The Economist's special report on water

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The Economist's special report on water in their May 20th edition keeps up the magazine's high quality coverage of issues. 

Some interesting points from the report:

The report covers water across the globe and from all aspects, technical, social, institutional etc. India figures at many places, both in good and bad light.

In India there is a growing alarm at the growth of Fluoride and arsenic contamination of groundwater. According to the report, these are showing up as issues in groundwater in several places across the world and not just India. 

One portion of the report goes into detail on the dire state of Delhi's water management.  

The report devotes significant amount of space to discussing desalination as a viable technology despite high problems and other costs, especially in water-stressed areas.

The report does a fairly damning critique of bottled water: "In rich countries, it may have come from exotic sources like Fiji or Lapland, packed in glass or plastic destined to become rubbish, devouring energy on its travels and thus making it one of the least green and least defensible rip-offs on the market."

One article dedicated to Singapore which will soon be harvesting rain from as much as one-third of its land area

Groundwater gets a lot of attention: "It is India, though, that draws more groundwater than any other country. The 230 cubic kilometres that it pumps each year account for over a quarter of the world total. The tripling of Indian groundwater use since 1965 has been stimulated not just by growing demand for food but also by the lamentable public service provided by state governments and the relative cheapness and convenience of a private tubewell. By 2001 India had about 17m of these (and Pakistan 930,000 and Bangladesh 1.2m). The pumps for the wells are usually cheap to run because electricity is subsidised in most places, and in some it is free, though at times it is not provided at all; that is how water is rationed." The Andhra Pradesh Famer Managed Groundwater System project is alluded to (including a photo) as a example of a good approach. 

The report discusses the problems with international river-water sharing and discusses the successes and failures of the Mekong River Commission and Nile River Basin Initiative, as well as the India-Pakistan arguments over the Indus river.  

In agriculture the report interestingly frames the discussion as primarily one of evapotranspiration: "The difficult problem that still awaits an answer is how to get higher yields from food crops without a commensurate rise in the loss of water through evapotranspiration. This is the crucial issue if water is to be used sustainably by farmers, the biggest consumers in the thirstiest activity in the most populous parts of the world. Plenty of gains can be made by adopting no-till farming, drip irrigation, genetically modified crops and so on, but they all come to an end after a while, leaving any gain in yields matched by gains in ET. No one has yet found a convincing way of producing dramatically more food with less water. Genetic modification can help by producing drought-resistant breeds, but not, it seems, by altering the fundamentals of transpiration. "

APFAMGS

Going by the acknowledgements, the report seems to draw extensively from inputs of World Bank personnel. Besides those, some of the other people quoted or acknowledged in the report from India include :  Tushaar Shah of IWMI, Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP, Himanshu Kulkarni of ACWADAM, A.K. Bajaj of Central Water Commission, Navroz Dubash of CPR, Ramaswamy Iyer ex Water Resources Secretary, Mihir Shah and Montek Ahluwalia of the Planning Commission. 

Some more illuminating quotes:

"Outfits like the World Toilet Organisation, based in Singapore, now believe you have to make lavatories “as sexy as mobrile phones” if you are to get people to accept them, and that means literally selling them. Once people have invested some of their own money in a loo, they will use it. The World Bank confirms that the most successful sanitation projects involve only a small subsidy."

"Kevin McGovern, a self-described pro bono capitalist from New York, wants to bring cheaper purifiers to the poor. His company, the Water Initiative, has developed a filtering device that takes all the nasties out of water in the home and needs to be replaced only once a year. Unlike osmosis, it consumes no energy, and every drop of incoming water can be used for drinking. "

"In China, where pollution rivals scarcity as a pressing problem, large foreign companies now regularly consult a website run by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an NGO that collects government facts and statistics and publishes them online. Its maps reveal details of thousands of incidents in which companies have broken the pollution codes. Multinationals like Adidas, General Electric, Nike and Wal-Mart can now see which of their suppliers are repeat offenders, and may put pressure on them to clean up. "

"Luckily, there are exceptions in places like Brazil, where simple sewers built cheaply in some favelas are proving highly effective. Entrepreneurs are also coming into the market with low-tech products. In Tanzania, masons will provide a concrete slab to install above a pit latrine for $5. In Cambodia $30 should buy you a flush lavatory of sorts; and in Indonesia a range of sanitary fixtures sell for $18-90, and may even come with a warranty. "

"In Niger a 15-year project involving dams and reclamation has restored nearly 20,000 hectares of unproductive land to forestry or agricultural use."

"Mr Thakkar argues that small projects offer much better returns, even for the crucial task of refilling aquifers by capturing monsoon rainfall. He points to the success of micro-irrigation in semi-arid Gujarat, whose agriculture has grown at an average of 9.6% a year since the turn of the century, partly thanks to the creation of 500,000 small ponds, dams and suchlike. "

"Even in America the bills will be dauntingly large. Analysts at Booz Allen Hamilton tried in 2007 to estimate how much investment would be needed in water infrastructure to modernise obsolescent systems and meet expanding demand between 2005 and 2030. Their figure for the United States and Canada was $6.5 trillion. For the world as a whole, they reckoned $22.6 trillion."

Access the full report here

-- Vijay Krishna, India Water Portal

The Economist Special Report on Water:
Fluoride and arsenic seems to be showing up as issues in groundwater in several places not just India.
Peepoo bags
Focuses on Delhi
In rich countries, it may have come from exotic sources like Fiji or Lapland, packed in glass or plastic destined to become rubbish, devouring energy on its travels and thus making it one of the least green and least defensible rip-offs on the market.
Outfits like the World Toilet Organisation, based in Singapore, now believe you have to make lavatories “as sexy as mobile phones” if you are to get people to accept them, and that means literally selling them. Once people have invested some of their own money in a loo, they will use it. The World Bank confirms that the most successful sanitation projects involve only a small subsidy.
Kevin McGovern, a self-described pro bono capitalist from New York, wants to bring cheaper purifiers to the poor. His company, the Water Initiative, has developed a filtering device that takes all the nasties out of water in the home and needs to be replaced only once a year. Unlike osmosis, it consumes no energy, and every drop of incoming water can be used for drinking. 
In China, where pollution rivals scarcity as a pressing problem, large foreign companies now regularly consult a website run by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an NGO that collects government facts and statistics and publishes them online. Its maps reveal details of thousands of incidents in which companies have broken the pollution codes. Multinationals like Adidas, General Electric, Nike and Wal-Mart can now see which of their suppliers are repeat offenders, and may put pressure on them to clean up. 
Devotes space to desalination
Luckily, there are exceptions in places like Brazil, where simple sewers built cheaply in some favelas are proving highly effective. Entrepreneurs are also coming into the market with low-tech products. In Tanzania, masons will provide a concrete slab to install above a pit latrine for $5. In Cambodia $30 should buy you a flush lavatory of sorts; and in Indonesia a range of sanitary fixtures sell for $18-90, and may even come with a warranty. 
One article dedicated to Singapore which will soon be harvesting rain from as much as one-third of its land area
There is a photo of hydrological budgeting from AP.
It is India, though, that draws more groundwater than any other country. The 230 cubic kilometres that it pumps each year account for over a quarter of the world total. The tripling of Indian groundwater use since 1965 has been stimulated not just by growing demand for food but also by the lamentable public service provided by state governments and the relative cheapness and convenience of a private tubewell. By 2001 India had about 17m of these (and Pakistan 930,000 and Bangladesh 1.2m). The pumps for the wells are usually cheap to run because electricity is subsidised in most places, and in some it is free, though at times it is not provided at all; that is how water is rationed.
Quotes: Upmanu Lall of Columbia, Tushaar Shah, Himanshu Thakkar, Himanshu Kulkarni, A.K. Bajaj of Central Water Commission, Navroz Dubash, Ramaswamy Iyer, Mihir Shah, Montek Ahluwalia
Groundwater APFAMGS
In Niger a 15-year project involving dams and reclamation has restored nearly 20,000 hectares of unproductive land to forestry or agricultural use.
Mr Thakkar argues that small projects offer much better returns, even for the crucial task of refilling aquifers by capturing monsoon rainfall. He points to the success of micro-irrigation in semi-arid Gujarat, whose agriculture has grown at an average of 9.6% a year since the turn of the century, partly thanks to the creation of 500,000 small ponds, dams and suchlike. 
Mekong River Commission and Nile River Basin Initiative 
ll
Even in America the bills will be dauntingly large. Analysts at Booz Allen Hamilton tried in 2007 to estimate how much investment would be needed in water infrastructure to modernise obsolescent systems and meet expanding demand between 2005 and 2030. Their figure for the United States and Canada was $6.5 trillion. For the world as a whole, they reckoned $22.6 trillion.
The difficult problem that still awaits an answer is how to get higher yields from food crops without a commensurate rise in the loss of water through evapotranspiration. This is the crucial issue if water is to be used sustainably by farmers, the biggest consumers in the thirstiest activity in the most populous parts of the world. Plenty of gains can be made by adopting no-till farming, drip irrigation, genetically modified crops and so on, but they all come to an end after a while, leaving any gain in yields matched by gains in ET. No one has yet found a convincing way of producing dramatically more food with less water. Genetic modification can help by producing drought-resistant breeds, but not, it seems, by altering the fundamentals of transpiration.