The Stream, March 25: Severe Thailand Drought Cuts Economic Forecast

The Global Rundown

A drought in Thailand has depleted water levels in the country’s major dams and could reduce economic growth this year. Meanwhile, rain is expected to arrive in drought-hit South Africa in April, too late for this season’s corn crops. Water from Mexico’s Laguna Salada may be used to save California’s Salton Sea. Global investment in fossil fuel energy was less than half the investment in renewable energy last year, according to a new report. Using depleted aquifers to store excess surface water has proven to be a successful way for communities to deal with both droughts and floods, researchers found.

“We are looking at serious sums of money being invested in clean energy, with the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels the losers. This is the direction of travel that we need to see to have a chance of escaping the worst impacts of climate change.” –Catherine Mitchell, a professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter, on new research by the United Nations Environment Programme that found global investment in fossil-fuel power generation last year was less than half the investment in renewable energy. (Guardian)

By The Numbers

0.6 to 0.8 percent Amount a severe drought in Thailand is expected to cut the country’s economic growth this year, costing about $3.37 billion. Reuters

14 percent of capacity Amount of water stored collectively in the four largest dams in Thailand’s Chao Phraya River basin, where a drought has affected more than 270,000 farmers. Bangkok Post

Science, Studies, And Reports

Storing excess surface water in underground aquifers that have been depleted could be a successful way for communities to moderate extremes between droughts and floods, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Groundwater levels in areas that have been managed this way have risen an average of 9 centimeters to 48 centimeters each year, researchers found.

On The Radar

Above average rainfall is expected to fall in drought-hit South Africa beginning in April, according to the South African Weather Service. The rain, however, will come too late to salvage corn crops in the country that are expected to be nearly a third less than last year’s harvest. Reuters

Water from Mexico’s Laguna Salada, just south of the U.S. border, may be used to revive California’s ailing Salton Sea if a new plan is funded and approved. Researchers say toxic dust from the bed of the drying Salton Sea could cause social and economic costs between $29 billion and $70 billion over the next 30 years. The Desert Sun

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