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Belgian Authorities Blame French Sugar Beet Refinery Leak For Downstream Mass Fish-kill

TOURNAI, Belgium

50-70 tonnes of fish have died in Wallonia, Belgium, blamed on contamination from a leak in a settling pond at a sugar beet refinery across the border in France.

Tereos, owners of the processing facility in France, admit a leak was found 10 April that led to a spill of wastewater into a tributary of the Scheldt River, but claims there is no proven link between the spill and a reduction in oxygen levels resulting in the fish kill. Belgian authorities have accused the French factory of being too slow in issuing a warning.


War-torn Yemen Hit By Floods, Cholera

SANA'A, Yemen

Since mid-April, more than 100,000 people across conflict-torn Yemen, but particularly Aden, Abyan, Lahj and Sana’a City, have been affected by heavy rain and flash flooding that has contaminated water supplies, damaged roads, bridges and power, and cut access to basic services.

UNICEF has warned that over 5 million children under the age of five are facing a heightened threat of cholera and Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD). More than 110,000 cases of suspected cholera have been recorded across 290 of Yemen’s 331 districts since January 2020. Children under the age of five account for about 25 percent.

Further OOSKAnews coverage of water in Yemen (More than 500 articles)


EBRD, Switzerland and European Union Support Sustainable Water Utilities In Kyrgyz Republic

BISHKEK, Kyrgyz Republic

Citizens of Naryn in the cetral region of the Kyrgyz Republic will enjoy improved wastewater services thanks to a joint $7 Million USD investment by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Government of Switzerland and the European Union (EU) in the municipal water service infrastructure at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance of high standards of hygiene and sanitation.

US Voters Support Investment In Water Infrastructure

WASHINGTON DC, United States

A new poll conducted on behalf of the Value of Water Campaign shows that voters in the United States value water and want elected officials to prioritise investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. In principle, more than four in five US voters support increasing federal investment in water infrastructure, supporting an increase in federal investment in rebuilding water infrastructure ‐ including pipes, pumps, reservoirs, treatment plants, and other facilities ‐ “to ensure safe, reliable water service for all communities”.

Czech Republic: Historic Drought Threatens Drinking Water Availability And Harvest

PRAGUE, Czech Republic

The Environment Minister of the Czech Republic, has called the combination of almost no snowfall and a warm winter, which has caused a 500-year drought, “catastrophic” for the country.

In a 29 April televised briefing to journalists, Jiri Brabec said "Currently, 80 percent of underground wells are in a state of mild to extreme drought, mainly due to the accumulation of the deficit in the last 6 years and extremely little snow in the past winter".

Water Diplomacy Talks - - "Alternative Dispute Resolution"


Jayantika Kutty, Research Analyst with think-tank Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), speaks with David Duncan, Publisher, OOSKAnews in this (LINK) OOSKAnewscast / Water Diplomat audio interview.

This OOSKAnewscast was recorded on the occasion of the release of  an SFG "Blue Peace Bulletin" titled "Alternative Dispute Resolution". (THE FULL APRIL 2019 BULLETIN CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE).

Riparian countries cooperating on water management are bound to face new issues that could potentially lead to conflict. It is therefore important to have built in mechanisms in their water sharing agreements that could lead to a peaceful resolution of issues as and when they arise. River Basin Oraganisations around the world have found a different, but effective way of dealing with resolution of disputes between them. This issue of the Blue Peace Bulletin examines some of them.  Kutty is part of the research team behind Blue Peace Bulletins, monthly publications which highlight issues related to water and violence in different geographic regions.
Jayantika holds an MA in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from the United Nations mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. SFG is a Mumbai, India-based international think-tank engaged in crafting new policy concepts that enable decision makers to prepare for a future in uncertain times. Measuring cooperation between riparian countries and the efficacy of such cooperation can serve to better inform and advance regional peace and stability. In the audio conversation, Jayantika Kutty describes the "Water Cooperation Quotient"  (WCQ) developed by SFG, which uses a framework of different parameters to measure the level of cooperation between riparian countries such as agreement, exchange of data, water infrastructure, and political commitment. One of the WCQ parameters stipulates for "Alternative Dispute Resolution" (ADR), defining this as “The riparian countries have a well-defined mechanism for resolving disputes, which could be either through a River Basin Organisation, to which they belong, or through reference to a specific third party.

The Blue Peace Bulletin offers a number of examples of Alternative Dispute Resolution; in the audio conversation, Kutty makes specific mention of:

  • The 1978 "Convention Relating to the Status of River Gambia", signed by Gambia, Senegal, Guinea and Guinea Bissau, which provided for the creation of ‘The Organization for the Development of the Gambia River’ (OMVG), an RBO to manage three trans-boundary rivers namely, Gambia, Corubal and Geba.
  • 1960's Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan which has managed to survive wars and diplomatic clashes between the countries and has been able to fulfil certain water obligations with The World Bank acting as a mediator.

"Catastrophic" Human And Economic Cost of Flooding Caused By Climate Change

WASHINGTON DC, United States

By 2030, up to 15 million people and $177 Billion USD in urban property will be affected by annual coastal flooding and an additional 132 million people and $535 Billion USD will be affected by riverine flooding, the World Resources Institute (WRI) reports (Aqueduct Floods Tool).

Floods are more intense as a consequence of climate change, development in high-risk zones, and land subsidence from the overuse of groundwater. Using its “Aqueduct Floods” tool, World Resources Institute calculates that by 2050, the numbers are predicted to be “catastrophic”, with a total of 221 million people at risk, with cities bearing the cost of approximately $1.7 Trillion USD annually. Developed in 2014 with consortium of data partners, including Deltares, Amsterdam’s Institute for Environmental Studies, Utrecht University, and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the tool also suggests that investment in flood protection infrastructure returns significant benefit. For instance, every $1 invested in flood protection infrastructure in India results in $248 in avoided damages and a 50 percent decrease in future risk.

Charlie Iceland, Director of water initiatives at WRI, told OOSKAnews that “even relatively modest efforts to increase flood protection levels could yield very significant benefits. For example, if Tanzania were to increase its riverine flood protection levels to guard against a 1-in-10-year flood instead of a smaller 1-in-5-year flood (the amount of flood protection we estimate they currently have), this would result in avoided impacts on $79 billion worth of GDP between now and 2100, avoided impacts to 74 million people, and benefits of about $20 for every $1 spent".


China-funded Guinea Dam Breaches Human Rights Of Displaced Communities

Conakry, Guinea

A new report from research and advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes construction of the Republic of Guinea's Souapiti dam as breaching human rights requirements for displaced persons. The group examines the impact of the 450 megawatt dam on the villages and hamlets that are affected by the flooding of the reservoir and the lack of support provided by the government of Guinea president Alpha Conde.

The report is based on information from over 90 interviews with displaced residents and villages in the West African Republic on whose land people are resettled, as well as interviews with government leaders involved in the resettlement process, also offering recommendations on how resettlements can be improved going forward, and describing remedies needed for communities that have already been displaced.


Transboundary Cooperation To Protect Drin River Basin Water Resources

TIRANA, Albania

Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Greece and Northern Macedonia have approved a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for sustainable management of the shared Drin River Basin, an important source for fishing, electricity, agriculture, tourism and drinking water in the countries. The project sets out more than 100 agreed actions to enable sustainable water management in the basin, benefiting 1.6 million inhabitants.

The SAP, approved in a “virtually signed” 24 April statement by Ministers and representatives, aims to address four particular cross-border issues among the Riparian nations - water pollution, biodiversity degradation and ecosystems, water flow and sediment disturbances.


Continuing War Of Words Over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam


Differences remain stark between the positions of Ethiopia and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile.

Further OOSKAnews Coverage of GERD (70 Articles)

Zerihun Abebe, a member of Ethiopia’s negotiating team, told media 26 April that completing the dam is not just a matter of development, but more a matter of survival for Ethiopia. Abebe argued that while the dam is framed as a prestigious power project and an exercise in hydro-hegemony in Egyptian narratives, “this is a misrepresentation”.


Lake Victoria Floods Force Displacement, Hamper Social Distancing Measures


Heavy rains that have caused major flooding in and around Lake Victoria over the past two weeks have affected fisheries, restaurants, shops, homes and livelihoods in in Kenya and Uganda, with widespread destruction and displacement. Experts and villagers claim this is the worst flooding since 1963. Local officials in Kenya have appealed to the national government for assistance in an effort to mitigate the problems and to forestall friction among fishing and pastoralist communities.


Israel Halts Cyber Attack On Water Infrastructure

TEL AVIV, Israel

Israel’s Water Authority has reported that a number of cyber attacks on command and control systems of several wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and sewage water infrastructure were attempted throughout the country. The 24-25 April action appears to have been coordinated but there was no damage to the water supply.


Romania: EBRD Loan Supports Buzau County Water Infrastructure Improvement

BUZAU, Romania

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has approved $21.5 Million USD financing for water and wastewater infrastructure improvement in Buzau County, in southeastern Romania.


"World's Largest" Agriculture Drainage Facility Opens In Egypt

CAIRO, Egypt

Egypt has officially opened the world’s largest agricultural drainage treatment, recycling and reuse plant in the northeastern city of Ismailia, east of the Suez canal.

The $100 Million USD Al Mahsamma facility, that can process up to 1 million cubic meters per day, will make a significant contribution to conservation of the natural ecology of Al Temsah Lake which has been impacted by wastewater disposal, treating the waste then draining it into the East Sinai canal.


Support For Dhaka Water Network Improvements

DHAKA, Bangladesh

Bangladesh capital city Dhaka's water and sewage system is to benefit from development bank and government investment to improve supply and sanitation for an underserved, fast growing poulation.


US Judge Halts Tar Sands Pipeline, Citing Ecosystem Impacts Of Water-crossings

BILLINGS MT, United States

A federal judge in the US state of Montana has ruled that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) violated the law when it approved an important water-crossing permit for the contentious Keystone XL tar sands pipeline system which runs from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta, Canada to refineries, oil tank farms and pipeline distribution systems in central and southern US states.


Water Stewardship: Inspiring Leadership In Peru’s Ica Valley


OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest columns written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. In this article, Adrian Sym, Chief Executive of the pioneering Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) describes, with focus on the agri-export sector in Peru's Ica Valley, how a robust and credible standard for water sustainability is a framework behind which diverse stakeholders can unite and, with strong leadership, can help to plot a pathway through complex and contentious situations.

Since joining AWS in 2011, Adrian has overseen the development of the Alliance into the a truly global network that ignites and nurtures leadership in credible water stewardship. Adrian leads a globally-dispersed team of experts who support this work and ensure that lessons from local contexts are shared across the network, inform the ongoing development of the AWS Standard, and inspire responsible stewardship of our freshwater resources. A development and sustainability professional, Adrian has extensive international experience ranging from Fairtrade International in Germany to grassroots NGOs in Nepal and Bangladesh. His diverse experience, together with his academic background (Masters in International Policy and Diplomacy), has helped to shape Adrian’s view on sustainable development, believing that this can only be achieved through relationships built on trust and respect amongst and between stakeholder groups.

José Luis Camino runs Sun Fruits Export, a successful agro-exporting business in Ica Valley, Peru. As a major grower of table grapes, tangerines, avocados and blueberries, José Luis knows that year-round sunshine and favourable soil conditions are vital, but the most precious resource of all is the water that flows from the Andes Mountains into the Ica river and the region’s groundwater reserves.

José Luis’s business, and with it the employment of up to 2,000 people, depend on the sustainable management of Ica’s scarce water resources. The story of Sun Fruits is typical of many companies in Ica, fuelled by the ever-increasing demand for high-value export crops in Europe, North America and Asia. Data from Ica paints a picture of relative prosperity, compared to neighbouring regions of Peru, however this prosperity comes at a cost. There are long-standing concerns about groundwater levels and negative impacts on the upstream region of Huancavelica resulting from surface water transfers.
In 2010, Progressio published “Drop by drop: Understanding the impacts of the UK’s water footprint through a case study of Peruvian asparagus”, a report that was instrumental in capturing the attention of the mainstream media in Europe and raising questions about embedded water in international value chains. Further studies have added to this, notably Swedwatch which published “To the Last Drop: Water and human rights impacts of the agro export industry in Ica, Peru: the responsibility of buyers” in late 2018.
In Ica, as in many other locations worldwide, it is easy for an overall negative picture to obscure the positive action that many individuals and groups are taking to ensure the Valley’s sustainable future. General criticism tends to put everyone on the back foot, leaving little space for constructive and collaborative improvement.

As a globally consistent and stakeholder-endorsed framework, the AWS Standard helps to plot a pathway through such complex situations. Certification to the AWS Standard provides recognition for sites whose stewardship is "best in class". 

In December 2019, I had the opportunity to see first-hand how the Standard is helping to reconcile different interests in Ica. In contentious settings, the risk of taking positive action that involves greater transparency, and therefore potential criticism, can be very high. Taking the first step takes courage. It was inspiring to see the leadership of José Luis Camino and five other major growers in the region who have committed to seek AWS certification. Even in a location as apparently homogeneous as Ica, the actions adopted by different growers reflect their specific relationship with water. Sun Fruits’ water stewardship activities has a strong focus on access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for workers and local communities, building on their experiences in refurbishing a government-run wastewater treatment plant (pictured).
By contrast, Manuel Yzaga, CEO of Vanguard Peru, focuses on utilizing technology and data to improve water use on his Challapampa farm, and promoting all actors in Ica to share data, with the vision of achieving better integrated water management. Sun Fruits and Vanguard are improving their farms’ water use while, more importantly, bringing others with them by demonstrating that water stewardship makes good business sense and is vital for the prosperity of communities in a region as water stressed as Ica. This leadership and commitment to transparency and collective action has been brought into sharp relief by the way in which these and other AWS members have responded to community needs during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The AWS Standard lends itself well to supporting collective action. Growers in Ica are sharing their commitment with peers, both local and further afield. This is complemented by strong endorsement by local agencies of a stewardship approach, including the JUSAVI, the Ica Groundwater Board, the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and AGAP, the Peruvian Association of Agricultural Producers.

This type of constructive engagement is precisely the kind recommended by Swedwatch. It builds the trust and confidence needed to ignite local leadership and to break the negative cycle of blame. In a location that is so connected to international value chains, constructive engagement must also extend to international stakeholders.

AWS is engaging with supermarkets, importers, investors and NGOs to ensure their support for the work on the ground in Ica, and other sourcing hotspots in Latin America and beyond. Just as trust and confidence are needed locally, they are also essential for ensuring international stakeholders understand how they can best support water stewardship efforts. Shared learning helps to expand the scope of international interest and increase positive local impacts.

Water stewardship is no panacea, and the sustainability of water for the agri-export sector in Ica will need constant attention. But the experiences in Ica and elsewhere show that a robust and credible standard is a framework behind which diverse stakeholders can unite and, with strong leadership, can help to plot a pathway through complex and contentious situations.

The six growers in Ica who have publicly committed to pursue AWS certification are: Agrícola Chapi, Agrícola Valle del Sol S.A.C., Campos del Sur, Safco Perú, Sun Fruits Export, y Vanguard Perú.

AWS would like to acknowledge our partners who are supporting work in Latin America: Edeka, WWF-Germany, DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH) and FMO (Netherlands Development Finance Company).

The AWS International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard) is a globally applicable framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a catchment context. The Standard is intended to drive social, environmental and economic benefits at the scale of a catchment.


Virus Risk In Arab Countries Exacerbated By Inadequate Water, Sanitation Systems

BEIRUT, Lebanon

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has warned that inadequate acccess to water for hand-washing and drinking exacerbates risk of coronavirus infection in many Arab countries. In a 16 April policy brief the agency described an urgency “to ensure access to clean water and sanitation services to everyone everywhere, at no cost for those who cannot afford it, in order to avoid further spread of the coronavirus".


Pope Links Coronavirus To Man-made Climate Crisis

ROME, Italy

On 9 April, Holy Thursday in the Catholic Church liturgical calendar, Pope Francis delivered his homily behind closed doors at St Peter's basilica in the Vatican, which has been closed to the public since early March. Among other topics, the Pope spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.

Consistent with this messaging, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development called last month for renewed efforts to confront water issues, to protect and care for water resources, and to provide clean water for all. (OOSKAnews)


Management Of Plumbing Systems To Limit Spread Of Disease


OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest columns written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. In this article, Dr Michael Gormley describes how management of plumbing systems within buildings can be deployed to limit transmission of infectious pathogens.

Gormley is Director of the Institute for Sustainable Building Design and Director of the Water Academy in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.. He is a Chartered Engineer and has worked in academia and industry for 35 years and currently holds several international patents. His main research interests relate to fundamental numerical modelling of fluid flows in water supply and sanitation systems applied to three broad areas – Infection spread dynamics, building wastewater plumbing system product development and water and sanitation (WASH) in an international development context.


Over the last 20 years or so, one of the areas I have focused on is research aimed at improving the performance and safety of building drainage systems, particularly tall buildings, which by their very nature are engineering challenges. Two facts about these systems are rarely understood, the first is that air is as important in a wastewater plumbing system as water, and second, that the small amount of water in the U-bends under sinks, baths, showers and toilets, is the main defense against the ingress of foul or contaminated air into the interior of the building from the wastewater plumbing system and sewer. The challenge for designers is to specify a system which will minimize air pressure fluctuations and protect the water in U-bends.

While foul smells are often a nuisance, the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the end of 2019 and the disease that it causes COVID-19 have given this a different level of importance, particularly in light of our research on infection spread in tall buildings which we recently reported in the Lancet Global Health. In particular we have identified a transmission pathway for bacteria and viruses (like SARS-CoV-2) through defects, like empty U-bends.

The identification of the wastewater plumbing system as a potential transmission pathway for pathogens goes back to the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003 and one building which raised concerns at the time. In 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a final report into a superspreading event of SARS within a housing block in Hong Kong. The 41-storey building had over 300 confirmed cases of SARS and 42 deaths. The report identified defects in the wastewater plumbing system as a transmission mode within the building which facilitated the transport of ‘virus laden droplets’ through empty U-Bends in bathrooms. This airborne transmission route was aided by bathroom extract ventilation which drew contaminated air into the room. Since then, our research group has been working on investigating mechanisms of cross transmission, improvements in system design, and innovations in system monitoring, including confirmation of the wastewater plumbing system as a reservoir for pathogens.

In 2017, we published results from an experiment on a full scale two-storey wastewater plumbing test-rig in which we used a model organism to represent pathogens flushed into the system. Viable organisms were shown to be transmitted between rooms on different floors of a building being carried within the system airflow, under defect conditions similar to those found in the SARS case in Hong Kong. Droplet fallout resulted in contamination of surfaces within the system and rooms.

In that paper, published in PLoS One, we also suggest causes of the wastewater plumbing system defects and presented a basic qualitative risk assessment for disease spread in buildings. One significant factor identified was the interconnectedness of all parts of the building by the wastewater plumbing system and, therefore, the potential for contaminated air to travel throughout the building unhindered.

So, the potential for a substantial viral load within the wastewater plumbing system (and therefore the main sewer system), in combination with the potential for airborne transmission due to aerosolisation of the virus, calls for wastewater plumbing systems to be considered as a potential transmission pathway for COVID-19.The interconnectedness of the wastewater plumbing network can facilitate exposure to SARS-CoV-2 within, or even between, buildings. This is of particular concern in high-risk transmission settings such as hospitals and health-care buildings.

So, what is the long-term solution to this issue? Given that the industry has been aware of this for 17 years with little change, what should happen now? In my view the issue is one of regulation. There are virtually no regulations on internal plumbing systems once installed. This lack of regulation would be unthinkable in water supply systems in buildings, so now is the time to start thinking about how to overhaul codes and standards and introduce regulations for wastewater plumbing systems inside buildings - before the next inevitable pandemic.



The Water Diplomat is produced by OOSKAnews, Inc in a collaboration with The Geneva Water Hub. Content is produced by, and copyright held by OOSKAnews, Inc and do not represent any official position of The Geneva Water Hub.