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Water Challenge - a blog by Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Business in a changing society: the water challenge

For my 70th birthday this year, a group of friends and colleagues were kind enough to organise a ‘Festschrift’ for me, a book with 29 essays from leaders from politics, academia, civil society and business. They draw a fascinating, multifaceted picture of the quality, speed and nature of the ongoing and often accelerating change taking place in society, technology and markets. Among the authors: Patrick Aebischer; Robert E. Black; Günter Blobel; Lester R. Brown; Vittorio Colao; Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj; Julio Frenk; Francis Fukuyama; Orit Gadiesh; Vitor Gaspar; Ray A. Goldberg; Franz B. Humer; Muhtar Kent; Walter B. Kielholz; Christine Lagarde; Doris Leuthard; Maurice Lévy; Peter Maurer; Luis A. Moreno; Lubna S. Olayan; Michael E. Porter; Benoît Potier; Klaus Schwab; Barbara Stocking; Rex W. Tillerson and Herman Van Rompuy.

Water overuse – falling groundwater tables

Subsidence in major coastal cities due to groundwater pumping.

My last post was about environmental flows – the need for them, and the decreasing volumes of water actually remaining available for nature. This post is about the overuse of groundwater, as underground aquifers suffer even more from overexploitation, i.e., people pumping up groundwater in excess of annual renewal.

Environmental flows – for nature and humans

A Cucapá Native American watches the remains of the Colorado river once it crosses the border from the US to Mexico.  With permission of Peter McBride

In the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) we defined sustainable supply as natural renewal minus environmental flows. Already in 2010, annual withdrawals exceeded sustainable supply by more than 300 km3 per year, to a large extent at the expense of surface and underground water that should stay reserved for the environment.

Eight mighty rivers running dry over long periods during one year, as well as rapidly shrinking lakes like Aral and Chad - mostly as a result of overuse for irrigation, are a visible testimony to this fact.