The Stream, June 8: Chile Sues Bolivia in International Court Over River Dispute

The Global Rundown

Chile and Bolivia face off in international court over water. Canada’s First Nations lack sufficient clean water protections, a human rights group finds. Namibia is considering a new desalination plant. The fish at the heart of California’s water battles might go extinct. Government contract data shows that U.S. water utilities are doing more system maintenance. Who will pay for a major wetlands restoration in New Orleans? And might geo-engineering be needed to combat phosphorus pollution?

“Chile cannot sit back and let the Bolivian government conduct itself in a way that ignores our rights, and so we are suing Bolivia before the international court at the Hague.” — Heraldo Munoz, the foreign minister of Chile, speaking about a lawsuit filed with the International Court of Justice over the Silala River. Chile wants the court to declare the river an “international watercourse,” which comes with rights of access. Bolivia, its neighbor, contends that it owns the entire river and had threatened earlier this year to take Chile to court. PanAm Post

By The Numbers

21 percent: Annual increase in 2015 in the number of water and sewer maintenance contracts in the United States, according to a research firm that analyzes government services. Utilities are responding to the need to repair aging pipes. Onvia

$US 3 billion: Cost of wetlands restoration in New Orleans. The big debate: who pays, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Louisiana? They are settling the matter in court.

Science, Studies, And Reports

Canada’s First Nations do not have the same drinking water protections as those who do not live on reservations, according to a sharp report from Human Rights Watch. More than 100 native communities face boil-water advisories and many distrust their tap water. The researchers saw progress in Canada’s approach to contamination problems, but the government is not spending enough on the infrastructure to deliver clean water, the report claims. CBC

A state survey found “alarmingly small” numbers of Delta smelt in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the heart of the state’s water conflicts. Pumping restrictions have been in place for the last decade to protect the endangered fish. However, a prominent fish biologist foresees more peril. “There’s nothing between them and extinction, as far as I can tell,” he said. Sacramento Bee

Phosphorus, one of the leading causes of algae blooms and aquatic dead zones worldwide, accumulates in soils and sediments and can pollute waterways for years. Society has a choice, according to a group of scientists: “either speed up recovery using geo-engineering to cap sediment phosphorus stores, or do nothing, and accept poor quality freshwaters for decades to come.” They outline the risks and benefits in a special issue of the journal Water Research. Elsevier

On The Radar

Namibia’s central coast is considering a new desalination plant, says the governor of Erongo region. The area, which relies heavily on groundwater for municipal supplies, will soon face tighter restrictions on aquifer pumping. A desalination plant built six years is now seen as an important buffer against drought. The Namibian