The Stream, August 18: U.S. National Park Service Repeals Ban on Disposable Water Bottles

The Global Rundown

The United States National Park Service reverses its ban on plastic water bottles. Crops that produce a thick layer of leaf wax may be more resilient during droughts, a new study finds. As crops wither due to drought in Sri Lanka, young farmers leave the countryside in search of new job opportunities. Spain’s longest river, the Tagus, could dry up due to drought and poor maintenance. Floods in northeastern India disrupt train service and submerge infrastructure. Also in India, domesticated elephants are rescuing stranded flood victims.

“They would understand that a person is in trouble and that it’s a dangerous situation.” –Joyce Poole, co-founder of Elephant Voices, in reference to video footage showing elephants saving Indian flood victims. Currently, northeastern India is experiencing one of its worst floods in years, with an estimated 100,000 people affected. Elephants have been observed rescuing both humans and young elephant calves. National Geographic

By The Numbers

10 months Length of time that Sri Lanka has been devastated by its ongoing drought, the worst in 40 years. In some villages, the drought has killed crops for the last four seasons and forced residents to buy trucked-in water. In response to the dry spell, many rural young people are leaving the countryside in search of jobs in cities or abroad. Reuters

6 million Number of people in Madrid, Spain who rely on the Tagus River for water. The river, the longest in the country, is at risk of drying up due to sweltering temperatures, low rainfall, and poor management. The Weather Channel

6 years Length of time that the U.S. National Park Service banned the sale of disposable water bottles. The rule, which has so far been adopted by 23 of the 417 National Park Service sites, was eliminated this week by the federal government. According to the National Park Service, the change will “expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks.” Chicago Tribune

Science, Studies, And Reports

A team of researchers from the University of Southern California and Texas A&M University found that plants with a thick layer of leaf wax may protect themselves more successfully from drought. The researchers grew winter wheat in an arid part of Texas and observed that the plants shielded themselves with the wax, which the team likened to “lip balm” for plants. The study concluded that breeding for this trait could help stave off drought-related crop failure. Science Daily  

On The Radar

Severe floods in Assam, West Bengal, and Bihar, India have halted train services to the rest of the country. In addition to submerged tracks, a damaged rail bridge and disrupted telecommunication networks are also responsible for the suspended service. The Indian Railway Board will assess whether to reopen the tracks on August 20. First Post