The weekly wash-up (March 28th)

River and water news – March 28th, 2014

For those that missed it, March 22 was UN World Water Day. While it didn’t make much of a splash in the Australian media, in countries where the human impact of inadequate water supply is more pressing, it was an opportunity to voice concerns about the future.

Another “victory” over red tape    A program making some of Victoria’s biggest companies find ways to cut their power and water use has been axed by the Napthine government. A 2012 report said the program would achieve savings of $90 million each year at the industrial sites covered. A 2013 consultants’ review found ending the scheme early would save $3.5-$4.7 million in avoided business costs.

Exporting water – latest from the California drought   In the latest twist in the California drought crisis, farmers  are being criticised  for exporting water the region could use. This is because farmers in the south of the state export up to a third of their alfafa to China rather than selling it to farmers in the north for cattle fodder. This raises interesting issues for prioritising water issues – similar to those we face in Australia. When water is scarce do we prioritise domestic use? Do we feed livestock or people? And what about other uses that could be argued as wasteful such as irrigating golf courses?

World Water Day:  A UN report released on World Water Day predicted that by 2050 more than 40% of the world’s population will live in areas of “severe” water stress.  Indian media pointed out the sub-continent may face the brunt of the crisis with India at the centre of conflict due to its unique geographical position in South Asia.  In Nigeria many already don’t have access to potable water seemingly through mismanagement of the water supply network.

Baikal seals basking. Picture by S. Gabdurakhmanov http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabdurakhmanov/)

Baikal seals basking. Picture by S. Gabdurakhmanov http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabdurakhmanov/

Seal teeth offer insight to the past of Lake Baikal   Scientists have found that the teeth of the nerpa seal may tell the story of decades of environmental pollution, nuclear testing, and climate change on Russia’s Lake Baikal. The nerpa  is the only seal that lives exclusively in fresh water and is only found in Lake Baikal. The seals can live up to 40 to 50 years, and much like the rings of a tree trunk, the layers of dentine within their teeth can be studied and linked to environmental patterns and changes over a period of time.

Water shortage threatens beer supply   Droughts and poor snowfall in some states of the US are even getting beer makers worried. US Company MillerCoors has made water conservation one of its key priorities from its breweries to the farms that supply it. Water is used in the entire brewing process from crop to can, with 90% estimated to be used in farming alone. A key area of focus is more efficient irrigation for the all important barley crop.

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