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January-February 2007 International Water News

February, 2007

Six million Chinese face water shortages
A severe drought in southwestern China is threatening the water supplies of six million people in the crowded metropolis of Chongqing, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.  The city faces an acute water shortage in early March due to a continuing drought along the Yangtze River, the agency said citing a local meteorological expert.  "The city will be lacking at least 500 million cubic metres of drinking and irrigation water and about six million people will be thirsty," Xinhua quoted the local meteorologist as saying.  Official figures show that the amount of water stored in Chongqing's reservoirs is around 1.17 billion cubic meters, less than half the normal storage, it said.  The southern province of Guangdong said it was considering rationing water to industry, farms and residents to ease a drought there.  Last summer's drought was the worst to hit southwest China in more than a century, when temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104F) and about 18 million people faced water shortages.  Some parts of Chongqing -- home to some 30 million people -- had started limiting water supplies to residents and were drilling new wells to find underground sources, Xinhua reported earlier.  Reuters_2/28/07

Water management the biggest challenge facing Asia Pacific

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Wednesday said a coherent strategy is needed to deal with the issues of water, democracy, migration and global poverty.  “The clock is ticking. As if poverty, hunger and diseases were not enough to haunt the world, water scarcity and pollution are now adding to our woes, demanding immediate attention,” Aziz said while opening the first session of the 13th General Assembly of Asia Pacific Parliamentarians Conference on Environment and Development (APPCED). Delegates from twenty countries participated in the conference, in which water issues and suggestions to tackle the challenges of water conservation and environment protection were specially discussed.  The conference aims to continue global efforts to achieve sustainable development, proper utilization of natural resources, reduction in environmental pollution and maintenance of ecological balance in Asia Pacific.Daily Times_2/28/07

All Australian states but Victoria sign off on water deal

And it's not about the money

All states except Victoria have agreed to the Federal Government's plan for the future of the Murray-Darling basin, Prime Minister John Howard has said.  Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT have signed on to the plan, giving up their rights over water allocation to the Federal Government as part of a $10 billion package put forward by the Prime Minister last month.  Mr Howard has told a news conference that Victoria's Water Minister John Thwaites will meet his federal counterpart Malcolm Turnbull next week to seal a deal.  Mr Howard has said he would not elaborate on what those talks would focus on, but said it was "not about more money".  Victoria had put forward its own alternative plan, while Queensland and South Australia had floated a joint plan earlier in the negotiating process.  NSW had been an early supporter of the federal plan.

Asian water forum urges regional action

A regional forum of international experts urged Asia-Pacific leaders Thursday in Papau, New Guinea to put better management of water resources and dealing with water-caused disasters on top of their national agendas.  The low priority given to water issues had led to mismanagement, pollution and a lack of access to water for drinking, sanitation and other purposes, the governing council of the Asia Pacific Water Forum said after a two-day meeting here.  It has also led to inadequate preparation in preventing disasters and dealing with the aftermath of calamities like recent deadly floods in Jakarta, the council said.  The forum, which includes experts from the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is preparing its position ahead of an inaugural Asia Pacific Water Summit in Japan in early December.   KE Seetharam, a water and sanitation specialist at the ADB, said the Manila-based lender has doubled to two billion dollars its annual assistance to help countries improve the delivery of water services over the next five years.   But he said the ADB “looks forward” to the support of government leaders and decision-makers to increase investments in water infrastructure.   The National_2/22/07

Australia's water more important than meeting with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, says PM

This week's water summit with the premiers is more important than meeting US Vice-President Dick Cheney, Prime Minister John Howard said today. Mr Cheney arrives in Sydney on Thursday night but will not meet Mr Howard until Saturday morning. While the Vice-President gives a major address on Australian-US relations in Sydney on Friday, Mr Howard will be in Canberra hammering out his $10 billion, 10-year water security plan with state and territory leaders. Mr Howard denied that the Saturday morning meeting was an attempt to play down Mr Cheney's visit given the unpopularity of the Iraq war. AAP/ 2/20/07

Antarctic water world uncovered
Giant "blisters" containing water that rapidly expand and contract have been mapped beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.  Fed by a complex network of rivers, the subglacial reservoirs force the overlying ice to rise and fall.  By tracking these changes with Nasa's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) scientists were able to map the extent of the subglacial plumbing.   The results, published in the journal Science, show that some areas fell by up to 9m (30ft) over just two years.  "We didn't realise that the water under these ice streams was moving in such large quantities, and on such short time scales," said Dr Helen Fricker of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California and one of the authors of the paper.  "We thought these changes took place over years and decades, but we are seeing large changes over months."  The results are important for understanding how the Antarctic Ice sheet, which contains nearly 90% of the world's ice, may respond to global warming and how much it may contribute to sea level rise.  BBC News_2/15/07

Time for Europe to tackle looming water crisis: environment agency
European countries must start planning now to cope with climate change, as shifting rain- and snowfall patterns will inflict water stress whose effects will ripple across the social and economic spectrum, the European Environment Agency (EEA) warned.
"Changes in precipitation, combined with rising temperatures and reduced snow cover, will have impacts on water quality and quantity, requiring water managers to incorporate climate change in their planning and investment decisions," the EEA said.
"While uncertainties remain about the level and extent of changes in precipitation in specific locations, enough is known for action."  The new EEA report, Climate Change and Water Adaptation Issues, draws on the latest research on global warming, including the just-published first volume of a global assessment by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  These are among the potential impacts, according to the EAA report:

  • Annual precipitation in northern Europe is likely to rise by as much as two percent per decade, although summers will be drier. But in southern Europe, there will be a fall in annual precipitation, especially in summer when rainfall will decrease by around five percent.
  • Flooding will become a more frequent risk over all of Europe. Northern Europe will run a higher risk of drought in the summer; southern Europe faces the risk of more droughts in all seasons.
  • Climate change will strongly affect natural habitat and biodiversity.
    For example, loss of groundwater may badly affect dunes and wetlands in the Netherlands; streams and lakes in Austria that are fed by glacial meltwater could dry up; and new diseases, pests and species that thrive in an altered climate could threaten native species in Britain.
  • Water supplies for human consumption will also come under severe challenge, because at present, reservoirs and use of groundwater stocks are designed for a long recharge season.

The report adds that the cost of these impacts could be very high.  Less rainfall will affect which crops can be grown and the availability of water for coastland tourist resorts and golf courses. It could also lead to worse quality of drinking water. And lower water levels in rivers and waterways will also affect electricity generation by hydropower and impede navigation.  France24_2/14/07

Strike over water sharing agreement shuts down Bangalore, India's high-tech hub

A general strike in Bangalore prompted by a long-running water dispute closed software firms and schools and prompted the postponement of an international women's tennis tournament. The 12-hour stoppage in the southern state of Karnataka, whose capital, Bangalore, is India's technology hub, came a week after a federal tribunal ruled the state would get less water from the Cauvery River than neighboring Tamil Nadu state. The Cauvery has been a bone of contention and a hugely emotive issue in the region for nearly a century. In 1991, an interim court order for Karnataka to release 7,000 billion liters, or 205 billion cubic feet, of water to Tamil Nadu sparked riots against minority Tamils in Bangalore, leaving 18 people dead. On Monday, most of the 6 million residents in Bangalore — home to more than 1,500 information technology and outsourcing firms — stayed indoors with many fearing a repeat of the 1991 riots. "The manufacturing loss for the industry will be about $225 million," said R.C. Purohit, president of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industries. Reuters/International Herald Tribune_ 2/12/07

Australia's New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma firm on no recycled water despite poll

An ACNielsen poll, published in Fairfax newspapers today, shows 78 per cent of Australians would support the introduction of recycled water. In NSW, the figure was 80 per cent. However, Iemma told Southern Cross Broadcasting he did not believe the poll warranted a change in the state's water policy. He said introducing recycled water into the drinking supply would lead to an increase in water bills, cost more to construct and take longer to implement. Mr Iemma said the four to five years it would take to build a recycling plant did not compare well with the 26 months it would take to construct a desalination plant. AAP/ The Australian_ 2/12/07

EU funds three Serbian water management projects
Serbia's Water Directorate announced that it will implement three new projects worth 5.3 million euros.  The projects will relate to water management and environmental protection and will be implemented by the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management and the European Reconstruction Agency (EAR), the government said in a statement.  Water Directorate head Nikola Marjanovi?  told reporters that the project entitled "Preparation of the Water Management Information System", worth 2 million euros, will be implemented in two stages in the course of the next two years. Sweden’s Eptisa has been contracted for the projects implementation.  The project is designed to enable better access to data on water resources, as well as to stimulate interdisciplinary exchange of data in this sector and increase water management efficiency.  A total of 2.8 million euros has been allocated to the project "Preparation of Strategic Master Plan for Collecting and Processing Wastewater in Juzna Morava", Marjanovi? said. He added that the project will take two years to implement and will help increase investment into wastewater processing. It will be implemented by the Danish company COWI A/S.  The third project, "Preparation of Action Plans for Remediation of Three Severely Polluted Locations" is worth 550,000 euros and will enable the drafting of a remediation plan for three most polluted locations, the government statement says. The company in charge of implementation will be Denmark’s Niras. B92 News_2/8/07

No deal on latest Australian water, irrigation plan

Prime Minister John Howard has failed to reach agreement with the states on an historic water security plan, but the premiers appear to have won concessions on the $10 billion package.  The federal government is under pressure to pump even more money into the plan which would see the commonwealth assume control of the parched Murray-Darling basin, having already provided a string of guarantees to try to win over the premiers at a meeting in Canberra on Thursday.  Mr Howard insists a deal can still be reached on the package to rescue the Murray-Darling basin and deliver the biggest upgrade of irrigation infrastructure ever seen in Australia.  The summit at Parliament House in Canberra broke up after two hours without result, with the premiers to return for another meeting in a fortnight.  Wimmera_2/8/07

New lines drawn for sharing India's Cauvery River

After sixteen years of wait and intermittent rioting over who deserves more of Cauvery's flow, the tribunal working on the division of the water today gave its final verdict, drawing new battle lines between a "shocked" Karnataka and a satisfied Tamil Nadu. Today's order supersedes the agreements of 1892 and 1924 between the then governments of Madras and Mysore. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal awarded 419 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) to Tamil Nadu, a substantial jump over the 205 tmcft it got in a 1991 interim order, whereas Karnataka was granted 270 tmcft. In real terms, Karnataka will have to release only 192 tmcft of the 740 tmcft available in the river basin. But the state, which had demanded 465 tmcft, immediately disputed the allocation made to it and decided to file a review petition. There was palpable tension in Bangalore after the verdict as fears of a repeat of the 1991 violence saw schools, offices and business establishments shutting down early. Bus services to Tamil Nadu were suspended for fear of violence on the way. Indian Express/Yahoo_ 2/6/07

Report:  New Zealand water quality questioned

How safe is New Zealand's drinking-water?

  • In 2005 102,000 people were served by registered supplies with water containing unacceptable levels of E. coli.
  • 84,000 were exposed to greater risk of disease as the supplier did not take immediate steps to correct the problem once E. coli was found.
  • In 111 schools the water supply was contaminated with E. coli during 2005.

These are just three of the findings of the Ministry of Health's Annual Review of the Microbiological and Chemical Quality of Drinking Water in New Zealand. The document covers the 2005 year and was published on 30 January 2007.  The review measures water quality against the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand: 2000.  The standards give top priority to microbiological quality because bacteria and protozoa can cause rapid and major outbreaks of illness. The bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) is used as an indicator that the water has been contaminated by human, bird or animal faeces and water providers are required to check for its presence.  Approximately 76 percent of New Zealanders received water that has been shown to meet the requirements for protection against E. coli, and 71 percent received water that met the requirements for cryptosporidium. Most large communities - towns with more than 5,000 people - had water supplies which met these requirements, but many smaller communities were supplied with water which was not microbiologically safe.

Water stress in England mapped

The UK's Environment Agency has identified the parts of England it wants to target with water saving measures like compulsory metering in a consultation launched on Wednesday.  The EA wants to target water saving efforts at water-stress areas.  Eleven water company areas were labelled as "water-stressed" based on current and future supply and demand. The EA would like to see water meters rolled out across these areas by 2015, chief executive Barbara Young said.  The future effects of climate change and population growth were taken into account when classifying water stress in water company areas as serious, moderate or low.  Barbara Young said: "If we are to meet the long-term needs of society and the economy without overexploiting our environment, we need to understand how to target our water saving efforts and make better use of the water we have now."  She also expressed her support for water metering, which she said had "unchallengeable" benefits as a water-saving tool.  "There is a need for meters to be installed quickly in areas where water resources are stressed. In the south east we would like much of this to be achieved by 2015 - as long as social safeguards are in place to protect low income and vulnerable households," she said.  "Serious water stress" areas, where the EA wants to concentrate its water saving efforts, include Essex & Suffolk, Folkestone & Dover, Southern, Thames, Three Valleys, Mid Kent, Portsmouth, Sutton & East Surrey, Bournemouth & West Hampshire, Cambridge and South East water company supply areas. edie.net_2/1/07

England's two-year drought may lead to increased water meters

Water metering in areas affected by serious water shortages is being proposed by the government and the Environment Agency. A preliminary map of "water stressed" parts of England has been produced, with the whole of the South East being classified as "serious". It identified 11 water company supply areas where the situation was deemed to be serious. They cover London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and parts of Dorset, Essex and Suffolk. Folkestone and Dover Water, in Kent, became the first company to get approval for compulsory water metering last year. The two-year drought in south-east England has seen widespread water restrictions in place. More than a quarter of households in England currently have meters. BBC News_ 1/30/07

Southeast Queensland, Australia, to get recycled drinking water; drought cancels public vote

The Queensland Government has abandoned its controversial water plebiscite, with Premier Peter Beattie saying he has no choice but to introduce recycled drinking water. The referendum was due to be held on March 17 but the state's densely populated south-east corner has had limited rain this summer and Brisbane's Wivenhoe Dam is just above 20 per cent of capacity. The decision means residents in 18 council areas in the south-east could be drinking recycled water by late next year. AAP/The Age_ 1/28/07

Arsenic water a bane of Pakistan

The consumption of arsenic contaminated water is enhancing the birth and infant mortality rate in Pakistan, deplores Punjab Environment Protection Minister Dr Anjum Amjad. She was speaking at a one-day seminar on Arsenic in Pakistan: Drinking Water Disaster Management through Civil  Society organised by the Lahore College for Women University in collaboration with the Japanese Research Institutions on Wednesday. Delegates from Austria, Bangladesh, Japan and Sweden besides university students attended the seminar. LCWU vice-chancellor Prof Dr Bushra Mateen said the contaminated drinking water was a serious and widespread issue in Pakistan. She said it was affecting almost the entire population of the country in one form or another. Prof Mateen stressed that the government must penalise those industries which were releasing contaminated water. Dr Tatsuro Sakano from Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, presented his research work on arsenic in drinking water at Chaklalanwala village, Pakistan, and its hazardous effects on human body that could even damage bones. Dawn.com_ 1/24/07

Europe devising strategy to prevent water-borne diseases
European countries that have ratified a Protocol on Water and Health are meeting for the first time to launch programs to prevent, control and reduce water-related diseases. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.  People in much of Europe take tap water for granted. They tend to believe that the problem of unsafe water has been solved. But Health and Environment Director at the World Health Organization, Roberto Bertollini, says this is not true. He says more than 100 million Europeans still do not have access to safe drinking water.  He says the problem is particularly acute in Eastern Europe, where 16 percent of the population has no access to home drinking water. He says over 170,000 cases of water-related diseases were reported in 2006, including cases of viral hepatitis A, bloody diarrhea and typhoid fever.  Twenty countries have ratified the Protocol on Water and Health and another 17 are expected to soon follow suit. Those who have ratified this legally binding document are obliged to take action to solve the problem of unsafe water by upgrading their water management systems.  Voice of America_1/117/07

Buenos Aires building boom puts homes in shadows, strains water

Buenos Aires is putting the brakes on construction after a four-year boom overstretched water, electricity and sewage services -- and prompted residents to protest the destruction of their barrios.  City Hall has a moratorium on new building permits for six neighborhoods to prevent developers, spurred by surging residential real estate prices, from ripping down two-story houses to build apartment buildings.  A construction boom helped fuel annual economic growth of more than 8 percent and boosted employment as Argentina recovered from a recession that ended in 2002. The expansion of housing hasn't been matched by the providers of electricity and water services, said Leonardo Chialva, an economist at Delphos Investment, an economic research company in Buenos Aires. ``There has been a lack of investment in infrastructure that didn't accompany the boom in construction,'' Chialva said. ``In areas where there used to be houses, now there are buildings -- but the water pipes and sewers remain the same.''  Bloomberg_1/4/07

Lebanon: ICRC completes additional water projects
The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) in Lebanon has recently completed seven major water repair and rehabilitation projects in the south of the country and the Bekaa valley.  The projects, which aim to improve the water infrastructure and access to water for the population, were carried out in close cooperation with the Lebanese Water Board Authorities, local communities and the Council for Development and Reconstruction.  Global ICRC assistance provided to water production centres since 30 July 2006 benefited an estimated 419,700 inhabitants in southern Lebanon, the Bekaa region, and Beirut's southern suburbs, ensuring the provision of 47,500 m3 of water daily.  Relief Web_1/4/07

Northern Ireland's Water Service 'behind pollution'
The service was blamed for a major fish kill

The Water Service in Northern Ireland has caused more than 1,500 pollution incidents in the five years to 2005 - almost one a day.  The figures were revealed under the Freedom of Information Act following a request from BBC Radio Foyle.

The incidents of pollution include a major fish kill on the River Roe near Limavady last July.  However, Jack McFarland, regional manager with the Water Service, said most incidents were of a minor nature.  He said the Water Service was third highest when it came to pollution, with industry second and farming at the top of the list.  The Department of Regional Development confirmed that the Water Service caused 1,527 pollution incidents between 2000 and 2005. These included waterways being polluted with raw sewage.  Currently the Water Service is not prosecuted over such incidents, but Mr McFarland said Crown immunity would cease after it becomes Northern Ireland Water Ltd in April.   BBC_1/4/07


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