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Water Scarcity: A Worldwide Issue

In the first half of 2021, most continents experienced drought. The areas with the highest coverage are the western United States and Canada, but regional droughts have also occurred elsewhere. Mexico and Brazil are experiencing one of the worst water crises in nearly a century. For Mexico, this is due to an increase in water consumption in 2020, which is due to increased residential water consumption and increased agricultural production during COVID-19. Brazil has experienced below-average rainfall in the past ten years, causing water to dry up in the entire Panara River basin, which serves five states and is home to hydroelectric dams. The impact of hydropower has pushed up electricity bills and brought the threat of power rationing. As the presidential election approaches, politics has become complicated. “In recent years, droughts across Brazil have become more frequent and severe,” said Ana Paula Cunha of the National Natural Disaster Monitoring and Early Warning Center (CEMADEN) of São Paulo.

“Because of the country’s socio-economic inequality, the impact varies from region to region. In the semi-arid northeast, drought mainly affects small farmers who rely on subsistence agriculture. In central and southern Brazil, it affects large-scale agriculture and energy production. “Regional warming trends exacerbate these effects, as reduced rainwater will lead to increased demand for evaporation and reduced reservoir inflows. Drought also threatens food security in Central Asia and Madagascar. In the arid regions of Central Asia, people are accustomed to low groundwater levels and river water levels, but in recent years lower-than-average rainfall and higher temperatures have exacerbated this deficiency. Crop failures and large-scale livestock deaths are already occurring, and the death toll is expected to worsen in the coming months. This is especially true in countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which rely on the Amu Darya and Syr Darya that originate in the upper reaches of the mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

In southern Madagascar, low rainfall in the past two planting seasons has caused successive harvests to fail because farmers who rely on traditional planting methods have lost their seeds. This is not uncommon in the region. Francois Kayitakire of the African Risk Capacity (ARC) in Johannesburg, South Africa said: “Southern Madagascar has been affected by severe droughts six times in the past decade, often with total crop loss and widespread food insecurity.” The current drought is accompanied by soil erosion. And deforestation has made the area vulnerable to sandstorms, turning farmland and pasture into wasteland. The extended off-season-the window between harvests where rainfall is limited and residents rely on alternative food sources (such as cactus fruit)-is exacerbating these losses. Now, nearly 1.35 million people are in a state of severe food insecurity and need emergency assistance. The impact of COVID-19 on emergency services and food prices has made the situation even more complicated.

Drought warning systems and modern cash transfer methods are ways to prevent these disasters. Cunha explained that for Brazil, CEMADEN has been monitoring drought conditions since 2013, and making drought predictions and scenario predictions. In southern Madagascar, systems such as ARC’s Africa Risk View can detect early signs of crop season failure, and insurance mechanisms can predict these effects. For example, in May 2020, Madagascar received US$ 2.13 million through ARC to provide early support to the most affected families. “However, the current level of drought risk coverage is not enough,” Kayitakire explained. “There is a need to expand risk insurance and other financing mechanisms, such as contingent credit, to manage the entire range of risks.” These droughts are examples of compound events that worsen with climate change.




with information from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-021-01111-9

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