The Stream, May 26, 2021: Children Harmed by Attacks on Water Infrastructure, UNICEF Says


  • Children are collateral damage in attacks on water and sewer systems in conflict zones, according to a UNICEF report.
  • Poland and the Czech Republic work to resolve a dispute over a lignite coal mine that is accused of draining groundwater.
  • Amid drought, hydropower generation declines in California.

Water utility customer assistance programs in the United States reach a fraction of people who need help, a report finds.

“Confronted with the problem of unaffordable rates, the water sector’s response has been to point to these customer assistance programs. But if we look under the hood, these programs have too many loopholes and do not reach their intended audience. Collectively, we are failing at the task of ensuring everyone is able to afford water for their most basic needs.” — Sridhar Vedachalam, director of water at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center and the lead author of a report on the shortcomings of customer assistance programs. The report found that the programs have a limited reach, mostly satisfying homeowners and the elderly. Utilities could improve their offerings, the report concludes, by reducing late fees, streamlining application processes, and focusing on lower rates. State legislatures could help by allowing customer revenue to fund assistance programs.

In context: Water Bill Assistance for the Poor Hindered by State Laws


The Central California Town That Keeps Sinking
How Corcoran came to dip nearly 12 feet in more than a decade is a tale not of land but of water, and the ways in which, in ag-dominated Central California, water is power — so much so that many residents and local leaders downplay the town’s sinkage or ignore it entirely.

This piece is part of the Tapped Out collaboration, exploring power, justice, and water in the West.

In Case You Missed It:

HotSpots H2O: Israeli Airstrikes Intensify Palestine’s Water, Humanitarian Crises
After more than a week of air and artillery strikes that began on May 10, the damage in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza is immense. Three of Gaza’s few crucial desalination plants, necessary for making potable the tainted supply, are off line because of the bombings. Underground pipe networks, which reach 800,000 people in Gaza, have burst.

Report: Attacks on Water Infrastructure Harm Children

Children are collateral damage when water and sanitation systems are targets of war, according to a UNICEF report on the impacts of conflict. Children are more vulnerable to water-borne disease and the loss of reliable water service means that families turn to riskier sources. The report focuses on five countries where armed conflict has frequently damaged water infrastructure in recent years or prevented staff from operating the systems: Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, Palestine, and Iraq.


7 Percent

Share of California’s electricity generation this year that has come from hydropower. Reuters reports that the five-year average for hydropower generation is 16 percent of the state’s electricity mix. Drought conditions have caused reservoirs to decline, which reduces their capacity to move electrons. Energy analysts say that the state will need to increase natural gas imports to make up for the hydropower shortfall.


Officials from Poland and the Czech Republic worked on Tuesday to settle a lawsuit over a lignite coal mine in Poland that is allegedly draining groundwater from Czech communities just across the border. The European Union’s top court ordered the Turow mine to halt operations on Friday, but the Associated Press reports that Polish officials defied the order, arguing that power cuts would occur if the mine stopped production. The countries’ prime ministers met on the sidelines of an EU summit to discuss a deal.

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