The Stream, July 11: Desalination, A Double-Edged Sword

The Global Rundown

Under-regulation and over-consumption has left Saudi Arabia wondering if it will still have any water left in two decades time. Benin is getting a water infrastructure funding boost from the West African Development Bank. Meanwhile, a drought in Brazil is lowering yields of two traditional crops. New evidence suggests California droughts are the result of wind more than water. Desalination could be the key to solving water shortages in Delhi, but also the cause of serious health problems in Israel. And in Southeast Asia, world leaders are contemplating the urban effects of climate change.

“We are already facing the problem and we have to tackle it from an adaptation point of view. We have to be more resilient.” — Benedito Braga, president of the World Water Council, speaking during the World Cities Summit in Singapore on water shortages around the world. (Bloomberg)

By The Numbers

20 years Time until Saudi Arabia may run out of water, experts warn. Citizens use on average 350 liters of water per person per day, 220 liters more than their European counterparts. Years of resource mismanagement, myopic agricultural policy and government subsidized water has greatly decreased the kingdom’s primary aquifer, which was one of the world’s largest. Though the Saudi government has attempted to curtail usage through net metering and public awareness campaigns, many, including government officials, are still deeply concerned. Middle East Eye

$11 million Amount of a recent Benin water supply improvement loan from the West African Development Bank. The loan is expected to help rehabilitate waterworks and create a reservoir in the major city of Parakou, which currently receives only 10.8 million liters daily despite requiring nearly 28.8 million. Authorities also hope the restoration will decrease waterborne illness. Africanews

27 percent Forecasted drop in Brazil’s corn crop from the previous year, a decrease of 22 million metric tons that is leading to a spike in domestic prices. Experts attribute the loss to a drought caused by below-average rainfall in main corn producing states and an unexpected frost in southern states. The country is also expecting a drop in soybean output. AG Web

Science, Studies, And Reports

Wind patterns may be the strongest contributor to the Californian drought, indicates a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Much of the state’s precipitation comes from evaporated ocean water, a process which is governed by atmospheric circulation. The study could help predict future precipitation and drought activity in the region. Next, the study’s team plans to observe the effects of ocean evaporation on Texas rainfall. Water Deeply 

A new Israeli report states desalinated water lacking magnesium is dangerous for heart patients and may have led to the deaths of hundreds of citizens last year. Magnesium is a critical element in more than 300 metabolic functions, but is lost through the desalination process. This is particularly problematic for Israel, as nearly 75 percent of its tap water is desalinated, more than any other country. So far the nation’s Finance Ministry and Water Authority have opposed plans to replace the pivotal mineral in drinking water, citing cost concerns. The Jerusalem Post 

On The Radar

Delhi may soon begin tapping into groundwater resources. The city’s Central Groundwater Board hopes to increase daily supply by 189 million liters through the creation of desalination plants to access more of the 10,285 million cubic meters of saline water below. The agency also warns past exploration of Delhi’s groundwater has led to depletion and to the deep columns of brackish water it now plans to tap. Times of India

Amsterdam’s De Prael brewery now produces an organic Indian Pale Ale from ultra-filtered rain water. The brewery conceived of the new brew as part of a government initiative, Amsterdam Rooftop, aimed at increasing the city’s sponge capacity to absorb excess water and reduce flash flooding. The program and the IPA may have come just in time: the Netherlands experienced its wettest June on record.  The Guardian