Africa
Panama is one of the fastest-growing economies in the Western Hemisphere, largely thanks to a new free-trade agreement with the U.S. and an ongoing $US 5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. Slated for completion in 2014, the expansion will double the canal's capacity, which will reduce emissions, and the new system will recycle 60 percent of the water in each transit, along with an overall decrease of 7 percent less water than is used by the existing locks.

News headlines are often dominated by the big, unexpected events — BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, for example, or Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophes in 2011 — but some events come with advance warning. Here is a preview of the water news to look for in 2012.

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Adding pressure to already strained budgets, the price of food is expected to remain high and quite volatile on the heels of this year’s extreme floods and droughts. Though price increases are occurring globally, they are hitting hardest in the developing world.

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The remarkable president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their work on women’s rights. This award is rightful recognition of the commitment and dedication of these women to strengthening the rights and dignity of women in Africa, and around the world.

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Somalia Suffers from Severe Drought

Meteorologists are hopeful for future rainfall, though they say the current disaster was preventable. The lack of rain, which is also affecting neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, and political instability have tipped Somalia into a food crisis that could persist, even as drought conditions abate.

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There is a long history of conflicts over water. The first known water war was nearly 5,000 years ago: a conflict over irrigation ditches between the cities of Umma and Lagash in ancient Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now Iraq.

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Libya aftermath - lack of clean water

Muammar Qaddafi’s great achievement of tapping desert aquifers and sending the water hundreds of kilometers to Tripoli, the capital, and other coastal cities is now the focal point for sabotage and siege. Aid agencies have begun humanitarian relief as rebel leaders try to gain control of water-producing regions.

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As an energy boom, propelled by natural gas, continues to gather steam, mining and drilling companies square off with landowners around the globe over who has the right to resources that are located deep below ground.

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UNESCO

In June, a committee concluded that the construction of the dam endangered the existence of Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Climate change became a hot-button issue at a recent U.N. Security Council meeting.

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The Horn of Africa

The drought has gripped large regions of eastern Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and is likely to continue for much of the year, according to the United Nations.

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Kader Asmal, South Africa's first democratic Minister for Water Affairs and Forestry, was a "tireless advocate for human rights," and shifted the country's policies to help bring water to arid rural lands and urban slums such as Alexandra Township in Johannesburg. Photo ©J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

When Nelson Mandela named South Africa’s first democratic Minister for Water Affairs and Forestry – a futile effort to keep his outspoken, irascible, chain-smoking friend out of trouble – Kader Asmal claimed ignorance about the rudimentary basics of his new portfolio.

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Lake Turkana - Water Conflict

Severe droughts have added stress to an ongoing dispute between two neighboring ethnic groups near Lake Turkana — the border between the two nations — which has culminated in a series of violent attacks.

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So if “beneficiaries” are a terrible indicator of success in the international water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector, then what should take their place?

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Going the Distance for Water

In many cities, water travels far to reach the tap. Residents of the planet’s driest places rely on extensive waterways to deliver their supply. Click through the interactive infographic below to learn more about 10 cities that pipe water in from distant aquifers, plus additional plans to expand waterway networks even further.

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Organizations are creating tech tools to shine light on water supply operations—and improve service.

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A subtle but important trend in the water sector is only now starting to emerge in developing nations.

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Torrential rains threaten to plunge the West African nation into crisis.

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The African country reaches out to its Nile Basin neighbor.

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The United Nation’s World Habitat Award honors community-based model for clean drinking water and sanitation.

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New study finds link between disappearing trees and receding ice atop Africa’s tallest mountains.

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