What you will find on this page: how climate change shapes food insecurity; About time we got over the “yuk” factor for recycled water (video);Cool Farm Tool online calulator; Australia’s future food security; WRI Challenge; UNEP summary; BOM water sitesAustralia’s water challenge; climate drivers; understanding ENSO (video); groundwater use; water futures; water tradingagriculture; food & water crisis; localising food production; complex food distribution; land use – agriculture & forestrylatest news; also refer to page “impacts observed & projected” as the issues are closely related

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Water and climate change

Water-runoff-scenario-EN-014d0

Change in water availability compared with average 1961 – 1990

Interactive: How climate change shapes food insecurity across the world

12 December 2015: Rising temperatures and more extreme weather are set to increase the pressure on food supplies around the world, risking shortages in the least-developed and developing countries and potentially pushing millions of people into deeper hunger and malnutrition. This is the message from the Met Office and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), who have joined forces to launch a new interactive map at the COP21 conference underway in Paris. The graphic lets you see where in the world is already vulnerable to food ‘shocks’, and how the picture changes depending on how much action, if any, we take to reduce our emissions. It’s a stark demonstration of how climate change could risk food security in future decades compared to today, say the scientists involved. Click on image to access interactive site
About time we got over the “yuk” factor for recycled water

Drinking recycled water (or as this video calls it, poop water) isn’t the most appealing notion for many people. But it’s becoming increasingly necessary––this video digs into some of the ways people have come to accept it. Source: Holly Kaw!

 Do we drink recycled water in Australia?

Depending on where you live, or where you’ve travelled, there’s a chance you’ve already drunk recycled water.

  • NSW – in the Goulburn Valley, wastewater is recycled and returned to the Goulburn River where it can eventually be harvested and processed per usual for drinking.
  • Queensland – the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme is the largest in Australia; the water is currently used for industrial purposes such as power plants but can be used for agriculture and to supplement drinking water supplies in the event of drought.
  • Western Australia – the Groundwater Replenishment Scheme has been successfully trialled and full-scale development is proceeding. It returns recycled water to natural groundwater storage (aquifers) for later extraction as drinking water.

Water recycling happens in other regions of Australia but the water is generally directed exclusively for irrigation or industrial use.

Recycled water overseas

  • Orange County, California – managed aquifer recharge since 1976.
  • Scottsdale, Arizona – managed aquifer recharge since early 1990s.
  • North Virginia – reservoir augmentation since 1978.
  • Windhoek, Namibia – direct reuse since 1968 and upgraded in 2002.
  • Veurne-Ambacht, Belgium – managed aquifer recharge since 2002 (also prevents saltwater intrusion into ground drinking water).
  • Singapore – reservoir augmentation since 2003.
  • London, UK – upstream wastewater treatment plants discharge into the Thames, so part of the city’s water supplies come indirectly from recycled water.

Read More here & here

 The Cool Farm Online Calculator

26 December 2016, Climate News Network. An internet tool is now available that helps to quantify and control farms’ greenhouse emissions released during the crop production cycle.

 It’s called the Cool Farm Tool (CFT)  – an easy-to-use online calculator that helps farmers monitor their emissions of greenhouse gases. Agriculture accounts for about 15% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, though when fertiliser manufacture and use and the overall food processing sector are included in calculations, that figure is considerably higher. 

The land can also act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up or sequestering vast amounts of carbon: when soils are disturbed the carbon is released, adding to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The CFT was initially developed by researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the UK in partnership with Unilever and the Sustainable Food LabNow managed by a group including academics and food manufacturers called the Cool Farm Alliancethe CFT is free for farmers to download. Various details, including the crops being planted, soil types and pH levels (the relative acidity or alkalinity of the land), are entered into a series of boxes. Moisture levels, amounts and types of fertiliser used and general management details are also entered, along with information on quantities of diesel and electricity used in the cultivation and storage of crops and the fuel needed to transport goods on and off the farm. Read More here

The Cool Farm Tool covers virtually all crops and livestock globally. One exception is for crops grown in non-soil media (e.g. greenhouses or hydroponically), but proxies can be used. The Tool is undergoing an update for livestock including new emission factors for feed, and improvements to the user interface. A project is also underway to improve ease of use and applicability of the Cool Farm Tool for many perennial and multi-year crops (coffee, tea, orchard crops, berries). Results from both projects are due in 2017. Access Tool here

Feeding a Hungry Nation: Climate change, food and farming in Australia

Feeding a hungary nation cover7 October 2015, Climate Council: The price, quality and seasonality of Australia’s food is increasingly being affected by climate change with Australia’s future food security under threat, our new report has revealed. Australia’s food supply chain is highly exposed to disruption from increasing extreme weather events driven by climate change, with farmers already struggling to cope with more frequent and intense droughts and changing weather patterns.

Climate change is affecting the quality and seasonal availability of many foods in Australia.

  • Up to 70% of Australia’s wine-growing regions with a Mediterranean climate (including iconic areas like the Barossa Valley and Margaret River) will be less suitable for grape growing by 2050. Higher temperatures will continue to cause earlier ripening and reduced grape quality, as well as encourage expansion to new areas, including some regions of Tasmania.
  • Many foods produced by plants growing at elevated CO2 have reduced protein and mineral concentrations, reducing their nutritional value.
  • Harsher climate conditions will increase use of more heat-tolerant breeds in beef production, some of which have lower meat quality and reproductive rates.
  • Heat stress reduces milk yield by 10-25% and up to 40% in extreme heatwave conditions.
  • The yields of many important crop species such as wheat, rice and maize are reduced at temperatures more than 30°C.

Australia is extremely vulnerable to disruptions in food supply through extreme weather events.

  • There is typically less than 30 days supply of non-perishable food and less than five days supply of perishable food in the supply chain at any one time. Households generally hold only about a 3-5 day supply of food. Such low reserves are vulnerable to natural disasters and disruption to transport from extreme weather.
  • During the 2011 Queensland floods, several towns such as Rockhampton were cut off for up to two weeks, preventing food resupply. Brisbane came within a day of running out of bread.

 

Climate change is the most challenging threat to food and water security between now and 2050

Water risks like stress and variable supply threaten everything from agriculture to industry to energy production. Already, 69 countries and one-quarter of the world’s cropland face high water stress. These challenges will likely become more severe as competition for water increases and climate change shifts precipitation patterns.

The World Economic Forum identified global water crises as one of the top five global risks for businesses. Without tools to evaluate these risks and inform management plans, businesses’ bottom lines will suffer. Read More here

UNEP: The real concern for the future, in the context of changing patterns of rainfall, is the decrease of run-off water which may put at risk large areas of arable land. The map shows how seriously this issue must be taken, while the forecast indicates that some of the richest arable regions (Europe, United States, parts of Brazil, southern Africa) are threatened with a significant reduction of run-off water, resulting in a lack of water for rain-fed agriculture and thus putting millions at risks.

The accelerating changes in our global climate will undoubtedly cause major changes in the patterns of water cycle and geographical distribution, in the near future. Some regions will receive less precipitation, some more, and this will significantly affect agricultural activity. While some regions will see a reduction in arable land, others will have more suitable land for agriculture. It’s likely that certain types of agriculture will migrate and traditional areas for crops will change. In other words, climate change will alter the geography of traditional crop areas, which may impact on the world’s capacity to provide enough food for all.

Since the 1990s, the scientific community has been warning about the rapidly changing climate, endeavouring to convince people to take urgent measures to mitigate the changes. These multiple warnings have been ignored until very recently, but the issue is now a priority with many international organizations. However, all reliable climate scenarios run by the IPCC and published in the fourth assessment reports show the following results:

  • agriculture and rural development will be violently hit by climate change
  • poverty and under-nourishment will grow with the uncertainty of food supply
  • the climatologic regime will imply more risk of vulnerability for both humans and biodiversity
  • a reduction of glaciers will imply a growing security risk for hundreds of millions living near coasts.

In other words, ongoing climate change will mean that the water supply for human communities will become more and more uncertain. The IPCC has stated that between 2000 and 2005 in the northern hemisphere, climate change accelerated faster than predicted, with the consequence that the water cycle could change in an unpredictable way, leading to the possibility of increases in extreme weather.

The fear is that with all these changes, even if the quantity of water in the world does not change, the level of accessibility of the theoretically available water may significantly change. Source: UNEP Read More here

Future Directions International highlights Australia’s challenge

  • Temperature increases, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, extreme weather events and climate variability will impact hydrological cycles and agricultural systems, undermining food and water security.
  • The impact of climate change on agricultural production will vary across regions. In some areas changes in the climate will boost food production; however, the net impact on yields is forecast to be overwhelmingly negative.
  • Developing countries with a low capacity for mitigation and adaptation measures are expected to bare 70 to 80 per cent of climate change related costs.
  • The number of people at risk of hunger may climb by 10 to 20 per cent by 2050 as a result of climate change.
  • Implementing mitigation and adaptation strategies can make the agricultural sector more resilient to climate change. Political will and immediate action is required to minimise impacts on food and water security.

 

BOM water information and update sites

3 August 2015, The Conversation, The role of water in Australia’s uncertain future:  If you live in an Australian city, there’s a good chance that your water comes from surface water such as streams, rivers and reservoirs filled by rainfall and runoff. If you live in Perth, much of your water (about 40%) comes from groundwater. But you might be surprised to know that a sizeable proportion of water in Australia came from recycling or desalination in 2013-14. 39% of Perth’s water came from desalination and 41% of Adelaide’s. All cities also used small portions of recycled water: Melbourne (4%), Sydney (7%), southeast Queensland (7%), and Canberra (8%). The Bureau of Meteorology recently released, for the first time, comprehensive national data on these “climate-resilient” water sources, through a new online portal provided as part of the Bureau’s Improving Water Information program. Climate-resilient water sources are those on which climate variability, such as variations in rainfall, temperature and drought, has little or no influence. The data set provides information on two of the most significant such sources: desalination and water recycling.

The Climate Resilient Water Sources web portal is an interactive site providing comprehensive mapping and information of desalinated and recycled water sources for over 350 sites across Australia, both publicly and privately owned and operated. Users can access the portal, to search information on capacity, production, location and use of these alternative water sources across Australia. 

  • National Overview: Visualise data on capacity, production, water sources and use through national, State and Territory filters.
  • Site explorer: Explore sites on an interactive map or table with plant details.
  • Data download: Download the full dataset for further information and analysis.
  • Contribute: Contribute to our developing dataset with information about your facility.

Improving Water Information: data, status and forecasts

 

Australia’s variable climate drivers

Weather and climate drivers: Floods, drought, and climate change are all driven by a number of processes in the atmosphere and oceans but the changes are driven at different timescales. The drivers shown in the map interact with each other and influence different parts of the continent to bring local weather and climate. The drivers include circulation patterns in the Pacific Ocean that bring El Niño conditions associated with drought in eastern Australia and La Niña conditions that are associated with floods. The Indian Ocean Dipole is a similar pattern in the Indian Ocean that can bring drought to south-west and south-east Australia, and the Southern Annular Mode are the major influences on rainfall (and thus runoff) in Australia. For more detail visit BOM here.

BOM climate influences

Relatively small changes in rainfall are amplified to much larger changes in runoff and groundwater recharge, which make Australia’s water resources the most variable in the world. Water management is highly adapted to this variability, but the millennium drought in south-east Australia and the sharp drop in runoff in the South West of Western Australia since 1975 have tested the effectiveness of these adaptations. New measures are being introduced such as urban water supplies that are less dependent on runoff and the return of water to the environment to make it more sustainable. Climate change is occurring on top of that variability and in southern Australia it is likely to further reduce water resources. For the moderate climate change predicted to occur by 2030, the adaptation to droughts and floods can be effective, because the worst consequences are likely to be more intense droughts and less frequent but more intense floods. For further climate change, projected to occur by 2050 or 2070, the conditions of the millennium drought might become the average future water availability, which would have profound consequences for the way water is used and for ecosystems. The understanding of how climate influences water can help make water management more adaptable, such as through improved seasonal forecasts, and it can help communities plan how they will respond to reduced water availability in future. Source: CSIRO Water 7 climate chapter 3 from Water – Science & Solutions Report 

Understanding the ENSO Influence


  Source: BOM ENSO Wrap-up

Groundwater use

Groundwater use is increasing across Australia but the total use is difficult to estimate. Most groundwater is extracted by individual users and is rarely metered, and only a small fraction is managed through distribution networks. In 2004–05, licences for groundwater use were about 4700 GL/year, or 25% of the total amount of water consumed in Australia.2,3 Unlicensed use of groundwater – mainly for stock and domestic uses – is estimated to consume an additional 1100 GL/year.4 The amount of groundwater used is estimated to have almost doubled since the mid 1980s. Increased use of groundwater has been facilitated by recent drilling technologies and cheap submersible pumps that can lift water from considerable depths. In the drier parts of Australia, groundwater is the predominant water source because surface water resources are so scarce. Perth and Alice Springs, for example, rely on groundwater for about 80 and 100% of their water supply, respectively. When surface water resources become scarce, users turn to groundwater to meet their needs. Declines in surface water availability during the millennium drought in the southern Murray–Darling Basin led to a modest rise in groundwater use (1240 GL in 2000–01 to 1531 GL in 2007–08), but a sharp rise in the proportion of water supplied from groundwater (11% to 37%).5 Given the reliability of supply and convenience of self supply, the use of groundwater may not return to previous levels, even when surface water availability does.

Many aquifers with high historical rates of use are showing symptoms of over-use, such as falling water tables and lower aquifer pressures and subsequent impacts on future use, groundwater salinity, river flows, and ecosystems. The level of over-use was not recognised for decades because of the lags inherent in large, flat, and slow moving groundwater systems. Remediation of these systems is expensive and difficult because salinity and ecological damage are hard to reverse, and because of the historical expectation of reliable water supplies. Inadvertent impacts of recent strong growth in groundwater use have not been felt yet and, given that the consequences of present use are in many cases still to be felt, some caution should be exercised around future groundwater development, by putting effective risk assessment and management processes in place.  Source: CSIRO Water & Climate chapter 4 from Water – Science & Solutions Report 

All things groundwater in Australia

BOM Groundwater information: The Bureau provides a suite of nationally consistent groundwater data and information products. Government, industry and the general public can use these products to inform decision-making and research about groundwater resources.

Groundwater information products:

  • Australian Groundwater Insight: Interpreted national and regional groundwater information Insight
  • Australian Groundwater Explorer: Bore data visualisation, selection and download   Explorer
  • National Groundwater Information System: Spatial groundwater database for GIS specialists   Information System
  • Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Atlas: National inventory of groundwater dependent ecosystems   Atlas

A third of the world’s biggest groundwater basins are in distress

World groundwater basins

16 June 2015, Two new studies led by UC Irvine using data from NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites show that civilization is rapidly draining some of its largest groundwater basins, yet there is little to no accurate data about how much water remains in them. The result is that significant segments of Earth’s population are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out, the researchers conclude. The findings appear today in Water Resources Research. “Available physical and chemical measurements are simply insufficient,” said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Given how quickly we are consuming the world’s groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left.”

The studies are the first to characterize groundwater losses via data from space, using readings generated by NASA’s twin GRACE satellites that measure dips and bumps in Earth’s gravity, which is affected by the weight of water. For the first paper, researchers examined the planet’s 37 largest aquifers between 2003 and 2013. The eight worst off were classified as overstressed, with nearly no natural replenishment to offset usage. Another five aquifers were found, in descending order, to be extremely or highly stressed, depending upon the level of replenishment in each — still in trouble but with some water flowing back into them. The most overburdened are in the world’s driest areas, which draw heavily on underground water. Climate change and population growth are expected to intensify the problem. Read More here

Need for Water Futures and Solutions

The IIASA Water Futures and Solutions Initiative is a ground-breaking study into sustainable solutions to meet local, national, and global water challenges. It is looking for additional partners from the development, business, and scientific community.

The quest for water security has been a struggle throughout human history. Only in recent years has the scale of this quest moved beyond the local, to the national and regional scales and to the planet itself.  Absent or unreliable water supply, sanitation and irrigation services, unmitigated floods and droughts, and degraded water environments severely impact half of the planet’s population. Spillovers from these impacts, including supply chain failures, financial shocks, migration and political instability, now ripple across our interconnected world. The impacts of rapidly changing economies, populations and climate on fresh water fluxes, on which all terrestrial life depend, are unknown – although it is clear that most of the impacts of climate change on society will be transmitted by water. Read More here
2 June 2015, News Wise, UC Riverside, Global Water-Pricing Practices Suggest Approaches to Managing California Water Scarcity: UC Riverside water and environmental economist co-edits new book that presents global practices, innovations in addressing water. As water scarcity and quality issues grow in California and around the world, a new book co-edited by UC Riverside water economist Ariel Dinar and water experts in Spain and Argentina examines the experience of 15 countries where conservation has been achieved through water-pricing incentive systems. “This discussion is very relevant for California, especially in light of the present public debate about issues related to the constitutionality of pricing in California,” Dinar said, referring to the April ruling by a state appellate court that declared unconstitutional a tiered pricing plan in San Juan Capistrano to encourage conservation. “Water pricing works in many countries and should also work in California. There is much we can learn from other countries about how to design and implement incentives for users in various sectors to conserve water.” Read More here

CEO Water Mandate (UN Global compact): Water poses one of the greatest sustainability challenges of the 21st Century. Water scarcity and pollution, among many other issues, threaten our ability to grow strong and stable economies, meet basic human needs, and protect healthy ecosystems (and the services they provide), while also posing severe human health problems. Business organizations are greatly affected by – and also often contribute to – these important issues. Because of this, they are increasingly seeking more information and trying to understand how to address these challenges.Launched in July 2007 by the UN Secretary-General, the CEO Water Mandate is a unique public-private initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. Read More here for: initiatives & organisations; resources for business

Water trading trying to get the balance

You cannot separate water from agriculture. Since the millennium drought water trading has become a prime mechanism where governments (federal & state) have tried to balance the needs of our farming sector to keep growing the food we all need and the needs of environment. 

Australia is the world leader in pioneering water trading markets and is the only country to legislate a framework to commoditise water. Water trading consists of trading either in entitlements or allocations.

Entitlements: Each year State Government in the Murray Darling Basin make allocations against all water licenses based on the water in storage and other considerations. Entitlement Trading (permanent water) involves the permanent transfer of shares/entitlements from one licence to another.

Allocations: Allocation Trading (temporary water) involves an assignment allocation of annual water from one license to another.

Some sites for more information on water trading:

H2OXIn 1994, the Australian Federal and eastern State Government’s signed a COAG Agreement to establish the National Water Initiative 2004 (NWI) to initiate an era of water reform. Integral to this was the separation of land and water ownership titles so that each could trade separately. The NWI ensures that all entitlement owners have equitable access to available water. H20X was established to provide a stock exchange like service to facilitate the electronic trading and processing of water entitlement and allocation transactions.

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is part of the Environment portfolio, and reports to the Minister for the Environment. The MDBA was established under the federal Water Act 2007 as an independent, expertise based statutory agency; our role includes advising a six member Authority, of which our Chief Executive is a member, about Basin-wide strategy, policy and planning. The MDBA undertakes activities that support the sustainable and integrated management of the water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin in a way that best meets the social, economic and environmental needs of the Basin and its communities.

Agriculture – feeding the world

7 June 2016, YALE Connections: Climate Changing the Menu: A selection of downloadable reports on climate change, agriculture, and food. Along with the flood of books dealing with food and climate change issues, a wealth of free substantive reports, available as PDF downloads, also beckon for readers’ attention and action. Part Two of bibliophile Michael Svoboda’s “Climate changing the menu” selections offers links to a trove of recent authoritative reports . . . enough to make any foodie late for their next meal. The descriptions of the studies below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers. Access reports here

In 2009 seven countries (USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Russia and France) were responsible for more than 50% of the annual global exports of wheat, maize, soybeans, rapeseed, chicken and beef. In addition, two countries (Thailand and Vietnam) were responsible for 50% of the annually export of rice. Most of these exporting countries have access to significant amounts of annually renewable water resources, Australia being the exception. This chapter also shows how the amount of virtual water differs between the different countries. Source: Virtual Water, University of British Columbia  

Australia and the Global Food and Water Crisis

Water scarcity

Source: Water Scarcity and Future Challenges for Food Production

Future Directions International preamble from their webpage regarding “Australia’s role in solving future global food and water crises”: Food and water insecurity are among the most formidable challenges facing the world.  The potential for food or water crises to manifest between now and 2050 is high.  If such events were to occur, they would lead to rising poverty levels, slowing growth and development, and widespread instability and conflict.  Australia’s greatest responsibility and opportunity in the 21st century is to help feed a hungry world.  Mobilisation of political will and an overhaul of the existing global food systems are critical to avert crises. To access Future Directions Reports: “Food and Water Security: Our Global Challenge”; The Forgotten Resource: Groundwater in Australia

Localising Food Production: Urban Agriculture in Australia

28 May 2015, Future Directions International: Urban agriculture is becoming an increasingly prominent topic in discussions on food security in Australia. More than 90 per cent of Australia’s population lives in urban centres and depends on a decreasing agricultural workforce to meet increasing food demand. Long food supply chains, although economically efficient, lead to poor nutritional and environmental outcomes for society. The re-localisation of food production will support and enhance Australia’s food system and has the potential to increase access to nutritious, affordable food for the most vulnerable.   

Australia produces enough food to feed 60 million people, yet economic barriers leave an estimated 2 million Australians dependent on food relief annually. Foodbank Australia is reportedly struggling to meet demand; it turns away as many as 60,000 people each month due to a shortage of food. To enhance food security, efforts need to be focussed on overcoming the increasingly volatile food prices that are expected to occur as a result of increased production and energy costs and the effects of climate change.

There is a strong consensus amongst academics and policy makers that urban agriculture is a viable means of increasing domestic food security. Urban agriculture has assisted communities in both developed and developing nations to cope with food insecurity, by ensuring local availability of nutritional and affordable food. Greater support, however, is required from the Federal, State and Local governments, to ensure that benefits can be realised within Australian cities. Read More here

Complexity of food distribution

food networks_1200March 2015, NASA GISS Science Brief, Study Assesses Fragility of Global Food System: If you were in the New York metropolitan area (the home of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) in the days after Hurricane Sandy, you might have experienced something seemingly unthinkable in 21st century America: empty food shelves at the supermarkets for days and days. New Yorkers believe that they can stand up to whatever life throws at them, yet this experience caught even the proudest natives off-guard…..Taking a step back, should we really be surprised by a disruption to our regional food system? More importantly, how concerned should we be about the stability of our global food system in a world marked by geopolitical, economic, and climatic uncertainties? Read More here

 

 

ZCA LandUse PaperZero Carbon Australia Discussion Paper: Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry: Emissions in the agriculture and forestry sectors in Australia are high and growing. The UNFCCC National Inventory Report suggests that sources of land use emissions, such as land clearing for agriculture and enteric (intestinal) fermentation from digestive processes in livestock, contribute 15% of national emissions. Australia’s land use sector is in a unique position to mitigate (reduce) climate impacts and take a leading role in addressing climate change. Agriculture and forestry are the only sectors of the Australian economy that can draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by sequestering it in growing plants and in the soil. The agriculture and forestry sectors can mitigate climate impacts on the land, bringing prosperity to rural areas in the process. The Zero Carbon Australia Land Use report explores how this can be done.

The ZCA Land Use Report outlines a range of measures that can substantially reduce emissions and provide opportunities for farmers in building resilience to the impacts of climate change. These measures encompass both agriculture and forestry and address emissions at the scale required to prevent catastrophic climate change.  The Land Use Report analyses the suite of land use practices in Australia for their function as a source of greenhouse emissions, the potential of the landscape to draw down atmospheric CO2, and the likely impact of changes to land use patterns on local economies. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of how Australia can manage its productive capacity, ecological heritage and ecosystems services for the future. The ZCA Land Use report is can be ordered via our online shop. It is also available for free download.