Water, Lakes and Rivers

Written by  //  December 12, 2023  //  Natural resources, Water  //  Comments Off on Water, Lakes and Rivers

More on Water
Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform
Thirst a powerful slide show on water
Stockholm International Water Institute
Nanotechnology for clean water
(IPS files) Troubled Waters
Economist Special Report on Water
National Geographic Freshwater Crisis

Who Will Manage the Retreat?
Federal efforts to protect communities from climate disasters with buyouts and resilience projects are often fractured and poorly coordinated. Is there a better way?
By Timothy A. Schuler
In the face of more frequent and severe weather events, many hundreds of communities in the US could soon be facing the same heart-wrenching choice. Even under optimistic scenarios, scientists predict that by 2100 some 4.2 million Americans across 500 coastal communities will experience “disruptive inundation.” By 2050, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the annual cost of flood damage to homes with federally backed mortgages is expected to reach $12.8 billion, a jump of 30% from today’s $9.4 billion. …
The mismatch between the risks communities face and the design of government programs has led some experts to consider whether an entirely new federal entity is needed — a department that could plan and coordinate the challenging process of relocation and adaptation known as managed retreat.

11 December
The deal that’s shaping the future of the American West
The future of the American West is quietly being hashed out in the conference rooms of a Las Vegas casino this week. …negotiators from the seven states that share the Colorado River are racing to reach a deal on how to share the West’s most important — and shrinking — waterway.
Climate change has shriveled the river’s flows by more than 20 percent over the past two decades, and the only question now is how much worse things will get.
The negotiations over how to share the pain of bringing water use in line with the shrunken waterway will have huge implications for the 40 million people who rely on it at their taps in metro areas from Denver to Phoenix to San Diego, as well as for the powerhouse farming operations that use roughly three-quarters of the river’s water to irrigate some of the country’s most productive agricultural land. Also on the line are the interests of 30 federally-recognized tribes along the river and the 11 national parks and monuments it courses through, including the Grand Canyon.
The sharpest pain will be centered on the three lower river states: Arizona and Nevada — two crucial political swing states – and California, home of the Democratic Party’s most deep-pocketed donors and whose governor is widely believed to harbor presidential ambitions.
Especially contentious is the fault line between farmers, who typically hold the most protected rights to the river, and the urban areas that are the states’ economic engines and are home to their voting bases, but are first in line for water delivery cuts under the century-old legal regime that governs the river.


16-22 August
China drought causes Yangtze river to dry up, sparking shortage of hydropower
A nationwide alert has been issued with the south-west especially badly hit, and even parts of the mighty Yangtze drying up
The world’s rivers are drying up from extreme weather. See how 6 look from space
(CNN) A painful lack of rain and relentless heat waves are drying up rivers in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Many are shrinking in length and breadth. Patches of riverbed poking out above the water are a common sight. Some rivers are so desiccated, they have become virtually impassable.
The human-caused climate crisis is fueling extreme weather across the globe, which isn’t just impacting rivers, but also the people who rely on them. Most people on the planet depend on rivers in some way, whether for drinking water, to irrigate food, for energy or to ship goods.
In pictures: Europe’s mighty rivers are drying up in the climate-driven drought
It’s distressing enough to see mighty waterways like the Loire, Po and Rhine reduced to a trickle in places. But the ongoing drought is also revealing how much we depend on them for trade, energy and transport.
The Rhine’s evaporation is especially concerning. At the chokepoint of Kaub, near Frankfurt, it is expected to fall below 40cm on Friday. This would make it impassable for some larger ships carrying supplies of oil, coal and gas.

15 June
The St. Lawrence River: In depth. Don’t miss new articles on this mythical river of remarkable beauty. Our experts look at its fauna, flora and history, and the issues it faces. This series is brought to you by La Conversation.
Why the St. Lawrence estuary is running out of breath
Alfonso Mucci, Professeur Émérite en géochimie et océanographie, McGill; Gwénaëlle Chaillou, professeure de chimie marine à l’Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski (ISMER-UQAR), Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR); Mathilde Jutras, PhD candidate, physical and biogeochemical oceanography, McGill
(The Conversation) Over the past century, as dissolved oxygen concentrations decreased, deep-water temperatures have also increased dramatically to 6 C from 3 C. Micro-paleontological research — the counting and identification of fossil micro-organisms — and geochemical analyses of sediments collected from the bottom of the Laurentian Channel have also found evidence of these historic changes in temperature and oxygenation. The trend started well before the 20th century.
An analysis of deep-water chemical and physical variables also reveals a change in the relative proportions of waters from the Labrador and Gulf Stream (or North Central Atlantic) currents feeding the Laurentian Channel. The proportion of warm, less-oxygenated waters from the Gulf Stream is increasing, at the expense of colder, more oxygenated waters from the Labrador Current.
L’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent est à bout de souffle
À la surface, rien d’apparent… mais, en profondeur, les eaux du Saint-Laurent s’essoufflent ! Le manque d’oxygène s’accentue et la dé-oxygénation est irrémédiable.
Nos travaux de recherche portent sur un éventail de projets en géochimie marine, dont les causes et les conséquences de l’hypoxie (faible taux d’oxygène) dans les eaux profondes de l’estuaire et du golfe du Saint-Laurent

25 April
Surge of desert surf parks stirs questions in dry California
Hours from the California coast, surfers are hoping one of the next spots where they can catch a wave is in the desert, where summer temperatures often soar above 100 degrees.
At least four large surf lagoons are proposed for the region around Palm Springs….But some environmentalists and residents say it isn’t water-wise to build large resorts in one of the driest spots in California during one of its driest periods in recent memory. They contend water in the massive surf pools will evaporate quickly in the desert heat, wasting a precious resource, while proponents argue the waves will boost tourism, ramp up recreation and use less water than ever-popular golf courses.

21 April
‘We Woke Up and We Lost Half Our Water’ How climate change sparked a multistate battle over the Colorado River.
By Kyle Paoletta
(New York) Starting in the early 20th century, much of the Colorado’s natural majesty was corralled into a system of reservoirs, canals, and dams that now provides drinking water for 40 million people, irrigation for 5 million acres of farmland, and sufficient power to light up a city the size of Houston. Not so long ago, there was more than enough rainfall to keep this vast waterworks humming. The 1990s were unusually wet, allowing the Colorado to fill its two sprawling reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, to 95 percent of capacity. By 2000, more than 17 trillion gallons of water were sloshing around in the reservoirs — more than enough to supply every household in the United States for a year.
Then the drought arrived. And never left. After the driest two-decade stretch in 12 centuries, both Mead and Powell fell below one-third of their capacity last year, throwing the Southwest into crisis. On January 1, mandatory cuts went into effect for the first time, forcing farmers in Arizona and the utility that provides water to metropolitan Las Vegas’s 2.3 million customers to limit their uptake from Lake Mead. Even with those cuts, Bill Hasencamp, a water manager from Southern California, says, “The reservoir is still going down, and it will stay low for the next several years. I don’t think we’ll ever not have a shortage going forward.”

6 April
Seizing the water infrastructure moment nationally and locally
(Brookings) Aging and undersized sewers, contaminated drinking water, and lead-tainted pipes imperil millions of households and communities nationally. At the same time, more severe flooding and drought conditions have exacerbated the nation’s water infrastructure deficit. Decades of inaction and underinvestment —particularly at a federal level— have multiplied these and other water infrastructure challenges, but the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) holds promise to address them via an infusion of more than $57 billion to states and localities over the next five years. Extra federal funding will not only accelerate necessary system upgrades (think fewer leaking pipes and burst water mains) and reduce the total rate burden, but will also provide much-needed support for new plans and programs into the future.
Seizing the current moment requires an outcome-driven approach across the water sector —not just a project-driven approach. Federal, state, and local leaders cannot simply focus on funding and individual projects in isolation; they need to view the IIJA as an initial down payment in overcoming long-standing challenges across the country.


29 November
Greening the Seaway and Great Lakes: The Power of Impact Investing and Sustainable Finance
David Naftzger and Mike Piskur
(Policy) The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River are vitally important to North America’s prosperity. These natural resources, shared between Canada and the United States, are a powerful testament to the connection between a healthy environment and healthy economy, as well as the connection between our two countries.
Properly protecting and managing the waters, forests and farmlands of the broader Great Lakes St. Lawrence region is essential to our shared future. Recent weather-related events — from urban flooding to shoreline erosion to western wildfires — underscore the need for new investments, ideas and solutions to address climate change. Also needed are ways to connect these investments with demonstrable outcomes.
The Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform was launched in 2020 to align financial opportunities with environmental improvements in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence region. In Ontario and Québec, and across the region, a diversity of forward-looking organizations —from public utilities and governmental agencies to small businesses and nonprofits — are using impact investment and sustainable finance to fund needed improvements, reduce climate risk and save money.
Collectively, these projects have saved 14 million kilowatts of energy, protected approximately 1,700 hectares of forest and farmland and saved 170,000 litres of water, among other benefits.

15 July
Extreme heat waves are putting lakes and rivers in hot water this summer
Sapna Sharma, Associate Professor and York University Research Chair in Global Change Biology, York University, Canada; Iestyn Woolway, Research Fellow, Climate Office, European Space Agency; and John P. Smol, Distinguished University Professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, Queen’s University, Ontario
(The Conversation) Extreme heat waves have blanketed the Pacific Northwest, Siberia, Greece, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and other regions this summer, with temperatures approaching and exceeding 50 C.
These climate extremes are becoming more frequent. But as tragic as they are to human health, they are only part of a larger climate catastrophe story — the wide-scale damage to the ecosystems that people depend upon, including agriculture, fisheries and freshwater.
Many people may perceive lakes and rivers to be refuges from unprecedented heat, but freshwater systems are no less sensitive. Heat waves have killed thousands of fish in Alaska as temperatures exceeded the lethal limit for coldwater fishes.
Coldwater fish, such as trout and salmon, are being squeezed out of their cool, well-oxygenated, deep-water habitat. As water contains less oxygen at higher water temperatures, this forces the fish to move into nearshore regions. While these shallower waters may be better oxygenated, they are even warmer and may exceed thermal tolerances of coldwater species.
[See How drought affects freshwater fish 19 February 2019]

9 July
Cities along the Great Lakes Face Rising Water and Costs
Climate change could cost municipalities $2 billion in damages through 2025
By Daniel Cusick, E&E News
(Scientific American) Cities on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River will face nearly $2 billion in damages from climate change through 2025, according to a new survey of municipalities in the basin.
That’s on top of nearly $880 million spent since 2019 as the world’s largest freshwater system experiences more extreme weather events, unpredictable swings in lake levels, and changes in precipitation and evaporation rates, officials said.
“High water levels, paired with severe storm events and wave action, are leading to greater erosion and flooding that threaten public and private properties, critical infrastructure, and recreation and tourism amenities in shoreline communities,” said Walter Sendzik, chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and mayor of St. Catharines, Ontario.

16 February
Water could make the Great Lakes a climate refuge. Are we prepared?
…researchers from the University of Michigan set out in 1989 to formally measure changes in the geographical distribution of plants and animals in the dense pine and hardwood forests of northern Michigan.
Completed in 1991, the study was heralded as significant in understanding the effects of global warming on living creatures. Ferns, fish, and mammals common to the southern mixed-hardwood forests of the Midwest and East were migrating into northern Michigan, some of them at a pace of 10 miles annually. Small mammals, trees, and orchids of the north that once were plentiful at the southern edge of their range in Michigan were rapidly slipping back into Canada, their primary habitat.
Ready or not — the Great Lakes as a climate refuge
The Great Lakes region is frequently touted as one of the most climate-resilient places in the U.S., in no small part because of its enviable water resources. But climate change threatens water quality, availability, and aging water infrastructure by exposing existing vulnerabilities and creating new ones. In this series, members of the Great Lakes News Collaborative explore what it may take to prepare the Great Lakes region for the future climatologists say we can expect.


13 April
China Limited the Mekong’s Flow. Other Countries Suffered a Drought.
New research show that Beijing’s engineers appear to have directly caused the record low levels of water in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The Mekong is one of the most fertile rivers on earth, nurturing tens of millions of people with its nutrient rich waters and fisheries. But a series of dams, mostly in China, have robbed the river’s riches. Those who depend on its inland fisheries say their catches have declined precipitously. Persistent droughts and sudden floods have buffeted farmers.
Beijing’s control of the upstream Mekong, which provides as much as 70 percent of the downstream water in the dry season, has raised hackles, even though the Southeast Asian nations depend on trade with China. While the Chinese government has introduced a global development program that it says will benefit poorer trading partners, a backlash is growing among countries that feel they are losing out.

6 February
Brahma Chellaney: Preventing the Death of the World’s Rivers
The world’s rivers are under unprecedented pressure from contamination, damming, and diversion, which are straining water resources, destroying ecosystems, jeopardizing livelihoods, and damaging human health. International cooperation can save riparian systems, but first we must recognize the consequences of doing nothing.
(Project Syndicate) In total, almost two-thirds of the world’s long rivers have been modified, and some of the world’s longest – including the Nile and the Rio Grande – now qualify as endangered. Of the 21 rivers longer than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) that still flow freely from their mountain sources to the sea, most are in remote regions of the Arctic and in the Amazon and Congo basins, where hydropower development is not yet economically viable.These trends strain water resources, destroy ecosystems, and threaten human health. For example, heavy upstream diversions have turned the deltas of the Colorado River and the Indus River into saline marshes. Moreover, lower river-water levels impede the annual flooding cycle, which in tropical regions helps to re-fertilize farmland naturally with nutrient-rich sediment. In periods of below-average rainfall, a number of rivers increasingly run dry before reaching the ocean, and even when they do make it, they are depositing less of the nutrients and minerals that are vital to marine life.
Globally, aquatic ecosystems have lost half of their biodiversity since the mid-1970s, and about half of all wetlands have been destroyed over the last century. A recent United Nations study warned that up to a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, many within decades.
Free-flowing rivers play a critical role in moderating the effects of climate change, by transporting decaying organic material and eroded rock to the ocean. This process draws about 200 million tons of carbon out of the air each year.In short, the case for protecting our rivers could not be stronger. Yet, while world leaders are often willing to pay lip service to the imperative of strengthening river protections, their rhetoric is rarely translated into action. On the contrary, in some countries, regulations are being rolled back.


17 December
As surging Great Lakes threaten Michigan, homeowners beg Canada for help
(Bridge) More than 800 miles to the north, the province owns dams that release 42,000 gallons of water a second into Lake Superior. Known as the Long Lac and Ogoki diversions, the dams are part of Ontario’s vast hydropower system and, every day, dump the equivalent of two medium-size rivers such as the Kalamazoo and Muskegon rivers into the Great Lakes.
As historically high waters threaten property owners and municipalities along Michigan’s 3,288 miles of shoreline, a movement is brewing to pressure Ontario to temporarily halt the dams until the lakes recede.
The dams are the only diversions of water into the Great Lakes –  and they’re at the center of emerging, emotional debate about how human intervention creates winners and losers as waters rise and fall, as they have wildly in recent years.  The diversions have raised water levels of Lakes Huron and Michigan 4.3 inches since their construction in the 1940s. That’s a pittance since the lakes are now 3 feet above long-term averages. But with lakes forecast next month to be 11 inches higher than in January 2019, property owners say every bit helps.
Lyndsay Miller, spokeswoman for Ontario Power Generation, which operates the dams, told Bridge in an email that the discharges “are a relatively small contributor to the water level on the Great Lakes. (Halting the dams would lower the lakes 2-3 inches over two years, according to an [1993] International Joint Commission report.)

9 December
World’s largest hydro companies persist in failing the environment, community rights
Chinese corporations dominate hydro industry, fall short of meeting accepted international standards.
(International Rivers) ‘Watered Down’ provides an in-depth look at how policy meets practice in seven flagship dam projects spanning Africa, Asia, and South America from some of the world’s largest hydropower firms. The study focuses primarily on prominent Chinese state-owned enterprises – which account for two-thirds of all large dams built globally – among them Sinohydro International, PowerChina Resources, and China International Water and Electric, a subsidiary of China Three Gorges.

5 December
No Nestlé, Bottled Water Is Not an ‘Essential Public Service,’ Court Says
(EcoWatch) Nestlé cannot claim that its Ice Mountain bottled water brand is an essential public service, according to Michigan’s second highest court, which delivered a legal blow to the food and beverage giant in a unanimous decision.
The three-judge panel that sits on Michigan’s Court of Appeals said bottled water is not a public water supply, and Osceola Township was completely within its rights to reject Nestlé’s bid to put a booster pumping structure in an area zoned for agricultural use, as the Detroit Free Press reported.

4 December
Climate change is accelerating, World Meteorological Organization reports
(Mic.com) Water scarcity is becoming an increasing threat around the world as we face down the effects of climate change. Multiple major cities and countries have come dangerously close to Day Zero in recent years, including Cape Town, South Africa in 2018 and Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2015. Water — specifically fresh water — is a limited resource. When that comes into clear view, as it is in Australia, water becomes a valuable target of thieves and smugglers who see value in commoditizing it. Similar issues have plagued towns in India, where private tankers have illegally skimmed water with the intent to sell it to those in desperate need. A “water mafia” has cropped up in Pakistan, turning crisis into a business opportunity by hoarding water and gouging people with high prices. With as much as one quarter of the world facing the harsh possibility of their city or country reaching Day Zero, it’s likely that malicious actors will do their best to capitalize on the problem in order to make a quick buck while millions suffer.


27 August

SumOfUs: As BC declares a state of emergency because of wildfires, Nestlé still pays just $2.25 for one million litres of the province’s precious groundwater. During his campaign, Premier Horgan promised to conduct a review of BC’s water rates to protect BC’s water from corporate greed.
However, nothing has happened yet which means Nestlé and other corporations continue to rake in massive profits while BC residents deal with water restrictions to combat the ever-increasing drought conditions.
Not only that, but current water rates apply to all industries. Meaning dirty fracking operations can use billions of BC’s fresh water for next to nothing while polluting this precious resource.

25 August
(Quartz) Blistering summers like this one offer a glimpse at the impact of climate change: heat waves in Europe, wildfires in the US, and unprecedented thawing in the Arctic. Here’s one outcome that hasn’t yet hit home: An indispensable resource, water, is about to become scarce.
Quartz, working with the Texas Observer, went to the Texas-Mexico border to investigate the dynamics of this crisis. The border is home to the Rio Grande, one of the most endangered rivers in the world, which flows through one of the fastest-growing regions in the US. It is set to effectively run dry in coming decades. Both Mexico and Texas need Rio Grande water to support booming border cities and major agricultural economies.
When the Rio Grande does run out, a run on groundwater is likely. The US and Mexico don’t have an agreed-upon map or a treaty on groundwater—a potentially huge geopolitical problem.
Similar scenarios are playing out globally. Bolivia, which two years ago declared a state of emergency over water, is being sued by Chile in the UN’s International Court of Justice over the Silala River that flows between them. In Ethiopia, a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile could reduce flows into Egypt by as much as 25%. About 85% of the water used in Egypt comes from the Nile and experts expect the country to face a freshwater shortage by 2025.
Of the 195 states in the world, 145 have at least one river or lake shared across international borders. Most have no multinational agreements covering them. In a world where rivers run dry and lakes drain, hundreds of millions of border-adjacent people will live in a precarious state. The fight for water can push nations apart—or bring them together.
See also: North America hasn’t had a megadrought in recorded history. It could be overdue

20 June
Trump rescinds Obama policy protecting oceans [and the Great Lakes]
(The Hill) President Trump quietly signed an executive order repealing an order by former President Obama that was aimed at protecting the Great Lakes and the oceans bordering the US from pollution from oil and gas drilling. The order encourages more drilling and other industrial uses of the oceans and Great Lakes.

26 February

Iguazu Falls cascade near Foz do Iguazu, Brazil, Saturday, March 14, 2015. Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, is part of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s major underground reserves of fresh water. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Coke, Nestle Near Ownership of World’s Second Largest Aquifer
A concerted push is underway in South America that could see the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water, soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle.
by Elliott Gabriel
(Mint Press) According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years.
Named after the Guarani indigenous people, the Guarani Aquifer is the world’s second largest underground water reserve and is estimated to be capable of sustainably providing the world’s population with drinking water for up to 200 years. Environmental groups, social movements, and land defenders warn that the exploitation of the freshwater reserve could see the 460,000-square mile (1.2 million sq. km.) reservoir sacrificed for the short-term profits of agribusiness, energy, and food-and-drink giants.
While a third of the Guarani Aquifer lies beyond Brazil’s borders, the right-wing governments in neighboring Argentina and Paraguay have also reportedly agreed to grant 100-year concessions to companies wishing to exploit the aquifer, with only Uruguay’s left-of-center government refusing to grant approval.


26 September
Corporations Have Rights. Why Not Rivers?
(NYT) The suit was filed Monday in Federal District Court in Colorado by Jason Flores-Williams, a Denver lawyer. It names the river ecosystem as the plaintiff — citing no specific physical boundaries — and seeks to hold the state of Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper liable for violating the river’s “right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve.”
Because the river cannot appear in court, a group called Deep Green Resistance is filing the suit as an ally, or so-called next friend, of the waterway.
The lawsuit comes as hurricanes and wildfires in recent weeks have left communities across the country devastated, intensifying the debate over how humans should treat the earth in the face of global climate change.
Comment from Stephanie Jensen-Cormier
Earlier this year, the Maori were able to win rights of personhood for the Whanganui river. We are helping groups to do the same for the Magdelena in Colombia. The Colorado river is another exciting one. Good that these conversations are being had. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Health and Happiness for China’s Rivers in 2017
By Stephanie Jensen-Cormier
The health and well-being of rivers and humans are very closely linked. If we work towards improving the health and happiness of China’s rivers in 2017, then we ensure the same for the citizens of China and for neighboring countries that share transboundary rivers with China. Rivers are the arteries of this country, and powerful representations of the Chinese nation. Healthy rivers will contribute towards some of China’s top objectives, including internal stability and peacefulness among neighbors. If we keep China’s rivers healthy and free-flowing, they will continue to sustain the Chinese people and downstream neighbors for generations to come

China’s rivers are an important part of its identity and heritage, having sustained its people throughout their 5,000-year history. But in recent decades, they’ve been overexploited. Many of China’s rivers, important sources of food and energy, have literally disappeared as they’ve been polluted, dammed, diverted and overused by agricultural and industrial companies producing goods for China and the rest of the world. According to the Chinese Bureau of Statistics, there were 50,000 rivers in China in the 1980s; only 23,000 are left today.
Fortunately, people have woken up to the problem. …citizens all over China and the government are beginning to understand the dire state of their rivers. The good news is that Chinese people recognize that the quality of their lives is tied to the health of the environment. We saw encouraging trends in 2016, and we believe there are many reasons to be hopeful for China’s remaining rivers. (International Rivers 11 January 2017)

Stephanie Jensen-Cormier on an abandoned barge that had been used to explore the best spots to build large dams on the Nu River.

6 July
The giant underseas rivers we know very little about
Far below the surface of the sea, the seabed is being scoured by rivers of sediment that can flow thousands of miles from land.
(BBC) The river cascades through steep-sided gorges and churns around isolated towers of rock, before winding across a vast plain beyond. It is a torrent to rival the mighty Colorado River that carved out the Grand Canyon.
It lies two miles (3.2km) beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Stretching away from the coast of California, the Monterey Canyon has been shaped over millions of years by this bizarre “undersea river”. Beyond the mouth of the canyon, the flow has cut a valley into the sea floor that extends for nearly 200 miles before spilling onto the abyssal plain of the deep ocean.
Similar channels can be found etched into seabeds all over the world. They have been found off the coasts of Greenland, the Amazon, the Congo and Bengal, to name a few. The largest are several miles wide and run for thousands of miles out into the ocean depths, where they provide vital sustenance to the creatures living there. But these undersea rivers are among the least understood phenomena on our planet.

23 June
Hundreds of English rivers drained below sustainable levels despite looming drought crisis
‘If we have a dry summer, our green and pleasant land could become as parched as some of the Mediterranean’
Nearly a quarter of all the rivers in England are at risk because of the vast amounts of water being removed for use by farms, businesses and people homes, according to a new report.
Environment Agency figures obtained under freedom of information law by conservation charity WWF showed that 14 per cent of rivers were classed as over-abstracted – “meaning water removed is causing river to drop below levels required to sustain wildlife”.
And a further nine per cent were described as “over-licensed”, meaning the river would fall to a similar low if permits to take water were utilised fully.
In a report called Water for Wildlife: Tackling Drought and Unsustainable Abstraction, WWF pointed out that freshwater species had declined globally by 81 per cent since 1970 – “faster than in any other species group”. “Nature and wildlife are losing out in the rush to exploit the planet’s water resources. In England and Wales, fewer than one in five rivers are classed as in good ecological health,” the report said.

21 March
India court gives sacred Ganges and Yamuna rivers human status.
(BBC) The “legal status” ensures that polluting the rivers would now amount to harming a human being. Two top state officials have been appointed as the “legal guardians” of the rivers and will represent their rights.Activists say the order is likely to fast track efforts to clean the rivers

15 March
New Zealand river first in the world to be given legal human status
A river in New Zealand has become the first in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a person.
(BBC) The New Zealand parliament passed the bill recognising the Whanganui River, in North Island, as a living entity.
Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people.
The Maori had been fighting for over 160 years to get this recognition for their river, a minister said.
“I know the initial inclination of some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” said New Zealand’s Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson.
“But it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies.”
The Whanganui River, New Zealand’s third-longest, will be represented by one member from the Maori tribes, known as iwi, and one from the Crown.
The recognition allows it to be represented in court proceedings.

27 February
Samba Parade Spotlights Threats To Rivers, Forests and Indigenous Rights at Rio’s Carnival
(International Rivers) Under the theme, “Xingu: the Clamor from the Forest,” Imperatriz Leopoldinense’s samba parade paid homage to indigenous peoples, while recognizing their fundamental role in protecting the environment. The theme also served as an alert to growing threats to Amazon forests and rivers resulting from unbridled deforestation and pesticide use by agribusiness interests, and compounded by destructive hydroelectric dams and mining projects. An indigenous delegation of over thirty leaders from the Xingu and Tapajós river basins as well as other parts of Brazil participated in the parade, led by legendary Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó people, one of several tribes that live along the Xingu River.


Joy as China shelves plans to dam ‘angry river’

Environmentalists celebrate as Beijing appears to abandon plans to build giant hydroelectric dams on 1,750-mile Nujiang
nujiang-river A scenic spot on the Nujiang, China’s last free-flowing river, which some plan to develop for tourism as ‘China’s Grand Canyon’. Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images

(The Guardian) Stephanie Jensen-Cormier, the China programme director for International Rivers, said environmentalists were “very happy and very excited” at what was a rare piece of good news for China’s notoriously stressed waterways.
“The state of rivers in China is so dismal. Thirty years ago there were 50,000 rivers in China; today there are less than 23,000. Rivers have completely disappeared. They have become polluted, they have become overused for agriculture and manufacturing,” she said. “So it is so exciting when a major river – which is a major river for Asia – is protected, at least where it flows in China.”
Jensen-Cormier said the shelving of plans to dam the Nu – which is known as the Salween in Thailand and the Thanlwin in parts of Myanmar – represented “a great turning point for the efforts to preserve China’s rivers”.
“It is a really good indication that China is starting to look at other ways of developing energy, and renewable energies especially, that mean they don’t have to sacrifice their remaining healthy river.”
31 October
A Waterfight Like No Other May Be Brewing Over Asia’s Rivers
(Bloomberg/Business Week) Under President Xi Jinping, China has been aggressively asserting claims to most of the South China Sea, angering neighbors by turning specks of rock into artificial islands. Another water fight could be just as explosive: this one involving fresh water.
On Oct. 1, China said a hydropower project in Tibet was diverting water from a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, which flows into India and Bangladesh, reigniting concern over China’s control of some of the region’s biggest waterways that have provided irrigation, transport and life for millennia to much of South and Southeast Asia.
India, which fought a war with China in 1962 over a disputed border, is concerned that Beijing could use water as a strategic weapon. Six of Asia’s 10 biggest rivers originate in China, including the Brahmaputra.
Indian concerns about China turning off of the tap are nothing more than an “imaginary ‘water war,’” according to the Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party’s People’s Daily.
But as climate change leads to more extreme weather conditions, demand for fresh water is going to stoke more tensions, said William Laurance, director of the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.
“Water issues are about as big as they get,” he said. “China rarely does things halfway—and if they have large-scale agricultural development and giant investments, they’re not going to sacrifice their needs for another nation downstream.”
In Southeast Asia, the problem will probably get worse on the Mekong River, which originates in the Tibetan plateau and flows from China to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
China has at least six big hydropower dams on the river and plans to build more. In March, it agreed to release water from its Jinghong Hydropower Station on the Mekong to help drought-stricken countries downriver.
Now Laos is moving ahead with two big projects despite concern from neighboring countries, which could lead to a “domino effect” of other nations building their own projects, said Trinh Le Nguyen, executive director of Vietnamese not-for-profit organization PanNature.
22 March
What Makes Water Unsafe? Not The Color, Taste Or Smell: #WorldWaterDay
(NPR) What is safe drinking water? Is it water that’s clear? Smells clean? Tastes good? Comes from a trusted source, like a well or a pipe?
Those factors don’t matter if the water is contaminated by tiny microbes or parasites invisible to the human eye.
For 663 million people around the world, lack of clean water causes hardship, disease and even death. And by far the greatest cause of contamination — above cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio, E. coli and other bacteria, as well as parasites like worms and snails — is human waste.
21 March
Here’s how Michigan governor plans to fix Flint water crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says new comprehensive action plans will help resolve Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis in the coming years.
Snyder on Monday announced the plans to improve public health, deal with old infrastructure, support educational services and boost employment.
Plans include replacing drinking water fixtures, replacing some lead service lines, boosting health and educational resources and developing new home mortgage options for the city. Some of the shorter-term steps announced already are taking place.
18 March
World Water Day reminds us not to take clean water for granted
By David Suzuki
(National Observer) Canada recognized the right to water at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012. Yet our government has failed to live up to its commitment. As a 2015 UN report points out, “The global water crisis is one of governance, much more than of resource availability, and this is where the bulk of the action is required in order to achieve a water secure world.”
We are the only G8 country, and one of just two OECD countries, without legally enforceable national drinking-water-quality standards. Federal water policy is more than 25 years old and in dire need of revision. We have no national strategy to address urgent water issues and no federal leadership to conserve and protect water. Instead, we rely on a patchwork of provincial water policies, some enshrined in law and some not. Meanwhile, highly intensive industrial activities, agribusiness and pollution are putting water supplies at risk.
The federal government will deliver its first budget on March 22 — World Water Day. The David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot movement is also taking a stand on World Water Day, helping communities across Canada call on the federal government to make good on our human right to clean water by enacting a federal environmental bill of rights. … Canada’s environment and climate change minister has a mandate to “treat our freshwater as a precious resource that deserves protection and careful stewardship.” The government could take a big step toward accomplishing this by recognizing our right to a healthy environment, including our right to clean water.
The government should also implement legally binding national standards for drinking water quality equal to or better than the highest standards in other industrialized nations, and set long-term targets and timelines to reduce water pollution


Freshwater: Why It Matters
Rivers and their tributaries are the veins of the planet, pumping freshwater to wetlands and lakes and out to sea. They flush nutrients through aquatic ecosystems, keeping thousands of species alive, and help sustain fisheries worth billions of dollars.
Rivers are also the lifeblood of human civilizations. They supply water to cities, farms, and factories. Rivers carve shipping routes around the globe, and provide us with food, recreation, and energy. Hydroelectric plants built from bank to bank harness the power of water and convert it to electricity.
Over the course of human history, waterways have been manipulated for irrigation, urban development, navigation, and energy. Dams and levees now alter their flow, interrupting natural fluctuations and the breeding and feeding patterns of fish and other river creatures. Technology and engineering have changed the course of nature, and now we are looking for ways to restore flow and function to the planet’s circulatory system. – National Geographic

This Devastating Chart Shows Why Even a Powerful El Niño Won’t Fix the Drought
(Mother Jones) In California, news of a historically powerful El Niño oceanic warming event is stoking hopes that winter rains will ease the state’s brutal drought. But for farmers in the Central Valley, one of the globe’s most productive agricultural regions, water troubles go much deeper—literally—than the current lack of precipitation. … in the arid Central Valley, farmers get water to irrigate their crops in two ways. The first is through massive, government-built projects that deliver melted snow from the Sierra Nevada mountains. The second is by digging wells into the ground and pumping water from the region’s ancient aquifers. In theory, the aquifer water serves as a buffer—it keeps farming humming when (as has happened the last three years) the winter snows don’t come. When the snows return, the theory goes, irrigation water flows anew through canals, and the aquifers are allowed to refill.
But the Central Valley’s underground water reserves are in a state of decline that predates the current drought by decades. … aquifer recharge during wet years never fully replaces all that was taken away during dry times—meaning that the the Central Valley has surrendered a total of 100 cubic kilometers, or 811 million acre-feet, of underground water since 1962. That’s an average of about 1.5 million acre-feet of water annually extracted from finite underground reserves by the Central Valley’s farms and not replaced during wet years. By comparison, all of Los Angeles uses about 600,000 acre-feet of water per year. (An acre-foot is the amount needed to cover an acre of land with a foot of water).
3 August
Ignoring the water problem is no longer an option
(Beef Magazine) “The nexus of water, food and energy will define our quality of life in this century.”
That’s Jay Famiglietti’s take on the world we will live in. He is senior water scientist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
Imbalances between such things as water availability, quality, value determination — and a myriad of related and messy issues — make it so.
Speaking at this year’s National Institute of Animal Agriculture (NIAA) annual conference, he said that though there’s enough potable water to go around, gaps in policy, infrastructure and management mean currently, too many have too little. Worldwide, groundwater is being siphoned at unsustainable rates, and in some of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world.
18 July
Judi Tyabji: If B.C. Charges Nestlé More For Bottling H2O, It Will Open Door To Massive Water Sales
The minute the B.C. government starts charging for water from aquifers for use based on volume, we can’t turn off the taps. We have to continue to deliver the volume being purchased or we are in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 between Canada, the U.S, and Mexico.
As cited by Steven Shrybman of West Coast Environmental Law, “water in its ‘natural state’ is not a tradeable ‘good’ and therefore not subject to international trade rules.” This includes rivers, lakes, and aquifers.
The new Water Sustainability Act implements administrative fees for groundwater use, and these fees seemed to have started the debate and the petition to charge more money. However, once the money charged is above the government’s cost, and it can be seen to be making money, the groundwater becomes a commodity — and under the FTA and NAFTA we cannot turn off the taps, even if we are at a Level 4 drought situation.
This would mean that a farmer may watch her fields turn brown without irrigation, while right next door Nestlé could be pumping the aquifer dry. And, if there is no more water available to meet our trade obligations, Nestlé could sue the government for damages.
B.C.’s Environment Minister Mary Polak says the proposed charge is simply an access fee: “We will never sell that right of ownership. We will allow access but it is tightly controlled.”
It appears that she’s being very careful because she understands that charging too much leaves the government open to the claim that it has “sold” the water, and therefore water from our aquifers becomes a commodity.
Many people say they pay more for their water than what Nestlé is paying; however that is because they are paying their local government or water district for the cost of delivering the water. They are not paying for the water itself.
14 July
B.C. Government to review water bottling admin fees
(Global) The company takes approximately 230 million litres of fresh water every year from an aquifer in the Fraser Valley. They pay $2.25 for every million litres.
Previously, Nestlé was able to take the water for free, until new legislation was brought in last year.
With the recent wildfires and drought conditions in B.C., some residents say Nestlé should not be allowed to take the water or they should pay a lot more.
10 July
Gary Mason: Water is a precious commodity, but B.C. is just giving it away
As events in the Western United States have proven in the past few years, fresh water is an increasingly precious natural resource. That reality has been driven home here in British Columbia this summer, with strict watering bans now in place in response to ever-diminishing reservoirs.
It’s against this backdrop that a full-fledged revolt has begun over the provincial government’s decision to give our fresh water away to corporations effectively for nothing. It is a policy that urgently needs to be reviewed
Starting in 2016, the government will begin charging Nestlé Waters Canada (and other industrial users) a fee of $2.25 per million litres of water. Yes, you read that correctly. Nestlé can withdraw a million litres of some of the finest drinking water anywhere in the world for the price of one of their chocolate bars. It takes about 265 million litres of the liquid gold every year for the outrageous sum of $596.25 – or the cost of a backyard barbecue.
Then it turns around, packages it in clear plastic bottles and sells it as “pure natural spring water” – and makes millions doing it.
9 July
U.S. firm sues Canada for $10.5 billion over water A non-story
UPDATED: Since this story was first published, the federal government has posted a status update on the case on the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development website stating that despite the initial notice of intent to submit a claim for arbitration, a valid claim was not filed and no Chapter 11 arbitration occurred. There has been no financial settlement either, according to the government.
18 June
This Map Shows Where the World’s Water Is Drying Up
(Mother Jones) Groundwater loss isn’t just a California problem: According to a recent study by researchers at NASA and the University of California-Irvine, humans are depleting more than half of the world’s 37 largest aquifers at unsustainable rates, and there is virtually no accurate data showing how much water is left.
The study, published this week in the journal Water Resources Research, used 11 years of satellite data to measure water depletion. Eight aquifers, primarily in Asia and Africa, were qualified as “overstressed,” meaning they had nearly no natural replenishment. The most stressed basin was the Arabian Aquifer System, beneath Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Other quickly disappearing aquifers were the Indus Basin aquifer, between India and Pakistan, and the Murzuk-Djado Basin, in northern Africa.
Five other aquifers, including California’s Central Valley Aquifer, were “extremely” or “highly” stressed, with some natural replenishment but not enough to make up for growing demand.
The growing demand on water, exacerbated by overpopulation and climate change, has led to a situation that is “quite critical,” says Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA. (The Guardian) Decade of drought: a global tour of seven recent water crises — With a chronic overuse of resources, it only takes a few bad rainfalls or poor management decisions to plunge a region into crisis
22 June
California looks to the ocean for water during historic drought
Environmentalists oppose desalination because of the impact on sea life and high energy use
(Al Jazeera) Desalination, the complicated, costly and environmentally sensitive process of drawing millions of gallons of seawater and taking the salt out to make it potable, has not been widely embraced in a state that is suffering a severe drought.
Until now. In Carlsbad, a giant desalination plant — the largest in the Western Hemisphere — is gearing up to start producing water for San Diego County residents by the end of this year.
The $1 billion project will deliver 50 million gallons of water a day, a sizable amount but still only about what 120,000 households, or 7 to 10 percent of county residents, use, said Scott Maloni, a vice president at Poseidon Water, the plant’s developer
16 June
Six things business needs to know about water and sustainability
Companies must adapt to a new era and work with local communities, government and industry to safeguard their water supplies and reputation
(The Guardian) 5. Business needs to shift to a circular economy for water
At present, water moves through the system getting more and more polluted until it cannot be used again. Instead businesses must see water as part of a circular economy, where it retains its value after each use and eventually returns to the system. Stuchtey says: “We need a completely new mindset of not contaminating water in the first place. We need to treat it like a durable and keep it in closed loops; or like a consumable, but return it in a way so that it is cheap or beneficial to take into second or third use.”
20 March
Water Cutbacks Now Mandatory In California For First Time In History
(HuffPost) Conserving water in California isn’t just a suggestion anymore.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced there will be mandatory water cutbacks in the drought-stricken state for the first time in history.
“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” he said in a statement. “This historic drought demands unprecedented action. Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.”
While previous efforts at rationing water have been initiated at the city and district levels, this is the first time that rationing has been enforced statewide.
The orders come the same day Brown joined officials at a snowpack measure in the Sierra Nevada mountains that revealed levels are are at an all-time recorded low.
(Reuters) – California Governor Jerry Brown …  ordered residents and businesses on Wednesday to cut water use by 25 percent in the first mandatory statewide reduction in California history. The cuts mean industrial parks and golf courses must immediately cut a quarter of their water use on ornamental turf, and homeowners will be pressed to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping. Farmers, already making do with less water for irrigation, will be exempt.
UN warns of global water shortage in next 15 years
Countries need to alter their use of water resources or supply will only meet 60% of demand in 15 years, says a report by UN Water, released ahead of World Water Day on Sunday. “A dedicated water [Sustainable Development Goal] is needed and it is also clear that water is linked to the success of many of the other proposed goals,” writes Joakim Harlin, an adviser to the United Nations Development Programme. The Associated Press (3/20), Thomson Reuters Foundation (3/19), Thomson Reuters Foundation (3/20)
Nestle Continues Stealing World’s Water During Drought
Nestlé is draining California aquifers, from Sacramento alone taking 80 million gallons annually. Nestlé then sells the people’s water back to them at great profit under many dozen brand names.
8 March
Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis
Last week drought in São Paulo was so bad, residents tried drilling through basement floors for groundwater. As reservoirs dry up across the world, a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. Rationing and a battle to control supplies will follow
(The Observer via RawStory) Water is the driving force of all nature, Leonardo da Vinci claimed. Unfortunately for our planet, supplies are now running dry – at an alarming rate. The world’s population continues to soar but that rise in numbers has not been matched by an accompanying increase in supplies of fresh water.
The consequences are proving to be profound. Across the globe, reports reveal huge areas in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up. More than a billion individuals – one in seven people on the planet – now lack access to safe drinking water.
In California, officials have revealed that the state has entered its fourth year of drought with January this year becoming the driest since meteorological records began. At the same time, per capita water use has continued to rise. In the Middle East, swaths of countryside have been reduced to desert because of overuse of water. Iran is one of the most severely affected. Heavy overconsumption, coupled with poor rainfall, have ravaged its water resources and devastated its agricultural output. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates is now investing in desalination plants and waste water treatment units because it lacks fresh water. As crown prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan admitted: “For us, water is [now] more important than oil.”
The global nature of the crisis is underlined in similar reports from other regions.
25 February
São Paulo – anatomy of a failing megacity: residents struggle as water taps run dry
Claire Rigby reports that many paulistanos are hoarding water in their apartments – and some are even drilling homemade wells – as they prepare for possible rationing.
(The Guardian)  In São Paulo, drinking water is used to flush toilets, bathe and, until very recently, to wash cars and even hose down city pavements, as porters use jets of crystalline water to shift those last specks of grime. In Brazil, a land of immense natural riches and home to around 12% of the world’s fresh water, the very idea of a water shortage is hard for people to conceive of. Yet despite the state government’s prevarication over possible imminent rationing – consisting of two days of water followed by four days without – in reality, millions are now getting just a few hours of water per day, with many struggling with none at all for days on end.
The São Paulo water crisis, or “hydric collapse” as many are calling it, has left this city of 20 million teetering on the brink. Though domestic use accounts for only a fraction of the water consumed in the state of São Paulo – where extensive agriculture and industry places intense pressure on available resources – for paulistanos, as the city’s residents are called, learning to use water wisely is suddenly the most pressing need of all.
21 February
And then there is the water crisis
The 2014 Global Risk Report conducted by the World Economic Forum rated “water crises” as the third-most significant global risk, two places above that of the “failure of climate change mitigation adaption”. This is a significant statement, especially when the vast majority of the South African population are not aware of the current state of water services in our country.
13 February
Pakistan braces for a water crisis
(NYT via Times of India) Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages, the Pakistani government warned this week.
The prospect of a major water crisis in Pakistan, even if several years distant, offers a stark reminder of a growing challenge in other poor and densely populated countries that are vulnerable to global climate change. …
Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Pakistani economy. The 2,000-mile-long Indus River, which rises in the Himalayas and spans the country, feeds a vast network of irrigation canals that line fields producing wheat, vegetables and cotton, all major sources of foreign currency. In the north, hydroelectric power stations are a cornerstone of the creaking power system. A combination of melting glaciers, decreasing rainfall and chronic mismanagement by successive governments has put that water supply in danger, experts say.
8 February
Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war
From California to the Middle East, huge areas of the world are drying up and a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. US intelligence is warning of the dangers of shrinking resources and experts say the world is ‘standing on a precipice’
Watering crops, slaking thirst in expanding cities, cooling power plants, fracking oil and gas wells – all take water from the same diminishing supply. Add to that climate change – which is projected to intensify dry spells in the coming years – and the world is going to be forced to think a lot more about water than it ever did before.
The losses of water reserves are staggering. In seven years, beginning in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers lost 144 cubic kilometres of stored freshwater – or about the same amount of water in the Dead Sea, according to data compiled by the Grace mission and released last year.

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