'Water crisis as much about management as nature’
Expert says solutions should include increased water recycling and reuse as well as more effective pricing mechanisms.
A VIEW of the Jordan River in 2005 Photo: REUTERS
The global water debacle is just as much a water management crisis as it is a
naturally occurring issue, experts in the field agreed on
Water professionals had gathered to discuss the reasons behind
the world’s ever-dwindling water supply on Wednesday afternoon during a panel
discussion at Tel Aviv University prior to Israel’s first screening of the film
Last Call at the Oasis.
Abrupt changes in the water cycle are occurring
all over the world, with more precipitation, more evaporation and more river
runoff globally, said Prof. James Famiglietti, director of the Hydrologic
Modeling Center at the University of California – Irvine.
turns of events may “sound like a good thing,” Famiglietti
“The reality is actually much more grim, featuring short,
intense bursts of precipitation and floods alternating with droughts.”
the meantime, groundwater levels all over the world are dropping
“It’s both a real water crisis and a management crisis as
well, on many levels,” he said.
“But part of it is the need to deal with
this changing hydrology.”
Compiling data through his Gravity Recovery and
Climate Experiment satellite mission, Famiglietti has detected rampant declines
in water masses all over the world.
“The picture that emerges is one of a
very profound human fingerprint on the water landscape,” he said. “When you look
at this map of water storage changes, water availability around the world, the
thing that really pops up most is the groundwater depletion that is happening
all over the world.”
This phenomenon includes both California and Israel,
Agreeing with Famiglietti that the entire world is plagued by
this alarming trend, Prof. Pinhas Alpert, head of Tel Aviv University’s Porter
School of Environmental Studies, connected the observations with what he called
“the two GWs” – global warming and groundwater.
Both, he explained, are
impacted by natural cyclical water changes and human management.
comes to my mind, I’m talking about the human fingerprint. We sometimes forget
that both GWs are human fingerprints,” Alpert said.
“Global warming is a
human fingerprint due to greenhouse gases, and the other is due to direct use of
In the eastern Mediterranean, issues of water management
are particularly evident.
Israel is now more secure in this regard while
the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Cyprus all suffer from a different
situation, explained Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of Friends of the Earth
The management issue has become so problematic in the PA
that Bromberg said he takes pains to use the toilet before leaving for his
organization’s Bethlehem office.
“There’s a 50-50 chance there will be
water in the office,” he said. “Water scarcity around us is very much a
And from our experience, management is a crucial
Likewise, he spoke about a school on the Jordanian side of the
Jordan Valley that formerly received water only four out of six operating days
per week because the authorities were prioritizing agriculture. This, however,
led to a situation in which parents were not sending their female children to
school two days a week.
“Today the school gets water,” Bromberg said. “It
was a management issue, a policy issue of how to allocate
While the experts all agreed that management failures are
exacerbating the ongoing water crisis, they said there was not one sole solution
to tackling this predicament.
“There is no one thing that we can do that
will solve our crisis of scarcity and management – it really is a combination of
many things,” Famiglietti said. “We simply cannot sustain a supply of naturally
fresh water for moving forward, with our population growth and the groundwater
depletion we are already experiencing.”
Some solutions, he explained,
will include increased water recycling and reuse, as well as more effective
Following the panel discussion, the audience viewed
the Israeli premiere of the 2011 film Last Call at the Oasis, directed by
Jessica Yu and featuring Erin Brokovich-Ellis.
Taking a detailed look at
troubled water spots around the world, the film focuses particularly on areas
around the United States that are facing either water depletion or water
Appearing throughout as an expert commentator is
The movie’s conclusion, which looked at positive human steps
toward water management, aired an interview with Bromberg and his colleagues at
Friends of the Earth Middle East.
“The experience of [Friends of the
Earth] comes to portray that things can be different and that the Middle East
can be an example that, because of necessity, we can work together and see
improvements on the ground,” Bromberg said.