World's rivers in crisis - study

2010-09-29 21:19

Oslo - The world's rivers are in crisis including in North America and Europe where governments have invested trillions of dollars to clean up freshwater supplies, a study showed on Wednesday.

"Threats to human water security and biological diversity are pandemic," Charles Vorosmarty of the City University of New York, co-lead author of the report in the journal Nature, told Reuters.

The international team of scientists estimated that almost 80% of the world's population - or about 5 billion people - lived in areas with high levels of threat to water security, caused mainly by river mismanagement and pollution.

"Rivers in Crisis," Nature said on its front cover.

A map showed high levels of threat, in red, for much of the United States including the Mississippi basin, along with almost all of Europe. India, including the Ganges basin, and eastern China with the Yangtze River were also shown in red.

The numbers

Rising wealth often meant worsening threats, for instance from badly sited dams or rising pollution from fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals. Rich nations then covered up mismanagement by installing costly treatment plants.

The authors urged a re-think to safeguard rivers, especially those now less affected in developing nations. The world population is on track to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 6.8 billion at present.

The study said it was first to examine in detail a twin set of threats - to clean water supplies for people, and to the biological diversity of life in rivers, from fish to crocodiles.

"Given escalating trends in species extinction, human population, climate change, water use and development pressures, freshwater systems will remain under threat well into the future," they wrote.

Least affected rivers were in parts of Siberia, Canada, Alaska, the Amazon basin or northern Australia, they said. Parts of the Amazon, the Congo and the Nile had low threats.

Back to the source

In rich nations, people often failed to grasp the underlying problems with water supplies because tap water was cleaned.

"In the industrialised world, the water management strategy is to patch up the problems at the end of the pipeline rather than the underlying causes," Peter McIntyre, co-lead author at the University of Michigan, told Reuters.

The study urged other nations not to follow the rich who had invested trillions of dollars in managing rivers, ranging from dams for hydro-electric plants to building artificial barriers to allow cropland on flood plains.

"If your concern is flooding, you might wish to preserve flood plains and wetlands in low-lying areas as they absorb the shock of floods," Vorosmarty said.

"That would obviate the need to build a flood containment system costing millions of dollars," he said.

In one positive example, New York City bought an area of the Catskills Mountains to help provide naturally filtered water, reckoning it cheaper than a water treatment plant.

The authors said that it might take decades to get politicians sufficiently engaged to fix the problems. "In the meantime, a substantial fraction of the world's population and countless freshwater species remain imperilled," they wrote.

Read more on:    environment  |  research  |  pollution
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!
Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

In bound Supervisor

Western Cape
Peoplefinder Career Placements

Engineering Manager

Western Cape
Pro-Tech Recruitment
R850 000 - R1 100 000 Per Year

Analyst Developer

Western Cape
Progressive IT Resourcing (Pty) Ltd

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The energy today is serious, materialistic and hardworking. You may find you get a new outlook on things and you may want to spend...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.