The Stream, April 18: Retreating Glacier Shifts Water Flow of Canada Rivers

The Global Rundown

A shrinking glacier in Canada changed the direction and amount of water flowing down several rivers in the Yukon. Illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe continues to pose a threat to rivers and forests. Water and sanitation investments remain critical to the fight against cholera in Haiti. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, will get a larger refill from Lake Powell this year. Saudi Arabia may cut billions of dollars from infrastructure development, but water projects will likely be safe, according to analysts.

“What is happening in Tarka (Forest) is shocking. We wonder who is benefiting from the illegal gold because as a country, we are not. Such gold is not going to the legal market.” –Mandi Chimene, minister of provincial affairs in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province, referring to a boom in illegal gold mining that has polluted rivers and caused deforestation. The illegal activity is thought to be the result of poor economic conditions in the country. (Reuters)

By The Numbers

$13.3 billion Value of government infrastructure and development projects in Saudi Arabia that could be cut this year. The kingdom is reviewing projects that are less than 25 percent complete in an attempt to improve government efficiency, though analysts expect water projects will still take priority. Reuters

11.1 billion cubic meters Amount of water the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to release this year from Lake Powell downstream to Lake Mead. The release to the country’s largest reservoir is more than the annual average, but less than previously expected after a wet winter. Associated Press

In context: Lake Mead’s steadily declining water levels are a visible measure of intensifying water scarcity in the fastest growing region of the United States.

Science, Studies, And Reports

The retreat of a glacier in Canada’s Yukon redirected much of its meltwater last year, sending the water flowing into the Pacific Ocean via the Alsek River instead of down the Yukon and Slims rivers into the Bering Sea, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. The change is likely permanent, researchers say, and it highlights some of the severe and rapid threats to river basins from global climate change. The New York Times

On The Radar

Investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene projects are the bedrock of efforts to eliminate cholera in Haiti, according to the country’s United Nations humanitarian coordinator. Approximately 42 percent of Haiti’s population still lack safe drinking water access, complicating efforts to fight the cholera epidemic that has persisted since 2010. UN News Centre