Friday, February 7, 2014

Shale Field Stories


  1. WATER WATER water


    Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war

    From California to the Middle East, huge areas of the world are drying up and a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. US intelligence is warning of the dangers of shrinking resources and experts say the world is 'standing on a precipice'


    On 17 January, scientists downloaded fresh data from a pair of Nasa satellites and distributed the findings among the small group of researchers who track the world's water reserves. At the University of California, Irvine, hydrologist James Famiglietti looked over the data from the gravity-sensing Grace satellites with a rising sense of dread.

    The data, released last week, showed California on the verge of an epic drought, with its backup systems of groundwater reserves so run down that the losses could be picked up by satellites orbiting 400km above the Earth's surface.

    "It was definitely an 'oh my gosh moment'," Famiglietti said. "The groundwater is our strategic reserve. It's our backup, and so where do you go when the backup is gone?"


    Already a billion people, or one in seven people on the planet, lack access to safe drinking water. Britain, of course, is currently at the other extreme. Great swaths of the country are drowning in misery, after a series of Atlantic storms off the south-western coast. But that too is part of the picture that has been coming into sharper focus over 12 years of the Grace satellite record. Countries at northern latitudes and in the tropics are getting wetter. But those countries at mid-latitude are running increasingly low on water.

    "What we see is very much a picture of the wet areas of the Earth getting wetter," Famiglietti said. "Those would be the high latitudes like the Arctic and the lower latitudes like the tropics. The middle latitudes in between, those are already the arid and semi-arid parts of the world and they are getting drier."

    On the satellite images the biggest losses were denoted by red hotspots, he said. And those red spots largely matched the locations of groundwater reserves.

    "Almost all of those red hotspots correspond to major aquifers of the world. What Grace shows us is that groundwater depletion is happening at a very rapid rate in almost all of the major aquifers in the arid and semi-arid parts of the world."


    The losses of water reserves are staggering. In seven years, beginning in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers lost 144 cubic kilometres of stored freshwater – or about the same amount of water in the Dead Sea, according to data compiled by the Grace mission and released last year.

    A small portion of the water loss was due to soil drying up because of a 2007 drought and to a poor snowpack. Another share was lost to evaporation from lakes and reservoirs. But the majority of the water lost, 90km3, or about 60%, was due to reductions in groundwater.

    Farmers, facing drought, resorted to pumping out groundwater – at times on a massive scale. The Iraqi government drilled about 1,000 wells to weather the 2007 drought, all drawing from the same stressed supply.

    In south Asia, the losses of groundwater over the last decade were even higher. About 600 million people live on the 2,000km swath that extends from eastern Pakistan, across the hot dry plains of northern India and into Bangladesh, and the land is the most intensely irrigated in the world. Up to 75% of farmers rely on pumped groundwater to water their crops, and water use is intensifying.

    Over the last decade, groundwater was pumped out 70% faster than in the 1990s. Satellite measurements showed a staggering loss of 54km3 of groundwater a year. Indian farmers were pumping their way into a water crisis.


  2. Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war

    The US security establishment is already warning of potential conflicts – including terror attacks – over water. In a 2012 report, the US director of national intelligence warned that overuse of water – as in India and other countries – was a source of conflict that could potentially compromise US national security.

    The report focused on water basins critical to the US security regime – the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Mekong, Jordan, Indus, Brahmaputra and Amu Darya. It concluded: "During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States."

    Water, on its own, was unlikely to bring down governments. But the report warned that shortages could threaten food production and energy supply and put additional stress on governments struggling with poverty and social tensions.

    Some of those tensions are already apparent on the ground. The Pacific Institute, which studies issues of water and global security, found a fourfold increase in violent confrontations over water over the last decade. "I think the risk of conflicts over water is growing – not shrinking – because of increased competition, because of bad management and, ultimately, because of the impacts of climate change," said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute.




    The state's water resources are at critically low levels and a drought emergency has been declared. The health department says 17 rural areas are dangerously parched.

    2 BRAZIL

    São Paulo, the country's largest city, is on the verge of water rationing because of a severe drought and shortages are possible when the country hosts the football World Cup in the summer. January was the hottest month on record in the city and water in its main reservoir has fallen to 20.9% of its capacity, the lowest level in a decade.


    Tehran, the capital of Iran, is facing a shortage so serious that officials are making contingency plans for rationing in an area where 22 million live as well as in other big cities. President Hassan Rouhani has identified water as a national security issue. Shortages are so severe in the United Arab Emirates that the country is using non-conventional resources, including desalination, treated wastewater, rainwater harvesting and cloud seeding. At a a water conference,Crown Prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan said: "For us, water is [now] more important than oil." With the third lowest water reserves in the region, Jordan is struggling to cope with an influx of Syrian refugees. The country is undergoing power cuts because of water shortages. Prince Hassan, uncle of King Abdullah, warned last week that a war over water and energy could be bloodier than the Arab spring.


    Egypt has demanded that Ethiopia stop construction of a mega-dam on the Nile, vowing to protect its historical rights to the river at "any cost". The Egyptian authorities have called for a study into whether the project would reduce the river's flow.

    5 SOUTH ASIA About 600 million people live on the 2,000km swath that extends from eastern Pakistan, across the hot dry plains of northern India and into Bangladesh and the land is the world's most intensely irrigated. Up to 75% of farmers rely on pumped groundwater.

    6 CHINA

    There is increasing competition for water. More than half the proposed coal-fired power stations are expected to be built in areas of high water stress, thus threatening water insecurity for farms, other industry and the public.

  3. Severe floods 'threaten food security', say farmers and environmental groups

    Government accused of failing to address effects of climate change on coastal and rural areas

    ...................."We need a response from government that recognises the importance for our long-term food security of safeguarding high-quality farmland," said Neil Sinden of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. "We need to view the countryside as more than a place for building, and value it for the food it provides."

    Defra has estimated that 35,000 hectares of high-quality horticultural and arable land will be flooded at least once every three years by the 2020s. This could rise to around 130,000 hectares by the 2080s if there is no change to current flood defence provision.

    Peter Kendall, chairman of the National Farmers Union, which has produced evidence showing that 58% of England's most productive farmland lies within a floodplain, said the floods were a wake-up call for a country that has "believed for too long that producing food wasn't a big issue".

    "We are seeing more of these intense extreme weather events," Kendall said. "Climate change does now really challenge mankind's ability to feed itself."


    Homes lost as fires burn across Victoria, South Australia - live updates

    Residents in Victorian towns told it’s too late to leave as fires threaten homes and lives across the state amid the most dangerous threat since 2009’s devastating Black Saturday fires, and firefighters in South Australia are battling an emergency level fire for 26th consecutive day.


    Bushfires grip Victoria and South Australia

    States facing ‘horrendous’ conditions with fire authorities issuing emergency warnings that lives and homes are at risk

    ...................“To be perfectly honest the fire behaviour yesterday was as bad as we have seen in the last 25 days,” Eden said.

    “History would show that if it’s taken us that long to bring this fire under control it will be a considerable time before we can again bring it under control.”


    Southern areas of New South Wales are also on high alert; crews and aircraft are ready to respond. A fire ban applies to nine regions in the central and south-east. More than 40 fires are burning in the state but none are above the lowest “alert” level.

    Rural Fire Service spokesman Matt Sun told AAP that some crews had been deployed across the border.



    North Qld 'food bowl' possible: report

    WATER from two rivers could be used to grow an extra 50,000 hectares of crops in north Queensland, a federal government report claims.

    But an environmental group says the report shows the "mega farm" project isn't viable as there isn't enough suitable land and water in the area.

    Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says the report, a result of a two-year study, outlines the opportunities for new irrigated agriculture in north Queensland.

    He says Flinders and Gilbert river catchments could irrigate up to 50,000 hectares of land, potentially producing crops worth millions of dollars.

    "While commitments would be premature at this early stage, the report gives us an excellent framework to focus on boosting agriculture in north Queensland," he said in a statement.

    He says the report also highlights a range of issues such as potential impacts on the prawn fishery industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

    Wilderness Society Queensland spokeswoman Karen Touchie says the report shows the high cost and challenges of farming in northern Australia.

    "The report is also clear that all the water currently in those river systems is being used," she said in a statement.

    She says diverting any amount of water for agriculture would impact the fishing and tourism industries as well as recreational users and the environment.

    "Trashing [the rivers] simply to pursue a political agenda or perpetuate a discredited food bowl myth makes no environmental or economic sense," she said.


    Two potential dam sites were identified on the Gilbert River that would allow up to 30,000 hectares to be cropped - sufficient to sustain a sugar mill or cotton gin.


    The report said damming Flinders River wasn't commercially viable but off-stream water storage systems could be used to irrigate up to 20,000 hectares of crops.

    Last year the Queensland government, which has promised to double food production in the state by 2040, announced it would open up Cape York to large-scale farming for the first time.




    Leaky pipe job debacle on Ord

    Huge pipes supposed to irrigate new farmland under the Ord expansion project leak and will have to be repaired or replaced.

    Testing has revealed the pipes leak under pressure and experts have warned of a multimillion- dollar repair bill, depending on the extent of the fault.

    The leaking pipes run under newly built roads and to farms being developed by a Chinese company as part of the State Government's vision to create a major sugar industry on the Ord.

    It is believed the pipes will have to be lined or replaced. The issue of who picks up the repair bill is to be thrashed out by the Government, LandCorp and Leighton Contractors.

    The full extent of the problem is being assessed after initial concerns it could lead to a legal battle between the key players. The concrete pipes were tested before being installed to help carry water from the huge reserves of Lake Argyle to open up 13,400ha of farmland near the Northern Territory border. The taxpayer-funded program is worth $311 million.

    Leighton won a Royalties for Regions-funded contract worth $146 million for work on phase two of the Ord expansion in 2011.

    The work, completed last year, included construction of a 21km irrigation channel, 27km of road and 70km of drainage and flood protection works.

    The infrastructure is facing its first big test after Kununurra was hammered by 359mm of rain in its wettest January on record. It was hit by another deluge last night which left the town flooded.

    Regional Development Minister Terry Redman and Leighton confirmed remedial work was needed on some pipes.

    The problem was detected during project commissioning toward the end of last year but was not made public. It was not related to last month's heavy rainfall.

    "We are working with our client LandCorp, partners and suppliers on rectification and we anticipate these works will commence after the conclusion of the wet season," Leighton said.

    "These works will be co-ordinated and managed to ensure the phase two project's delivery of water to irrigated land remains as scheduled for 2014."

    Mr Redman said the "obligation and the cost to complete the works rests with Leighton".

    "This pipe is used where a water channel goes under roadways and water is distributed to farms along the length of the channel," he said.

    Kimberley Agricultural Investments, touted by the Government as a billion-dollar investor in farms and a sugar refinery, is due to grow small-scale crops on the 7400ha Goomig site this year.

    KAI, owned by Chinese com- pany Shanghai Zhongfu, also has an option to develop the 6000ha Knox site subject to Federal environmental approvals and finalising an Aboriginal Development Package.



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