The weekly wash-up (January 15)

The week that was in river and water news – January 15th, 2014

EU citizens force water debate onto agenda  Water and who should provide it – the public or private sector – has become the first issue to be pushed onto Brussels’ policy agenda via a new mechanism meant to involve ordinary people in EU decision-making. Advocates say the human right to water should be enshrined in EU law and that public, not private companies should be responsible for providing water services

Small dams create greenhouse gas hotspots   The reservoirs of water behind large dams are a known source of methane. Methane is one of the greenhouse gases, which trap heat near the Earth’s surface and contribute to global warming. Methane, however, has a warming effect 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The methane comes from organic matter in the sediments that accumulate behind dams. A study of methane releases from smaller dams – often created for green hydropower – found methane emissions from dammed river hot spot sites can potentially increase global freshwater emissions by up to 7%.

China’s shrinking wetlands  China’s wetlands have shrunk nearly 9% since 2003, aggravating water scarcity in a country where food production, energy output and industrial activity are already under pressure from water shortages. The lost wetland areas have been converted to agricultural lands, swallowed by large infrastructure projects or degraded by climate change. Wetlands store a large amount of China’s freshwater resources, and receding wetlands will leave less water available in the long term.

The Indus River - one of Pakistan's rivers with headwaters in India. Photo by: Kogo.

The Indus River – one of Pakistan’s rivers with headwaters in India. Photo by: Kogo.

Water wars may sink India-Pakistan ties  Control of water resources is expected to be a source of immense dispute between India and Pakistan in the coming years. Pakistan claims that India is trying to control and steal its share of water by building dams in violation of the Indus Water Treaty 1960. Pakistan recently objected to the design of Kishanganga Dam on the Indian side of Kashmir on the pretext that it would cause water shortages. The International Court of Arbitration, however, allowed India to build the dam and provide half of its water to Pakistan.

Why Sydney Water won’t fix all leaks  The equivalent of 48 Olympic swimming pools is seeping from Sydney Water’s network each day, but the organisation says fixing every leak would drive up water bills. However, the organisation was forced to defend its performance after its annual report showed profits were growing as complaints and household bills rose. Sydney Water has shed more than 500 jobs since 2011 and made a $415 million profit last financial year.

Aquatic plants can help to decrease radiopollution  Japanese scientists have identified 17 microalgae, aquatic plants and algae that are able to efficiently remove radioactive cesium, iodine and strontium from the environment. Biological concentration of radionuclides is an essential technology for bioremediation of radio-polluted soils and water. These results therefore provide an important strategy for decreasing radiopollution in the Fukushima area.