The Stream, February 1: Weather Extremes and Budget Balances

While ordinary Chinese flood train stations, bus terminals and airports, and pour out their money to buy presents, decorations and food for the Chinese New Year, media outlets are streaming news about the persistent drought that threatens China’s major wheat-producing regions. But the Year of the Rabbit can open on an optimistic note as well, after the central government said it would move water conservation to the front burner with a 4 trillion yuan ($608 billion) investment in water saving projects in the next decade.

China’s hydropower construction might also go on a spending spree, as the 12th Five Year Plan, to be unveiled this year, will raise the conventional hydropower target from 63 million kilowatts to 83 million kilowatts, and will give green light to a number of large and medium-sized hydropower projects.

Down Under, the budget is tight. Against a growing public and political backlash, Australia’s prime minister is trying to win support for her plan to introduce a temporary tax levy, a series of spending cuts and deferred spending on infrastructure projects to meet the costs of the recent heavy floods in the country, The Financial Times reports.

Other weather extremes have prompted a researcher at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to analyze the abnormally mild weather in Canada from mid-December to mid-January. A year after the country had the warmest and driest winter in its history, the Canadian Arctic suffered from temperature anomalies that in some areas exceeded 21 degrees Celsius (37.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above average.

The U.S. power sector withdraws more than 200 billion gallons a day, or more than half of the water flowing through the Ohio River each year, according to an analysis by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., for the Civil Society Institute (CSI) think tank. Meanwhile, a Congressional probe suggests that several energy companies in the United States may have violated environmental rules by injecting diesel into rock formations to force out shale oil and gas in a process called hydraulic fracturing.

Across the Atlantic, the European Commission will take Greece to court for failing to preserve Lake Koroneia, one of the country’s most important protected wetlands. The measures may cost Greece its EU funding for rehabilitating and protecting other wetlands, Xinhua reports.

The Stream is a daily digest spotting global water trends. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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