Goodbye Euphrates

Turkey and Syria get first dibs on the Euphrates

Turkey and Syria get first dibs on the Euphrates

The New York Times recently published an article and an accompanying slideshow on the two-year drought–and unconscionable water-hogging by neighboring Turkey and Syria–that is decimating the country and drying up the  main artery of its life blood, the Euphrates River*. The article notes also that the current crisis is partially due to Iraq’s misuse of water over recent decades.

By the way, I found the link to the Times‘s story at what looks to me to be a very valuable news aggregator, GlobalPost. It features quick hits on and links to stories about planet-wide goings-on. Actually there’s something posted about the Moon today, so we may be talking solar system-wide coverage. My quick description does not do justice to its robust content. Check it out.

This from the Times’ slideshow:

Strangled by the water policies of its neighbors, Turkey and Syria, a two-year drought and years of misuse by Iraq and its farmers, the Euphrates River is significantly smaller than it was just a few years ago, and some officials worry that it could soon be half of what it is now.

* Caveat: I often link to Wikipedia to offer background information. I don’t think that the site generally is even close to infallible, but I think we’re safe when it comes to geography, and to some extent, history.

Advertisements A mini-desalination unit for your tears

Herein, sorely vexed by the fact that an entire hour has been stolen from our lives by a magical process called daylight saving, we sullenly and lazily provide links to a lot of bad news about water, complete with peevish commentary.

Water makes US troop in Iraq sick.
images.jpgThanks to Dick Cheney (Where is he now, anyway? We should never let him out of our sight.), G.I.’s in Iraq are exposed to water so contaminated that it makes them sick after using it for personal hygiene or laundry.


California farmers planning to sell “their” water.
farmer-duck.jpgFrom the economics blog, The Bayesian Heresy:

With water becoming increasingly precious in California, a rising number of farmers figure they can make more money by selling their water than by actually growing something.

Yes, we know, WTF?? Rather than toiling in their fields, many California farmers will soon be spending their days sipping avocado gimlets on their spacious redwood patios overlooking their fallow acres, iPhones to their ears, entertaining competing bids for their subsidized water from drought-panicked Southern California municipalities.

The water is subsidized so the indolent hayseeds can raise crops at competitive prices, not so they can become languorous water magnates. It’s not “their” goddamn water to do with as they please. If it’s more money they want, why can’t they grow marijuana or opium poppies like other struggling farmers around the world?

California avocado growers forced to restrict crops.
avocado-friend-or-foe.jpgAn avocado shortage could cause riots in California. The money graf (at least in respect to why Southern California should quickly be put under martial law):

The tree cutting comes as residents in Los Angeles, San Diego and most other area cities are still getting 100 percent of the water they need, with most of it going for lawns and landscaping.

“People need to know that in Southern California, water is a precious resource. But they’d rather water their lawns and cut off the farmers,” said Laura Blank, executive director of the Los Angeles County Farm Bureau.

Tri-state water war heats up!
wildsling.jpg Because states are run by developers and their elected minions, water disputes are not settled in a rational manner beneficial to the states’ residents. They are instead fought out in court in an endless series of expensive lawsuits and counter-suits on the taxpayer’s dime solely to determine which group of snorting water hogs will have first dibs at the trough. If you think any of this water war business has anything to do with anything but screwing the many for the benefit of a very few, well, we over here at—where today’s motto is A tool and his pool are soon parted—just don’t know what to tell you.

Kansas City resident finds water on the bottom of her dishwasher between washings!
967-handy_andy_ho_0449f_03-09-2008_qcl9267embeddedprod_affiliate81.jpg Plumbing advice columnist Andy, of Andy’s Pipe Dream in nearby Lenexa, urges bringing in a professional to handle the problem! smells a conflict of interest coming up from that drain.

A Raw Sewage Tour of Baghdad: Day 1

[Note: Some information in this posting may be, and probably is, erroneous. Because we accepted the statement by Iraqui spokesperson, Tahseen Sheikhly (cited below), that a lake of raw sewage in Baghdad is so large that it can currently be seen on Google Earth, we assumed that the images available for Baghdad were relatively current. And anyone familiar with the old TV series “The Odd Couple,” knows the consequences of assuming. (Read the ninth bulleted item.)
The sole source of Sheikhly’s statement appears to be one AFP article that has been cited all over the internet and accepted as the truth, as is too often the case. In a comment, an astute reader—and fellow water blogger—gently and maybe too obliquely raised the possibility that the images we posted were hopelessly out of date for the points we wanted to make.

Our crack research team, utilizing the latest technology for accessing satellite images of the planet, believe they’ve pinpointed the lake of sewage cited in an AFP story about the dire water situation in Baghdad. The February 2008 article states that:

One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission, one is working at stuttering capacity while a pipe blockage in the third means sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen “as a big black spot on Google Earth,” said Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan.

Of course, a black spot the size of a car shows up on Google Earth if you zoom in sufficiently, but, if our researchers are correct, the offending cesspool can be seem in the map below, indicated by the poorly drawn arrow, and while it doesn’t look black from this view, it’s visible from Google Earth’s highest altitude. Scroll down to the next map and note how zooming in reveals what appears to be a large, black body of something extremely undrinkable.

Our researchers admit that they couldn’t find the malfunctioning waste water treatment plant (wwtp) that the article states is responsible for this ghastly new hydrological feature of Baghdad, but they did locate a massive wwtp called Rustimiyah North (which is in the southernmost reaches of the city, but is designated north to differentiate it from a sister—or brother—plant that lies slightly to its south.) It doesn’t seem to be operating at all. Those twenty or so basins should be filled with blue water like those in the image below it of a water treatment plant in the northern part of the city, which appears to be operating at 60 percent capacity.


The most dangerous dam on the planet’s elevator rant: In 1983, Sadam Hussein’s engineers build a gigantic dam on a bed of soft, water-soluble rock and guess what it starts to leak almost immediately and they have to keep injecting a concrete mixture into its base continuously so it doesn’t collapse and after the U.S. invades it leads an effort to fix it which believe it or not fails because of “incompetence” and “oversights” but the U.S. Army Corps of mosul-dam-corps-of-engineer.jpgEngineers is convinced that failure is imminent and have studies to prove it which Iraqui officials who claim the dam is safe reject and so 500,000 inhabitants of Mosul face the prospect of drowning in the mother of all dam catastrophes! pant-pant-pant

If this weren’t a great tragedy in the making there would be so much to laugh about here. Like the nuanced difference of opinion: The USACE calls the Mosul the most dangerous dam in the world and says that it could fail with hugely disastrous results any minute, while Iraquis insist that there is no real danger. We shouldn’t take the USARCE’s word for anything having to do with the safety of dams, but maybe in this case they’re a tad more credible than the Iraquis, who built a huge dam on porous terrain that dissolves on contact with water.

The team is tired and hungry and faces a long commute. Instead of continuing to rant, we’ll let the keeper of a fantastic science-oriented water blog, Hydro-Logic, tell you the whole sordid story. He also offers a lot of links to articles about it, like this one from the NY Times.’s performance evaluation:improvement needed!

The team sat in stunned and uncharacteristic silence as our obviously exasperated editorial director went over our performance evaluation, point by point, explaining why we not only failed to get the overall Exceeds Expectations rating that we fully anticipated–leading to a raise and water-cooler bragging rights–but instead got spanked with an unexpected and embarrassing Improvement Needed–leading potentially to the door.

improvement-needed2.jpgAfter the ritual humiliation, the boss leaned back in his chair and put his fingertips together–in that condescending manner that he thinks signals authority and reason but only manages to piss us off–and said, “Look, you accepted this job. You’re the one who committed to taking on a blog about water, for god’s sake, and refused to focus on one manageable aspect of it like other focused blogs, and instead insisted on pwning water, whatever that’s supposed to mean. You’ve fallen short. You’re dropping the ball.”

“You bury the lead by starting almost every post with irrelevant fantasies, you post much too infrequently, you’re disrespectful to elected officials, religious beliefs, and other blogs, you blithely dismiss potentially life-saving innovations and take pointless potshots at journalists, you don’t live up to commitments, your posts are often way too long, you overuse italics for emphasis, your writing style is somewhat turgid, your general attitude is flip, you’re a bunch of grim, gloomy Gusses, and–he paused for what he imagined to be a dramatic effect–you don’t appear to have a value proposition.”

Oooh, so that’s where this is coming from, his constant missed opportunities to monetize the blog, we thought, stung mainly by the critique of our writing style. Turgid? Is that what we now call writing in complete sentences that are rich with clauses–dependent and independent–packed with punchy parenthetical asides, studded with adjectives and alliterations, and enhanced with erudite references to such historic luminaries as Aristotle? Turgid our collective asses.

britney-spears.jpgHow about if we just skip words and post pictures of Britney Spears wasting water by taking overly long showers? we thought defiantly, as he blathered on about blog stats. That should get us some hits!

Whatever. We didn’t demean ourselves by being defensive and pointing out the efforts we’ve made to chronicle and elaborate upon some of the biggest water-related issues of the day. And our attempts to be a repository of the best water-related resources, such as here, here, and here, and our success at writing accurate and thoughtful posts about global water problems, (and here and here) even though we have to go to a demanding day gig, thanks to the absurdly low compensation package at We know we’ve only scratched the surface, but we’ve really just gotten started. Developing a comprehensive, worthwhile site about a complex topic takes time and patience, we told ourselves supportively.

So we accepted, lying down, the performance program that the editorial director has “suggested.” We committed ourselves to at least three posts weekly, and three new “Getting Serious with” specials in the next three weeks. And we will stop gratuitously dissing other sites, being a smart-ass, and begin pruning our prose and looking for ways to grab more eyeballs. And, as Jane says, we’re gonna start tomorrow.
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Congress is failing to act!

When’s sources* revealed that the move to restore California’s San Joaquin River is stalled in Congress, an eerie hush fell over our newsroom; the clattering of the typewriters ceased, the editor stopped chewing on her cigar, the copy boy tip-toed out the door to find a better job. Why, we asked ourselves individually and collectively (in italics the way we always do when dumbfounded), why would Congress fail to fund an agreement that’s been almost 20 year in the making, and that has been ordered by a federal judge?

Our sources cleared up the mystery, and restored’s characteristic water-news-mongering din, by adding this:

The delay in Congress, according to supporters of the bill, is being caused by new Pay as You Go requirements, meaning the money needed for the restoration has to be offset somewhere else in the budget.

Oooohh, pay as you gooooo! Just like the war in Iraq! Well, that explains it! Satisfied that sanity had be reestablished, we turned back to editing and writing, and in the case of our star reporter, to finishing what the old-timer calls a snort from the bottle he keeps in his top left desk drawer.

Our sources, graciously—and for no additional fees—added the following, in case the reader needs additional information to fuel his or her outrage about the destruction of California’s second-largest river:

The once-mighty river, which literally foamed with spawning salmon back in the day, was dammed in 1943. Now, during summer months, two long sections of the river often dry up for more than 60 miles.

Environmentalists have characterized the draining of the San Joaquin as one of the most egregious examples anywhere of habitat destruction to quench man’s thirst for water.

*The San Francisco Chronicle—that in a rare courageous move—printed a great, well-researched story.

Baghdad without water in 110+ degree weather, but U.S. soldiers have plenty

Much of Baghdad has been without water for the last six days. Read why here. Meanwhile U.S. troops use immense amounts of readily available water to keep as cool as they can. Read about it in this article, where we learn that water is the “best weapon” for keeping U.S. troops cool enough to carry out their assignments. The piece is mainly about the use of high-tech vests designed to fight Iraq’s extreme heat, including a new model with a battery-powered blower unit that circulates air underneath the soldier’s body armor. Really. And currently in development is a lighter model of a flak jacket with tubing that circulates cooling water. There will be sufficient water when they become available. As the article states:

In fact, American troops, including many who have done multiple tours, appear resigned to the heat. The best weapon, they say, is water, gallons of it. Get near a U.S. soldier in Iraq and you’re near water. Cases of it in bottles are stacked everywhere, iced coolers rattle in the back of armored vehicles, base refrigerators never run out.

So all that the citizens of Baghdad need to do to get near water is to get near a U.S. soldier. suggests they get near very slowly, with their hands up.