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  • In this lesson we're going to talk about water as a potential source of competition, a potential

  • source of conflict, and at times a potential opportunity for cooperation. You see, historically

  • we've found that communities, cities, civilizations would tend to grow up alongside a river, a

  • lake, alongside a body of water because of the importance of water to human life, but

  • also because of the importance of water as a means of transportation. That was the historical

  • context, but more recently we see communities growing up in the desert: Los Angeles, Phoenix,

  • Las Vegas. And so we see where there's populations growing where there is a lack of water, and

  • this has led to a lot of major projects bringing water from some distance away to allow a community

  • to continue to thrive and to further grow. We see this in California where water comes

  • from far away in California to Los Angeles because of the population there and the need

  • for that water.

  • So we find that in the western part of the United States there tends to be less rainfall,

  • less water, and so there's more need for moving water to a given community to provide the

  • water that's necessary for livelihood. And there was a organization that was founded

  • called the Bureau of Reclamation--reclaiming the arid West by building dams, reservoirs,

  • water supplies and pipelines to carry that water some distance to where the population

  • centers were. And there is an excellent book called Cadillac Desert that talks about the

  • process of how all this happened, the challenges, the engineering successes, the social, cultural,

  • and even the political aspects that surrounded this development.

  • A little closer to home, right here in Oklahoma, we see that as we go from the western part

  • of the state of Oklahoma, we have on the order of 10-15 inches of rainfall. In the center

  • part of the state here where Norman, Oklahoma City are, we have 30, 35 inches of rainfall

  • a year. As we go to the eastern side of the state, we get to 50 or more than 50 inches

  • of rainfall a year. And so we have less rainfall, less water in the west, intermediate in the

  • center, and and more water on the eastern part of the state. So, for example Oklahoma

  • City, half of the water that Oklahoma City relies upon for drinking water comes from

  • Lake Atoka in Southeast Oklahoma. That water is pumped 100 miles. There's a pipe line that's

  • 100 miles long that brings that water from Lake Atoka to Lake Draper, which becomes the

  • water supply for half of the water for the city of Oklahoma City. They have to lift that

  • water 500 to 600 feet to get it from Lake Atoka to Lake Draper. The energy cost of moving

  • that water accounts for half the cost of the water for the city of Oklahoma City. As the

  • cities continue to grow, there's a need for additional water, and the city is considering

  • building a second pipeline to a potential cost on the order of $1 billion just for the

  • pipe to get the water. And so you see where the population center is at a different location

  • in the state than where the rainfall is, and so it's a major effort to move the water.

  • Oklahoma City also gets water from Lake Canton, and that water flows- Lake Canton is to the

  • north/northwest of Oklahoma City, and that water flows by gravity to the city and provides

  • a major portion of the remaining drinking water for the city.

  • So that's Oklahoma City. What about right here in Norman? Norman's an interesting case,

  • where initially the city of Norman relied upon wells, groundwater for the drinking water

  • for the city of Norman. As the population grew to the point they began to exhaust the

  • groundwater supply that was available at that time, so Lake Thunderbird was built. Lake

  • Thunderbird, 10 miles east of the city of Norman, and that became the dominant source

  • of water for the city, built in the mid-60s, mid-1960s. But eventually as the city continued

  • to grow more and more, the city is now faced to the point where in the summer, the surface

  • water from Lake Thunderbird and the groundwater from the wells is not sufficient to meet peak

  • demands in the summer, and so the city of Norman finds itself needing to find additional

  • water. In those peak periods now in the summer, the city has to buy surplus water from Oklahoma

  • City to meet those peak demands, and the city of Norman is looking at other options, considering

  • maybe bringing water from 30 miles away, maybe permanently tapping in to water that's coming

  • up to Oklahoma City. Or possibly taking the wastewater that the city discharges down the

  • Canadian River, the South Canadian River and as opposed to sending that downstream, maybe

  • taking part of that, treating it to a very high level, and then augmenting the water

  • in Lake Thunderbird, and we'll talk about that more in a future lesson when we talk

  • about water reuse.

  • So we see that sometimes the water that we have available is not in the same location

  • where the population is, and we move the water around as a result. Sometimes this can result

  • in competition and potential conflict, and just to cite a couple examples right here

  • in Oklahoma, there also a lake down in southeast Oklahoma called Sardis Lake. And there's the

  • interest in potentially moving that water to the center part of the state, but it turns

  • out several Native American tribes feel that they have some rights to that water based

  • upon treaties from much earlier. And so there's been some discussion and and debate, and there's

  • currently trying to achieve a compromise on the distribution of that water between the

  • Native rights and the rights of the the people in central Oklahoma. Another example of competition

  • would be with our sister state to the south, the state of Texas. And the state of Texas

  • sees that we have extra water in Southeast Oklahoma, and they would like to come across

  • the state line and take some of that water and move it to Texas due in the Arlington-Fort

  • Worth area. This actually resulted in a lawsuit, the state of Texas sued the state of Oklahoma

  • over the rights to get that. And this worked its way up to the court and went all the way

  • to the Supreme Court. And ultimately the Supreme Court determined that the state of Texas did

  • not have the right. They felt like on based on some previous agreements that that right

  • was included in those agreements, but the Supreme Court decided that that was not part

  • of those previous agreements, and the state of Texas could not come into the state of

  • Oklahoma to take water into the state of Texas. Competition of another sort is with our sister

  • state to the east, the state of Arkansas. In this case, it's not over water quantity,

  • it's over water quality. The state of Oklahoma feels that certain practices that are taking

  • place in the state of Arkansas are having a negative impact on the water quality in

  • the Illinois River. And currently the Attorney Generals of the two states are pursuing an

  • understanding and agreement that will help to satisfy this dispute, and so we see water

  • competition in terms of water quantity or water quality.

  • Well, let's go outside of the state of Oklahoma and outside of the United States. Let's go

  • to China, and China is a very interesting case. We see that in China, four-fifths of

  • the water is in the southern part of the country, whereas half the people and two-thirds of

  • the agriculture is in the northern part of the country. And so again we have a disparity

  • where the water is not located in the same place as the population or the agriculture.

  • And so China there's been a number of consequences of this. For example, in Beijing it's reported

  • that the groundwater level in the area of Beijing has dropped 300 meters since the 1970s,

  • and that's a significant drop in the water table, the groundwater location. Same time

  • we see that because of this disparity of where the water is versus where the people and the

  • agriculture is, China is undertaking major projects to move water from one location to

  • another. They're looking at 2000 miles of tunnels and canals and different ways of conveying

  • the water to help move it from the south, where more of the water is, to the north,

  • where half the population and two-thirds of the agriculture is. So this is a case where

  • we have movement of the water within the country of China because of the disparity of where

  • the water is versus where the people and agriculture are.

  • Well, now let's think about when the water is located in different levels in different

  • countries, and one country might look to another country and say, I'd like to have some of

  • that water. If you look at this table, the center column indicates the amount of water

  • that a country has. And the column to the right indicates the percentage of that water

  • that they use. Canada has so much water that it uses only one percent of its water. The

  • United States has about one-tenth of the amount of water that Canada has, and so it uses 19%,

  • approaching 20% of its water. China, which obviously has a population much greater than

  • U.S. or Canada, has about a fourth as much water as the United States has. Water use

  • is lower per capita, and so it uses 16% of its water. And so as we look at this, we can

  • see that different countries have different amounts of water. Down lower in this table

  • we see that Egypt uses 97% of its water. It has to use every drop of water it has available.

  • And you might wonder, how can Libya use 300% of its water? How can it use more water than

  • it has? And that can be because of importing water from other areas, from other countries.

  • And it can be because they reuse their water because they have such a great demand relative

  • to the the supply that they have.

  • For example, the United States and Mexico--the United States has a heavy reliance in the

  • arid West on the water in that region, specifically the Colorado River water. And so the United

  • States pulls a good amount, the states and people in that area pull a good amount of

  • water from the Colorado River to the point that by the time the water gets the Colorado

  • River gets to Mexico, there is very little and almost no water remaining, and so that's

  • obviously it creates a potential conflict between the United States and Mexico. Mexico

  • needs water as well. And so you have treaties that come about between the countries to make

  • agreements about water use and water passage. Another example of multiple countries and

  • a water that flows through them is Ethiopia and Egypt. It turns out that the headwaters

  • where the water, the most upstream place where the water begins that helps to create the

  • Nile River is in Ethiopia, and then that water flows through the country of Egypt. Well,

  • Ethiopia needs water, but it turns out due to a pact, due to a treaty that was agreed

  • to many years ago under colonial times, Egypt has rights to the water that supersede the

  • rights of Ethiopia. So the Ethiopians have this uncomfortable situation of allowing this

  • water to flow through their country that they could have great use for because they need

  • to allow it to flow to Egypt. And you can understand how this could be a potential source

  • of conflict, and there are a number of other cases.

  • One other example would be Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore is a country, an island country,

  • a a city state, and it's just south of Malaysia. Well, it used to be that Singapore had to

  • rely upon water from Malaysia to meet the water demands for Singapore, and this was

  • an uncomfortable position. You're relying upon another country to provide you something

  • so valuable, so vital to livelihood as water. And Singapore struggled with what can we do

  • to address this? And so what Singapore decided to do was to rely upon water reuse. Singapore

  • now takes their wastewater, and they treat it to a very high level, and they put it back

  • in to their water supply system, and we call this water reuse or water reclamation. Now,

  • this didn't happen all at once. This happened over more than a decade of time, and there

  • was public education. There was public awareness. There were demonstration projects, but the

  • city of Singapore now has developed water independence. We talk about oil independence,

  • not relying upon other countries for oil. Well, Singapore wanted to be water independent

  • and took this step to enable it to do so.

  • So we've talked about how water can be a potential source of competition, multiple countries

  • needing water, one country wanting water that another country has. It's an interesting fact,

  • though, that whereas in many other resources we can think of, mineral resources or oil

  • or any and other resources, where these competition leads to conflict, water has a unique characteristic

  • in that it's been found that often water leads to cooperation or agreements. And so a colleague,

  • Aaron Wolf at Oregon State University, has documented over 300 international treaties

  • that have come together where multiple countries are agreeing on the distribution of water

  • to meet the mutual needs. And so we see that water has a special characteristic to it that

  • tends to bring cooperation, whereas in other settings we might see conflict result as the

  • countries are vying over limited resources. So water has potential competition, potential

  • conflict, but also has the potential to bring countries together, and so water is very unique

  • in this respect.

In this lesson we're going to talk about water as a potential source of competition, a potential

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Introduction to Water - Water Competition, Conflict and Cooperation: Within and Between Countries

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    Lynn Chen posted on 2016/07/21
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