The Stream, March 15: Syria Government Cut Damascus Water Supply In War Crime, UN Finds

The Global Rundown

The Syrian government committed a war crime by deliberately attacking the water supply for Damascus, according to a United Nations commission. The news comes as Syria announced that water service will soon return to Aleppo after government forces recaptured vital infrastructure from the Islamic State. Researchers warn that sea level rise, land subsidence, and reduced sediment flows threaten the future of the Nile Delta. Legislation in India aims to create a single tribunal to resolve water conflicts between states. A dry winter has so far failed to recharge aquifers across southern England. Floods in Mozambique have exacerbated a cholera outbreak that officials say is poised to spread across the country. The United States will contribute thousands of plant varieties to an international database to help find drought-resistant crops. Koalas in Australia are turning to man-made water sources in times of drought.

“The al-Feijeh spring was struck multiple times by the Syrian Air Force, which indicates the spring was purposely targeted. While the presence of armed group fighters at al-Feijeh spring constituted a military target, the extensive damage inflicted to the spring had a devastating impact on more than five million civilians in both Government and opposition controlled areas who were deprived of regular access to potable water for over one month…The attack amounts to the war crime of attacking objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population.” –Excerpt from a report released by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry for the Syria conflict, concluding that the Syrian government was responsible for cutting water supplies to Damascus in December. (The New York Times)

In context: Learn what role water has played in the Syria conflict.

By The Numbers

1,200 people Number sickened by a cholera outbreak in Mozambique, where a tropical storm last month triggered extensive flooding. The outbreak threatens to spread into 19 additional districts across the country, according to health officials. Reuters

570,000 crop varieties Number the United States will add to an international gene bank to help researchers find crops that can withstand droughts and other climate shocks. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

Egypt’s Nile River Delta is submerging at a rate of 1 centimeter each year due to a combination of sea level rise and land subsidence, according to a study in GSA Today, a publication of the Geological Society of America. The authors warn that the problem, caused in part by reduced sediment flow down the Nile River, could worsen when Ethiopia completes its Grand Renaissance Dam. UPI ; GSA Today

In context: Learn how the Grand Renaissance Dam holds sway over the hydrological fortunes of three countries and more than 200 million people.

Koalas are relying on man-made water stations in drought-hit areas of Australia, researchers at the University of Sydney found. Instead of exclusively getting their water from eucalyptus leaves, as was previously thought, the koalas visited the water stations for longer periods when rains failed. Reuters

On The Radar

Water is expected to once again flow through taps in Aleppo, Syria after supplies reached the Suleiman al-Halabi pumping station this week. Service has been cut for two months, but the Syrian Army recently recaptured important water infrastructure from Islamic State militants. Reuters

Legislation introduced in India’s parliament would create a single Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal to resolve water conflicts between states. The creation of the tribunal would speed the resolution of such conflicts, according to proponents. The Times of India

A dry winter in the United Kingdom slowed the recharge of aquifers, especially those in southern England, according to the British Geological Survey. Groundwater provides approximately one-third of the United Kingdom’s drinking water. Guardian