Understanding the Geopolitics of our World's most Vital Resource
"The Water Diplomat" seeks to mainstream news around the intersects of water, peace, security and geopolitics.
We are a free news and intelligence resource.
Issue Date: 3 Aug 2022
"The Water Diplomat" seeks to mainstream news around the intersects of water, peace, security and geopolitics.
We are a free news and intelligence resource.
28 Jul 2022 NEW YORK NY, United States
A safe and prosperous society depends on public health and those societies with better access to basic services are better equipped to cope with disruptions such asthe pandemic. Le...
28 Jul 2022 RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil
Water Diplomacy Talks is a series of guest columns written by participants in different parts of the international water community. Paulo Carvalho Shinji Yoshimotohas a master’s...
28 Jul 2022 SANA'A, Yemen
Multiple and mutually reinforcing humanitarian emergencies are extant: the conflict is inflicting civilian casualties and causing internal displacements, while the devaluation of t...
28 Jul 2022 KYIV, Ukraine
There are unverified reports of cholera outbreaks in Mariupol as the city has no working water system only 3-5% of the population has access to water.
28 Jul 2022 AMMAN, Jordan
Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are rising and protests have been held against water shortages in the month of July.
28 Jul 2022 TALINN, Estonia
The Helsinki convention is known amongst other things for its protection of water quality and water related ecosystems, as well as its broad protection of groundwater sources. Its ...
28 Jul 2022 COPENHAGEN, Denmark
In a new report the European Environment Agency (EEA) recommends initiatives towards achieving circularity in wastewater treatment and focuses on urban water treatment facilities. ...
30 Jul 2022 CARTAGENA, Colombia
A new study to deepen the understanding of the relationship of Covid-19 with water resources and to summarise the progress and lessons learned on water management and governance in...
28 Jul 2022 BONN, Germany
The 9th session of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has approved two reports: the Sustainable Use Assessment which repor...
28 Jul 2022 OAKLAND CA, United States
Pacific Institute'snew Water and Climate Equity Strategyintends to provide tailored, evidence-based research and climate resilience strategies for communities at the forefront of w...
28 Jul 2022 AMHERST MA, United States
Lithium mining does reduce groundwater availability, but to a lesser extent than other sectors. The study focused on whether water supply would restock levels to compensate mining ...
28 Jul 2022 DETROIT MI, United States
A new tool to improve decision-making in the field of investments in drinking water drinking water investment has been developed in the United States.
30 Jul 2022 YORK, United Kingdom
Forty-three percent of the world's rivershave levels of pharmaceutical pollution that are of concern.
28 Jul 2022 BEIJING, China
Exceptionally heavy rainfall in May and June has been succeeded by exceptionally high temperatures in July. New policy documents emphasize monitoring climate risks in key productiv...
28 Jul 2022 DELHI, India
Levels of Nonylphenol ranging from 29.1 parts per billion (ppb) to 80.5 ppb were found in 15 samples taken across the country. Asafe level is considered to be 0.33ppb.
28 Jul 2022 BRUSSELS, Belgium
European Commission's Vice-President for Inter-Institutional Relations has called for increased investment insustainable soil management, drought-resistant crops and vegetation cov...
1 Aug 2022 NEW YORK NY, United States
The new resolution affirms a right that had earlier been recognised as a part of international human rights law and procedures by the UN Human Rights Council but also creates new f...
30 Jul 2022 LUSAKA, Zambia
Zambia launches Water Investment Programme toenhance job creation through gender sensitive investments in water security, industrialisation and climate resilient development.
28 Jul 2022 CAPE TOWN, South Africa
Projects in water-scarce regions can expect to benefit fromthe use of blockchain technology that is expected to facilitate investments by eliminating barriers and making the transf...
28 Jul 2022 WASHINGTON DC, United States
The new investment programme is aimed "to advance quantifiable and sustained water savings by protecting watersheds impacted by wildland fire, restoring aquatic habitats and stream...
1 Aug 2022 SHANGHAI, China
$600 Million USD for water connection and sewage projects, mostly in the city of Sao Paulo.
1 Aug 2022 CAIRO, Egypt
Financing will support two key sectors to deliverambitious plans that aim to accelerate sustainable management of water resources and further develop desalination and wastewater tr...
At the special event on SDG6 in the framework of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York, UN-Water Chair Gilbert Houngbo referred to the second anniversary of the Global Acceleration Framework for SDG 6 .
According to Houngbo, a painful but very useful lesson of the Covid 19 pandemic was that a safe and prosperous society depends on public health. Another painful lesson of the pandemic in his view was that there are deep global inequalities in access to water and sanitation, and those with better access to basic services were better equipped to cope with the pandemic.
As we strive to build more resilient societies, he stated, water and sanitation must be at the heart of these efforts. Current estimates show that the rate of service delivery needs to increase fourfold in order to achieve the SDG 6 goals.
Mr Liu Zhenmin, UNDESA Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs emphasised the importance of the upcoming UN Water Conference in New York in March 2023 at which the progress during the first half of the SDG implementation period will be reviewed. He stated that voluntary commitments towards SDG 6 are expected as a key outcome of the UN water conference outcomes, which will be registered in the SDG 6 action space hosted by UNDESA.
At the time of the HLPF, 128 activities had already been announced within the UNDESA action space. However, the ‘voluntary’ nature of the commitments stands in contrast to the notion of a ‘Blue Deal’ sought in the context of the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal in March 2022.
During a keynote intervention, Mr Csaba Körösi, Director of Environmental Sustainability in the Office of the President in Hungary, emphasised that the world does not have another 45 years (the time that has elapsed since the last UN Water Conference in Mar del Plata in 1977) to wait given the mounting water crisis, and in his opinion a breakthrough on SDG6 implementation can be achieved on two fronts.
The first area is the improvement of procedures: in Körösi’s opinion, it is important that the event on water chaired by the President of the General Assembly in late October or November should be built on the same logic as the structure of the upcoming UN conference.
Also, other key global events can support the outcomes of the UN water conference: the adaptation chapter of COP 27 should contain the same strategic direction as that which the water community is aiming to achieve during the coming year. Also, the UN water conference, which will pull together voluntary commitments and synthesise discussion so far, is an important lead up to the midterm review of the Sendai strategy in May 2023.
A second area for breakthrough in Körösi’s opinion is a package of activities at the interface between water and climate: the Integration of climate and water policies and actions, putting integrated climate-water data management at the centre of priorities for the next 7-8 years, increasing disaster prevention capabilities, significantly improving forecasting capability, and launching a global water-climate climate campus.
Water Diplomacy Talks is a series of guest columns written by participants in different parts of the international water community.
Paulo Carvalho Shinji Yoshimoto has a master’s degree in development studies from the Geneva Graduate Institute specializing in Environment and Conflict. He is a Bertha Challenge Fellow, young LGBTQIA+ person, water activist, and co-lead of the World Youth Parliament for Water with experience working in International Organizations. Currently, Shinji has been travelling Brazil in a jeep-home, working with communities who are key in the protection of water resources.
When participating in international spaces dedicated to water, I have noted a silence on a key subject. While on the one hand concerns about plastic, biodiversity, global warming and melting glaciers were fortuitously present in the World Water Forum at Dakar, and at the Dushanbe Water Process on the road to the UN Water Conference in 2023, mining, on the other hand, was a subject that remained unseen and unspoken. An issue that ought to gain more visibility now that the Mariana tailings dam rupture has reached the courts in the United Kingdom in a 5 Billion GBP lawsuit.
This case also brings importance because mining has specific and deleterious effects over indigenous territories. It with hope that, as we seek for greater inclusion of indigenous peoples at the UN Water Conference in 2023, these issues may be properly addressed.
The Mariana tailings dam broke in November 2015, killing 19 people and causing incommensurable social, psychological and environmental loss. A few years later, in January 2019, the Brumadinho tailings dam ruptured, killing at least 270 people, releasing a wave of toxic mud that devastated the Paraopeba River basin, contaminating the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of kilometers away. This rupture has been nationally deemed an environmental crime, but compensations are still far from becoming a common reality. Vale S.A., the company responsible for both crimes has not paid due compensations, and is notoriously far from recognizing the differentiated impacts it has on indigenous and traditional communities.
In particular, the Pataxó and Pataxó Hãhãhãe peoples suffer with consequences that would shy most of our dystopian writers. One of their main deities is called Txopai, the God of water, and they say they were called to help save the Paraopeba River. Ever since this calling, they have been fighting against Vale S.A., the mining corporation behind the dam rupture.
It is probably not a coincidence that after the rupture, the Pataxó and Pataxó Hãhãhãe peoples were left in the direst of conditions. Their village was buried in mud, and they had to live in slums for a while, and then, once they heard of a forest being devasted near the Paraopeba, they reclaimed that forest as environmental defenders.
And after all of these injustices, they depend on the good will and gratitude of their neighbors for survival. Before the crime, they would fish on the river, grow small harvests and sell their crafts in street markets. Now, they rely on donations. And Vale S.A. delays compensations and holds back emergency support.
The Pataxó face armed private forces raiding their land, sent by no-one-knows-who, and their youth have been beaten by police officers. And sickness spreads in the community due to their living conditions and the contaminated water.
But this is not the worst of it. What they told me is that their God has died. With all the water contaminated in the region, all their possible connections with their deity have been cut. It is not simply an environmental crime, it is a religious crime. To imagine the same for those of a more familiar religion, to imagine holy sites, churches, mosques, or synagogues being irreversibly destroyed and its rubble becoming toxic is totally unthinkable. For the Pataxó, it is their reality. And yet, our law does not take that into account.
It is with hope that we look at the Mariana case being judged in the United Kingdom. That it may generate precedence from which activists and decision-makers in Brazil may add pressure for victims of the Brumadinho case may also receive justice. And much of our highest hopes are that examples such as the one from the Māori in New Zealand, when the Whanganui River had its legal personhood recognized may spread, and that indigenous worldviews may be integrated into legal systems.
These examples should be starting points at the UN Water Conference in 2023, seeking for a meaningful commitment towards indigenous rights and water, and one that includes mining as the serious issue it is.
Paraphrasing Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs from the Netherlands, our aim is that the 2023 UN Water Conference be historical, not because of being the first in decades, but by the achievements the conference will bring
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have stated that 23.4 million Yemenis will need humanitarian assistance in 2022. Of this number 17.8 million lack access to safely managed water and sanitation facilities.
Yemenis are currently facing multiple and mutually reinforcing humanitarian emergencies: the conflict is inflicting civilian casualties and causing internal displacements, while the devaluation of the Rial and the rise in global food prices have exacerbated food insecurity.
After more than seven years of conflict, more than 4 million people remain internally displaced in Yemen. According to a 2022 humanitarian needs overview, some 12.9 million people are in acute need of humanitarian assistance, and some of the highest levels of vulnerability are concentrated in displacement hosting sites.
The UN-brokered truce between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels has held for four months, leading to a significant reduction in civilian casualties and reducing the disruptions in essential public services.
However, the need for food is increasing while the prices are rising: the rial was devalued by 57% over 2021, followed by the increase in world food prices induced by the war in Ukraine. In a country that imports 90% of its food, supply chains are being threatened.
Waste management has been negatively affected by the crisis, as Euronews reports a threat to the water supplies of the capital city Sanaa from the dumping of tonnes of untreated medical waste in the Al Azraqain landfill.
Nevertheless, the main problem for the humanitarian response in Yemen remains the low levels of funding: the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya reported in July that the humanitarian response plan for Yemen is less than 30% funded.
Exiled authorities from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol have reported strong suspicions of a cholera outbreak as a result of unsanitary conditions in the city.
It is currently difficult to obtain reliable data from the occupied city as there are no officials from the World Health Organisation or UNICEF present. However, in April the WHO reported limited access to water for maintenance of personal hygiene in Mariupol, which increases the risk of communicable diseases.
An advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andryuschenko, reported in July that here was no safe housing left. As a result, residents cook and wash in the street. Obtaining potable water is the highest priority: water is not available, even of low quality, and only an estimated 3-5% of residents have access to water. Without medicine and medical assistance, restoration of the water supply and functional sewage systems, epidemics will break out in the city, he said.
Reports of a cholera epidemic began to emerge in June in Ukrainian media, warning of the high risks of mortality should a cholera epidemic break out amid a collapse of health care infrastructure. However, it is not possible to investigate the situations due to the inaccessibility of the city. Every day between 10-15 people arrived at remaining health care facilities with symptoms resembling cholera.
Andryuschenko also reported that Russian occupiers have admitted that the restoration of water supply in the city is impossible due to the level of destruction of the city’s water infrastructure.
As the Jordan Valley region is going through severe drought, tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are rising and protests have been held against water shortages in the month of July.
In an apparent action of weaponisation of water, there are reports that the Israeli Settlements Council has seized a Palestinian water tanker in the Jordan Valley. Local Palestinian authorities claim that several villagers and their cattle depend on the water tanker to provide them and their cattle fresh water while local Israeli settlements are not limited in the development of water infrastructure.
Elsewhere in the Jordan Valley, the village of Duma, surrounded by 3 settlements and an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) camp is struggling to access drinkable water. Israel’s national water company Mekorot controls 42 water wells in the region, 34 of which were in Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley.
In response to calls from Palestinian authorities for Israel to sell them more water, the Israelis claim that Palestinians do not have the infrastructure to handle a bigger inflow. Accusing Mekorot of reducing the amount of water allocated Palestinians and instead, pumping it into Israeli settlements, dozens of Palestinian youths closed off the entrance to Bethlehem. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities, who prohibit Palestinians from drilling their own wells, claim it is up to Palestinian authorities to provide water for its citizens.
The region is struggling with water access and Jordanian Water Minister Mohammad Al Najjar has stated that 2022 has been the worst year on recorded Jordanian history for water access. While 500 m³/person/annum is regarded as the threshold below which the situation is considered to be of “absolute scarcity”, per capita water availability in Jordan now stands at 90 m³/person/annum.
In Jordan the situation is created by scarce rainfall and higher temperatures and is being worsened by an influx of refugees who are putting more strain on the country’s scarce water resources.
In an attempt to overcome the crisis, the Jordanian government has reached out to Syria requesting 30 million m³. However, Syria has refused this request on the grounds that the region is engulfed in drought, and it is also suffering from scarcity. Hazim El Nasser, Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation, said in an interview: “Approximately 3 million refugees came to Jordan from Syria half of them Syrian citizens and half of them refugees from other countries; this movement of people increased our water demand by 21% in general, but in some areas like in the north the demand has been increased by 40%; this makes our life very difficult."
UNICEF has published a report entitled “Tapped Out — The Cost of Water Stress in Jordan”, detailing the country’s struggles with water access and how its most vulnerable groups are being affected.
Although water can be the subject of conflict, it is equally a powerful vehicle for cooperation. The latter is well demonstrated through the Helsinki Convention, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in Talinn, Estonia, from 28-30 June 2022.
The Helsinki Convention, formally known as the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, was adopted, as the name suggests, in Helsinki in 1992. Although initially developed as a regional framework for transboundary water management and protection in Europe, it has extended its scope beyond the European Region since 2013. The Helsinki convention is known amongst other things for its protection of water quality and water related ecosystems, as well as its broad protection of groundwater sources.
Starting with Chad, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea Bissau and Togo, more and more countries acceded to the Convention, and it now counts 46 member states. This has strongly boosted transboundary integrated water resources management across the world: on average, countries which have acceded to the Convention score 80% on indicator SDG 6.5.2, as compared to and average of 58% for the rest of the world.
In addition, the Convention is a framework agreement which provide the broad parameters for cooperation under which many more detailed agreements are negotiated at river basin level. There are currently a total of 186 transboundary water agreements reported by the parties, of which some, such as the recently signed agreement on the Senegalo-Mauritanian aquifer, are remarkable for their vision and ambition.
The geographical reach of the Convention now stretches from the Sixaola basin in Central America to the Lower Mekong basin in Asia. It has a protocol on water and health which links sustainable water management to the prevention of water related diseases and as such is a firm basis for the implementation of the human right to water, also inspired by the right to health.
In a new report released in July, the European Environment Agency (EEA) recommends initiatives towards achieving circularity in wastewater treatment.
Urban wastewater treatment in Europe, the report notes, has focused on treating wastewater before returning it to the environment. However, there are significant opportunities for wastewater treatment facilities to become more resource efficient and more circular.
One aspect of urban wastewater treatment is the fact that it is highly energy intensive and, if the energy is sourced from fossil fuels or biomass, greenhouse gases are emitted in the process. Another key aspect is the release of persistent pollutants into wastewater which require advanced treatment to remove them from the water, resulting in these pollutants remaining in sewage sludge, diminishing its potential for reuse.
Rather, the EEA recommends that Urban Wastewater Treatment Plants (UWTPs) be more widely recognised as ‘resource hubs’ which offer the potential to recover elements and energy from the wastewater. This requires adaptation of existing legislation, as in many cases the (re)use of waste is restricted by law.
Also, at EU level, the regulation of UWTP’s focused on maintaining the quality of surface water and groundwater in Europe. The 1991 Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive does not cover greenhouse gases, whereas UWTP’s are a significant source of emissions. Also, the directive is outdated, listing a small range of controlled substances in comparison with the range of substances that are produced now - three decades later.
On the one hand, viewing UWTP’s as resource hubs, undertaking measures to reduce emissions and recover elements is key to the circular economy. On the other hand, ‘upstream’ measures such as limiting the substances that may be discharged into drains and pre-treating effluent before its release into the sewers can also contribute to circularity.
The 5th Conference of Ibero-American Water Managers took place in Cartagena, Colombia from 27-29 July.
The conference, known as the Conferentia de Diretores Iberoamericanos del Agua, or CODIA, is a coordinating platform for water management across the region. The conference devoted time to the Global Acceleration framework for SDG 6 which has been agreed to at UN level following disappointing progress on water related sustainable development targets.
A study is currently underway of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on water management in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is currently in the peer review stage. On behalf of the research team, Dr Daniel Greif explained that the research was intended to deepen understanding of the relationship of Covid-19 with water resources and to summarise the progress and lessons learned on water management and governance in the region during the post-pandemic period.
The forthcoming publication will be produced in cooperation between the UNESCO intergovernmental hydrological program in Latin America and the Caribbean (PHI-LAC) and CODIA, with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID) and the Pan American Health Organization.
In a preview of the study, Dr Greif emphasised that the Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the most influential global events in contemporary history. It has occupied as never before a large part of the spaces of daily life of all the inhabitants of the planet and has impacted multiple aspects of the life of the population and the social and economic development of nations. The pandemic has transcended the crisis in the health sector, developing into an event with multiple economic and social impacts at various scales.
The pandemic has served to change perceptions of the importance of drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services across the continent. Guaranteeing access to drinking water and sanitation is essential to provide hygienic conditions necessary to stop the spread of the virus and mitigate the impact of diseases.
The pandemic has boosted the role of science and evidence-based policies in politics as well as in media. In general, the pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the human development index in the Latin American and Caribbean region which showed positive HDI development since 1991 even during and after the financial crisis of 2008 but plunged downward by a 300-400% in 2020.
In particular, the health consequences of the precarious supply of water for the poor in the region, especially indigenous communities, and migrants, has been brought to the fore. The role of seasonality, climatic and environmental factors in the spreading or containment of the disease has also become widely recognised.
Furthermore, the pandemic has been a reminder of the link between the transmission of infectious diseases and biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity is associated with the transmission of a series of pathogens while the change in land use and trade in wild species increase the population's exposure to potentially new diseases. As a result, there is greater awareness of the importance of water related ecosystems, as well as sanitation and hygiene, than before the pandemic.
This opens the opportunity for a progressive, structural change in the integrated management of water resources, as well as greater emphasis on international cooperation and collective action.
The 9th session of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) took place in Bonn, Germany from 3-9 July.
The purpose of the meeting, which had been postponed as a result of the Covid 19 epidemic, was the approval of two reports: the Sustainable Use Assessment which reports on the sustainable use of wild species, and the Values Assessment, which reports on the diverse values and valuation of nature.
These two reports build on the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services produced by IPBES in 2019. The 2019 report had stated that the global decline in biodiversity that the world is witnessing is declining most rapidly in freshwater ecosystems, with an 81% decline reported since 1970.
The report also identified five drivers of biodiversity loss in freshwater ecosystems, i.e. changes in land use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species.
The Sustainable Use Assessment points to the increase in the volume and value of the trade in wild species, without significant value to local populations. The authors recommend more effective regulation of trade in wild species.
The Values Assessment emphasises the wide range of values that nature offers, including less tangible values that support the web of life on the planet, help to regulate the water cycle, and the existence value of individual species.
Many of these values cannot be expressed in monetary terms, and the pressures placed on ecosystems are not directly visible through consumer or investment choices. Therefore, taking the wide range of values embedded in biodiversity into account can help consumers to understand the costs of over exploitation of nature.
The Pacific institute, an US non-partisan think tank which focuses on water issues has announced its new Water and Climate Equity Strategy for the United States.
This research project, to be implemented by 2030, intends to provide tailored, evidence-based research and climate resilience strategies for communities at the forefront of water insecurity and climate change. In particular, the project will focus on the impacts of climate change and water insecurity among rural communities, low-income communities and communities of colour across the United States.
Dr. Shannon McNeeley, Senior Researcher and Water and Climate Equity Lead for the Pacific Institute said: “Millions of people in the United States still lack access to clean water, lack basic plumbing, or rely on water systems with safety violations. Frontline communities often endure the worst of this water insecurity, with disproportionate impacts to low-income communities, communities of color, Indigenous communities, and rural areas.”
The Pacific Institute was one of the first research institutions to call global attention to the global water crisis. In addition, it has supported research in the area of Human Right to Water and contributed to a historical database on water and conflict. For this project they are partnering up with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), and non-profit organisation DigDeep.
At the launch of the research project George McGraw, Founder and CEO of DigDeep, raised some of the key research questions for the programme: "How will climate change impact our water and wastewater systems? Which communities are most at risk of falling into the ‘water access gap’ in the future? Perhaps most importantly, what can we do to help vulnerable communities adapt? Partnering with the Pacific Institute will help us to answer these important questions and others.”
A new study conducted by University of Massachusetts Amherst in partnership with the University of Alaska Anchorage has found that lithium mining in Chile has a limited impact on water resources compared to agriculture and copper mining.
Declines in groundwater availability, the research shows, are largely attributable to copper mining, agriculture and household consumption. Lithium mining does reduce groundwater availability, but to a lesser extent than other sectors. The study focused on whether water supply would restock levels to compensate mining activity and found that this may depend on how old the water is, given that the recharge times for most aquifers in the region are greater than 65 years.
The mining of lithium takes place in very arid areas, and there have been public concerns over the environmental impact of the mining of metal. There is a rapid growth in the global demand for lithium following the growth in demand for batteries, amongst others for electric vehicles. The Salar de Atacama in Chile holds some 42% of the world’s lithium reserves, contained in brine in underground aquifers.
Brendan Moran, the lead author of the paper, said: “To understand the environmental effect of lithium mining, we need to understand the hydrology in the region the lithium is found. That hydrology is much more complex than previous researchers have given it credit for.”
The researchers focused on Chile’s Salar de Atacama and showed that all inflows into the basin are composed of water that flowed into the basin more than 65 years ago. As a result,
means that studies over a longer period of time would be needed to properly evaluate the impact of lithium mining. Moran said: “Because these regions are so dry, and the groundwater so old, the overall hydrological system responds very slowly to changes in climate, hydrology and water usage.”
With drought episodes becoming more frequent due to climate change and lithium’s demand on the rise due to it being an essential part of electrical car batteries, researchers think this may have an impact on the rate of water resupply.
The study, published in the journal Earth’s Future concludes that the use of fresh water from the Chilean deposit is exceeding resupply rates, but it claims this is not due to lithium mining but, rather, other uses.
This research was funded by BMW Group and BASF, the same companies that own the lithium mining infrastructure in Salar de Atacama.
A new study led by Detroit’s Wayne State University has been published proposing a tool to improve decision-making in the field of investments in drinking water drinking water investment. State agencies, local authorities and utilities must make decisions on where to invest (limited) available funds, which may mean prioritising certain public water systems over others. To do so, decision making criteria are critical.
The existing limited resources to address a problem which is becoming more prominent makes decision-making particularly difficult. However, through a framework grounded in utility theory, the researchers developed a tool to help authorities prioritize investments. Currently in the United States, the prioritization of investments in drinking water systems is strongly related to the number of reported violations of drinking water standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. However, community health risks are less dependent on incidental violations of drinking water standards than they are on the individual, collective and cumulative effects of longer-term exposure to contaminants.
The results were published in an article titled “Improved Decision-Making: A Sociotechnical Utility-Based Framework for Drinking Water Investment” in American Chemical Society’s ET&T Engineering. The researchers assert that the new tool allows to compare trade-offs explicitly and broaden the factors considered in prioritising resource allocations.
“Drinking water infrastructure suffers from a lack of data, as a result, decisions are based on limited water system data and often without context to overall environmental exposures. Yet people do not experience health risks from water independent from other modes of environmental risk and this perspective needs to be included in infrastructure decision-making.” said lead Researcher Sara Schwetschenau.
“This method was developed in response to this concern and is intended to help water utility decision makers leverage existing sources of data, water data and other demographic and exposure data, to improve their existing decision-making practices.” She added.
This new tool will allow policy makers to assess the tradeoffs of allocation of funds taking into account impacts in terms of water efficiency but also those of a social nature.
Shawn McElmurry, also a researcher in the project, said: “Policy makers will have a better understanding of the sensitivity of funding allocation decisions and will be better able to identify communities that have an increased likelihood of lead exposure and that are at the greatest risk of negative health effects or have a reduced ability to cope as a consequence of exposure.”
New research from the University of York to assess the pollution of freshwater across the globe has shown that a surprisingly high proportion of the world’s rivers are threatened by pharmaceutical pollution.
The study found that 43% of the world’s rivers have levels of pharmaceutical pollution that are of concern. Of the 61 active pharmaceutical ingredients about which there is global data available, the study found that there were five active pharmaceutical ingredients (API’s) that exceeded critical environmental concentrations while ten API’s exceeded the level at which no environmental effects could be expected.
In particular, the drugs loratadine (an anti-allergen), desvenlafaxine (an antidepressant), clotrimazole (used in antifungal creams), ketotifen (an anti-allergen), and fluoxetine (an antidepressant) were found to have concentrations above the critical limit. In particular, desvenlafaxine and loratadine were relatively regularly found to exceed critical limits.
The pollution of freshwater by pharmaceutical ingredients was found to differ per continent: generally, pharmaceutical concentrations were found to be most frequently above safe limits in Africa and Latin America, in particular for sulfamethoxazole (an antibiotic). In Asia, nicotine was the active ingredient most frequently found to be above safe levels, while in Europe, propranolol (a beta blocker used to treat cardiovascular and neurological conditions) was the most frequently cited active ingredient. For North America, sulfamethoxazole and nicotine were most common.
The study draws its conclusions from the data contained in an earlier, comprehensive assessment of the global occurrence of pharmaceuticals in rivers. This earlier study, by Wilkinson et al, monitored 1,052 sampling sites along 258 of the word’s rivers in 104 countries across all continents. The latter study helped to correct limitations in the availability of data on pharmaceutical pollution of freshwater beyond North America and Europe, where most of the research into this issue is conducted.
The month of July saw extreme temperatures in China, following heavy rainstorms in May and June that brought heavy flooding and broke historical records. Cities across China experienced extreme heatwaves in mid-July with temperatures in Shanghai reaching 40.9⁰C.
Major flooding in June had already forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in southern China and damaged homes of some 1 million people in Jiangxi province and the manufacturing hub of Guangdong.
In mid-July, rainfall amounting to almost double the July average fell in less than 48 hours, resulting in flash floods in northern and southwestern China, causing six deaths. Twelve people were reported missing. Nevertheless, there has been a gradual decline in casualties from flooding in China since 1990, as flood control and emergency response measures are gradually improved.
In June, China announced measures to boost its climate monitoring and risk prevention strategies. These measures were announced as an integral part of China’s new National Climate Adaptation Strategy , which aims to develop the country as a ‘climate resilient society’ by 2035.
The new policy document was jointly released on the 13th of June by 17 ministries, led by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Building on the already existing 2013 National Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation , the new strategy emphasises the monitoring and assessment of climate risks as well as the protection of food security and climate sensitive economic sectors such as supply chains, financial sectors and energy supply.
The policy makes direct reference to the destabilisation of the water cycle, stating that “floods and droughts, the shrinking of glaciers and permafrost, the expansion of glacial lakes and instability of water resources have been on the increase” .
A new study published by the Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link has found high levels of the toxic chemical Nonylphenol in water samples around India. The NGO collected 15 drinking water samples from around the country which were analysed at the Shriram Institute of Industrial Research. The study found levels of Nonylphenol ranging from 29.1 parts per billion (ppb) to 80.5 ppb.
A UK government report published in 1999 stated that the predicted no-effect concentration, the level of concentration of a chemical below which no adverse health impacts are expected I humans, was 0.33 ppb.
Piyush Mohapatra, Senior Programme Coordinator at Toxics Link, said: “Nonylphenol is a toxic chemical and a well-known endocrine disruptor associated with a number of adverse effects on human health. Daily intake of Nonylphenol through drinking water can have adverse health impacts on citizens.”
The study indicated that, while countries like USA, European Union members, Japan or China have adopted legislation to ban or phase out this dangerous chemical, India lack such legislation.
Nonylphenol can be found in detergents and is a byproduct of industrial cleaning processes and there is indication that the chemical is an endocrine disruptor posing considerable risk to human health.
Mr. Satish Sinha, Associate Director at Toxics Link, said: “Presence of Nonylphenol, a toxic chemical, in drinking water is of serious concern to human health and will require thorough investigation and creation of suitable standards for nonylphenol in drinking water. This measure will go a long way in ensuring water quality and availability of safe drinking water to citizens.”
Europe is struggling with high temperatures, water scarcity and extensive fires as countries in the southern part of the continent are imposing water restrictions. Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission's Vice-President for Inter-Institutional Relations, said: “Since 2017, we have witnessed the most intense forest fires ever seen in Europe and unfortunately, we expect the 2022 forest fire season could follow this trend,” adding that “the Copernicus emergency management service indicates the present drought in Europe could become the worst ever.”
Over 95% of the Portuguese territory, for example, is going through severe drought as the country lived its hottest May in 92 years. While the European Union is working on ways to provide the appropriate support to the most affected countries, Šefčovič warned that "in the long run, what we need to do is to scale up better water use. In agriculture, we have to look at sustainable soil management and vegetation cover and we have to invest, as it was said by many, (in) drought resistant crops and restore damaged areas”.
With extreme heatwaves destroying crops in the Mediterranean countries, the attention is now turning to wildfires in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has also published a report on the drought in Europe in July. It points out that a dry Winter and early heatwaves have put 44% of the territory (EU+UK) at risk. In particular, the Centre found that current conditions in Europe were conducive to wildfires and generated stress in energy production.
A new report by the German Weather Service indicates that, due to climate change, hotter, drier summers are to be expected in Europe in the future and drought episodes will become more frequent.
Agriculture is the dominant water-consuming activity and the sector which is carrying the brunt of the water scarcity situation. Even as authorities try to implement more water-efficient systems, these changes will not come in time to save many crops in Southern Europe, which are at risk of failure.
On the 28th of July, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution recognising the human right to a clean and healthy environment.
The draft text had been submitted to the Assembly in June by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland and was presented by Switzerland. The resolution was brief in its content, primarily affirming a right that had earlier been recognised as a part of international human rights law and procedures by the UN Human Rights Council.
The resolution also affirmed that the promotion of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment “requires the full implementation of the multilateral environmental agreements under the principles of international environmental law”. This affirmation formally links multilateral environmental agreements such as the Framework Convention Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity to human rights procedures.
The foundations for the UNGA resolution lay in October 2021, when the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution on the “human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment” which recognised that the impact of climate change, the unsustainable management and use of natural resources, the pollution of air, land and water, the unsound management of chemicals and waste, the loss of biodiversity and the decline of ecosystems interfere with the enjoyment of a clean and healthy environment.
In addition, the Human Rights Council emphasised procedural rights such as the right to seek, receive and impart information and to participate in government and public affairs in environmental decision making.
Recent inventories have revealed a growing number of threats against environmental human rights defenders and a rate of killings of environmental activists rising to two a week.
The Water Diplomat caught up with the head of the Global Water Partnership’s Africa Coordinator Alex Simalabwi to discuss a major water sector investment programme flagged as a “game changer” for investments in Africa.
The Zambia Water Investment Programme (ZWIP), the first national level water investment programme planned under the Africa Investment Programme, was launched by Zambian President Haikande Hichilema on the 16th of July. It is foreseen that programme will leverage $5.75 Billion USD in investments in water security and sustainable water utilisation.
According to Simalabwi, translating the recommendations of high-level panels into concrete actions on the ground is always a challenge. However, the ZWIP constitutes a ‘reset’ at four levels. There is a high-level panel to leverage investments; there is political commitment for the programme at the head of state level; there is a prioritisation of where the funds need to go; there is a mutual accountability mechanism, linked to a scorecard, to ensure that these investments are monitored.
The resources will be mobilised through support for the development of bankable projects that are a combination of grants, concessional finance, equity, and other financial innovations.
The main objective of the programme is to enhance job creation through gender sensitive investments in water security, industrialisation and climate resilient development. Through this programme, which is closely aligned to Zambia’s 8th National Development Plan, water is seen as a critical enabler for socioeconomic development.
The investments will focus on three main areas, i.e. water investment for economic transformation, resilience building through water investment, and water governance and institution building. The investments will thus firstly respond to the water needs of the different economic sectors and support the diversification of the economy. Secondly, the programme will build the climate resilience of the country through an inclusive strategy, in which there is a particular focus on gender. Thirdly, the programme will strengthen the enabling environment for water investments in the country, which will be achieved through capacity development and investments in water governance systems.
The Zambia Water Investment Programme is the first national level water investment programme on the African Continent following the launch of the Africa Investment Programme at the 9th World Water Forum in Senegal in March 2022.
The Africa Investment Programme is overseen by an International High-Level Panel on Water Investments in Africa is co-chaired by Macky Sall, President of Senegal, Hage Geingob, President of Namibia, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and Jaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania.
Alex Simalabwi is Executive Secretary (CEO) of the Global Water Partnership Africa-Coordination, Head of the International High Level Panel Joint Convenors Secretariat, and Director of the Continental Africa Water Investment Programme. He holds degrees in business (MBA), Engineering and graduate of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
GEM Digital, a Bahamas based investment company, has invested US$150 Million USD in a new cryptocurrency-based program to finance water infrastructure projects in regions with poor access to fresh water.
The project is run by South African company H2O Securities which, through the use of blockchain technology, intends to use the H2ON token as a means to facilitate investments in water infrastructure, mainly in Africa. The project aims to provide a tool that facilitates investments coming from all over the world by eliminating barriers and making the transfer of funds easier.
H2ON does not focus on engineering or the more technical aspects of water infrastructure. Instead, it is intended to be used as a way to settle bills between investors and contractors.
H2O Securities claims that this process, by being quicker and more efficient that the traditional method, will allow for infrastructures to be implemented more quickly and efficiently.
Julius Steyn, H2O Securities CEO, said in an announcement: “Water is the most important commodity on earth, and how we manage it now and in future is crucial for humankind.” He then added: “We believe that through H2O Securities’ s H2O Water Network (…) we can produce more water infrastructure faster and more cost effectively, thereby contributing to a more sustainable future”.
The US Department of Interior (DOI) has announced a $36.1 Million USD investment in water related ecosystems infrastructure which, in addition to an investment of $25.5 Million USD announced a month earlier, brings the total to $61.6 Million USD to be invested in water security.
Most of the funds, $52.2 Million USD, are to be sourced from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), a $1.2 Trillion USD public spending program designed to improve the country’s infrastructure and stimulate the economy.
In total, the investment will be channeled to 38 projects across the arid western states and which, according to the DOI’s press release, will aim “to advance quantifiable and sustained water savings by protecting watersheds impacted by wildland fire, restoring aquatic habitats and stream beds, and advancing other environmental restoration projects to mitigate drought-related impacts.”
These investments form part of a much larger investment package in the water sector: the BIL will invest a total of $8.3 Billion USD in water related projects as the country tackles drought across 40% of its territory. Over 16% of the US, mostly in the country’s West and Southwest, is currently going through extreme or exceptional drought.
There have been issues with the US’s aging water infrastructure, including water use inefficiency, leakages and contamination with hazardous substances such as lead. The new investments are expected to address these issues.
The BIL also includes a $50 Billion USD investment through the country’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to, according to the organisation, “strengthen the nation’s drinking water and wastewater systems—the single largest investment in water that the federal government has ever made.”
The EPA estimates that around 115,000 jobs will be created as a result of this investment.
The New Development Bank (NDB) has approved $875 Million USD worth of projects to improve water access and sanitation in Brazil, India and China. Ecotourism and transport will also benefit.
Of this, a tranche of $300 Million USD will be allocated to Brazil. With these funds, more than 600,000 households will be connected to water supply while more than 700,000 in the city of Sao Paulo will be equipped with sewage collection systems.
Two projects will be implemented in India. One, with a value of $70 Million USD will be channeled to the Lamphelpat Waterbody Rejuvenation Project, in the Indian state of Manipur. According to the NDB’s press release, “a technology-driven real time flood management system with early warning capacity will (…) be set up and thus improve efficiency in flood prevention, as well as timely delivery of relief and recovery efforts to the flood affected region”. Another Indian project funded by NDB will be channeled to an infrastructure project in the area of ecotourism.
The funds destined for China will be invested in transport, namely in the expansion of two Chinese airports.
The NDB emerged from the 2012 BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in an effort to finance development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies.
With the approval of these projects, this will bring the total invested by NDB in infrastructure and sustainable development to $32 Billion USD.
The announcement comes as NDB celebrates its anniversary. For seven years, it has invested in areas such as water, sanitation and clean energy in an effort to help member countries achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation has announced that the European Union (EU) has pledged a $120 Million USD investment in Egypt to support the country’s water and energy sector’s budget. Egyptian Minister Rania A. Al-Mashat said that the financing matched the country’s vision of close international partnerships to attain sustainable economic growth and development financing.
According to the government press release, “international partnerships have achieved mutual benefits for Egypt and the international community, as it has led to the successful implementation of many projects in the water sector.”
Al-Mashat stated: “Water and energy sector are priorities for the government, as the two sectors play a role in preserving Egypt’s economic growth and enhancing sustainable development. The government adopts ambitious plans aim at boosting the sustainable management of water resources through expanding in sea water desalination and wastewater treatment projects.”
Egypt’s partnership with the European Union is robust and the current cooperation portfolio between them amounts to $1.37 Billion USD.
COP27 will be held in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh and, ahead of the Climate Change Conference, the country is implementing a strategy towards climate action and trying to stimulate the private sector to engage in the green transition.
Through the Nexus of Water, Food and Energy (NWFE) Program, the Egyptian government hopes to present the country as a success story at the COP27 meeting. NWFE is Egypt’s international partnership strategy, an integral part of the country’s National Strategy for Climate Change 2050