The Stream, August 10: Study Finds Widespread Chemical Contamination in U.S. Water

The Global Rundown

A study of public drinking water supplies in the United States found that systems serving millions of people are contaminated with chemicals called PFASs. China announced a plan to spend billions of dollars to improve water quality, and researchers warned that warming ocean waters will increase the number of disease-causing bacteria living in coastal areas around the world. Warming temperatures are also behind a significant drop in fish habitat in Africa’s Lake Tanganyika, and have prompted farmers in Kenya to experiment with catfish aquaculture. Archaeologists in Mexico say an ancient city there may have been built to celebrate water.

“We are happy because we can eat the fish, and sell it to generate income. It’s my hope that fish farming in this region will stand the test of time given the tough and changing climatic conditions.” –John Njiru, a fish farmer in Mashamba, Kenya, on his community’s decision to begin raising catfish in small aquaculture facilities. The fish are grown in “home dams” created by trapping rainwater, and are more resilient to warming temperatures than species like tilapia. (Reuters)

By The Numbers

$65 billion Amount China plans to allocate to 4,800 water quality improvement projects, according to the environment ministry. The plan also includes the creation of a program that will give incentives to provinces that complete projects and cut funding to those that do not. Reuters

6 million people Number in the United States who are served by public water supply systems with unsafe levels of chemicals known as PFASs, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters. The chemicals have been linked to poor health outcomes in animals, and could cause developmental and immune problems in humans.CNN

Science, Studies, And Reports

Fish habitat near the bottom of Lake Tanganyika, an African Great Lake and one of the deepest lakes in the world, has declined 38 percent since the middle of the last century, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As temperatures have warmed, cold water at the bottom of the lake and warm water at the top have stopped mixing as much, meaning the bottom waters do not get enough nutrients and oxygen to support fish. Yale Environment 360

The bacteria that cause illnesses including cholera are becoming more prevalent in oceans around the world as water temperatures rise, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings are especially troubling in the context of floods and major storms, which could push contaminated water into coastal communities and increase infection risks. Scientific American

On The Radar

The impressive pyramids of Teotihuacan, an ancient city in Mexico, may have been built to worship the water that the city’s inhabitants depended on for agriculture, according to an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. The city declined 1,400 years ago, and researchers have long believed that the pyramids were designed to worship deities representing the sun and moon. The Wall Street Journal