The Stream, December 11: Cape Town Water Supply Will Likely Be Depleted by May

The Global Rundown

China’s massive South-to-North Water Diversion project fails to supply water to drought-stricken rural farmers. Researchers offer a solution for increasing hydropower along the Mekong River without sacrificing downstream fisheries. Tree-ring data reveals that Arizona’s recent dry spell was the worst in nearly 700 years. A billion dollar clean-up of the Hudson River draws to a close, but concerns about flood plain pollution remain. City officials warn that Cape Town, South Africa, a city of 4 million, is months away from running out of water.

“Running out of water in places that have a highly developed water infrastructure is not that common. I know of no example of a city the size of Cape Town running out of water. It would be quite catastrophic.” –Bob Scholes, a systems ecology professor at the University of Witwatersrand, in reference to Cape Town’s deteriorating water supply. Data shows that most taps will stop running sometime in May following three straight years of poor rains, a “once in a millennium” occurrence. Bloomberg

In context: Cape Town rations water before reservoirs hit zero.

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By The Numbers

$1.7 billion Cost of General Electric’s Hudson River clean-up project, which aimed to remove polychlorinated biphenyls and other toxic chemicals that the company released into the river decades ago. The clean-up has reportedly met the Environmental Protection Agency’s demands, but residents in the river’s flood plain worry that contaminated sediment remains. The New York Times

675 years Length of time since Arizona had a dry spell as severe as its 2010-2016 drought, according to tree ring data. Although conditions have improved this year, the state is still in the midst of a 21-year period of unusually low rainfall. Phoenix New Times

Science, Studies, And Reports

Nearly 100 hydropower dams are slated for construction along the Mekong River, raising concerns about the livelihood of downstream fisheries. Researchers at Arizona State University developed a mathematical formula intended to strike a balance between the dams and fisheries, which involves managing annual floods and allowing long low-flow periods. Science Daily

In context: One by one big hydropower dams disrupt Mekong River’s free flow.

On The Radar

China’s costly South-North diversion project has provided a great deal of water to northern cities, but rural farmers still face withering crops and little rainfall. As the country’s population grows, competition for the region’s finite water supply will become even fiercer, raising questions about China’s agricultural future. Bloomberg