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Nat Resour Forum. 1989 Nov;13(4):258-67.

Macro-scale water scarcity requires micro-scale approaches. Aspects of vulnerability in semi-arid development.



4 types of water scarcity exist. Aridity and intermittent droughts consist of the natural types while land desiccation and water stress are man-made types. Climatic aridity, intermittent droughts, land degradation, and population growth link to create growing critical water scarcity conditions. Specifically, in arid lands where only a limited growing season exists anyhow, increased and nonsustaining activities spurred on by population growth degrade soils resulting in interference with water recharge of the root zone. This combination precipitates intermittent droughts upsetting the water supply for plants and people. This occurs now in Africa to the degree that by 2025, 66% of people will experience severe water shortages. Policymakers in developing countries and bilateral and multilateral development agencies providing technical assistance need to understand these relationships. They must develop a new strategy which includes water resource assessments followed by upgraded water plans for optimal use of available water resources and by the creation of best land use criteria. Their challenge is to balance the acute needs of people with conserving the productivity of the resource base. Experience shows that maximizing agricultural production per unit of water instead of per unit of land can increase income and employment. For example, in India, a semiarid area produced, with a given amount of water, as much as 30 times the amount of crops if the crops had a low water demand (e.g., grapes and potatoes) rather than those with a high water demand (e.g., sugarcane). This microscale approach and other such approaches could help semiarid Africa. Yet decision makers must seriously consider the transferability of these approaches to the African cultural and geographical environment. More essential than that, however, is the very high levels of water stress caused by the rapid population growth in famine-prone African countries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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