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Feb 1, 2008

Review of Global Change: Enough Water for All? by Jose L. Lozan, Hartmut Grasl, Peter Hupfer, Lucas Menzel, and Christian-D. Schonwiese: Wissenschaftliche Auswertungen, Hamburg, Germany, 2007; ISBN 13978-0-521-82479-8; 384 pp.

Based on: Global Change: Enough Water for All?, Wissenschaftliche Auswertungen, 13978-0-521-82479-8
Publication: Journal of Hydrologic Engineering
Volume 13, Issue 2
In the foreword to the book, Professor K. Topfer, formerly executive director of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), while discussing the relation between water availability and conflicts, even war, emphasizes the identification of water demand and water supply now and for the future in all commonly used catchments, integrated water resources management plans, and programs; as well as safe drinking water. To avoid conflicts in the use of water, he argues for heavy investments in water-saving technologies and water-recycling infrastructure. He underscores that the water crisis is not at all a crisis of water availability but is a crisis of investment in water infrastructure, especially in the development of water administration and governance.
In the context articulated by Professor Topfer, the editors of the book state in the preface that the aim of the book is “to contribute to public discussion on our relations and dealings with water. It shall also shape the public opinion towards an integrated view on water and the necessity to ensure enough water for coming generations. . . .” It is a tall order for the book, indeed, for any book.
The subject matter of the book is divided into four sections, each comprising a number of articles. After reiterating the importance of water as the source of life, Section 1 goes on to discuss the earth’s water balance, the earth’s surface covered by water, and the availability of drinking water. The main point emphasized here is that sufficient drinking water should be available for all, but the uneven distribution of precipitation on continents is the main cause of water shortages and the resulting hardship for people and the environment. It argues for the necessity of sustainable use of groundwater resources to guarantee a sufficient supply of fresh water for future generations. The role of water in the climate system, the water cycle, and changes in the water cycle are treated next. Also dealt with are warning signals, with reference to water stress, water supply, water quality and health, the impact of climate change on ecosystems, the rise in sea level, and preventing hydrological problems of coastal regions, soil salinization, groundwater salinization, water resources, weather extremes, water pollution, and water conflicts. On the whole, the introduction to Section 1 provides an excellent discussion highlighting different water problems facing our planet.
The first section consists of 11 articles. Article 1.1 traces the origin of life, reemphasizes water as the basis of life, and goes on to discuss the settlement of continents; the distribution of microorganisms, plants, and animals; survival by cooperation; dissolved gases and solid substances; water in life processes; and the adaptation of terrestrial plants and animals to limited water availability. After discussing the role of water in the climate system, water as living space, and implications for society, the article concludes with comments on placing water under the protection of the United Nations with a Water Commission. Article 1.2 describes the physiochemical properties of water and their relevance to life, including forms of water, hydrogen bonding, and physicochemical characteristics. It then deals with the blue planet, the universal solvent-dissolution of salts, dissolution of gases, dissolution of organic gases, and reaction diversity.
Article 1.3 provides a global survey of the hydrological cycle and water balance. It begins with a historical account of the water cycle, discusses the hydrological cycle and water-balance research, gives quantities of water on the planet and requirements for the average annual water system of the planet, and concludes with comments on water balances for the earth made by a number of investigators. Article 1.4 deals with the oceans of the world and cryosphere, with different kinds of frozen water. It describes the oceanic branch of the water cycle and its impact, provides the mean budget of the oceans, and discusses the thermohaline oceanic circulation and peculiarities of adjacent seas. The occurrence of ice and the interaction between the cryosphere and the atmosphere, permafrost glaciers, and sea ice constitute the final parts of the article.
The distribution and transport of water in the atmosphere are treated in Article 1.5. Beginning with a water budget of the atmosphere, the article discusses water vapor, clouds, and precipitation and concludes with remarks on the importance of atmospheric water for the global water cycle and earth’s climate. Mountain glaciers and water supply constitute the subject matter of Article 1.6. After providing the worldwide distribution of snow and ice, it covers measured mass changes of alpine glaciers, as well as recording and modeling glacier and river runoff. It concludes with a discussion of the economic importance of meltwater from snow and ice.
Natural surface waters as sources of freshwater are dealt with in Article 1.7. It first discusses world population, water supply, and water demand; current and future strategies toward resolving the global water crisis, urgently needed change in the paradigm for managing freshwater resources, natural surface waters as biological reactors, the lake system, and the suitability of natural inland water ecosystems as sources of freshwater. Article 1.8 deals with fossil and young groundwater as components of the hydrological cycle. After discussing groundwater as part of the water cycle, it discusses the origin of groundwater and groundwater hydrology, including aquifer types, groundwater recharge, groundwater quality, groundwater as a resource, suitable groundwater use, groundwater overexploitation, and artificial recharge.
The water balance of forested catchments is discussed in Article 1.9, which deals with the water budget in a forest and anthropogenic influences on the water balance of forested and nonforested catchments. Article 1.10 traces the early history of water use, the Nile valley, the Marib dam, water transfer, irrigation projects, small-scale storage in cisterns, and large-scale storage behind dams. Article 1.11, which concludes Section 1, provides a historical review of water disasters, including inland flooding, coastal flooding, ice hail, avalanches, and glaciers.
Section 2 deals with water use and the impact of humans on the water budget. It forcefully articulates that the increase in water use has outstripped the increase in world population and that the impact of human actions on rivers and catchments has not always been favorable. Section 2 consists of 14 articles. Surface water under stress and control by integrated measures are discussed in Article 2.1, which makes a strong argument for a balance between improvements and stabilization of aquatic ecosystems by reduced pollutant loadings and structural optimization of ecosystems. Article 2.2 provides an overview of water demand and water use in the domestic and industrial sectors. It concludes that the water crisis is a regional problem, not a global one. The water demand for agriculture constitutes the subject matter of Article 2.3, which argues for efficient irrigation systems, regional adapted irrigation systems, and water-conserving cultivation methods.
A global perspective on irrigation water use, including estimates of the extent of irrigated areas and water use, is provided in Article 2.4. It concludes that at the global scale, irrigation accounts for more than 90% of the total consumptive water use. For more than a century and a half, waterways have been harnessed for transportation. In addition to discussing the importance of transportation by water, Article 2.5 also enumerates some issues that need to be addressed for long-term stability of inland rivers. Article 2.6 discusses dams and their functions on a global scale. It discusses both the benefits of and the problems created by dams. An overview of the importance of reservoirs for water supply and power generation is provided in Article 2.7. Chemical contaminants from the perspective of drinking water are treated in Article 2.8, which reinforces the preventive approach emphasized by WHO rather than the reactive approach to contamination of drinking water. Article 2.9 discusses the pollution of freshwater ecosystems and warning signals exhibited by these systems. Salinization of inland waters is presented in Article 2.10. It shows that desalinization is possible with preventive measures. Groundwater salinization is treated in article 2.11, which makes an argument for increased monitoring networks and groundwater modeling. Article 2.12 deals with the future of the Aral Sea. It argues that for preserving whatever is left of the Aral Sea, countermeasures are urgently needed to avoid further damage. Article 2.13 discusses hygiene requirements for recreational water, including coastal water, freshwater swimming pools, and spas. Such hygiene requirements are essential for preventing infectious diseases. Quality requirements for drinking water, which are based on both national and international standards, are presented in Article 2.14. That article argues that drinking water must be safe and that limit values of quality constituents should be used only as guidelines.
Section 3, divided into two parts, 3.1 and 3.2, deals with water and climate change. It emphasizes the significance of water in the climate system and for the planet earth. The first part, Subsection 3.1, includes 13 articles, and the second part has 12 articles. Article 3.1.1 discusses the interactions between the global water cycle and climate change and argues that understanding the mechanisms and feedbacks involved is fundamental to predicting the future water cycle and its impact on world population. The global precipitation pattern and its changes in the twentieth century, including problems and limits of precipitation measurements and temporal changes, are dealt with in Article 3.1.2. The intensification of the hydrologic cycle can be construed as an important signal of climate change, and it is discussed in Article 3.13. Strong regional changes in the hydrologic cycle are being witnessed, and these changes have significant ramifications. Article 3.1.5 argues that climate change can affect not only the quantity but also the quality of groundwater.
Changes in river discharges, with particular reference to German rivers, and the impact of land-use change on flooding constitute the subject matter of Article 3.1.5. The mean discharges of these rivers exhibit a positive trend. Article 3.1.6 treats the variability of European precipitation from 1901 to 2000. It indicates that there has been a precipitation decrease in the southern parts of Europe and an increase in other parts, especially in winter and autumn. Precipitation trends and shifts of rainfall regimes in Africa since 1951 are discussed in Article 3.17. A significant increase in drought severity seems to have occurred in sub-Saharan regions and in the northern parts of southern Africa. Article 3.1.8 provides an assessment of global-scale water stress indicators and impacts. Analysis indicates that the number of people living in river basins with water stress will increase by a factor of 2.5 to 3.5 between and now and 2075. The impact of climate change has already begun to take its toll in East Germany, and its future environment is at risk. Therefore, article 3.1.10 suggests adaptation measures to mitigate further damage.
Article 3.1.11 discusses changes in hydrologic extremes, floods, and droughts. Because of limited data, it is hard to draw definitive conclusions, but more extremes are expected in a warmer climate. Article 3.1.12 discusses the sea level rise attributable to global warming and the hydrologic problems of coastal regions. Impacts on coastal zones result from tectonic subsidence, shore erosion, changes in freshwater discharge, and increased cyclonic activity. Article 3.1.13 focuses on level fluctuations of the Caspian Sea as a result of regional climate change and shows that they can have pronounced regional consequences.
Subsection 3.2 deals with possible consequences. Article 3.2.1 discusses accelerating desertification and its consequences. The influences of desertification on biodiversity are treated in Article 3.2.2. Desertification is an alarm signal for socioecological dysfunctions. The significance of climate change for water-related diseases is highlighted in Article 3.2.3. Increased frequencies of hydrologic extremes may cause increasing incidence of water-related diseases. The effects of climate change on water quality are presented in Article 3.2.4. The aesthetics and acceptability of reused water are discussed in Article 3.2.5. Water scarcity leads to migration, social deprivation, and even possibly state failure and the triggering of violent conflicts. Article 3.2.6 discusses these issues.
Climate change has another implication pertaining to international disputes. Article 3.2.7 dwells on the emerging conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia about using Nile water for irrigation purposes. The conflict was triggered by the uncertainty of the arrival of the monsoon season because of the European/Asian brown cloud. The present and future problems of water in developing countries are the subject matter of article 3.2.8. The water crisis hits these countries the most. The way out of this crisis is a social and political innovation process. Article 3.2.8 deals with extreme hydrologic conditions of floods and droughts in light of global change. It discusses climatic mechanisms influencing these extremes and argues for a paradigm shift from a security culture to a risk culture, if vulnerability to these extremes has to be reduced. Irrigation, if not properly done, induces soil salinization. Article 3.2.10 presents modeling approaches and possible solutions being adopted in China. The potential impacts of water scarcity on the world economy are treated in Article 3.2.11. One conclusion of this study is that water shortages would hamper the economic development of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Data reveal that major flood disasters and the resulting losses have increased drastically in recent years. Article 3.2.12 deals with flood disasters and climate change from an insurer’s viewpoint. It argues that the most important things for dealing with natural catastrophe are early warning systems and an operable alarm plan.
The final section, Section 4, deals with what should be done. Article 4.1 discusses measures for climate protection, and it concludes with a discussion of goals for climate politics. The desalination of seawater is the subject matter of Article 4.2. Marine pollution is a major concern. Article 4.3 deals with measures, concepts, and technologies in the urban, industrial, and agricultural sectors for saving water. Water-saving measures are needed only in regions where water resources are scarce. Two examples of efficient and sustainable management of scarce water resources, with particular reference to Northwest Africa and West Africa, are presented in Article 4.4. Sustainable water-resource management in arid and semiarid regions is discussed in Article 4.5.
Although science can help enlighten decision making, the decisions for or against sustainability are made in the political arena. Article 4.6 deals with innovative sanitation systems for urban and periurban areas. Depending on local cultural, socioeconomic, geographical, technical, and ecological requirements, high-tech and low-tech options with resource recovery are also discussed. Strategies, primarily including nonstructural measures, for combating floods and droughts are presented in Article 4.7. With a burgeoning population, more food will be needed. Because of limited water-resource availability, more food will have to be grown with less water. This will require an intelligent combination of efficiency gains in agricultural production and irrigation, institutional and policy reforms, changes in dietary habits, and virtual water trades between nation states. These issues are discussed in Article 4.8. Water-conserving plants for agriculture in arid and semiarid areas are dealt with in Article 4.9. Responsible water use, with the particular example of BASF AG Ludwigshafen, is the subject matter of Article 4.10. A multitude of advantages occur when various wastewater purification processes are combined in an economically and environmentally feasible manner.
When dealing with water, gender plays a significant role in the family lives of various societies. Article 4.11 deals with gender issues in water management. Evolution and milestones of global freshwater policy are enumerated in Article 4.12. It also discusses possible future steps. Article 4.13 discusses water-related conflicts and the need for a global water strategy that includes improved information, demand-side management, additional supply-side activities, and the constitutional reform of water policy. Who owns the water and who is causing water conflicts constitute the discussion in Article 4.14. Reasonable allocation of water for irrigation holds the key to water conflicts. Article 4.15 reasons about whether water is a public good or a trade commodity. There are arguments on both sides. Whether water should be privatized for solving the global water crisis is the subject matter of Article 4.16. Should sufficient water of adequate quality be a basic human right? Article 4.17 probes this question. Experiences with privatization of water sectors in England and Bolivia are discussed in Article 4.18. It also discusses future prospects in other countries.
The book concludes with a glossary of terms in Section 5 and literature in Section 6. The book is well-written, its topics are well-organized, the prose is easy to read and understand, the style is lucid, and there is a wealth of information that reflects the vast knowledge and experience of its contributors. The book can serve as an excellent reference for senior undergraduate students or beginning graduate students in civil and agricultural engineering, earth sciences, or environmental sciences. For policy and decision makers in the water sector, this book can be extremely useful and enlightening.

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Go to Journal of Hydrologic Engineering
Journal of Hydrologic Engineering
Volume 13Issue 2February 2008
Pages: 111 - 113


Published online: Feb 1, 2008
Published in print: Feb 2008


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Vijay P. Singh
Caroline & William N. Lehrer Distinguished Chair in Water Engineering, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Dept. of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M Univ., Scoates Hall, 2117 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-2117. E-mail: [email protected]

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