Welcome to “What’s Up With Water” – your need-to-know news of the world’s water from Circle of Blue. I’m Eileen Wray-McCann.
For the last two weeks, world leaders and diplomats were in Egypt for the annual UN climate summit, COP27. Those who gathered in the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh had several main objectives. One was to bolster commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Another was funding to help low-income countries adapt to extreme weather and recover from its disastrous effects. 
Water sought a place at the table at COP27. For the first time, the summit dedicated a day to discussing water issues. Many speakers pushed for a greater role for water in climate response. The Water and Climate Leaders are a group of UN officials, private sector representatives, and current and former government ministers. They urged countries to integrate their climate and water plans. In a statement, they said: “there is no time to waste.” Egypt, which hosted the summit, promoted the AWARe initiative to improve climate adaptation and water supply reliability.
Amid the global-level negotiations in Egypt, national leaders were also busy. Officials from Israel and Jordan were especially active, using the summit to sign two agreements related to water and energy. The first reaffirms an existing arrangement, in which the Middle East neighbors committed to trade water for energy. Jordan will export solar power to Israel in exchange for desalinated water. The second agreement, still in the outline stages, aims to protect the shrinking Jordan River. The river provides water to both Israel and Jordan, and it’s threatened by the warming climate. The Associated Press reports that the details are thin at present, but potential projects include upgrading wastewater treatment plants to prevent sewage spills and reducing polluted runoff from farm fields.
If leaders want proof that even small projects can add up to big benefits, they can look to Pakistan. Officials in the capital, Islamabad, are taking initial steps to secure their groundwater. Last summer, Pakistan made global headlines when one third of the country was submerged in monsoon flooding. Despite the deluge, there is still not enough clean drinking water in the country’s major cities. According to the news site Third Pole, supplies in Islamabad provide only two-thirds of the water needed by the city’s two million people. Much of the supply comes from groundwater basins that stressed by over-extraction. Urban growth factors have worsened the problem, as more pavement is preventing water from soaking into the ground and replenishing the aquifer. To counteract this trend, Islamabad and nonprofit partners are digging wells that will redirect water back down to recharge the aquifer. In the last year they have finished 50 of these wells. By the end of the year they expect to have another 50 – modest steps toward a larger goal. Experts say it may take a thousand wells to halt the decline of Islamabad’s groundwater.
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