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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a statewide drought after two years of below-average rainfall, low snowmelt runoff and a court-ordered restriction on water transfers.

The drought in the southeastern U.S. has abated somewhat over the last few weeks, though as you can see in the picture at right the situation is still fairly bleak, not only in the Southeast but across the country.

Nor is the water crisis limited to the U.S.

"The glaciers on the Himalayas are retreating, and they are the sponge that holds the water back in the rainy season. We're facing the risk of extreme run-off, with water running straight into the Bay of Bengal and taking a lot of topsoil with it," he said.

"A few hundred square miles of the Himalayas are the source for all the major rivers of Asia - the Ganges, the Yellow River, the Yangtze - where 3bn people live. That's almost half the world's population," he said.

Lord Stern, the World Bank's former chief economist, said governments had been slow to accept the awful truth that usable water is running out. Fresh rainfall is not enough to refill the underground water tables.

"Water is not a renewable resource. People have been mining it without restraint because it has not been priced properly," he said.
More on this pricing issue in a little bit at culturemonkey.

And of course, if it's not too little water it's too damn much: The president of the low-lying Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati said Thursday his country may already be doomed because of climate change.