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World needs ‘greener’ water policies as demand rises: UN

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Governments should focus on “greener” policies to improve the supply and quality of water as climate change and a growing global population threaten the water security of billions, the United Nations said on Monday.

In its 2018 World Water Development Report, the UN calculated that an estimated 3.6 billion people — nearly half the global population — live in areas where water can be scarce at least one month per year.

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And this number could rise to 5.7 billion by 2050, the report warned.

“If we do nothing, some five billion people will be living in areas with poor access to water by 2050,” said UNESCO Director General, Audrey Azoulay, at the presentation of the report in Brasilia.

“This report proposes solutions that are based on nature to manage water better. This is a major task all of us need to accomplish together responsibly so as to avoid water-related conflicts,” she said.

Global water use has increased by a factor of six over the past century “and continues to grow steadily at a rate of about one percent per year,” the report said.

And use is expected to rise significantly due to population growth, economic development and changing consumption patterns, among other factors.

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“The vast majority of the growing demand for water will occur in countries with developing or emerging economies,” the report said.

At the same time, the global water cycle was intensifying due to climate change, “with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier.”

– ‘Ecosystem-friendly’ –

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So-called “grey” or man-made water infrastructure — such as reservoirs, irrigation canals and treatment plants — were no longer sufficient to meet these challenges, said the report’s editor-in-chief, Richard Connor.

There is increasingly limited room to build more reservoirs because of silting, environmental concerns and restrictions, as well as the fact that in many developed countries the most cost-effective and viable sites had already been used, the UN argued.

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“In many cases, more ecosystem-friendly forms of water storage, such as natural wetlands, improvements in soil moisture and more efficient recharge of groundwater, could be more sustainable and cost-effective than traditional grey infrastructure such as dams.”

“Nature plays a unique and fundamental role in regulating the different functions of the water cycle,” Connor said.

Nature-based solutions “can act as regulator, cleaner and water supplier”.

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The report said that green solutions were already showing great potential.

New York, for example, has protected the three largest watersheds that supply water to the city since the late 1990s through forest preservation programmes and paying farmers to take on environmentally friendly practices.

“Disposing of the largest unfiltered water supply in the US, the city now saves more than $300 million (245 million euros) yearly on water sea treatment and maintenance costs,” the UN said.

Another example was China’s “Sponge City” project to improve water availability.

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By 2020, China plans to build 16 pilot projects across the country with the aim of recycling 70 percent of rainwater through greater soil permeation, retention and storage, water purification and the restoration of adjacent wetlands.

– Feed more people –

“These solutions are cost-effective” and not more expensive than traditional systems, said Connor.

The UN pointed to estimates that agricultural production could be increased by about 20 percent worldwide if greener water management practices were used.

In addition to improving water availability and quality, “it is possible to increase agricultural production per hectare with better water management” and thus feed more people, said Stefan Uhlenbrook, programme coordinator at the UN World Water Assessment Forum.

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“Green” infrastructure also helps fight erosion, drought and flood risks while boosting soil quality and vegetation.

And indigenous peoples could be involved in implementation, something which was not the case in “grey” infrastructure,” the report said.

At the moment, however, only “marginal” use was made of such nature-based solutions.

“Accurate figures are not available”, but investments in these techniques “appear to be less than one percent… of total investment in infrastructure and water resource management,” according to the report.

They “are often perceived as less effective” because they are less visible, Connor said.

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2020 Election

Trump and the GOP have become the party of the dead

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There are few morbid topics subject to greater speculation than the religious loyalty of President Donald Trump's "base." Why an alarmingly large amount of Americans refuse even to entertain any criticism of Trump deserves scrutiny from political scientists, psychologists and perhaps horror novelists working in the school of Edgar Allan Poe.

This article first appeared in Salon.

What is abundantly clear is that no matter who votes for Trump, he and the Republican Party on the national level have no interest in governing on the behalf of living human beings — with the exception of ensuring that a tiny minority of billionaires and multimillionaires enlarge their investment portfolios. Trump evinces no concern for Americans dying of the coronavirus, racist violence or any other malady or injustice. He demonstrates no regard for health care professionals courageously trying to save their patients from dying, and appears cruelly indifferent to the struggles of millions of workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by COVID-19. Needless to say, Trump also shows contempt for Black Lives Matter, immigrants and anyone who opposes his re-election, which at this moment (and throughout his presidency) is more than half of the American public.

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As coronavirus seizes the state, Florida hospitals are in panic mode

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As Florida experiences a surge in coronavirus cases, the residents of the state are facing obstacles like overwhelmed hospitals and a looming shortage in beds.

This article first appeared in Salon.

There are 47,663 hospital beds in the state right now with 11,782 available (meaning a remaining capacity of 19.82 percent) and a total staffed bed capacity of 59,445, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration's Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard. The state Department of Health also reported on Friday that, out of 95,300 individuals who received coronavirus test results over the course of the previous day, 11,433 tested positive for COVID-19 (all but 90 of whom were Florida residents), meaning that more than 12 percent of the new cases had positive test results. The state also reported 93 new deaths due to COVID-19. (Salon reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on this story.)

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2020 Election

The GOP is a suicide cult

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

Back in March, we argued that Donald Trump had become the charismatic leader of the dumbest suicide cult ever. There were fewer than 500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the time, but it wasn't difficult to see the trajectory we were on at even that early date. At the time, we were commenting on the President's* repeated claims that the whole thing was a big hoax and polls showing that Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say they were taking steps to avoid becoming infected.

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