Water Supplies at Risk:

Huge areas of land mass within Australia, India, China and the United States are highlighted as suffering extreme pressure on their renewable water supplies by a new index and map that evaluate water stress.

The Water Stress Index is developed by global risks advisory firm Maplecroft to identify the risks to governments, populations and business. The index is calculated by evaluating the ratio of a country?s total water use, from domestic, industrial and agricultural use, against the renewable supply of water from precipitation, streams, rivers and groundwater. The index is accompanied by a sub-national map, which uses GIS technology to pinpoint global water stress down to 50 sq km.

At a national level, the Water Stress Index identifies the Middle East and North African countries of Egypt (1), Kuwait (2), UAE (3), Libya (4) and Saudi Arabia (5) as exposed to the most overall risk. Water stress in this region is not surprising as it only receives 1 percent of the world?s precipitation, of which 85 percent is lost, for example through evaporation. However, the key economies of Australia (19), India (29), China (40) and the United States (51) have all been rated as ?high risk? due to massive ?extreme risk? areas of water stress, where demand is exceeding 80 percent of total renewable water resources.

According to Maplecroft, expanding populations, such as India?s, which grew 1.3 percent in 2009, together with rising global temperatures, indicate that water stress will continue to be a challenge for governments, business and society. Access to water is crucial to all livelihoods, but shortages are often felt most quickly by the poor due to their heavy dependence on agriculture. Business, on the other hand, depends more directly on water for processing, energy, cooling and cleaning, and these needs can directly compete with those of local communities. Both governments and business therefore have a responsibility to explore and develop new efficiencies to save water, prevent diversion away from local populations and their livelihoods and to ensure that prices do not rise.

Maplecroft?s water stress map identifies vast swathes of Australia as ?extreme risk.? The issue has particular resonance in the south, as it is subject to increasing climate variability characterized by declining rainfall. South Australia has nearly 1 million sq km at ?extreme risk? of water stress, which represents 12.8 percent of the total land area. Poor water governance in the past compounded the situation by over-allocating surface and ground water, which has negatively impacted many rivers and watersheds. Subsequently, there is competing user demand from the agricultural, domestic, industrial and mining sectors.

Across the United States there is a wide range of water stress diversity with the Great Plains and the southwest areas of the country suffering severely due to intensive farming and low precipitation, while the northwest and northeast states have high precipitation rates and low levels of water stress. In Texas, 690,438 sq km are subject to extreme water stress, equal to 7.27 percent of the state?s land mass. In western parts of the United States groundwater is being consumed faster than it is being replenished, and groundwater tables are steadily falling. The Colorado River in the western United States often runs dry before reaching the sea. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off for irrigation.

Nov. 2 Elections Shake Up Congress

The Nov. 2 mid-term elections saw Republicans make major gains in the 112th Congress. Republicans picked up 60 seats in the House of Representatives, turning their minority in the 111th Congress into a 239-188 majority. In the Senate, Democrats, despite losing six seats, maintained a majority with 51 seats. That gives Democrats 53 seats when counting the two independents who organize with Democrats.

The most notable change will be the Speaker of the House as John Boehner (R-Ohio) will replace Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who served as in that role since January 2007. Pelosi becomes House Minority leader.
Another major change will occur in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which oversees the Clean Water Act, where longtime chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) was defeated after serving 36 years in Congress. The National Utility Contractors Association reports that John Mica (R-Fla.) is expected to become the T&I Committee chair.

In the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to remain as Majority Leader with Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) staying as Minority Leader. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is expected to remain as chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which oversees EPA. James Inhoff (R-Okla.) is expected to remain as Ranking Member..

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