Archive for June, 2010

Peak Oil? More like Peak Water

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

As the world obsesses about peak oil and invests collosal resources in alternative energy, a much more basic commodity is in chronic short supply all over the world, water. There have been many wars fought over oil, and now experts predict that water wars are likely in areas where rivers and lakes are shared by more than one country. The world’s biggest rivers, the Amazon, the Nile, the Tigris, the Zambezi, the Mekong and the Red River, are a few cases in point.

Just like oil, water is a resource long squandered, growing expensive, and soon to be overwhelmed by insatiable demand.

60 years ago the world’s population was 2.5 billion. By 2000 that had risen to 6 billion, it’s 7 billion today and is expected to be 9 billion by 2050. In part this population explosion was made possible by the development of new crop breeds, fertilisers and irrigation. But the more food that is needed to feed the ever growing population the more water, fresh water, is needed for farming.

70% of the world’s water consumption is in agriculture. In the United States 41% goes to farming, in China it’s nearly 70%, while in India it’s almost 90%.

Industry uses a lot of water taking 22% of the world’s withdrawals, while domestic activities take the other 8%.

According to the Economist, farmers’ increasing demand for water is caused not only by the gorwing numer of mouths to be fed but also by people’s desire for better-tasting, more interesting food. Unfortunately, it takes nearly twice as much water to grow a kilo of peanuts as a kilo of soyabeans, nearly four times as much to produce a kilo of beef as a kilo of chicken, and nearly five times as much to produce a glass of orange juice as a cup of tea. With 2 billlion people around the world about to enter the middle classes, the agricultural demands on water would increase even if the population stood still.

It takes 1,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of wheat, and 13,000 litres to produce 1kg of beef.

97% of the total water on earth is the sea, but that’s salty and of no use for consumption or irrigation. There is a process called desalinisation but it’s extremely expensive and inefficient.

Of the 3% of water that is not salty, about 70% is frozen, either at the Poles in glaciers or in permafrost. So all living things, except those in the sea, have less than •75% of the total to survive.

Most of the available water is underground, in aquifers or similar formations. The rest is falling as rain, sitting in lakes and reservoirs or flowing in rivers where is is replaced by rainfall and melting snow and ice.

But its not a hopeless cause. If your car runs out of petrol, you have used a tankful. The petrol has been broken down and will not soon be reconstituted. But if you drain a tank of water for your shower, have you used it? Yes, in a sense. But could it not be collected to invigorate the plants in your garden? And will some of it not then seep into the ground to refill an aquifer, or perhaps run into a river, from either of which someone else may draw it? This water has been used, but not in the sense of rendered incapable of further use.

Water is a commodity whose value varies according to locality, purpose and circumstances. Take locality first. Water is not evenly distributed – just nine countries account for 60% of all available fresh supplies – and among them only Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia and Russia have an abundance. America is relatively well off, but China and India, with over a third of the world’s population between them, have less than 10% of its water.

But, you say, we have no issues with water shortage in Ireland surely? You would be wrong. Dublin for instance must find a new water source by about 2016 if there are not be shortages. The Dublin region for water purposes covers Dublin city and county, together with large parts of counties Kildare, Wicklow and Meath.

Future needs are expected to be met by a combination of new sources, conservation, rainwater harvesting, and the use of grey water for non consumption purposes. Leakage from the system is still a problem, though between 1998 and 2002 leakage was reduced from 40% to 30%.

Three options are being considered for new sources:
- Lough Rea & Lough Derg on the Shannon;
- linking the Upper Liffey with the Barrow;
- a desalinisation plant in Fingal.

The latter seems a highly improbable runner.

Draining the Shannon has been a political hot potatoe since the founding of the State, though less so in recent decades. Expect it to become a hot potatoe again real soon. Because while extensive flooding still occurs every winter, last winter having been the worst in many decades, people in the Shannon basin now recognise that water, even excess water, has a real value, when someone else needs it, and Dublin needs it. In fact 7 of the 10 options being considered involve the transfer of water from the Shannon to the greater Dublin area, and most of them appear to be imminently sensible.

There is a brilliant website set up by the Dublin Region Water Supply Project and it is really worth a visit.  CLICK HERE and amaze your friends with your deep knowledge of this complex but fascinating subject.

But Dublin’a issues, though serious, are of no consequence compared to other parts of the world. Only 1% of the fresh water in the world is usable without treatment, so that 1 billion people lack access to reliable, safe drinking water. About 2.6 billion people do not have lavatories or other forms of sanitation. Some experts predict that by 2015 two-thirds of the world’s people will live in water-stressed countries.

As the Economist concludes, "Throughout history man’s dependence on water has made him live near it or organise access to it. Water is in his body – it makes up 60% -and in his soul."

So the next time you are enjoying a summer barbeque, remember it probably took up to 5,000 litres of water to produce the burger and bun!

If you would like to comment on anything you’ve read here, leave a comment below!

June 23rd 2010

Recovery on the way – but delayed

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

June marks the halfway stage, and a time when it should be possible to be fairly clear about the outcome for the whole year. But forecasting has become a hazardous business as potential visitors delay decisions on travel to nearer the time of departure.

There are mixed signals from some key overseas markets, but given the nature of a particularly late booking pattern, there is still business out there to be won for this year.

Ireland’s nearest and largest source market, Britain, is a case in point, where despite a horrible start to the year there is still much to fight for.

ITIC spoke with Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, about this and other factors at play in the current year.

Click on the image below to hear what he had to say.

If you would like to comment on anything you’ve heard here, leave a comment below!

June 17th 2010

More TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choices

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

What have we started here? Just having cleared up the Irish omissions from our first ezine, along comes another list of Travellers Choices from TripAdvisor. This time its the Top 10 Most Charming European Towns.

Bruges in Belgium is in the number 1 slot. Now if you, like me, have seen that very funny movie, In Bruges, starring our own Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, your first reaction may be similar to that often repeated description of Bruges by Farrell in the movie. But we can’t repeat that here because it might give offense, and its not true anyway. Bruges is truly beautiful.

But the good news is that our own DINGLE comes in 4th position, which is indeed a tremendous accolade. Well done to all. The full list is:
1) Bruges, Belgium
2) Siena, Italy
3) Sitges, Spain
4) Dingle
5) Mittenwald, Germany
6) Salisbury, England
7) Fontaine de Vaucluse, France
8 ) Cascais, Portugal
9) Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
10) Kotor, Montenegro

That’s pretty good company to be in, full marks to Dingle.

Some great blogs to the first of these ezines on Traveller’s Choice destinations, which you should look up on the ITIC website

Not everyone appears yet to be convinced about the scale and impact of review sites, so it may be worth giving a little background. TripAdvisor is owned by Expedia.

Expedia was launched as a small division within Microsoft in 1996 and gave consumers a revolutionary new way to research and book travel.  Three years later was spun out of Microsoft becoming a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ. Today, Expedia is the parent company to a global portfolio of leading consumer brands which include; TripAdvisor, Airfare Watchdog, Booking Buddy, Cruise Critic, Independent, Smarter Traveller, Travel Pod,, Egencia, Hotwire, Car, and more, lots more.

Expedia has its headquarters in Bellevue in Washington State, with offices in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas. They employ 8,000 people (including 1,800 in eLong, a Chinese subsidary). Expedia grossed booking revenue of $22 billion in 2009, of which Expedia’s portion (commissions/fees/advertising etc) was $3 billion. After costs, that delivered an operating income of $571 million, which following interest and other charges, resulted in a net income of $300 million. Not a bad result for 2009, particularly when one looks at their market value of $7 billion and their $2.9 billion in cumulative free cash flow. Nearly as good as Michael O’Leary.

If you would like to comment on anything you’ve read here, leave a comment below!

June 3rd 2010

Best Destinations 2010 – Revisited

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Boy, did we mess up with that recent ezine about TripAdvisors Best Destinations 2010, or what. So lets get the apologies right up front and out of the way, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Dublin ranked number 8 in the Top 10 Nightlife Destinations in the World, just ahead of Bangkok and behind Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Makes you wonder!! The full list is: 1) New Orleans, 2) New York, 3) Las Vegas,
4) Buenos Aires, 5) London, 6) Berlin, 7) Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 8 ) Dublin, 9) Bangkok, 10) Sydney.

In TripAdvisor’s important Top 10 Outdoor & Adventure Destinations in Europe, we are happy to confirm Killarney in 5th position. The full list is: 1) Interlaken, Switzerland, 2) Lake District, UK, 3) Zermatt, Switzerland, 4) Reykjavik, Iceland, 5) Killarney, 6) Chamonix, France, 7) Goreme, Turkey, 8 ) Cinque Terre, Italy,
9) Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, 10) Snowdonia National Park, UK.

Only 3 European destinations made it into TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Outdoor & Adventure Destinations in the WORLD, Interlaken, the Lake District and Zermatt. The full list is: 1) Queenstown, New Zealand, 2) Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 3) Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, 4) Banff National Park, Alberta, 5) Whistler, British Columbia, 6) Interlaken, Switzerland, 7) Lake District, UK, 8 ) El Calafate, Argentina, 9) San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, 10) Zermatt, Switzerland.

Now there’s a challenge for Killarney, to break through to a world top 10 within a couple of years. And if you know Kerry, you can be sure they will do it!

Another Irish achiever we missed first time around was Westport, which featured at number 9 in the Top 10 Relaxation & Spa Destinations in Europe. TripAdvisor describes it as "A true family destination, Westport boasts magnificent scenery, golf facilities, recreational fishing, sailing and yachting, beach swimming, hiking and cycling trails, and (to top it all off) a place called Pirate Adventure Park."

The ITIC Chairman is ecstatic!!

But there are a few TripAdvisor categories where one might have expected some Irish representation:
- Top 10 Culture & Sightseeing Destinations in the World
- Top 10 Emerging Destinations in the World
- Top 10 Romance Destinations in the World
- Top 25 Destinations in the World, chosen by Europeans
- Top 25 European Destinations, chosen by Europeans
- Top 10 Outdoor & Adventure Destinations in the World

And here’s some great advice from one of the varied and interesting blogs which the earlier ezine drew, "One promo that TripAdvisor now uses is to print gratis, for any enterprise, comment or review prompt cards for distribution to guests. The industry should take this inititative with all appropriate new media and remind visitors to assist in the promotion of our country abroad." Right on there, Michael in Lahinch.

On the other hand, Ronnie in Connemara thinks the whole TripAdvisor league table thing is a "big sham" and just a passing fad. Might take a long time to pass Ronnie. Now surely Connemara is worthy of a placing in the Top 25 European Destinations, chosen by Europeans. Come on, you can do it, and join Killarney, Westport, Dublin and Galway in TripAdvisor’s Top 2011 Destinations. But I wouldn’t challenge Dublin on the nightlife category though.

If you would like to comment on anything you’ve read here, leave a comment below!

June 1st 2010

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