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.
In Syria, a major cholera outbreak that began in the northern regions has now spread across the country. According to the World Health Organization, since the end of August over 13,000 cases of the waterborne pathogen have been recorded. All but one of the country’s administrative districts have seen cases and 60 people have died. The source of the outbreak is thought to be contaminated water near the Euphrates River. Cholera is a bacterial infection – it is spread through poor sanitation or contaminated food and water. It causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration that can be deadly unless a sick person receives adequate clean water.  The cholera outbreak in Syria may have been intensified by social and political circumstances. The country has seen years of conflict, economic crises, and drought that have weakened its water and sanitation systems. The World Health Organization is monitoring conditions in temporary camps for people who fled violence. Crowded conditions in the camps can amplify infections. It’s been nearly a generation since the country’s last cholera outbreak, so aid agencies like Doctors Without Borders are training local health clinics on how to identify and treat patients. The last cholera outbreak in Syria was in 2007.
In research news, a new report details a steep decline in the abundance of the world’s animals. According to the Living Planet Report, since 1970 the average species has seen its population drop by 69 percent. The losses are due to poaching, pollution, and the conversion of habitat into farmland and pavement. In human terms, that’s the equivalent of seven out of 10 people vanishing from each city. The report is from the conservation group World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, and it takes the pulse of nearly 32,000 species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. According to the report, freshwater species have been hit the hardest. Because of dams, pollution, and other threats, freshwater fish, frogs, and salamanders declined, on average, by 83 percent. The World Wildlife Fund argues that this startling loss of biodiversity is intimately linked with the warming of the planet caused by greenhouse gases.
Moving away from fossil fuels is the only way to prevent the planet from dangerously overheating, but the transition will not be easy. One complicating factor is water. Lack of water doomed plans for a proposed hydrogen production facility in Australia that were shelved in May. It may not be the only such facility to meet that fate. Reuters News reports that water constraints could trouble more companies in their efforts to develop low-carbon hydrogen fuel for shipping, trucking, and steel production. Hydrogen comes in many forms. The cancelled Kallis Energy Investments project in Australia intended to produce what’s called “green” hydrogen, made when renewable energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then available as fuel. Securing water for these projects will be a challenge, especially in dry areas, and Reuters found little mention of water security in company statements or industry white papers. Companies are considering a range of alternatives, but each has substantial drawbacks. Projects in coastal areas could use desalinated water, but it is expensive and the briney byproduct must be disposed of as waste.
And that’s “What’s Up With Water”  from Circle of Blue, where water speaks. More water news and analysis await you at This is Eileen Wray-McCann – thanks for being here.