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Iran starts $1-bn project to bring water to desert
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) April 16, 2012

Iran on Monday officially launched a $1-billion first phase of an ambitious project to pump water from the Caspian Sea to a city in its vast and expanding central desert, state media reported.

The initial phase will see a desalination plant and pipes built over the next two years to supply water to the desert city of Semnan, population 200,000, according to officials.

"The desert is growing... therefore we need to control its growth," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the northern city of Sari, near the Caspian shore.

The first phase would see water for drinking, irrigation and industrial use taken from the Caspian, treated to rid it of salt, and pumped to Semnan, 150 kilometres (90 miles) away to the south.

The first desalination plant to be built would have a capacity of 200 million cubic metres per year, or 548 million litres a day, according to Energy Minister Majid Namjou.

Khatam al-Anbiya group, the industrial arm of Iran's powerful military Revolutionary Guards which has interests in key economic sectors, is handling work on the project.

Later, two other phases are planned that would pump more water into desert areas from the Caspian Sea and from the Gulf, the media said.

Iran has operated several other desalination plants for decades for other regions.

Such seawater treatment facilities are also in use in other wealthy and arid Middle East countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel, to augment scarce water supplies.

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Half of England in drought: officials
London (AFP) April 16, 2012 - Half of England was officially in drought on Monday after the Environment Agency declared another 17 counties short of water, and warned the situation may continue until the end of the year.

Despite rain across the country last week, two dry winters have left rivers and ground waters depleted, prompting the government agency to urge businesses, water companies and consumers to be more careful in their use of water.

A ban on garden hoses has already been introduced in southern and eastern England, affecting about 20 million people.

Officials had hoped for more rain over the past six months, a period known as the "winter recharge period", but parts of England received less than 60 percent of the average winter rainfull during that time.

"A longer term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely," said Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency.

The agency had already declared drought zones in London, the south east, East Anglia and parts of Yorkshire in northern England, and on Monday it extended this to the southwest and the Midlands.

While public water supplies in these areas are unlikely to be affected, the agency said there would be problems for wildlife and wetlands, as well as for farmers' crops.


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Has the Dead Sea Used Up its Nine Lives?
Tel Aviv, Israel (SPX) Apr 13, 2012
Rapidly dropping water levels of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth's surface heralded for its medicinal properties, has been a source of ecological concern for years. Now a drilling project led by researchers from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University reveals that water levels have risen and fallen by hundreds of meters over the last 200,000 years. Directed by Prof. Zvi ... read more

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