Friday, January 13, 2012

Water News: What’s Ahead in 2012 by Brett Walton

The food crisis in the Horn of Africa will continue this year, according to a famine early warning system funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Though the famine early warning system has global forecasts, the Horn of Africa is the only emergency spot forecasted in the near term.

In response, the United Nations, which said in a statement that the situation is “expected to get worse”, has called for more than $US 2.3 billion in aid to help Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti to cope with refugee settlement and the short-term effects of the drought. At the same time, the executive director for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that a million children in Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of malnutrition in 2012 because of poor harvests caused by insufficient rain.

Global health leaders are hopeful that 2012 is the year that Guinea worm, a water-borne parasite, will be eradicated. Infections have fallen from 3.5 million in 1986 to 1,056 during the first 10 months of 2011. Following small pox, Guinea worm would be the second-ever human disease to be eradicated. Polio, another water-borne disease, is next in line. Advocates anticipate a polio-free world in 2013.

Thanks to the payroll tax cut compromise, U.S. President Barack Obama has 60 days to approve or deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The 2,700-kilometer (1,700-mile) oil conduit from the Canadian tar sands to refineries in Texas would have an initial capacity of 700,000 barrels per day. The president’s decision should come by the end of February.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will make several final decisions this year that could have consequences for water resources, and the agency will start the rule-making process for several new regulations. In the spring, the EPA will decide what pollution controls are necessary for the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that provides nearly all the electricity to move Arizona’s annual share of the Colorado River, 3.5 billion cubic meters (912 billion gallons).

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