, has a water availability of just 306 cubic metres per capita per year, which makes it the 15th most water‐scarce nation in the world.
Jamaica has suffered from an aging and overburdened water system with tens of thousands of reported leaks per year, and in Dominica, water service was not restored to many areas until mid-2018— more than half a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
It is not surprising that, of the 37 countries that the World Resources Institute has identified as having “extremely high” levels of water stress, seven are from the Caribbean – Dominica, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St. Kitts and Nevis, with the latter three being designated as water scarce (less than 1000 m3 of freshwater resources per capita).
“The paradigm of publicly provided water, originating largely from traditional sources and processed through energy-intensive technologies will become less and less feasible,” says Harding.
“Every effort must be made to take the water supply chain off the grid and ‘out the box.’” Over the past half a decade, national governments have invested in infrastructure upgrades and implementations, including mains replacement, water treatment plants and leakage reduction initiatives, each with limited degrees of success, mostly due to financial and logistical difficulties, inferior design and construction and inconsistent and short sighted planning that has overlooked the burden of long term maintenance.
According to the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management, up to 85 % of wastewater across the Caribbean is untreated.
Climate change-related challenges such as floods, sea level rise, drought and extreme weather are the new norm for the Caribbean.

Cape Town’s water ‘near miss’ highlights scarcity risk, UBS says

Cape Town’s water crisis, which saw the drought-hit city come within 90 days of turning off the taps earlier this year, highlights the threats to South African companies from a repeat event and should serve as a warning to vulnerable cities worldwide, analysts from UBS Group AG wrote in a report.
New Delhi and Hyderabad in India, Beijing, among other Chinese cities, Jakarta, Singapore and Sydney in the Asia-Pacific region, Brussels and Rome in Europe, along with San Francisco and the Manhattan area in the US are some of those with relatively high water risks, the UBS analysts said, citing information from the World Resources Institute.
With the city in the grips of a record drought, Cape Town authorities in January told residents that their supplies could be cut in April as dam levels dwindled dangerously below 30%.
That risk has receded after a recovery in rainfall and severe restrictions on water use, with the so-called “Day Zero” pushed out to at least 2019.
Dam levels have risen to 62%, city authorities said Monday.
Indirectly, a crisis could weaken economic growth and deal a blow to banks’ earnings outlook.
Banks could face higher credit-loss charges, while damage to property may trigger lower house prices and damage collateral, while adding to pressure on consumers.
Insurers would also face increased property damage claims, affecting short-term profitability for the likes of Santam, Rand Merchant Investment’s Outsurance and Old Mutual Insure.
Any temporary increase in mortality rates caused by health care disruptions could drive up claims for life assurers, with Sanlam and Old Mutual more exposed in this region, along with higher costs at their head offices in the city Retail/consumer Food retailers would experience increased food inflation as the drought hits production in nearby farming areas Pick n Pay Stores, Shoprite, Spar Group and Woolworths would attract consumers buying water, but overall sales volume would decline in line with GDP growth Among clothing retailers, Woolworths has the greatest Western Cape footprint and would be most at risk of sales declines, followed by The Foschini Group.
Hospitals Mediclinic is most exposed to the Western Cape with 18 hospitals, followed by Netcare with 12 and Life Healthcare with eight; the companies have invested in alternative measures of ensuring water supply, UBS said

Solar power could save water in thirsty Middle East, North Africa, analysis says

NEW YORK, May 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thirsty Middle Eastern and North African countries could tap into their solar-energy potential to cope with fresh water scarcity, according to resource experts.
Water could be saved by switching to renewable solar energy from fossil fuel electricity generation that uses up water, said the World Resources Institute (WRI).
The findings show moving to clean energy has benefits aside from cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, said Tianyi Luo, a senior WRI manager.
Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan ranked among the top countries, measured by lack of freshwater and solar energy potential, that could benefit from such a switch, the WRI said.
Put another way, powering one 60-watt incandescent light bulb for 12 hours over one a year can consume 3,000 to 6,000 gallons of water, according to the U.S.-based Virginia Water Resources Research Center.
Solar panels, meanwhile, require little or no water to install and maintain.
Yemen, an impoverished nation in the grip of civil war, topped the WRI ranking in terms of water scarcity and how much potential electricity solar farms could produce.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, ranked third.
The project is expected to have the capacity to produce up to 200 gigawatts by 2030.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst

‘Day zero’ water crises: Spain, Morocco, India and Iraq at risk as dams shrink

Shrinking reservoirs in Morocco, India, Iraq and Spain could spark the next “day zero” water crisis, according to the developers of a satellite early warning system for the world’s 500,000 dams.
Drastic conservation measures have forestalled that moment in South Africa, but dozens of other countries face similar risks from rising demand, mismanagement and climate change, say the World Resources Institute (WRI).
The last time the dam was so depleted, grain production fell by half and more than 700,000 people were affected, it said.
Pressure on this water source will grow later this year when a new water transfer project links it to the city of Marrakech.
Water levels are historically low at Al Massira Dam (Morocco) Standfirst … surface area (sq km) 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Guardian graphic In Iraq, the Mosul Dam has seen a more protracted decline but it is also now down 60% from its peak in the 1990s as a result of low rainfall and competing demand from Turkish hydropower projects upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates.
As in Syria and increasingly also Iraq, water stress has added to conflict and been a driver for relocations of people from the countryside.
Water levels at Mosul Dam (Iraq) Standfirst … surface area (sq km) 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 Guardian graphic Tensions have also been apparent in India over the water allocations for two reservoirs connected by the Narmada river.
Water levels at Indira Sagar Dam (India) Standfirst … surface area (sq km) 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 Guardian graphic The social risks are lower in industrialised countries that are less dependent on agriculture and more economically resilient.
Water levels at Buendia Dam (Spain) Standfirst … surface area (sq km) 0 10 20 30 40 2005 2010 2015 Guardian graphic All four dams are in the mid-latitudes, the geographic bands on either side of the tropics where climate change is expected to make droughts more frequent and protracted.
“There are lots of potential Cape Towns in the making.

Why Delhi may face tomorrow what Cape Town faces today

This is only slightly better than the annual per capita renewable freshwater availability of 800 cubic metres in South Africa and way below the 2,000 cubic metres in China.
Renewable internal freshwater resources refer to internal river flows and groundwater from rainfall in the country, and exclude inflows from upstream countries (groundwater and surface water).
For instance, Punjab has the highest share of rice procurement in the country despite not being the most efficient state in producing rice in terms of water usage.
Thus, India tends to use more water than other major agricultural countries for growing crops.
In the most water-stressed states of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, annual groundwater consumption is more than annual groundwater recharge.
While India is blessed with major rivers, there is a sharp regional skew in the availability of surface water.
The sharing of river water has become a political battleground in the south, as seen in the battle over Cauvery waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
About 60% of India’s districts face the problem of groundwater contamination or scarcity or both.
Despite progress, India still lags its peers in reducing deaths from water-borne diseases like diarrhoea.
Unless steps are taken to reverse the depletion and contamination of India’s water resources, India’s cities and villages may face a fate worse than Cape Town in the coming years.

Increasing Renewable Energy In India Can Reduce Emissions, Water Use, & Supply Risk

Increasing the share of renewable energy sources in India’s electricity mix and implementing changes in cooling technologies for thermal power plants could serve not only to reduce the country’s carbon emissions intensity, but could also substantially reduce water consumption, mitigating or outright eliminating electricity supply risk due to water shortages.
Specifically, WRI determined that 40% of India’s thermal power plants are located in high water-stress areas, and 14 of India’s 20 largest thermal utilities experienced at least one shutdown due to water shortages between 2013 and 2016, resulting in costs of $1.4 billion.
70% of India’s thermal power plants will face high water-stress by 2030 due to climate change and increased demands from other sectors if direct action isn’t taken soon.
According to WRI, freshwater consumption by thermal power plants grew by 43% between 2011 and 2016, from 1.5 to 2.1 billion cubic meters per year.
Nevertheless, water shortages cost India approximately 14 terawatt-hours (TWh) of potential thermal power generation, which resulted in cancelling out 20% of the growth in the country’s electricity generation from 2015.
The WRI report, Parched Power: Water Demands, Risks and Opportunities for India’s Power Sector, was accompanied by a joint report between WRI and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Water Use in India’s Power Generation – Impact of Renewables and Improved Cooling Technologies to 2030, which outlines a suggested pathway to mitigate water shortage by increasing renewable energy capacity and implementing changes in cooling technologies.
“Scaling up the use of renewables, especially solar PV and wind, will yield further benefits, in particular long-term reductions in the dependency of the power sector on freshwater.” “Renewable energy is a viable solution to India’s water-energy crisis,” said Deepak Krishnan, Manager, Energy Program, WRI India and co-author of the report.
“Solar PV and wind power can thrive in the same water-stressed areas where thermal plants struggle, so accelerating renewables can lower India’s water risk while meeting our NDC.” “India’s move towards renewable energy is essential, especially as water stress puts increasing pressure on India’s thermal power plants,” added Dr Agarwal.
“Water risks to thermal power plants cannot be ignored when considering the cost of thermal energy.
Renewables, especially solar PV and wind energy, present a win-win solution for both water and climate.”

Few answers for Indonesians who wonder what chemicals are dumped in their water

The WRI believes Indonesia is capable of providing the needed information to residents and is working toward doing so.
The WRI released a report on Aug. 30 about transparency and the struggle for clean water in Indonesia, Mongolia and Thailand.
The report found that many Indonesians don’t know whether their water is safe for irrigation, bathing or drinking.
The WRI, a Washington-based thinktank, worked with local organizations and residents to obtain information about their water that should be readily available by law.
Some of that information is supposed to be proactively provided to communities by the government; some of it should be available through formal information requests.
In many cases when there was a response, government officials didn’t know how to find the information requested and had to ask residents for the specific names of the documents they wanted.
Much of the proactively released information resided in official publications or websites, not in local forums more accessible to communities.
Water use doubled in Indonesia from 2000 to 2015, according to the WEPA, which noted in the report: “The country is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions with the decreasing availability of clean water resulting from environmental degradation and pollution.” The Ciujung River in western Java rapidly became polluted in the 1990s when pulp and paper mills, as well as other companies, began discharging into it.
It compares the situation in Indonesia to that in Thailand, where the WRI found information was more readily available: “The fact that Thailand passed its RTI [right-to-information] law in 1997 — over a decade before Indonesia and Mongolia — may indicate that information request response rates can improve over time as government officials develop the knowledge and capacity to implement the law, while at the same time the public’s knowledge of the law deepens.” Excell said the WRI brought officials from Indonesia to the United States to see how information about local waterways is effectively reported there.
This is what officials should prioritize, Excell said, as they work to improve transparency.

Thirsty for change? 4 ways to improve corporate water targets

Water-related business risks are becoming more and more apparent.
That’s why CDP, the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute and WWF are calling for a new approach to setting corporate water targets.
Local context matters—a lot.
As such, water targets at each company facility need not only account for company circumstance, but also for the larger watershed conditions and risks.
Aligning company performance with the local river basin context is increasingly considered a requirement for meaningful water targets.
Science, instead of individual interests, informs what needs to change and when.
That means corporate targets for water use must be based on science and understanding at the basin level, and not set arbitrarily.” Mars is using the latest science on the global carbon budget, water stress and other ecological limits to set meaningful sustainability targets for greenhouse gas emissions, water and land.
Governments and local basin initiatives are at the forefront of water management.
Because of this, companies have a lot to gain by aligning their water goals with local, national and global water priorities, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.
The California Water Action Collaborative is a unique platform that links companies to state water goals.