The Stream, August 23: Groundwater Pumping Linked To Arsenic Contamination In Southeast Asia

The Global Rundown

Water supplies contaminated with high levels of arsenic are linked to a decline in groundwater levels in Southeast Asia, especially near major cities, a new study found. Climate change poses the biggest challenge yet for preserving national parks in the United States, where the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday this week. A government program in New Jersey has purchased hundreds of houses in flood zones to reduce the risk from rising sea levels and stronger storms. In flood-hit Louisiana, many residents lack insurance because their homes were not previously considered at risk from floodwaters. A water bottling plant in Ontario has sparked controversy as the province struggles with a drought.

“We are starting to see things spiral away now. We are going to look back at this time and actually think it was a calm period. And then people will start asking questions about what we were doing about the situation.” –Gregor Schuurman, an ecologist with the U.S. National Park Service’s climate change response program, speaking about the effect of climate change on America’s parks. On the eve of the agency’s centennial, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, stronger storms, wildfires, and ocean acidification are increasingly putting national parks at risk. (Guardian)

By The Numbers

42 percent Proportion of homes in high-risk flood areas in Louisiana that have flood insurance. Many of the homes affected by recent floods in the state, however, were in areas considered to have a moderate or low flood risk, where just 12.5 percent of homeowners have flood insurance. Reuters

471 houses Number in New Jersey purchased through the state’s Superstorm Sandy Blue Acres program, a voluntary initiative to buy and demolish homes in flood-prone areas in order to reduce exposure to climate risks. Bloomberg

Science, Studies, And Reports

The rapid growth in groundwater pumping for cities in Southeast Asia is contributing to arsenic contamination of drinking water supplies, according to a study led by researchers at Columbia University. As groundwater levels decline due to pumping, arsenic-laced water from nearby rivers is seeping into aquifers at unsafe concentrations. Science Daily

On The Radar

Drought conditions in Ontario have prompted a public backlash against government plans to renew a permit for a Nestle water bottling plant. The controversy has also focused attention on calls to increase the rate Ontario charges private companies to extract water from rivers and lakes, which is currently $3.71 per million liters. The Canadian Press