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A flood happens when water overflows or soaks land that is normally dry.

There are few places on Earth where people dont need to be concerned about flooding. Generally, floods take hours or even days to develop, giving residents time to prepare or evacuate. Sometimes, floods develop uickly and with little warning. A flood can develop in a many ways. The most common is when rivers or streams overflow their banks. These floods are called riverine floods. !eavy rain, a broken dam or levee,rapid icemelt in the mountains, or even a beaver dam in a vulnerable spot can overwhelm a river and send it spreading over nearby land. The land surrounding a river is called a flood plain. Coastal flooding, also called estuarine flooding, happens when a large storm or tsunami causes the sea to rush inland. "loods are the second#most widespread natural disaster on Earth, after wildfires. All $% of the &nited States are vulnerable to flooding. Effects of Floods 'hen floodwaters recede, affected areas are often blanketed in silt and mud. This sediment can be full of nutrients,benefiting farmers and agribusinesses in the area. "amously fertile flood plains like the (ississippi )iver valley in the American (idwest, the *ile )iver valley in Egypt, and theFertile Crescent in the (iddle East have supported agriculture for thousands of years. +early flooding has left millions of tons of nutrient#rich soil behind. !owever, floods have enormous destructive power. 'hen a river overflows its banks or the sea moves inland, many structures are unable to withstand the force of the water. ,ridges, houses, trees, and cars can be picked up and carried off. "loods erode soil, taking it from under a building-sfoundation, causing the building to crack and tumble. Severe flooding in ,angladesh in .uly /%%0 led to more than a million homes being damaged or destroyed. "loods can cause even more damage when their waters recede. The water and landscape can be contaminated with hazardous materials, such as sharp debris, pesticides, fuel, and untreated sewage. 1otentially dangerous mold can uickly overwhelm water#soaked structures. As flood water spreads, it carries disease. "lood victims can be left for weeks without clean water for drinking or hygiene. This can lead to outbreaks of deadly diseases like typhoid,malaria, hepatitis A, and cholera. This happened in /%%%, as hundreds of people in (o2ambi ue fled to refugee camps after the 3impopo )iver flooded their homes. They soon fell ill and died from cholera, which is spread by unsanitary conditions, and malaria, spread by mosquitoes that thrived on the swollen river banks. 4n the &nited States, floods are responsible for an average of nearly 5%% deaths every year, and cause about 60.$ billion in damage. 7hina-s +ellow )iver valley has seen some of the world-s worst floods in the past 5%% years. The 5895 +ellow )iver flood is one of the most devastating natural disasters ever recorded:almost a million people drowned, and even more were left homeless. Natural Causes of Floods "loods occur naturally. They are part of the water cycle, and the environment is adapted to flooding. Wetlands along river banks, lakes, and estuaries absorb flood waters. 'etland vegetation, such as trees, grasses, and sedges, slow the speed of flood waters and more evenly distribute their energy. According to the &.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA!, the wetlands along the (ississippi )iver once stored at least ;% days of flood water. <Today, (ississippi wetlands store only 5/ days of flood water. (ost wetlands have been filled or drained.= "loods can also devastate an environment. The most vulnerable regions are those that e>perience frequent floods and those that have not flooded for many years. 4n the first case, the

environment does not have time to recover between floods. 4n the second case, the environment may not be able to adapt to flood conditions. 4n August /%5%, 1akistan e>perienced some of the worst floods of the century. The annual monsoon, on which 1akistani farmers and consumers rely, was unusually strong. Tons of water drenched the nation. The 4ndus )iver burst its banks. ,ecause the river flows almost directly through the narrow country, almost all of 1akistan was affected by flooding. (illions of 1akistanis lost their homes, and almost /,%%% died in the floods. The province of 1un?ab, the countrys agricultural center, was particularly devastated. )ice, wheat, and corn crops were destroyed. The impact of the floods continued long after the monsoon dwindled and the 4ndussubsided. 1akistanis e>perienced food shortages, power outages, and loss of infrastructure. @utbreaks of cholera and malaria developed near resettlement camps. E>perts estimated that the rebuilding effort would cost up to 65$ billion. Sometimes, floods are triggered by other natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. 4n .anuary /%55, a ma?or earth uake struck off the coast of (iyagi 1refecture, .apan. The uake triggered a massive tsunami, its crest reaching as high as A% meters <595 feet=. The tsunami crashed more than 5% kilometers <; miles= inland, flooding homes, businesses, schools, parks, hospitals, and the "ukushima Bai# ichi *uclear 1ower 1lant. A dam holding a reservoir burst, triggering another flood that destroyed homes. )ain that accompanies hurricanes and cyclones can uickly flood coastal areas. The rise in sea level that occurs during these storms is called a storm surge. A storm surge is a type of coastal flood. They can be devastating. The storm surge that accompanied the 580% "hola cyclone flooded the low#lying islands of the Ganges Belta in 4ndia and ,angladesh. (ore than $%%,%%% people were killed, and twice that number were left homeless. The strong winds associated with hurricanes and cyclones can also whip up and move huge amounts of water, forcing a storm surge far inland. 4n /%%$, #urricane $atrina brought huge amounts of wind and rain to the Gulf 7oast of the &nited States. The city of *ew @rleans, 3ouisiana, wasparticularly hard#hit. The storm surge from !urricane Catrina caused some of the citys levees to break. 3evees protect *ew @rleans from the %ississippi &iver. The river rushed in and flooded entire neighborhoods. !undreds of people drowned, and the storm did more than 65%% billion in damage. Man-Made Causes of Floods "loods can also have man#made sources. (any man#made floods are intentional and controlled. )ice farmers, for instance, rely on flooded fields. )ice is asemi'aquatic crop:it grows in water. After rice seedlings are planted, farmers flood their fields, called rice paddies, in about 5$ to /$ centimeters <; to 5% inches= of water. )ice paddies must be carefully engineered to allow controlled flooding. Strong dikes or levees, as well as regulatedchannels for irrigation, are re uired. Sometimes, engineers flood an area to restore anecosystem. 4n /%%D, the Grand 7anyon was deliberatelyflooded. 'ater was released from dams on the Colorado &iver, which runs through the Grand 7anyon. 4n /% minutes, enough water was released from a dam at 3ake 1owell, &tah, to fill up the Empire State ,uilding. #ydrologists, engineers, and environmentalists hoped that flooding the canyon would help redistribute sediment:which had been blocked up by dams:and create sandbars. Sandbars provide a wildlifehabitat, often serving as a shallow bridge for animals such as beavers and bighorn sheep to cross from one side of the river to the other. Bams control the natural flood plains of lakes and rivers. !ydrologists may intentionally flood areas to prevent damage to the dam or increase the water supply for agriculture,industry, or consumer use. Engineers may also intentionally flood areas to prevent the possibility of worse flooding. 'hen heavy rains caused the Souris )iver to flood in /%55, for e>ample, the water level nearly reached the top of the Alameda )eservoir in @>bow, Saskatchewan, 7anada. "aced with the prospect ofcatastrophic flooding if the entire dam broke, engineers chose to release huge amounts of water. The reservoir remained intact, but the release contributed to massive floods in both Saskatchewan and the &.S. city of (inot, *orth

Bakota. *ot all man#made floods are intentional, however. The natural banks of rivers and streams shrink as people develop land nearby. )iver banks are valuable real estate for housing, businesses, and industry. "rom Shanghai, 7hina, to San Antonio, Te>as, rivers are the sites of busy urban areas. 4n rural areas, factories use river currents to distribute runoff. Toaccommodate such development, river banks are paved with hard, non'porous materials. Soils and plants are replaced with concrete and asphalt, which cant absorb water. An unusual amount of rain can cause these rivers to uickly overrun their concrete banks. Australia is conducting an investigation of ,risbanes development decisions after the ,risbane )iver overran its banks and flooded the countrys capital in /%55. Streets, downtown business districts, and bridges were destroyed. 'ater reached the third row of seats in the citys rugbystadium. The flood waters were high enough </ metersE; feet= that bull sharks were spotted swimming up ma?or streets. 7oncrete banks also increase the amount of runoff flowing to nearby bodies of water. This increases the risk of coastal flooding. Fenice, 4taly, for instance, is fre uently flooded as tides from the Adriatic Sea seep into the heavily developedislands on which the city rests. !ydrologists, engineers, and city planners constantly work toreduce flood damage. (hrubs and plants create buffers to prevent runoff from seeping into flood plains, urban areas, or other bodies of water. The thick vegetation between a river and a flood plain is called a riparian zone. Bespite their efforts, people can also radically fail to control floods. The most famous flood in American history, the)ohnstown Flood, was a man#made disaster. The tragedy killed /,/%8 people and made headlines around the country. .ohnstown, 1ennsylvania, was on a flood plain at the meeting of the Stony 7reek and 3ittle 7onemaugh rivers. As more people moved to the city, the banks of the rivers were paved and narrowed, causing yearly flooding. )esidents were prepared for this. They watched the river and moved their belongings upstairs or onto rooftops as the city flooded. !owever, residents were not prepared for the additional flood from an entire lake. 3ocated in nearby mountains, 3ake 7onemaugh was a reservoir created by the South "ork Bam. The lake was an e*clusive retreat for members of the South "ork "ishing and !unting 7lub, which owned the dam. 3ake 7onemaugh contained /% million tons of water. @n (ay 95, 5DD8, the dam broke and the water rushed down the river at ;A kilometers per hour <A% miles per hour=. .ohnstowns leading industry was steel production, and the flood waters uickly became choked with industrial debris:steel cables, chemical solvents, glass, rail cars. The flood destroyed a wire factory, filling the water with tons of barbed wire. About D% people died when floating wreckage caught fire. )ebuilding .ohnstown took years:the bodies of some victims were not found until /% years later. Although the South "ork "ishing and !unting 7lub failed to maintain the dam, members of the club successfully argued that the disaster was an Gact of +od.H Flood Classification Bisaster e>perts classify floods according to their likelihood of occurring in a given time period. The most common classifications are a 5%#year flood, a $%#year flood, and a,--'year flood. A 5%%#year flood, for e>ample, is an e>tremely large, destructive event that would be e>pected to happen only once every century. ,ut this is only an estimate. 'hat G5%%#year floodH actually means is that there is a 5 percent chance that such a flood could happen in any given year. 4n recent decades, 5%%#year floods have occurred more fre uently. This may be due toglobal warming, the current period of climate change. The )ed )iver, which flows along the border of *orth Bakota and (innesota, chronically floods. Anything over D.$ meters </D feet= is considered Gflood stageH in the area. 4n 5880, the river crested at almost 5/

meters <A% feet=, a record level. 4n /%%8, the record was beaten as the river flooded again, reaching a height of almost 5/.$ meters <A%.D feet=. The river flooded for ;5 days. Flash floods can develop within hours of heavy rainfall. "lash floods can be e>tremely dangerous, instantly turning a babbling brook into a thundering wall of water that sweeps away everything in its path. (ost deaths from flooding occur as a result of flash floods. "lash floods do not have a system for classifying their magnitude. .eserts are vulnerable to flash floods. Wadis and arroyos are dry river beds that only flow during heavy rains. 'adis can be dangerous during flash floods because they rarely have riparian 2ones to slow the floods energy. The city of .eddah, Saudi Arabia, developed on the site of several wadis, and floods are fre uent after heavy rains. (ore than 5%% people died in flash floods in .eddah in /%%8. The floods developed so uickly that many victims drowned in their cars as streets became submerged. Predicting Floods Today, hydrologists study past flood patterns to help predict where and when floods will happen in the future. The predictions are only estimates, however. Weather, land, andclimate can all change. An areas soil and groundwater provide clues about flooding.Pedologists, or soil scientists, work with hydrologists to determine how much water a regions earth can absorb. Agricultural soil, for instance, can absorb much more water than sand or bare rock. Groundwater is water already in the earth:in soil, underground reservoirs called aquifers, and even porous rocks. The type of soil and the amount of groundwater tells hydrologists how much more water the earth can absorb. Betermining the amount of runoff in an area can also provide clues about the possibility of flooding. )unoff happens when there is more water than soil can absorb. E*cess water overflows and runs on top of the land. )unoff can come from natural processes, such as icemelt. 4t can also come from human activity, such as e>cess irrigation, sewage, and industrial waste. 7ontrolling runoff can help control floods. !ydrologists work with meteorologists to evaluate snowfalland snowpack. (elting snow contributes to runoff and increases groundwater levels. 'hen snow melts uickly, the ground may not have time to absorb the water. Snowfall is one of the biggest contributors to flooding, and cannot always be predicted. )apid snowmelt in the Andes (ountains, for e>ample, creates mudslides and floods that disable railways and bridges. 4n /%5%, snowmelt flooding trapped A,%%%tourists in towns near the remote historic site of (achu 1icchu, 1eru, for two days. (odern technology helps researchers predict floods. .oppler radar, for e>ample, shows scientists where a storm is mostsevere. Boppler uses motion to detect weather patterns and create computeri2ed images of rainfall. Automated gauges placed in rivers measure the height and speed of river currents, and the amount of rain received. +eographic information system +/(! maps made with this information help scientists warn people if a river will overrun its banks and flood areas nearby. Preventing Floods "or thousands of years, people have tried to prevent and control floods. 0u the +reat, for e>ample, is a legendary figure in 7hinese history. Around /5%% ,7E, +u developed a way to control the devastating floods of the +ellow )iver. +u studied data from previous +ellow )iver floods, noting where the flow was the strongest and flood plains were most vulnerable. 4nstead of damming the river, +u dredged it:he and a team of engineers made river channels deeper to accommodate more water. +u also oversaw the construction of numerous irrigation canals, which diverted the flow of the rivers mainstem during times of flooding. 4ts not always possible to prevent floods, but it is often possible to minimize flood damage. Structures around rivers, lakes, and the sea can contain flood waters. 3evees, runoff canals, and reservoirs can stop water from overflowing. 3evees are usually made of earth. They are built by piling soil, sand, or rocks near a rivers banks. 3evees

may also be made of blocks of wood, plastic, or metal. They may even be reinforced by concrete. 3evees in *ew @rleans, for e>ample, use compacted earth, wooden beams, iron rebar, steelpilings, and concrete to hold back the mighty (ississippi )iver. )unoff canals are man#made channels. These structures are connected to rivers and direct e>cess water away from buildings and residences. @ne of the first canals in *orth America was constructed in about /%% ,7E to control the seasonal flood waters of 3ake @keechobee, "lorida. Today, southern "lorida is criss# crossed by runoff canals that redirect the flow of the Everglades, the G)iver of GrassH that runs from 3ake @keechobee to the Atlantic @cean and Gulf of (e>ico. These canals redirect flood water away from urban areas in southern "lorida and toward irrigation canals primarily used for fields of sugar cane. *atural and man#made reservoirs help prevent flooding. *atural reservoirs are basins where freshwater collects. (an#made reservoirs collect water behind a dam. They can hold more water in times of heavy rainfall. 4n April /%55, the government of Ethiopia announced plans for a large dam on the ,lue *ile )iver. The Grand Ethiopian )enaissance Bam, which would be the largest dam in Africa, would create a reservoir capable of holding ;0 billion cubic meters </.A trillion cubic feet= of water. The dam would prevent flooding downstream and provide the nation with hydroelectric energy. 7onserving wetlands also reduces the impact of floods. 'etlands provide a natural barrier, acting as a giant sponge for storm surges and flood plains. The swamps and bayous of southern 3ouisiana and (ississippi, for instance, protect inland areas from both coastal and riverine flooding. 'etlands absorb the storm surge from hurricanes that hit the area from the Gulf of (e>ico. 'etland riparian 2ones that line the (ississippi )iver protect fertile flood plains as the river overflows its banks. (any governments mandate that residents of flood#proneareas purchase flood insurance and build flood#resistant structures. (assive efforts to mitigate and redirect floods have resulted in some of the most ambitious engineering efforts ever seen. The 1hames "arrier is one of the largest flood#control pro?ects in the world. The Thames ,arrier protects the urban area of 3ondon, England, from floods from storm surges that rush up the )iver Thames from the Atlantic @cean. A series of 5% steel gates span the river near 3ondons 'oolrich district. Each gate can hold back 8,%%% tons of water, and disappears into the river when the water is calm. 1erhaps the most e*tensive and sophisticated flood#prevention program is the 2uiderzee Works in the *etherlands. The *etherlands is a low#lying nation that isplagued by coastal flooding from the *orth Sea. ,eginning in the 5/%%s, the Butch began to erect a series of massive dikes and levees on its coast. 4n the 58%%s, Butch engineers worked to isolate and dam an entire inlet of the *orth Sea, the Iuider2ee. The largest part of the Iuider2ee 'orks is theAfsluitdi3k, a 9/#kilometer </%#mile= dike that cuts off the Iuider2ee from the *orth Sea. 4n addition to protecting the *etherlands from flooding, the Iuider2ee 'orks has drained parts of the Iuider2ee for development.

Fred Pearce in India For National Geographic News Published November 30, 2012 This piece is part of Water Grabbers: A Global Rush on Freshwater, a special National Geographic Freshwater News series on how grabbing landand waterfrom poor people, desperate governments, and future generations threatens global food security, environmental sustainability, and local cultures. Suresh 1onnusami sat back on his porch by the road south of the 4ndian te>tile town of Tirupur. !e was not rich, but for the owner of a two#acre farm in the backwoods of a developing country he was doing rather well. !e had a TF, a car, and a maid to bring him drinks and ensure his traditional white 4ndian robes were freshly laundered every morning. The source of his wealth, he said, was a large water reservoir beside his house. And as we chatted, a tanker drew up on the road. The driver dropped a large pipe from his vehicle into the reservoir and began sucking up the contents. 1onnusami e>plainedJ K4 no longer grow crops, 4 farm water. The tankers come about ten times a day. 4 don-t have to do anything e>cept keep my reservoir full.K To do that, he had drilled boreholes deep into the rocks beneath his fields, and inserted pumps that brought water to the surface /A hours a day. !e sold

every tanker load for about four dollars. K4t-s a good living, and it-s risk#free,K he said. K'hile the water lasts.K A neighbor told me she does the same thing. 'ater mining was the local industry. ,ut, she said, Kevery day the water is reducing. 'e drilled two new boreholes a few weeks ago and one has already failed.K Surely this is madness, 4 suggested. 'hy not go back to real farming before the wells run dryL K4f everybody did that, it would be well and good,K she agreed. K,ut they don-t. 'e are all trying to make as much money as we can before the water runs out.K 1onnusami and his neighbors were selling water to dyeing and bleaching factories in Tirupur. The factories once got their water from a giant reservoir on southern 4ndia-s biggest river, the Caveri <see picture=. ,ut the Caveri was now being pumped dry by farmers and industry farther upstream. The reservoir was nearly empty most of the year. So the factories had taken to buying up underground water from local farmers. 4t is a trade that is growing all over 4ndia:and all over the world. raining Fossil A!uifers 'e are used to thinking of water as a renewable resource. !owever much we waste and abuse it, the rains will come again and the rivers and reservoirs will refill. E>cept during droughts, this is true for water at the surface. ,ut not underground. As we pump more and more rivers dry, the world is increasingly dependent on subterranean water. That is water stored by nature in the pores of rocks, often for thousands of years, before we began to tap it with our drills and pumps. 'e are emptying these giant natural reservoirs far faster than the rains can refill them. The water tables are falling, the wells have to be dug ever deeper, and the pumps must be ever bigger. 'e are mining water now that should be the birthright of future generations. 4n 4ndia, the water is being taken for industry, for cities, and especially for agriculture. @nce a country of widespread famine, 4ndia has seen an agricultural revolution in the past half century. 4ndia now produces enough food to feed all its peopleM the fact that many 4ndians still go hungry today is an economic and political pu22le, because the country e>ports rice. ,ut that may not last. )esearchers estimate that a uarter of 4ndia-s food is irrigated with underground water that nature is not replacing. The revolution is living on borrowed water and borrowed time. 'ho will feed 4ndia when the water runs outL *obody knows how much water is buried beneath our feet. ,ut we do know that the reserves are being emptied. The crisis is global and growing, but remains largely out of sight and out of mind. The latest estimate, published in the ?ournal Water Resources Research this year, is that 4ndia alone is pumping out some A; cubic miles <58% cubic kilometers= of water a year from below ground, while nature is refilling only /8 cubic miles <5/% cubic kilometers=, a shortfall of 50 cubic miles <0% cubic kilometers= per year. A cubic kilometer is /;A./ billion gallons, or about enough water to fill A%%,%%% @lympic#si2e swimming pools. 7lose behind 4ndia, 1akistan is overpumping by D.A cubic miles <9$ cubic kilometers=, the &nited States by 0./ cubic miles <9% cubic kilometers=, and 7hina and 4ran by A.D cubic miles </% cubic kilometers= each per year. Globally, the shortfall is about ;% cubic miles </$% cubic kilometers= per year, more than three times the rate half a century ago. Egypt, &2bekistan, 3ibya, Algeria, (orocco, Syria, Australia, 4srael, and others are all pumping up their water at least $% percent faster than the rains replenish. 4n some places, water that you could once bring to the surface with a bucket on a short rope is now a mile or more down. Far"ing#s $ig %hirst @verwhelmingly, the problem is agriculture. "arming takes two#thirds of all the water we grab from nature, but that figure rises to 8% percent in many of the driest and most water#stressed regions. This cannot go on, as the &nited States is already discovering. "or more than half a century now, farmers have been pumping out one of the world-s greatest underwater reserves, the @gallala a uifer, which stretches beneath the !igh 1lains from Te>as to South Bakota. The pumping began in order to revive the plains after the horrors of the 589%s Bust ,owl. ,y the 580%s there were /%%,%%% water wells, supplying more than a third of the &.S.-s irrigated fields.

"or a while it was a huge success. 4n a good year, the !igh 1lains produced three# uarters of the wheat traded on international markets, restocking )ussian grain stores and feeding millions of starving Africans. ,ut the @gallala water is drawing down, many wells are going dry, and the output of the pumps has halved. A uarter of the a uifer is gone in parts of Te>as, @klahoma, and Cansas, and over wide areas the water table has fallen by more than 5%% feet. 4n some places, the sagebrush is returning because farmers are giving up on irrigated planting. <See KThat Sinking "eeling About Groundwater in Te>as.K= @ther countries are heading in the same direction. 'ater tables are falling by more than a meter a year beneath the *orth 7hina 1lain, the breadbasket of the most populous nation on Earth. Saudi Arabia has almost pumped dry a vast water reserve beneath the desert in ?ust A% years. 3ibya is doing the same beneath the Sahara. (uammar Naddafi, 3ibya-s late ruler, spent 69% billion of his country-s oil revenues on giant pump fields in the desert, and a /,%%%#mile <9,/%%#kilometer= network of pipes to bring underground water that is thousands of years old to coastal farms. Even though it was bombed by *AT@ forces last year, what Naddafi called the Great (anmade )iver 1ro?ect appears to still be functioning. ,ut nature will eventually accomplish what the bombs did not. 'ater tables are dropping, pumping is getting harder, and the water is getting saltier. Soon we may have a full global picture of how the world-s underground water reserves are disappearing. )esearchers are using *ASA-s G)A7E satellite, which measures changes in the Earth-s gravity field, to spot where the pores in rocks are being emptied of water. .ay "amiglietti, an earth science professor at the &niversity of 7alifornia, 4rvine, is analy2ing the findings. !e says water security will soon rival energy security as the fastest#rising issue on the global geopolitical agenda. (ore and more countries are so short of water for farming that they can feed their citi2ens only by importing crops grown using someone else-s water. ,ut the number of countries with spare water to e>port in this way is diminishing. The fear is that as the world-s water supplies run on empty, the world-s stomachs will as well. @ften, even before the water runs out, the pumps start to bring up water that is salty or to>ic. 4n parts of 4ndia, there are epidemics of fluoride poisoning caused by drinking water containing high levels of this natural compound, which dissolves from hard rocks beneath water#bearing strata. 4 have seen villages full of severely disabled children, and adults suffering muscle degeneration, organ failure, and cancer caused by these poisons. Some communities call it Kthe devil-s water.K 'e should not be doing this, says ,rian )ichter, freshwater strategist at The *ature 7onservancy. K"alling groundwater levels are the bellwethers of the unsustainability of our water use,K )ichter said. K'e-re raiding our savings accounts with no payback plan.K 'e should not be stealing water from future generations, )ichter said. 'e should instead use underground water sparingly and with caution.

&ee'ing &olutions This can be done, starting with agriculture. Scientists are already working on new varieties of crops that need much less water to grow. And technologists are coming up with less wasteful ways to irrigate those crops. <See KSaving a )iver, @ne "arm at a Time.K= The truth is that, despite growing shortages, water is still usually so cheap that it is often wasted. The ma?ority of the world-s farmers irrigate simply by flooding their fields. ,ut only a fraction of that water gets absorbed by the plants. Some of it percolates underground and can eventually be pumped to the surface again. ,ut much of it is lost to evaporation. Even spraying from pivots loses huge amounts of water to the air, where it may get carried out to sea or otherwise lost to local use. So the race is on to develop cheap drip irrigation, in which water is distributed across fields in pipes and dripped into the soil close to plant roots. That way we may be able to save our underground water reserves for future generations. (eanwhile, communities across the world are running out of water. 'here are things worstL The &* Environment 1rogramme <&*E1= nominates the Ga2a Strip, the 1alestinian enclave on the shores of the

(editerranean between 4srael and Egypt. 4t looks as though it will become the first territory in the world to lose its only water supply. Ga2a has no rivers. 4t cannot afford desalinated seawater. So its 5.0 million inhabitants drink from the underground reserves. ,ut pumping is being done at three times the recharge rate, water tables are falling fast, and what comes through the wells is increasingly contaminated by seawater seeping into the emptying rocks. A &* report this year said Ga2a-s water probably will be undrinkable by /%5;. 'hat thenL Ga2a is an e>treme case. And water is only one of its many problems. ,ut it offers a warning for the world. 4t shows what can happen as the water runs out:what will happen in many other places if we continue to steal water from our children and their children.