On this page:-

  • The water crisis
  • Australia’s Mulloon creek project drought proof’s farms
  • Israel uses desal and recycling more than most countries
  • Tal-Ya dew and water box
  • Israel uses drip irrigation
  • Experiments with seawater greenhouses

The water crisis

Dammed up, drained, and dredged of sediment, the Earth’s rivers aren’t doing so well. And a new study shows that the number of free-flowing rivers, which move unimpeded on their route toward the ocean, is even lower than we previously thought.

Of the 246 rivers longer than 621 miles, only about a third flow freely across their entire length, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The rest are dammed, channelized, or otherwise heavily developed. “Our results are even worse than in the past,” says Bernhard Lehner, an author on the study and hydrologist at McGill University. “Fifteen years ago, researchers said about half of the large river basins in the world are impacted, and we now say two-thirds.”

The 34-person research team, which includes experts from McGill University, World Wildlife Fund, and several other institutions…
…  found that 37 percent of rivers longer than 621 miles are fully free-flowing—which means 63 percent are not. The 246 long waterways are a small minority of all earthly rivers, but their combined volume is 41 percent of the total volume of the world’s rivers, making them an important freshwater resource. Free-flowing rivers also support fish and other aquatic life, as well as adjacent wetland plants and animals. They carry sediment to deltas and beaches; without this input, these areas erode away. In some places, they support vital inland fisheries; the Irrawaddy and Salween rivers of Southeast Asia supply more than 1.2 million metric tons of food annually.

And, of these 246 very long rivers, only 23 percent flow unimpeded into the ocean (and some of the long rivers included in the 37 percent figure flow into other rivers, never quite meeting the ocean themselves). “You could argue the number [of free-flowing rivers] is even bleaker than one-third, because the really important ones go into the ocean,” says Lehner.

Dams are to blame for about two-thirds of chopped up river reaches. Flow-regulating infrastructure, like levees, and reservoirs are also affecting connectivity in a lot of the globe’s rivers. And no size stream is safe: Rivers 310 miles long or more are nearly all disconnected in the United States, Mexico, Europe, and the Middle East. In the lower 48, this includes the Mississippi, Colorado and the Rio Grande, each riddled with human development. The last long, free-flowing rivers are concentrated in remote areas of the Arctic, Amazon and Congo basins.

PopSci May 2019

I remember the ‘good old days’ when it was only half the rivers that were severely impacted – now it’s two-thirds! America probably experienced ‘peak water’ in the 1970’s. Arstechnica)

More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water (UN).

More recently, a majority of the world’s important groundwater reserves known as ‘fossil water’ have been overused and recent drought and local climate changes have depleted them further. Many are backup water sources for when the rains fail, only now these are failing as well. US Intelligence reports indicate this could cause conflicts and failed states (Guardian 2014). Groundwater depletion is impacting the United States where over half the population depend on it. As the water table drops, ground water becomes harder to get at, of a poorer quality, increases costs, and ultimately this ‘fossil water’ can run out. See the United States Geological Survey There are similar issues globally.

The Groundwater Wiki (September 2021) explains:

Groundwater is a highly useful and often abundant resource. However, over-use, over-abstraction or overdraft, can cause major problems to human users and to the environment. The most evident problem (as far as human groundwater use is concerned) is a lowering of the water table beyond the reach of existing wells. As a consequence, wells must be drilled deeper to reach the groundwater; in some places (e.g., CaliforniaTexas, and India) the water table has dropped hundreds of feet because of extensive well pumping.[22] The GRACE satellites have collected data that demonstrates 21 of Earth’s 37 major aquifers are undergoing depletion.[5] In the Punjab region of India, for example, groundwater levels have dropped 10 meters since 1979, and the rate of depletion is accelerating.[23] A lowered water table may, in turn, cause other problems such as groundwater-related subsidence and saltwater intrusion.

Also see: The Water Crisis wiki

Australia’s Mulloon creek project drought proof’s farms

Peter Andrews creek management builds weirs that hold the water back and lets it really soak into the surrounding landscape rather than just drain out to sea. It drought proofed Mulloon Creek project even in the mega-drought & fires of Australia’s 2019 mega-fire season! See themullooninstitute.org or you can buy from or visit the Mulloon Creek Natural Farms that practice wholistic land management as well.

Israel uses desal and recycling more than most countries

Israel have also built more desalination plants per capita than any other country on earth. Over half their population get their drinking water from desalination plants. Israel built 5 plants in the last 10 years to achieve this. While energy intensive, it only accounts for 3% of Israel’s annual electricity use to get 50% of their drinking water from the Mediterranean ocean. They have gone from water poor to water wealthy, and could soon be exporting water.

Israel are the world’s largest recycler of grey and black water for agricultural use, with local rural townships supply cleaned up waste water for local agricultural products in what would otherwise be desert. Their drip irrigation method saves 40% of the water usually used, and yet gets 50% better crop yields.

Qualification: Israel’s strategy appears to rely on high density populated townships in the deserts to efficiently recycle their grey and blackwater, focussing that cleaned up water into local agricultural projects as appropriate. I doubt this strategy would work over much larger areas, like moving waste water from Africa’s cities to the Sahara (a long distance indeed) or from China’s cities all the way up to China’s growing Gobi desert. Other more energy efficient, local and natural strategies are required for such vast areas.

The video above also mentions farming fish from salty underground desert water, and then feeding that salty, fish-waste water to salt-tolerant plants that love all the extra waste nutrients.

Tal-Ya dew and water box

Then there’s the Tal-Ya water box, a dew-catching tray that pulls the dew directly out of the air and funnels it to the plant. It can be used alone in some areas, or for dryer locations be used in conjunction with drip irrigation as well for maximum efficiency. DSC00712.jpg

The Dutch also invented something similar with the Groasis Waterboxx designed specifically to establish trees in areas undergoing desertification. It collects dew and infrequent rain, and slowly releases it to the plants roots, promoting deeper root growth.

Israel uses Drip Irrigation

The wiki has an interesting list of advantages and disadvantages. Advantages and disadvantages

The advantages of drip irrigation are:

  • Fertilizer and nutrient loss is minimized due to localized application and reduced leaching.
  • Water application efficiency is high if managed correctly.
  • Field levelling is not necessary.
  • Fields with irregular shapes are easily accommodated.
  • Recycled non-potable water can be safely used.
  • Moisture within the root zone can be maintained at field capacity.
  • Soil type plays less important role in frequency of irrigation.
  • Soil erosion is lessened.
  • Weed growth is lessened.
  • Water distribution is highly uniform, controlled by output of each nozzle.
  • Labour cost is less than other irrigation methods.
  • Variation in supply can be regulated by regulating the valves and drippers.
  • Fertigation can easily be included with minimal waste of fertilizers.
  • Foliage remains dry, reducing the risk of disease.
  • Usually operated at lower pressure than other types of pressurised irrigation, reducing energy costs.

The disadvantages of drip irrigation are:

  • Initial cost can be more than overhead systems.
  • The sun can affect the tubes used for drip irrigation, shortening their usable life. (This article does not include a discussion of the effects of degrading plastic on the soil content and subsequent effect on food crops. With many types of plastic, when the sun degrades the plastic, causing it to become brittle, the estrogenic chemicals (that is, chemicals replicating female hormones) which would cause the plastic to retain flexibility have been released into the surrounding environment.)[12]
  • If the water is not properly filtered and the equipment not properly maintained, it can result in clogging or bioclogging.
  • For subsurface drip the irrigator cannot see the water that is applied. This may lead to the farmer either applying too much water (low efficiency) or an insufficient amount of water, this is particularly common for those with less experience with drip irrigation.
  • Drip irrigation might be unsatisfactory if herbicides or top dressed fertilizers need sprinkler irrigation for activation.
  • Drip tape causes extra cleanup costs after harvest. Users need to plan for drip tape winding, disposal, recycling or reuse.
  • Waste of water, time and harvest, if not installed properly. These systems require careful study of all the relevant factors like land topography, soil, water, crop and agro-climatic conditions, and suitability of drip irrigation system and its components.
  • In lighter soils subsurface drip may be unable to wet the soil surface for germination. Requires careful consideration of the installation depth.
  • Most drip systems are designed for high efficiency, meaning little or no leaching fraction. Without sufficient leaching, salts applied with the irrigation water may build up in the root zone, usually at the edge of the wetting pattern. On the other hand, drip irrigation avoids the high capillary potential of traditional surface-applied irrigation, which can draw salt deposits up from deposits below.
  • The PVC pipes often suffer from rodent damage, requiring replacement of the entire tube and increasing expenses.
  • Drip irrigation systems cannot be used for damage control by night frosts (like in the case of sprinkler irrigation systems)

Seawater greenhouses to green the desert

Anywhere you have desert next to the oceans, you can turn seawater into food and freshwater and a local green oasis. See REGREEN DESERTS.