Monday, February 18, 2013
Iraq Runs Dry
Just what a country riven by ethnic and religious conflict needs - a water crisis. The country is Iraq where Shiite and Sunni struggles overlap into Arab, Persian and Kurdish conflicts under a hopelessly corrupt and brutal, Shiite-dominated central government.
So which bunch is going to have to get by without water?
The fertile crescent formed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers created the birthplace of civilization back in the days of the Mesopotamians.
Over the past decade, precipitation in the northern Middle East has fallen while temperatures have increased. A Yale study of the drought in that region from 2007 to 2010 caused hundreds of thousands to migrate from Iran, eastern Syria and northern Iraq. Worse is on the way.
A joint NASA, NCAR, UC Irvine study, published in the journal Water Resources Research, using data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite found that Iraq is poised on the edge of a severe water crisis.
The Tigris and Euphrates basin were found to have lost 117-million acre of stored freshwater between 2003 and 2010. The Baghdad government responded by drilling 1,000 wells and set about rapidly depleting the country's groundwater reserves. From smithsonianmag.com:
"The Middle East just does not have that much water to begin with, and it’s a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change,” said UC Irvine professor Jay Famiglietti. “Those dry areas are getting dryer.” In fact, the region is experiencing the second-fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on the planet, surpassed only by India.
Yet, demand for freshwater continues to rise worldwide, including in the U.S., where aquifer depletion is also a growing problem. Groundwater supplies in the Southwest and western Great Plains have been stressed for many years, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The area surrounding Tucson and Phoenix in south-central Arizona has seen the highest drop in groundwater levels–300 to 500 feet–but other regions have also suffered. Long Island and other parts of the Atlantic coast, west-central Florida and the Gulf Coast region–notably Baton Rouge–are out of balance. And perhaps most surprisingly, the Pacific Northwest is experiencing groundwater depletion as a result of irrigation, industrial water use and public consumption.