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October 30: U.S. Losing Trillions of Gallons of Water to Aging Infrastructure

The Global Rundown

Aging infrastructure is wasting huge amounts of water in the United States, where San Antonio is eying a major water pipeline deal. A new report values water infrastructure in New Zealand. Also Down Under: threats to Sydney’s drinking water and plans to dump dredged soil onto Australia’s wetlands. Heavy rains threaten life and livelihoods in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The drought in Brazil pushes up soybean prices, and salt damage destroys farmland in arid regions around the globe.

“The Abbott and Newman governments realized that the community was not going to let them dump dredge spoil into the Great Barrier Reef so now they’ve moved on to the second dirtiest option and are closing their eyes to its environmental impacts.” — Larissa Waters, Greens’ environment spokeswoman, on plan to dump dredge material onto wetlands during expansion of Australia’s Abbot Point coal port. (Guardian)

By The Numbers

2.1 trillion gallons Estimated amount of water lost each year in the United States due to leaky, aging infrastructure. NPR

2,000 hectares Amount of irrigated land lost each day in arid and semiarid regions to salt damage. International Water Management Institute

$3.4 billion Cost of 30-year water pipeline contract that San Antonio City Council is likely to approve today. Circle of Blue

100 people Number feared dead following heavy rains and mudslides in Sri Lanka. BBC

Science, Studies, And Reports

New Zealand’s drinking water, sewer, and stormwater systems are worth $35.7 billion, according to a new study from policy think tank Local Government New Zealand. Local Government New Zealand

Sydney’s drinking water would “very likely” be at risk from coal mine expansions in the Lake Cataract catchment, according to a report from Australia’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee. Australian Broadcasting Corporation

On The Radar

Soybean prices are up 12 percent this month due to speculation that a severe drought in Brazil will curb plantings. Bloomberg News

Bangladesh’s “char dwellers”—those who live on shifting river islands—face a precarious future as climate change brings more intense monsoon rains and floods. Inter Press Service

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Water News

Newest Article

San Antonio Pipeline Continues Texas Water Rush

America’s seventh-largest city debates a pipeline project worth billions as the second-fastest-growing state faces more demands for water in its third year of severe drought.

Hawaii River Restorations Reflect National Desire to Protect Water for Public Benefit

Using public trust doctrine, communities restore streams diverted for more than 100 years.

Report: U.S. Water Systems, Deteriorated and Slow to Change, Need New Strategy – And Money

More of the same is not working in changed conditions of the 21st century.

Jerry Brown, Smart and Prepared, Responds to California’s Drought Emergency

Steeled by past drought, governor is reshaping how largest U.S. state uses and distributes water.

Michigan Aquaculture, an Infant Industry, Attracts Powerful Opposition

Quest for protein and profits invites challenge about pollution and waste.

Video: Global Choke Point — On the Front Lines of the Water-Food-Energy Crisis

Circle of Blue and the Wilson Center team up for a Global Choke Point presentation.

Californians Ring In New Water Year with Trepidation

Pervasive fear about consequences of another dry winter.

World Stands By As Algae and Dead Zones Ruin Water

Expensive research and cleanup efforts make little headway.

Western U.S. Governors Begin Drought Discussions

Better plans and more data are needed to guide response.

Despite Delays and Billions in Overruns, Olmsted Locks and Dam Project Rolls On

Ohio River project is departure for funds-starved U.S. water infrastructure installations.

New Federal Rules Expand Ways to Keep Prescription Drugs out of Waterways

Pharmacies, hospitals, and distributors are now authorized to collect narcotics, opiates, and other “controlled” drugs.

Great Lakes States to Track Asian Carp and Prepare for Future Invasions

Using invasive carp already present in Lake Erie, agencies practice response for more damaging species.

Ogallala Groundwater Study Will Set Stage for Colorado Water Conservation Debate

Farmers want to know the economic and social ramifications of reducing groundwater use.

More Trees Mean Less Water for California’s Mountain Rivers

If global warming increases vegetation in high mountain zones, less water might be available for rivers.

Circle of Blue Live From Stockholm World Water Week

Three Choke Point sessions on the fierce competition between water, food and energy.

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In The Circle: Fresh Focus

Newest Article

Big Data Requires Strong Relationships to Improve Farming

To influence water and food systems, the data revolution needs more than billions of bits. Brett Walton analyzes the lessons from last week’s Water for Food Global Conference.

Social Media Is Not Easy

After being named the Guardian’s #1 Twitter pick for #waternews, outreach coordinator Aubrey Ann Parker explains our winning strategy.

Business, Finance Leaders Address U.S. Water Policy

From markets and higher prices, better water systems will flow, they say.

Showing Off Circle of Blue Colleagues and Reporting in Traverse City

World-changing reporting fresh from northern Michigan.

Matt Black’s California Drought Photographs Featured in New Yorker

Circle of Blue photographer documents Central Valley water shortage.

Great Lakes Mayors Ask State and Federal Governments to Step Up On Algae

Drinking water summit focuses on Toledo water crisis.

Celebrating with a Blue Streak

A new member of the Circle of Blue team introduces herself.

California Governor Comes Full Circle on Groundwater Reform

New laws signed today address challenges highlighted in Jerry Brown’s first term – in the 1970s.

Making Water Stress a ‘Wedge’ Issue

A new approach puts people at the center of the water discussion.

In Nepal, Deadly Landslide Has Calmer Second Act

Dammed by the landslide, the Sun Koshi River breaks free.

World Water Week Offers Answers To Scarcity, Pollution, and Security

Stockholm hosts largest-ever international conference on global contest for water and energy.

Circle of Blue Live From Stockholm World Water Week

Three Choke Point sessions on the fierce competition between water, food and energy.

Lake Erie Algae Bloom Hits Pelee Island, Moves Toward Sandusky

Lake Erie algae alive and well.

California Senate Passes Groundwater Reform Legislation

The Assembly votes on Thursday.

USGS Report: California Freshwater Withdrawals Are Lowest Since 1960s

Californians are taking less water out of rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

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Action Figures

Newest Article

Azzam Alwash

Can war end in environmental rejuvenation? It did for Iraq’s Mesopotamian Marshlands, believed by many to be the Biblical Garden of Eden. The marshes — straddled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that wind their way from Turkey’s eastern mountains through the desert plains of the Middle East — were systematically destroyed by Saddam Hussein’s […]

Dennis Nelson

Dennis Nelson grew up on his family’s North Dakota farm, where the groundwater well barely supplied their basic needs. As a child, he didn’t know why the water was scarce when their land was surrounded by wetlands, or “prairie potholes,” as he calls them. “I simply couldn’t make the connection at a young age about […]

Stacey Travis

For more than 15 years, Stacey Travis was a television producer for networks like FOX, A&E, and AMC. Until, that is, she drastically switched careers in 2006, when doctors in Uganda and South Sudan told her about the water-related illnesses that plague these nations. Travis felt compelled to help and soon after founded Drop In […]

Ajay Krishnan

Can something be made of nothing? According to the research of 16-year-old Ajay Krishnan, the answer is yes. A research enthusiast since the sixth grade, Krishnan — now a junior at Oregon Episcopal School — found a way to produce hydrogen gas from wastewater utilizing microbial electrolysis cells. For his work in renewable energy, Krishnan […]

Rose George

While working as an editor and writer at COLORS Magazine, Rose George was assigned to work on Cacas, a coffee table book featuring photographs of animal and human feces, for which “caca” is slang. Through the project, she discovered Sulabh International, an organization in India that provides public toilets and works to liberate those whose […]

Peter Thum

Wine turned Peter Thum to water. While working on a project in South Africa involving two wineries, Thum saw the difficulties that many people experienced just trying to get clean water every day. “I did a bit of research and began to see the size and magnitude of this problem,” he says. So he decided […]

Vessela Monta

“We cannot say that rain is not interesting just because we can dig wells,” says Vessela Monta, a civil engineer by trade who began working with the International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA) in 2002. Some resources — like the availability of harvestable rainwater — get forgotten when discussing sustainability, but not to Monta. She points […]

Isabella Bovolo

Guyana means “land of many waters” in a native Amerindian language, but it also houses one of the most pristine rainforests left in existence, the Iwokrama. In 1996, Guyana and the Commonwealth of Nations established an organization of the same name. According to Iwokrama resident scientist Isabella Bovolo, the organization aims to fill large data […]

David Breashears

In 2007, from 5,600 meters atop the north side of Mount Everest, explorer David Breashears recalls how he was “astonished” by what he saw and “shocked” that he hadn’t been more aware of the state of this Tibetan glacier. Breashears was on a comparative photography assignment to match a photo from 1921 with the modern […]

Erin Huber

Erin Huber grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, near the Great Lakes, where clean fresh water is abundant and tap water is sometimes taken for granted. As a humanitarian and an environmentalist, Huber spearheaded rooftop gardens and farmers’ markets, but eventually honed her focus to water. Huber founded the Drink Local Drink Tap (DLDT) campaign in […]

Rohini Nilekani

Rohini Nilekani began her career as a journalist and writer. But upon marrying Nadan Nilekani — co-founder of the Indian tech-consulting firm Infosys — and coming into some money, she sought a cause to support financially. “I was looking for an area that would make sense to me and that would also have some kind […]

Chris Groves

Dr. Chris Groves spends a lot of his time going underground into caves carved by eons of water flow. Once a boy with an interest in rocks, today Groves is a world-renowned cave and limestone karst expert who directs the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute at Western Kentucky University. “It was the only practical way to […]

Lori Pottinger

Lori Pottinger advocates for rural communities that are at risk of being displaced by dam construction. She says that residents are not always aware of the extent of cultural and lifestyle adjustments they will have to make — or the option of resisting development. “They’re giving their all, and then they’re getting nothing from these […]

Kunal Sangani

Innovation started early for incoming Stanford University freshman Kunal Sangani. At just 17, he was named the U.S. finalist for the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for his project about the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”). A native of Syracuse, New York, where intense discussion about fracking led to a moratorium on […]

Ed Wargin

Ed Wargin set out almost 17 years ago to document the Great Lakes, and he’s almost finished. The Fresh Coast Project is an effort to document the Great Lakes as a single unit. “I have felt through the years that we needed a solitary type of message, that we needed to look at the Great […]

Ned Breslin

Ned Breslin is the CEO at Water For People, a nonprofit that implements drinking water solutions in 11 countries.
  •    More Ned Breslin

  • Peter Gleick

    Dr. Peter Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute, an internationally recognized water expert, and a MacArthur Fellow.
  •    More Peter Gleick

  • James Workman

    James Workman is an award-winning journalist and has served as an environmental consultant to U.S.-cabinet members.
  •    More James Workman

  • Infographic: Live and Historical Water Reservoir Volumes in California (1990-Present)


    US Drought Monitor US Drought Outlook
    The U.S. Drought Monitor and Seasonal Outlook report the most current drought conditions and forecast, courtesy of NOAA, et al.

    Special Reports

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