News in brief 13 December 2011
GLOBAL: Banks forge partnership to fight global warming
Five major multilateral development banks have agreed a new partnership to combat global warming. With the overall aim of better coordinating and deepening support to cities in adapting to and mitigating climate change, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the World Bank have agreed to work more closely to develop common tools and metrics for cities. The five banks said they would develop a common approach for cities to assess climate risk, standardise greenhouse gas emissions inventories, and encourage a consistent suite of climate finance options.
AFRICA: Report warns of unsustainable groundwater use in the Maghreb
The agricultural sector in the Maghreb region – Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in north west Africa – is using groundwater so intensively for irrigation that the practice is unsustainable, according to a new report. The study looks at groundwater use and management in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, reviewing the policies used and making recommendations that include combining the approaches outlined in the case studies and building stakeholder coalitions that include actors from beyond the agricultural and natural resource sectors. The report is available to download from the AfDB’s website.
AFRICA: Workshop suggests enhancing collaboration in rural watsan initiative
The African Development Bank (AfDB) recently hosted a pan-Africa consultation to review the first external assessment of the rural water supply and sanitation initiative, bringing together over 80 people from 25 countries representing governments, donor countries, implementing agencies and AfDB staff. The workshop was designed to collect stakeholder views on the assessment, and found that participants generally agreed with the report’s findings while adding suggestions for improvements. These included enhancing coordination and collaboration with development partners, strengthening the overall governance for monitoring and reporting, and updating implementation strategy.
AFRICA: Study warns of climate change impacts in west Africa and Sahel
A new UN study released at the Durban climate talks warns that climate change is already impacting the livelihoods of millions of people in the Sahel and West Africa. The reportcalls for governments to implement policies that will prevent competition for resources, conflict and forced migration in the region. It also provides new evidence of how climate change is affecting natural resources in 17 West African countries. UN Environment Programme executive director Achim Steiner said: ‘This analysis underlines how competition between communities for scarce resources, especially land, water and forests, is already a reality in West Africa. Regional cooperation will be key to diffusing tensions, managing down the risks and curtailing the possibilities of increased conflict and environmentally-induced migration.’
US: EPA links fracking to groundwater pollution
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a preliminary analysis of data from its Pavillion, Wyoming ground water investigation, which indicates that groundwater in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing. The EPA constructed two deep monitoring wells to sample water in the aquifer and re-tested private and public drinking water wells in the community. The regulator says the results were consistent with chemicals identified in earlier EPA results released in 2010 and are generally below established health and safety standards. EPA is releasing these findings for public comment and will submit them to an independent scientific review panel, stressing that the findings are specific to Pavillion. The fracking company, Encana Oil and Gas, released a robust rebuttal of the findings, calling the release of the preliminary findings a ‘precipitous action’ and claiming the conclusions ‘do not stand up to the rigour of a non-partisan, scientific-based review and that is of paramount importance to every natural gas producing community, every citizen and business that relies on natural gas and every industry worker.’
KENYA: Country looks for funding for major dam building initiative
Kenya is looking for $1 billion over the next ten years to build 30 new dams to mitigate the effects of climate change. The country’s water minister, Charity Ngilu, told a conference in Nairobi on the future management and development of the water sector that the change in rainfall patterns had brought drought and floods that were affecting the agricultural sector. The dams are part of a marshal plan to develop water storage facilities and provide water security for the country in times of climate-change induced drought, she explained. They will be strategically placed throughout the country to eliminate the need for costly, short-term emergency interventions.
AUSTRALIA: Sydney cuts back on desalinated water as dam levels rise
Sydney Water has announced that the Sydney Desalination plant will cut back its supply by around 160MLD now that the 80% dam level trigger has been reached.
US: EPA announces Lake Ontario no-discharge zone
The US EPA has announced that a 3675 square mile (9518km2) area of lake Ontario is now a ‘no discharge zone’, which means that boats are completely banned from discharging sewage into the waters. This action is part of a joint EPA and New York state strategy to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the state’s waterways. The no discharge zone encompasses the New York portion of lake Ontario, including the lake waters within the New York state boundary from the Niagara river (including the Niagara river up to Niagara Falls) in the west, to Tibbetts Point at the lake’s outlet to the Saint Lawrence river in the east.
AUSTRALIA: Dairy industry warns of cutbacks under Murray-Darling plan
Some 500 dairy farms in northern Victoria could close under water cuts proposed in the Murray-Darling draft plan, the country’s dairy industry is claiming. The research on which this figure is based takes as its foundation a calculation based on the cuts in the amount of fodder farmers could grow to feed herds.
LAOS: Country stops construction of dam for further EIA studies
Laos has agreed with the Mekong River Commission Council to suspend construction of the controversial $3.5 billion hydroelectric Xayaburi dam on the Mekong river while further environmental impact studies are carried out. The move is seen as a victory for neighbouring countries in south east Asia, who had warned that potential damage to the lives and food security of up to 100 million people could offset the project’s value. In total, 12 dams are in planning on the river, which flows through various countries including Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and China, the latter already having four dams on the river’s upper reaches. Most of the energy from the Xayaburi dam would be exported to neighbouring Thailand.
US: EPA announces funding to restore Napa river watershed
The US EPA and Napa County, California, have announced the details of nearly $3.3 million in federal, state and local funding aimed at restoring water quality and riparian and aquatic habitats in the Napa rver watershed. As part of two major restoration efforts covering 15 miles (24km) of the river, more than 40 landowners have committed to converting nearly 135 acres of farmland to wildlife habitat.
INDIA: Tamil Nadu delays talks to await dam report
The Tamil Nadu government has delayed sending its representative for talks with neighbouring Kerala state about the Mullaperiyar dam, saying that it planned to wait until a report on the 116-year-old dam’s strength is published.
US: EPA announces urban waters restoration programme
The US EPA has announced a major programme to restore urban waters, providing up to $1.8 million for projects that improve water quality and support community revitalisation.The funding is part of the EPA’s urban waters programme, which supports communities in their efforts to access, improve and benefit from urban waters and the surrounding land.
US: House passes REINS act to rein back regulation
The House of Representatives has passed a piece of legislation called the Regulations In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would require a vote in Congress for any regulatory rule with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more.
UK: Ofwat investigates Anglian pricing
Ofwat, the economic regulator of water and sewerage services in England and Wales, has issued a Statement of Objections to utility Anglian Water, and has said it is investigating whether the company may have abused its dominant position and infringed the Competition Act in relation to water and wastewater services provision to the Fairfields development site in Milton Keynes. Ofwat considers that Anglian’s pricing for the site may have resulted in margin squeeze and excluded competition.
BRAZIL: PPP to improve water supplies
Brazil’s north eastern Alagoas state has qualified Companhia de Aguas do Brasil (CAB) for a 30-year public-private partnership to improve water supplies in its Agreste region and provide water for ten towns over the project period. State water utility Casal has estimated the project to be worth $79 million, and work includes building two pumping stations, refurbishing and extending the water network, and constructing a new 1200m3/hour water treatment plant. CAB is said to have been the only one of three bidders to submit a qualifying bid, but the other two consortia have filed appeals.
US: Fitch gives thumbs up to water sector
Fitch Ratings has issued a report on US water and wastewater utilities that says overall they appear well-positioned to continue generating solid financial performance to bondholders throughout the current economic cycle. The report notes that particular regions and classes of utilities face greater near-term stress than counterparts and that the cumulative effect could diminish future median results ‘somewhat’.
THE PHILIPPINES: K-Water announces plans for floating solar power
K-Water (Korea Water Resources Corp) has announced plan to install floating solar power installations in dams in The Philippines. Jiheun Yung, K-Water’s country representative, told local press the company was keen to study whether the technology could be installed in the Angat, San Roque, Casecnan or Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan dams. The company is investing $60 million in introducing the technology and a feasibility study early in the new year.
AFGHANISTAN: Tetra Tech wins sustainable infrastructure contract
Tetra Tech has announcedthat it is one of three companies that have won awards with a combined contract ceiling of $750 million to provide sustainable infrastructure development services for USAID water and energy projects in Afghanistan. Three companies will share in the multiple-award, indefinite quantity contract to help renovate and modernise Afghanistan’s water and energy sectors – the other two are Tutor Perini and Worsley Parsons. Work will include construction services, design/build activities including architectural/engineering services, technical assistance and other support services.
ZIMBABWE: Pöyry wins water and sanitation contract
Pöyry’s Water & Environment business group has been awarded a contract for the management and implementation of the water and sanitation component of the multi-donor trust fund in Zimbabwe. The aim is to manage major rehabilitation works that restore and stabilise water supply and sanitation services in six large municipalities serving an estimated population of 4.2 million. The local client is the country’s Ministry of Finance. The services provided by Pöyry will cover management of the repair and rehabilitation of critical water supply, wastewater installations and network systems as well as developing, coordinating and managing non-technical assignments for 18 months.
UK: Modern Water buys Strategic Diagnostics division
Modern Water has announced the completion of its acquisition of Strategic Diagnostics water quality division, including its Microtox toxicity testing technology, which uses bioluminescence to detect the presence of toxins. With the acquisition, Modern Water has established Modern Water Inc as a base for its business operations in the Americas.
UK: Mogden residents win ‘human rights’ court battle against odour
Residents living near Thames Water’s giant Mogden wastewater treatment plant won a victory in the High Court last week when a judge decided that the utility had breached Human Rights legislation by failing to tackle odour problems at the plant. Mr Justice Ramsey ordered Thames Water to pay damages of £19,000 ($29,604) to the ten lead claimants.
UK: Veolia announces plans to sell its water companies
Veolia Environnement has announced that it is to sell its three UK water companies, Veolia Water Central, Southeast and East, formerly Three Valleys Water, Tendring Hundred and Folkestone and Dover Water respectively. The sale is part of a wider restructuring plan announced last week, which will divest assets worth €5 billion ($6.6 billion) by the end of 2013. The company will refocus around three divisions – environmental services, energy services and water, focusing on services rather than asset ownership.
Loans and tenders
ISRAEL: EIB provides funding for Ashdod desal
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced the signing of an €120 million ($158.4 million) finance contract for the design and construction of a seawater desalination plant using reverse osmosis technology in Ashdod, Israel. The funds will be on-lent to Ashdod Desalination, a fully-owned subsidiary of Mekorot Development and Enterprise. The project will serve to substantially increase the availability of water resources in a water-scarce region by constructing the plant, which will have a production capacity of 100M.m3/year.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: IADB lends climate change funds
IADB has approved a loan to help Trinidad and Tobago incorporate climate change considerations into its national policies.The programme will strengthen and modernise the regulatory, institutional and policy framework to develop and promote instruments to assess and reduce vulnerability and risks associated with climate change.
ISRAEL: Geologists warn Dead Sea may disappear if climate warms
Recent investigations by Israeli geologists at Jerusalem University, who studied the sediments beneath the Dead Sea, suggest that the water body would not survive a significant period of drought. The researchers found that the sea virtually vanished 120,000 years ago when temperatures in the region rose. The geologists warned that because the Dead Sea’s freshwater sources have now been almost entirely drained by the surrounding populations, there would be little chance that it would recover.