My Mekong? Where’s the Water?

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Disputes over water sources have been with humans since earliest history. Whether over dams, springs, rivers or lakes, people have sought to secure their own water supply and unfortunately have tended to deprive others of the same while doing so.

This article on Channel News Asia caught my eye:

‘Nothing about the Mekong is normal now’: Anger along Southeast Asia’s great river as water levels become unpredictable

Similar situations like that of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, which Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are quarrelling over, come to mind. Why is this so?

Nations have always been concerned over having reliable sources of water and food. Today, it seems that fresh air is also something to be fought over! Nations will seek first their own sources and care much less about the needs of other nations unless some they stand to gain something from helping those other nations. Also, having control over a steady, reliable water source is a matter of national pride. Altruism as a human virtue is difficult to find, so the “Me First” culture will always prevail. Where water is concerned, how can nations gain better security over their supplies?

An obvious way is to have numerous ponds and storage tanks at the local or even family level. In Thailand, there are areas in the northeast where it rains only three months in the year. It is common for people to dig deep ponds which catch the runoff, and those ponds are often the only water they have for the rest of the year. Smaller ponds are actually beneficial for the environment in similar fashion to beaver dams. Planting crops and other food plants which grow naturally in any particular region also helps with the hydrological cycle. Choosing to plant crops which survive well in semi-arid to arid regions will also see less water being used. If the region is not suitable for growing crops like rice, which requires lots of water from planting to harvest, then do not grow rice. If rice farmers in California did not have the use of subsidized water, it is not likely that they would have even started growing rice there.

Another is to have underground storage and irrigation systems like the ancient qanats thought to have originated in Persia. Protected cisterns like the ones at Masada can also prove very handy for those who happen to occupy them. From ancient times, we have had the know-how and simple technologies which ensured a constant supply of fresh water year round, even in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Why do we need to squabble over water from major rivers?

Does this ring a bell over how you are running your business or how your organization conducts its operations? How can you keep your sources of water running?

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