January 2008 Newsletter

One year ago we launched No Water No Life (NWNL) and announced its Mission.  In our first 12 months we have completed 3 funded, flag-carrying expeditions (see below) and created  I’ve learned about video, grant-writing, LLC’s, trademarks, and more science than I accumulated in all my schooling years!  NWNL has been enthusiastically supported by more people than I’d have imagined: from PhD glaciologists to watershed historians.  I again thank the NWML team; each one of you who have supported this endeavor; the Scott Pearlman Field Award for funds; and Wings World Quest for 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsorship.

Tomorrow NWNL returns to Ethiopia’s Omo River Basin to document flood-recession agriculture on its river banks where water has dropped 60 feet.  As large dams are being rapidly built on the Upper Omo and oil exploration is beginning in the Lower Omo region, NWNL appreciates the funding it has received to document traditional  agricultural practices in the Delta and lower reaches.  NWNL also will interview researchers at the Univ. of Addis Ababa’s Water Technology Institute and a consultant with African Parks.  

NWNL has new team members who will initiate research of the Raritan River Basin.  Another new team member is researching the Mississippi Delta to focus NWNL’s video documentation there in mid February when NWNL still photography yields to lights-camera-action!  Expedition photographs have been catalogued, field notes are being compiled and expedition interviews are being transcribed. These materials will be used in articles, lectures, exhibits, website, curricula and shared with groups from our watersheds who are requesting images and reports from NWNL.

While the project’s goals are long-term, the rewards are exhilarating minute to minute, and watershed to watershed! The NWML team looks forward to connecting with more of you as our work continues.    

---  Alison Jones, Project Director


Ethiopian, US and Canadian Watersheds

•  Omo River Basin, Ethiopia:  Documentation, Water Technology Inst. (January-February)
•  Mississippi River Basin, USA:  Video project within the Mississippi Delta (February)
•  Columbia River Basin, Canada:  NWNL exhibit and connected lectures, B. C. (August)
•  Raritan River Basin, USA:  Interviews, documentation of floods and pollution (Ongoing)



Exhibit:  “Water: H2O = LIFE” at The American Museum of History, Central Park West and 79th Street, NYC. Through May 26, 2008. Experiential and informative! For instance, it notes the comparative domestic water consumption per person per day in Ethiopia is 3 gals; in the UK is 30 gallons; and in the USA is 150 gallons!  The exhibit curator, Eleanor Sterling, was assisted by Erin Vintenner, No Water No Life’s Research Coordinator for its 2007 Columbia River Expedition!
Book:  “Blue Planet RunBy Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt, supported by The Blue Planet Run Foundation. The book’s stats include: “More than one billion people are without access to safe drinking water …  Nearly 2.2 million people, most of them children, die each year due to diseases related to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.”  Yet the book’s photographs and personal stories offer solutions, hope, water heroes and a common sense of humanity.  One of the Blue Planet runners, Dot Helling, kindly mentioned No Water No Life in one of her blogs.

2007 Watershed Expeditions

The Columbia River, 1,243 miles long, is North America’s 4th largest river by volume. Its watershed, larger than France, spans parts of 1 Canadian province, 7 U.S. states and 11 tribal nations. Over 11 million people rely on the river for livelihood and recreation, yet it is threatened by climate change, infrastructure, pollution and resource extraction. Receding glaciers and diminishing snow pack are reducing water supply. Infrastructure, including over 400 dams, impacts habitat, impedes fish migration and restricts traditional uses of the river. Waste from industry, a nuclear site, mines and agriculture threaten water quality and aquatic habitat. Over-extraction of timber, water and fish weakens the economic and environmental sustainability of the watershed and strains relations between US, Canada and Tribal Nations. Fortunately, concern has generated many public and private efforts to foster sustainable resource management: dams are being re-evaluated and a new Basin Treaty in 2014 could be a positive model for responsible joint management of a shared resource.

The Omo River, flowing 621 miles from Ethiopia’s Highlands to Kenya’s Lake Turkana, creates an inland drainage basin of 56,371 sq. miles which is prone to severe droughts and thus widespread famine and political turmoil. The health of the basin’s population, largely indigenous tribal cultures, suffers from lack of clean fresh water for human and livestock consumption, sanitation and washing. Recently, heavy flooding connected with climate changes has caused community dislocation. Overgrazing of livestock and removal of vegetation (to provide fuel and open fields for crops) has added heavy loads of sedimentation into the Omo. Small irrigation projects have contributed to reduction of the Omo River’s discharge into Lake Turkana by 50%.

Upstream dams, a new highway crossing the Omo River from Sudan to Kenya and large-scale irrigation may create food security and offer flood control and hydroelectric power. Proposed storage and marketing facilities and roads for water and food distribution would alleviate many problems of rain-dependent subsistence agriculture, which keeps nearly half of the Ethiopian population in poverty and without food. However, increased immigration of foreign populations due to these projects and over-extraction of the Omo’s fresh water resource, will certainly impact the basin’s cultures and ecosystems.

The Nile, the world’s longest river spanning one tenth of Africa, exemplifies the challenges of trans-boundary watershed management. Half the estimated 160 million people in this arid basin depend on the Nile for survival; yet river overuse threatens further desertification. Supplying 86% of the Nile's water, the Blue Nile flows from Lake Tana (Ethiopia) to join the White Nile in Khartoum (Sudan). Climate change is predicted to shorten wet seasons, increase precipitation and intensify dry periods in the Blue Nile Basin, which already faces chronic drought and deforestation. High sediment loads from increasing deforestation and agriculture have severe environmental consequences and poor sanitation creates dangerous health issues.

The 1959 Nile Waters Treaty grants usage of 87% of the Nile’s fresh water to Egypt and 13% to Sudan. Ethiopians have no rights to waters of the Blue Nile even though its first 1,529 miles run through their country. Downstream, the Nile sustains crops in Egypt’s deserts for export. Yet lack of irrigation rights reduces Ethiopia’s agricultural output, thus contributing to a dependence on food aid by 2 million Ethiopians. Growing populations throughout the basin’s ten countries are all demanding access to more water. President Anwar Sadat said in 1979, "The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water."


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