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 Water transfers need better handling - report

Friday 21 August 2009

waterMassive transfers of water between river basins – so-called mega-transfers – could result in widespread environmental degradation as the levels of regulatory scrutiny involved in the processes are not strict enough, according to a new report by WWF for World Water Week. The “Pipe Dreams?” report investigated the practice across the world, including schemes in Europe, Australia, South Africa, South America and Asia, each time revealing a high cost and high risk strategy.

It is estimated that within the next decade the volume of water used in such transfers will reach around 800 cubic kilometers a year, with the total number of schemes ranging between 760 and 1240 globally – figures that underline the sheer scale of the practice.

“With the number of large water transfer schemes possibly nearly tripling by 2020 and the amount of water transferred expected to double, poorly assessed mega-transfers have the potential to inflict immense harm on both the communities donating the water and the communities receiving it,” said Dave Tickner, WWF-UK’s Head of Freshwater.

“Don’t venture into interbasin transfers unless you have done your homework on impacts and alternatives,” he added. “Otherwise you could face serious planning deadlocks, operational shortfalls, unforeseen economic and environmental disruption, and expensive follow-up works that will only partly remedy the damage. If trends in water tables through climate change are not properly taken into account, the water planned for transfer might not be there any more in future.”

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