The Stream, December 13, 2019: China Prepares to Double Water Transfers to Dry Northern Provinces

The Global Rundown

China prepares to double the amount of water being transferred from southern to northern parts of the country. The collapse of Vale SA’s tailings dam in Brazil earlier this year is linked to “persistently high” water levels in a report from experts appointed by Vale’s legal team. South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis continues to escalate in the wake of drought and floods. A new investigation shows high concentrations of prescription drugs in the water near pharmaceutical plants. Police in New South Wales, Australia, search for a water thief. 

“This kind of theft is not acceptable. Police will continue to investigate this incident and are pleading with anyone with information to contact us.” –Detective Chief Inspector Luke Arthurs in reference to recent water theft from a property in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia. Around 25,000 liters of drinking water was taken. The state is in the midst of an extreme drought, along with battling numerous bushfires. Reuters

In context: In Australia, Echoes of Past, Glimpses of Future As Country Braces for Hot, Dry Summer

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By The Numbers

255+ People killed by a tailings dam collapse that occurred in Brumadinho, Brazil, in late January. A new report, prepared by experts appointed by Vale’s legal advisers, argues that the collapse was partially due to “persistently high water levels” that weakened the structural integrity of the dam. The experts say the disaster was also influenced by poor internal drainage and heavy rainfall. Reuters

5.5 million People in South Sudan who could be facing extreme food shortages by early next year. The World Food Programme (WFP) says that drought and flooding events have devastated the country’s harvests, raising the likelihood of famine. UN News

In context: HotSpots H2O: Flash Floods Strike Eastern Africa, Displacing 370,000 People

Science, Studies, and Reports

High concentrations of prescription drugs are often found downstream of pharmaceutical companies, according to a recent investigation by reporter Natasha Gilbert of Type Investigations using data from the U.S. Geological Survey. In manufacturing, drugs leave behind a powder residue, which is then washed down the drain when the machines are cleaned. From there, the drugs–which include everything from painkillers to antidepressants–move through wastewater treatment plants, which are unequipped to remove them, and then make their way into waterways. In some cases, the drugs were present in concentrations a thousand times higher than levels safe for wildlife. By the time the water reaches household taps, Gilbert says that the concentration of drugs is very low, but warns that the overall impact on animals and wildlife could be devastating. NPR

On the Radar

The second phase of China’s South-North Water Diversion Project will launch soon, doubling the amount of water transferred from the flood-prone southern part of the country to the parched north. So far, the first phase of the project has carried 30 billions cubic meters of water northward, supplying 120 million people over the past five years. Reuters

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