This is Eileen Wray-McCann for Circle of Blue. And this is What’s Up with Water, your “need-to-know news” of the world’s water, made possible by support from people like you.

In Egypt, a national initiative for more efficient irrigation practices is already bearing fruit. Reuters news service said that this January, Egypt’s government announced it would convert 5 million units of farm land to drip and sprinkler irrigation. These systems need less water to operate compared to standard watering methods such as flooding a field. Efficient systems also increase fruit and vegetable yields. A farmer in northern Egypt who installed a drip system this year said his mango harvest grew by 20 percent and water use went down by a quarter. Egypt is particularly sensitive to water concerns. It is a dry nation with a growing population and shrinking groundwater reserves, and it relies on one source – the Nile – for most of its water. Farmers face substantial costs for investing in efficient irrigation systems. To help, the government is offering low-interest loans and subsidies on fertilizer, pesticides, and seeds.

A UN human rights expert is calling on Columbian officials to cut mining pollution during the pandemic. David Boyd is the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment. He wants the Columbian government to suspend operations at one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines because its air and water pollution could be especially damaging to an indigenous community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Boyd said that not enough is being done to protect the indigenous Wayúu community that lives near the Cerrejón mine, even though Columbia’s Constitutional Court ordered the mine owners last December to tighten pollution controls. Residents complain of headaches from foul air, and they worry about mining waste in the region’s rivers. The mine began operating in 1985 and is a joint venture between three of the world’s largest mining companies: BHP, Glencore, and Anglo-American.

In the eastern United States, the Army Corps of Engineers gave a contested long-distance natural gas pipeline permission to cross streams. The Mountain Valley Pipeline, proposed by a coalition of energy companies, would stretch from West Virginia to southern Virginia. The 300-mile route includes more than a thousand stream crossings. Pipeline builders intend to cross streams in one of two ways. They will either tunnel beneath the stream, or they will construct a temporary dam and dig a trench along the dry stream bed. Pipes laid in the trench would then be covered and the water flow restored. The Roanoke Times reports that those opposing the project have already taken legal action in response to the Army Corps decision. Civic and environmental groups filed a petition in a federal appeals court challenging the permits and asking for further review. The groups argue that the project contributes to climate change, removes trees, and jeopardizes waterways. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of several pieces of contested fossil fuel infrastructure in the eastern United States. Opponents of new natural gas pipelines were victorious this summer when the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline canceled that project. Dominion Energy and Duke Energy cited ongoing delays and cost uncertainties due to legal challenges. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is still not ready to begin construction because it does not have all the required permits. Developers still need permission to build across lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. In addition, the project is plagued by financial troubles. According to a Reuters report, the pipeline is about $2 billion over budget.

In New Hampshire, a severe drought is causing hundreds of household water wells to go dry, especially in the financially vulnerable northern region of the state. Abby Fopiano is the state’s well water program manager. She told New Hampshire Public Radio that poorer families are the ones most affected by the drop in the water table. Many have shallow wells and can’t afford to dig deeper. She said “For those that can’t afford it, it’s going to be a long road if things don’t improve.” Without running water, those households are hauling water or running a hose from a neighbors’ house. Fopiano said that some rain is expected in the coming weeks. But a few inches won’t be enough. For the groundwater levels to recover, it will take an extended soak and that will have to happen before the ground freezes over.

And that’s What’s Up With Water from Circle of Blue, which relies on your support for independent water news and analysis. Please visit and make a difference through your tax-deductible donation.