Climate Change Eating & Drinking

Big Dry : Global Drought Update

Global Warming comes home.

It’s not the Polar Bears in a remote, formerly ice-locked location that I’m talking about. It’s the humans, in previously luscious fertile parts, now facing extraordinary and continuing drought.

Let’s do a quick review of some global human habitat locations and see how much good quality rain is no longer falling. Oh yes, there are sometimes storms, hurricanes, typhoons and flash floods, but this is “bad water”, running straight off the parched un-absorbing un-receptive land straight back into the waterways.

NOAA’s Summary of Global Hazards :-


“Flooding, drought may come in wake of typhoon (China Daily) : Udated: 2009-08-13…a massive drought has been declared in northeast China, where rainfall has fallen by 50 to 90 percent since July compared to normal years, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said on its website. As of Tuesday, the dry spell had affected 65.6 million mu (10.8 million acres) of farmland and caused drinking water difficulties for 810,000 people in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning, as well as the Inner Mongolian autonomous region, officials said. China Meteorological Administration officials have warned that warm weather with temperatures around 35 degrees Celsius and higher would continue for at least the next three days in most parts of northern China, some southern regions, and western Gansu, as well as the southern regions of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. This spring, northern China experienced its worst drought in 50 years, one that at its peak affected 136 million mu of winter wheat in eight major producing provinces. The drought also left 3.5 million people and 1.66 million livestock with no access to drinking water.”


“August 6, 2009 : Mexico increases sugar imports 56 percent to counter drought losses : MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities facing a drought-weakened sugar crop have authorized the import of 400,000 tons of sugar for the rest of this year. That’s up 56 percent from last year, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture put Mexico’s imports at 226,000 tons of sugar. Mexico’s Treasury Department says 10 percent of the sugar will be imported free of tariffs from Nicaragua. The rest will be purchased through a bidding process. The government published the change in the official registry Thursday.”

“WATER TALKS: State might partner with Mexico : Posted by maggie : 09 August 2009 in Planning and Management from : If Mexico begins harvesting drinking water from the sea some day, Nevada also might get a taste. Talks are progressing among officials from both sides of the border over new joint efforts to squeeze more water out of the arid region. One idea being discussed is U.S. investment in Mexican desalination plants along the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California. The jointly funded plants would supply drinking water to growing coastal communities south of the border and thirsty U.S. cities, including Las Vegas. Mexico might be the new frontier for the seven Western states that share the drought-stricken Colorado River, said Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.”,_says_expert

“Creation of a water ministry would be highly beneficial, says expert – Mexico : Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 : By Renzo Dasso / Business News Americas : In the face of one of the toughest droughts ever recorded in Mexico’s history, authorities are considering the creation of a new water ministry to manage the nation’s resources. While the move is positive, to make it work the entity would have to be on the same hierarchical level as other ministries, local environmental expert Ramón Ojeda told BNamericas. “This is not a new idea. There is a precedent in the federal administration dating back to the 1950s when there was a water resources ministry,” he said. This entity was active for several presidential terms and yielded positive results, as it was usually led by people with backgrounds in hydraulic engineering, according to Ojeda…”,8599,1890623,00.html

“Dry Taps in Mexico City: A Water Crisis Gets Worse : By Ioan Grillo / Mexico City Saturday, Apr. 11, 2009 : Authorities reported on Tuesday this will be one of the most serious water shortages in recent memory. The reek of unwashed toilets spilled into the street in the neighborhood of unpainted cinder block houses. Out on the main road, hundreds of residents banged plastic buckets and blocked the path of irate drivers while children scoured the surrounding area for government trucks. Finally, the impatient crowd launched into a high-pitched chant, repeating one word at fever pitch: “Water, Water, Water!” About five million people, or a quarter of the population of Mexico City’s urban sprawl, woke up Thursday with dry taps. The drought was caused by the biggest stoppage in the city’s main reservoir system in recent years to ration its depleting supplies. Government officials hope this and four other stoppages will keep water flowing until the summer rainy season fills the basins back up. But they warn that the Mexican capital needs to seriously overhaul its water system to stop an unfathomable disaster in the future…”

Kenya, Africa

“Serious Drought in Africa Drives Cattle into Wildlife Parks : Posted on August 11, 2009 : The drought in East Africa has reached such apocalyptic proportions that desperate cattle herders are invading wildlife parks to find grazing for their animals, according to WildlifeDirect, the conservation blog network. “Kenya has always had droughts, but rarely this serious,” WildlifeDirect noted today. Herders are brazenly and openly leading their cattle into Nairobi Park, on the outskirts of the capital city of Kenya, according to a posting on the WildlifeDirect blog Baraza. The blog said reports had been received of similar invasions in parks elsewhere in the country. “The cattle have devastated the land outside the park and are dying on the road side. A few have even been slaughted for sale to local residents before succumbing to natural death,” a post on Baraza said. Giant Cattle Herd Flees to Ethiopia : Meanwhile, the BBC reported today that a giant herd of 200,000 cattle has fled into Ethiopia to escape the drought in Kenya. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization told the BBC that it was one of the largest movements of cattle in the region in 10 years…”

“Kenya Drought and Wildlife : Posted by: Numbers on Aug 12, 2009 : [Q] Was wondering how the wildlife in Kenya is faring given the terrible drought. Will be there in about a month (Amboselli, Meru, Shaba, and the Mara). Can anyone who has been there recently comment? [A] The Mara river has only a little water compared to other years making it easy for the wildebeest/zebras to cross. The crossings are not dramatic as in normal years. Massai are forced to herd their cattle in the reserves and conservancies – understandably, so that they get to the rare water sources. It’s not that the lifestock is already dying. But it’s hard – for both humans and animals. Be prepared for a dusty trip. Take some fabrics with you to cover your equipment while on game drives. Amboseli has got the name “dust bowl” – without having a drought! Never change your lenses while on game drives! Enjoy your trip!”

Uganda, Africa

Drought expected to cut Uganda tea output : Thursday August 06, 2009 : By Elias Biryabarema : KAMPALA, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Drought, higher fertilizer costs and poor demand will cut Uganda’s tea output this year to around 43,000 tonnes from an initial estimate of 47,000 tonnes, those in the industry said on Thursday. The world’s 13th largest producer according to the United Nations, Uganda has earned an annual average $45 million over the last four years from its tea, making it the nation’s third largest foreign exchange earner. “Weather has increasingly become less favourable to tea growing over the last five years or so, but we’ve seen a marked escalation this year,” said George Ssekitoleko, secretary-general of the Uganda Tea Association. “We expect heavy rains later in the year, which will rejuvenate the crop, but farmers have registered huge losses already. Hopefully the rains in September and October don’t fail us,”…”

United States of America

“Science Progress : Drowning in Drought : Climate Change and Growing Consumption Compound the West’s Water Woes : Better management and conservation efforts are needed to stave off a worsening water crisis. By Jeremy Jacquot | Monday, June 22nd, 2009 : Often referred to as the “Lifeline of the Southwest,” the Colorado River serves as the primary source of water for over 25 million Americans spread across seven states—California, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona. One of the nation’s longest rivers, it flows 1,450 miles southwest from high in the Rocky Mountains to empty in the Gulf of Mexico and drains a basin roughly 246,000 square miles in size. It also happens to be ground zero for the West’s growing water crisis. A number of reports have identified the Colorado River basin as one of the areas most vulnerable to climate change, second only perhaps to Alaska, with its receding coastlines. The basin remains in a multi-year drought that began in 1999 and is only likely to become hotter and more arid as the impacts of climate change take hold. Already, the river’s two main reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are only 45 and 50 percent full, respectively. Unless current levels of consumption change soon, there is a 50 percent chance that their water levels could drop below the outlet pipes that as early as 15 years from now—effectively rendering the reservoirs dry…”


“INDIA NEWS : AUGUST 12, 2009 : India News Digest: We Can Handle Drought, Says Government : Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said there was no need to press the panic button, though there would be 20 per cent decline in sowing of summer crops due to scarce rainfall. A total of 161 districts have been declared drought-prone. He stuck to the Reserve Bank of India’s growth projection of 6 per cent and above for the current financial year. “This country has the experience of handling the situation and I will advise not to press the panic button,” Mukherjee said today at the annual conference of chief commissioners and directors-general of income tax…Rising food prices worry SC : The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government to intervene effectively to contain spiralling food prices. “A terrible situation has arisen due to the failure of monsoon. The prices of common man’s food like dal are going up. The work should be done in the spirit of patriotic duty,” a bench comprising Justice Markandeya Katju and A K Ganguly observed…”

“Thu 13 Aug 2009 : Drought fears rise, soybean crop on brink : Tue Aug 11, 2009 : By Rajkumar Ray and Mayank Bhardwaj : NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Fears of slower economic growth and lower yields of key crops rose in India on Tuesday as the weather office cut its monsoon forecast and the government said more than a quarter of districts were prone to drought. While many of these districts are not major crop producers, most sugarcane and soybean areas remain parched and total rainfall since June 1, the start of the four-month monsoon season, has been 28 percent short of normal. The cane crop has fallen for the second straight year, and trade sources said India’s sugar stocks on July 31 were 60 percent lower than a year ago, a bigger year-on-year decline than the 54 percent drop a month ago…”

“Why scaremongering over drought? : 13 Aug 2009, 0259 hrs IST, TK Arun : Various agencies are busy shaving off various proportions of India’s growth forecast for the current fiscal, after the monsoon has turned out to be rather sparse. Such downward revisions are likely to prove wrong. The reality is India’s growth prospects are improving by the day and India is likely to turn in a growth rate close to 7% this year. Commentators have already noted that, since the nineties, poor or negative agricultural growth has lost its ability to crimp the overall growth rate, if poor farm growth is limited to just one year. Agriculture accounts for just 17-18% of the economy’s output. But a large proportion of the workforce — 61%, according to the 2001 Census — live off agriculture and related activities. Their living standards would be impacted to some extent, and that would depress demand for certain kinds of industrial output. However, both the drought-relief measures that the government would put in place and the gathering momentum of overall economic recovery are likely to more than offset the negative impact of a drought. The biggest factor in this growth story is the mounting evidence that the global recession has bottomed out and the world economy is on the mend. This perception will matter, almost as much as the material fallout of reviving growth, in shoring up India’s growth rate…”

Rupee Drops Most in a Month on Growth Outlook, Drought Concerns : By Anoop Agrawal : Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) — India’s rupee fell the most in a month on speculation foreigners will step up sales of local stocks amid signs a global economic recovery is losing steam. The currency dropped to a two-week low on concern below- average rainfall this season will crimp India’s farm output and growth after the agriculture ministry today declared a drought in more than 25 percent of the nation’s districts…This year’s monsoon rains, the main source of irrigation for the country’s 235 million farmers, may be the weakest in five years, according to data provided by the India Meteorological Department. Hit by Drought : As many as 167 of out the 626 districts in India, the world’s second-biggest producer of rice, sugar and wheat, are suffering a drought, the farm ministry said today. “We do see an adverse impact of the weather on the currency based on our own risk-weighted assessment and given the economy’s high dependence on farm growth,” SEB’s Prim said. Deficient rains may shave as much as one percentage point off India’s economic growth this fiscal year, Raghuram Rajan, an adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said on Aug. 10.

“Wednesday, August 12, 2009 : By HENRY I. MILLER : News that India may suffer a weaker-than-normal monsoon this year is raising concerns about crop yields and food supply. As worrying as those reports are, however, this is only a short-term element of a much bigger problem with the availability of water there. Even when the rains do come, India’s water usage still will be at unsustainable levels. Better crop plants that use water more efficiently could be a big part of the solution—if only bureaucrats and activists would get out of the way. Irrigation for agriculture accounts for roughly 70% of the world’s fresh water consumption, but that figure can be higher in some places, depending on crop types and local hydrological conditions. India, for instance, is the world’s second-largest producer of cotton, the thirstiest of crops: It takes 11,000 liters of water to produce a single kilogram…The introduction of plants that grow with less water would allow more to be freed up for other uses. Plant biologists have identified genes regulating water utilization that can be transferred into important crop plants. Some modifications allow plants to grow with less or lower-quality water. The first drought-resistant crop, maize, is expected to be commercialized by 2012. If field testing goes well, India would be a potential market for this variety…”

“The Telegraph [India] Wednesday , August 12 , 2009 : DISTANT THUNDER : When the prime minister of India takes the unprecedented step of attending a meeting of all the chief secretaries of the various states, there is cause for immediate concern. The concern is justified since the agenda for the meeting was the drought and the rise in food prices…”

“Thursday, 13 August 2009 : India’s water use ‘unsustainable’ : By Richard Black : Environment correspondent, BBC News website : Parts of India are on track for severe water shortages, according to results from Nasa’s gravity satellites. The Grace mission discovered that in the country’s north-west – including Delhi – the water table is falling by about 4cm (1.6 inches) per year. Writing in the journal Nature, they say rainfall has not changed, and water use is too high, mainly for farming. The finding is published two days after an Indian government report warning of a potential water crisis. That report noted that access to water was one of the main factors governing the pace of development in the world’s second most populous nation. ew crops needed to avoid famines : About a quarter of India is experiencing drought conditions, as the monsoon rains have been weaker and later than usual. But weather and climatic factors are not responsible for water depletion in the northwestern states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, according to the Nasa study. “We looked at the rainfall record and during this decade, it’s relatively steady – there have been some up and down years but generally there’s no drought situation, there’s no major trend in rainfall,” said Matt Rodell, a hydrologist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center near Washington DC. “So naturally we would expect the groundwater level to stay where it is unless there is an excessive stress due to people pumping too much water, which is what we believe is happening.”…”


Report warns “clean coal” plants could worsen Australian drought : National Water Commission advises research efforts to prioritise technologies using less water : Yvonne Chan in Hong Kong, BusinessGreen, 11 Aug 2009 : The use of emerging “clean coal” technologies in Australia could significantly increase the amount of water used to produce electricity, according to a study by a government agency, placing further pressure on the country’s already sparse water resources. A report released last week by the National Water Commission estimated that coal-fired power plants incorporating carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems may end up using one-quarter to one-third more water that facilities without the technology…”

“Radio Australia : English service : Thailand fills gap in Australia’s organic food supply : Updated Wed Aug 12, 2009 : Organic products are the fastest growing food industry in the world, and in Australia demand is rapidly out stripping supply. The Australian organic industry says that while the local industry is expanding, it’s being hampered by a lack of government support. So importers are now turning to Thailand to fill a production shortage…MARCH: Australia is also experiencing it’s worst drought on record, making in difficult to grow certain crops – like rice. Andre Leu says ideally Australia’s organic production industry will eventually grow to fill demand where it can, but the only solution to the immediate supply shortfall is to increase imports. LEU: to grow this industry we need to keep our consumers happy so we need to have products on the shelves, and so we need to import…”

New El Nino increases drought threat : A new El Nino has started, bringing a change in weather patterns and the increased threat of drought in many parts of the world. Published: 11:25AM BST 03 Aug 2009 : The phenomenon, which happens every two to seven years, occurs when the surface ocean waters of the Eastern Pacific are unusually warm. Officially known as the El Nino Southern Oscillation, it affects wind patterns around the world and can cause drought and heavy rains. The latest El Nino brings fears of drought in Australia and the prospect of floods in South America. Robert Stefanski, from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), warned that El Nino could disrupt the rains in crop areas. Typically, El Nino has the potential to disrupt the rainy seasons and cause lower rainfall in India, Australia, Southeast Asia – the Philippines and Indonesia – southern Africa and Central America,” he said…”

Australia facing ‘worst ever’ bushfire season this summer : Australia could be hit by the worst bushfires in the country’s history this summer, as a decade-long drought and the El Nino weather pattern combine to create deadly hot, dry and windy conditions. : By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney : Published: 29 Jul 2009 : Bush fire in Victoria, Australia: Australia facing ‘worst ever’ bushfire season this summer A report leaked by the state of Victoria’s environment department predicted that the bushfire season, which officially begins in 90 days’ time, could create blazes worse than those of Black Saturday, in which 173 people died last year. John Brumby, the Victorian premier, said residents must be prepared for “a very, very tough fire season again”. “All of the advice at the moment is that this will be as bad, if not worse, than anything that we’ve seen in the past decade…”

“Merimbula News Weekly : DROUGHT DESPAIR : STORY LES MURPHY : 12/08/2009 : The Bega Valley Shire is struggling through a drought believed by some to be its worst in 40 years as wells, dams and waterways dry up and no prospect of rain in sight. General manager of the South East Livestock Health and Pest Authority, Thomas Ross, said that the whole area had been in drought since the beginning of this year and he could not see the situation improving. “Farmers are desperate. They are destocking. Numbers are very high at the sales yards at present,” Mr Ross said. “There is a lot of pressure on the paddocks that are left. Cover is so thin that they are not recovering as quickly when there is rain,” he said. The water catchments were down dramatically. “If we don’t get some rain soon farmers will be even more desperate,” Mr Ross said…”,25197,25891246-12377,00.html

“August 06, 2009 : Article from: Australian Associated Press :
THE drought in the once-mighty Murray River region has eased just a little but the reprieve looks to be temporary. July brought a welcome increase in rainfall across the Murray basin, which covers southern NSW, Victoria and eastern South Australia. It was the biggest boost to river flows in 10 months. But that’s not saying much. July inflows were still under a third of the long-term average, according to the latest Murray-Darling Basin Authority drought update that was issued today. Dams are at 17 per cent in the Murray region and they’ve been drier than normal for seven years…”

Controversy continues as bid for Australia’s largest desalination plant is approved : French-led group awarded $2.9bn tender, as critics question facility’s expense and necessity Yvonne Chan in Hong Kong, BusinessGreen, 05 Aug 2009 : A controversial desalination plant, set to be Australia’s biggest, will be built under an A$3.5bn (US$2.9bn) tender awarded to an international consortium led by French water treatment engineering company Degrémont. The facility will be built in the drought-stricken state of Victoria by consoritum AquaSure…Plans are in place to make the desalination facility as environmentally sustainable as possible by ensuring its electricity is supplied entirely by wind farms. Construction on a 63MW, 43-turbine wind farm is set to start in October in Glenthompson, located in southwest Victoria. However, the A$200m Oaklands Hill project will only provide a small portion of the plant’s electricity needs and a larger A$850m, 183-turbine farm is also being planned for Macarthur, 270km west of Melbourne. The larger site will have a 300MW capacity and is expected to generate enough power to make the desalination plant carbon neutral.”

“Bloomberg Anywhere : By Luzi Ann Javier : July 29 (Bloomberg) — A weak El Nino may cut wheat production by as much as 25 percent in the eastern states of Australia, the world’s fourth-largest exporter, Standard Chartered Plc said. “If there’s a weak El Nino present from mid-year toward the end of the year, that would be very bad for wheat production in eastern Australia,” said John Reeve, director for commodity sales at Standard Chartered in Singapore. Wheat production in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia account for almost 70 percent of the nation’s total…”

Ramsar boss urged to see drought-hit lower Murray : Posted Thu Jul 23, 2009 : Ramsar boss invited to see lower Murray problems first-hand (ABC News) : The secretary-general of the Ramsar convention on wetlands has been invited to visit the Coorong and lower lakes of the Murray in South Australia, to see the effects of severe drought. The area has been listed since 1985 as wetlands of importance under an international treaty that aims to protect such regions. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has invited Ramsar’s secretary-general Anada Tiega to see at first-hand the degradation of the lower lakes in particular…”

Canberra businesses cut water use : Posted Wed Aug 12, 2009 : Canberra businesses have done a better job at saving water than businesses in other Australian cities. Data from the Water Services Association shows industrial water use has dropped by an average of 5 per cent in major cities over the past five years. But water consumption in the Canberra commercial sector fell by 15 per cent between 2002 and 2008. Marlene Stolt from ACTEW Corporation says Canberra’s total water use has dropped by 30 per cent in that time. “That’s a good achievement, noting of course though that the commercial sector in Canberra is quite small and it really only makes up about 20 per cent of our total water use,” she said. Ms Stolt says stage three water restrictions will not be permanent but after another dry winter the regulations will remain in place for sometime…”

“Mon, 11:39 10 Aug 2009 : Top misconceptions about El Niño : 07 Aug 2009…”


“Ruin of Harvest in Russia Will Shake World Markets : 11.08.2009 — Analysis : Russia may have to face a food crisis next winter. Whole fields of fodder and cereal crops have been withered by scorching sun in the European part of the country. The RusBusinessNews observer found out how big the losses in the Urals are, and what farmers and grain traders should expect in 2010. Russian agrarians are finishing stocking up the fodder for the winter and have serious reasons for a grave concern. 243 thousand hectares of crops have burnt out in the Chelyabinsk Oblast. Kurgan farmers need three tons of coarse and succulent fodder per one animal; they now have stocked up only 15-20% of the required amount. In the Sverdlovsk Oblast the level of fodder inventory is one third lower than last year…”

2 replies on “Big Dry : Global Drought Update”

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