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Environment

Celebrating World Water Day With a Fresh New Blog

Water WorksBy Tasha EichenseherMarch 22, 2013 8:49 PM

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Happy World Water Day and welcome to Water Works — a blog about the deep and shallow aspects of our planet’s lakes, rivers, and seemingly vast stores of underground water. Earth’s water supply works for us in thousands of ways — we employ it to fuel energy production; we harness it to make cement and computers; and of all of the freshwater flowing on the planet, we divert a whopping 70 percent through increasingly elaborate irrigation systems to grow food and other crops. I’ve spent the last few years taking fieldtrips of sorts with farmers, engineers, chemists, fishermen, and a whole host of wildlife to see how we capture, treat, and distribute this critical resource. Water Works will be a way to share some of those stories, as well as comment on water-related news — from droughts and fracking to river restoration and new nanotechnology filters. The blog will keep you updated on relevant reports, projects, and peer-reviewed research that reflect and help shape the way we perceive and interact with the fresh elements of the hydrosphere.

Euphrates.jpg

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Two NASA satellite photos from the agency’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) project show how the Qadisiyah Reservoir in Iraq is shrinking. The reservoir, along the Euphrates River, and in the “cradle of civilization” — where irrigated agriculture emerged nearly 8,000 years ago — lost 117 million acre feet of water (enough water to cover 117 million football fields a foot deep) between 2003 and 2009, according to researchers. This was due, in part, to aggressive groundwater pumping for agriculture. As in most watersheds, aquifers in the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley are connected through the water table to surface waters. The United Nations has devoted this years’ World Water Day to discussion of cooperation, instead of conflict and potential water wars. There are few places where the line between the two is more fragile. The Tigris and the Euphrates originate as snowmelt in the highlands of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, before running hundreds of miles to the Persian Gulf. Countries in the basin, including Syria, are scrambling to secure limited resources, as populations grow and climates dry out. Despite a series of attempts at international water management agreements in the region over the course of almost 70 years, Turkey maintains the upper hand, continuing to build massive upstream dams that threaten to withhold precious supplies from downstream neighbors. You have no doubt heard about the global water crisis. Scarcity and pollution present debilitating obstacles to human and environmental health (according to the World Health Organization 780 million people lack access to clean water). In an effort to cover these issues without driving readers into depression, Water Works will be more about the journey from source to tap. It will focus on landscapes and solutions, ingenuity, and the resilience of freshwater ecosystems. It will try to capture the culture of water. I’ll take a deep dive into debates about water management, but also post examples of remarkable and quirky water-inspired photography, art, and infrastructure; interview experts and authors; and revisit interesting milestones in the history of water, and civilization. I also look forward to hearing from readers who have their own field reports on the state of the world’s water. Together we will stay afloat. Stay tuned for more…

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