Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
Rivers are drying up at unprecedented pace across the world. No country is being spared and some of the largest rivers across the world are bearing the brunt
I have driven from Bangalore to Vellore far too many times. As soon as you cross Vellore, you come across a long bridge, about 300-400 meters long. The land under the bridge looks like an arroyo which is a word that I recently learnt. I have been travelling to the city since 2007 and know that the bridge is marked as Palar River on the map. ‘Palar’ literally translated from Tamil means milk river.
Apart from a few ponds here and there I had rarely seen any water in the “river”.
It was not until 2016 when Chennai got flooded that I realised that the river could fill up! I saw Palar filled with water for the very first time.
My mother used to talk about living off Cooum in Chennai with such disdain that I always considered it a gutter that carried all of the wastewater from Chennai. For 35 years, I, someone who was born in the city, thought Cooum was a municipal gutter. It is true that Cooum is the wastewater solution for Chennai but it is also a river. I am pretty certain that Cooum would be completely dry if it did not serve as a gutter for Chennai.
Dried-out rivers are a common sight across central and southern India. It has been common for decades now. States in India are constantly in dispute with one another for water.
Life is impossible without water. At least the kind of life we see on Earth. We also depend on water for many other things including transportation and logistics, food, agriculture, industry, etc. You would not have paper if not for water!
A vast portion of the water needed inland is supplied by rivers. Unlike the dried-up rivers of India; Europe and North America have enjoyed perennially flowing rivers across their lands. Those rivers are drying up. Fast.
France's river Loire, famous for the hundreds of castles gracing its shores, is a shallow river at the best of times, but this year even its flat-bottom tourist barges can barely navigate waters greatly reduced by a record drought.
Even some 100 kilometers from where the Loire empties into the Atlantic Ocean, sand banks now stretch as far as the eye can see, large islands connect to the shore and in places people can practically walk from one side of the river to the other.
The Loire valley - a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for majestic chateaux such as Chambord, Chenonceau and Azay-le-Rideau - has suffered historically low water levels before, but this year's drought should be a wake-up call, said Eric Sauquet.
France has also had to face some of the worst heatwaves in Europe this year. They have been suffering several forest fires. The heat is drying up their rivers and leaving the landscape thoroughly transformed. The droughts have been ongoing since 2019. Moving across the border…
Woman with a bicycle on the riverbed of the Rhine in Bonn, Germany
Germany's Rhine River is at a record low level, and the shallow river is impacting shipping. Germany depends on the river for 80% of its water freight.
Ship captain Stefan Merkelbach says at several moorings along the river, the water is too shallow to allow ships to stop.
"It's less of a problem for us pleasure cruises, but freight ships and tankers are having problems," Merkelbach told NPR. "Ships that usually take 2,400 metric tons of freight are now taking only 500 tons so they don't run aground -- that's a massive reduction in load."
Source: UPI News
For Germany, this is forcing a switch to trucks and trains for the purposes of logistics. The Rhine is very important to goods movement in Germany and its absence will be painfully felt.
Moving across the Atlantic,
The precarious status of the Colorado River was brought into sharper focus today with the release of a federal study that determines how the basin’s big reservoirs will be operated in the coming year — and which states will be required to limit their water withdrawals from the shrinking river.
With key water supply reservoirs Mead and Powell near record low levels, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico will shoulder the largest cuts from the Colorado River to date, forgoing a combined 721,000 acre-feet of water next year. The largest burden falls on Arizona, which will see its allocation reduced by 21 percent. Under the voluntary agreement signed in 2019 that governs the cuts, no other basin state is required to limit its withdrawals.
Source: Scientific American
Kelly Anderson shows how dry one of his fields is, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Maricopa, Ariz. Anderson grows specialty crops for the flower industry and leases land to alfalfa farmers whose crops feed cattle at nearby dairy farms. He knows what's at stake as states dither over cuts and expects about half of the area will go unplanted next year, after farmers in the region lose all access to the river.
The Southwestern US has suffered some of the worst droughts over the past few years.
Now across the pacific…
China is suffering its worst drought on record as soaring temperatures dry up key parts of the Yangtze River, damaging crops and limiting drinking-water supplies in some rural communities.
The hardest-hit regions are in China’s central and southern provinces, where a prolonged heat wave has exacerbated drought conditions, authorities said.
Chinese officials this week announced what they said were several new measures to help alleviate the impact, including financial aid, cloud seeding and shutdowns of some energy-intensive industries.
For people unfamiliar with Chinese geography, the Yangtze starts in the heart of the country passing through Jingzhou, Wuhan, Anqing, Nanjing and finally draining into the sea at Shanghai. It cuts across the nation and is very important for a whole host of economic activities in China.
Water is an essential resource for every economy. It is also a resource that we have taken for granted. The presence of a shower in all of our houses is a testament to how much we take it for granted.
As the climate changes, it is going to become more and more scarce. In India, we have been pumping out groundwater at unprecedented rates to make up for the shortfall of fresh river water. The same will become commonplace across Europe and US.
They called Oil, the liquid gold soon water will take that status back!