Category Archives: Groundwater

China Raises Water Prices for Top Users

Image: Houhai, Beijing, by D. Snow

Image: Houhai, Beijing, by D. Snow

In case you missed this Wall Street Journal report yesterday: “To Conserve Water, China Raises Prices for Top Users.”

It’s worth noting that China is merely raising its comparatively low water rates, and mainly for those who use the most water. It’s a new, three-tiered pricing structure, announced Friday, that is part of larger plan to restructure utility pricing nationwide. The water rates are considered low because they amount to 0.5% of disposable income. By comparison, Australia’s rates are 8.6%, Japan’s are 2.9%, the U.S.’s are 2.8%, and South Korea’s are 1.3%.

Note, also, that most people in China don’t drink tap water. They drink bottled water. I was amazed to be told of this and witness it when I visited Beijing and Yunnan Province in 2012. That’s more than a billion people filling landfills and that huge Pacific Ocean garbage patch with plastic. Experts say the new pricing structure is likely a precursor to upgraded drinking water standards in the country, which, with new investment in infrastructure, could be in place as soon as 2015, according to the WSJ report.

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Filed under Asia, Climate Change, Groundwater, Water Shortage

And the International Desalination Association Award Goes to …

Image: IDA

Image: IDA

OK, it may not be as glamorous or as self-important as the Academy Awards, aka The Oscars, but the International Desalination Association (IDA) exists and it gives out awards. That’s two new things I learned today.

IDA is a non-profit international NGO* that strives to educate people about desalination and water reuse. Its 2013 Channabasappa Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to Leila Karimi, a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Energy and the Environment, Chemical Engineering Department, New Mexico State University. Her focus, according to the award announcement, is on “the selective removal of ions in an electrodialysis reversal process as one of the inland desalination technologies that is appropriate for brackish groundwater.” Good for her, especially because Australian researchers recently concluded  that there’s a whole lot more brackish, or somewhat salty, groundwater in the world than previously thought.

*(NGO, or non-governmental organization; the abbreviation is used more commonly than the spelled-out version in the development world, e.g., the world of the United Nations and various other regional and international aid organizations.)

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Filed under Awards and Honors, Desalination, Groundwater, NGOs, Oceans, Technology, Water Resources

Water, Water Everywhere: New Resources Updates

At the Waterline is still a new blog, with fresh information pages still being added. The Water Resources page doesn’t say “coming soon” anymore — it has actual resources! It’s a list, in alphabetical order, of agencies and media sources concerned with water issues. It’s a work in progress, so be sure to check on it from time to time.  Go there.

A Water Facts page is still, ahem, “coming soon.”

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Filed under Agriculture, Blog Changes and Updates, Climate Change, Environment, Groundwater, NGOs, Oceans, Research, Rivers and Watersheds, Sustainability, United Nations, Water Resources

Study Describes Vast Reserves of Water Under Ocean Floors


Image: David Snow

On the very day I was beginning to put together this blog, Dec. 5, the journal Nature published a new study by a group of Australian researchers that may seem to negate any need for another blog about the looming global water crisis.

The study, Offshore fresh groundwater reserves as a global phenomenon, finds that fresh and brackish water deposits under oceans are much more common, and much more vast, than previously thought.  The research team estimates that the reserves amount to 120,000 cubic miles of water.

“The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface in the past century since 1900,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Vincent Post, said in a statement. He and his team are at of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training and the School of the Environment at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Post explained that the oceans are at much higher surface levels today than they were 20,000 years ago, when polar ice caps began to melt, adding water volume over time. What was once ground has aquifers filled with groundwater underneath. These aquifers, though underneath large bodies of salt water, are otherwise similar to the ones under dry land that are being depleted all over the world.

So, if there’s so much more water out there than we thought, why should I continue to study it as a precious and finite resource that could cause more global conflict than oil in the coming decades? Because of what lies between these massive reserves of water and their ability to sustain people and communities: complex infrastructure and high costs. As Post and his team point out, the water will have to be pumped from ocean platforms or facilities on nearby dry land. That, plus the need for desalination, make getting the water where it’s needed, in a drinkable state, a tall order. On the plus side, as the study indicates, the water is not as salty as seawater, so the desalination is that much less energy-intensive.

After all is said and done, however, this massive “new” resource is still finite. As Post noted, aquifers under oceans won’t be refilled with new groundwater until the oceans recede again, “which is not likely to happen for a very long time.” (Possibly a bit of understatement, that.)

Read more about the study and its implications.

UPDATE: Offshore fresh water aquifers: Which law will apply? – International Water Law Project Blog

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Filed under Desalination, Groundwater, Oceans, Research, Technology, Water Shortage