The Stream, February 20: Racism At Play In Flint Water Crisis, Report Finds

The Global Rundown

Racism played a role in the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan, according to a government commission. Dwindling water supplies threaten half a million people in northeast Brazil. Scientists discovered astounding biodiversity in a coral reef at the mouth of the Amazon River. Bolivia applied for aid from the Green Climate Fund to finance irrigation improvements and boost drought resilience. The U.S. Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Snow cover in the Alps could decline drastically by 2100 if temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius. More rain is on the way to California, where storms turned deadly over the weekend. Local governments need to do more to improve water and sewage infrastructure in Tasmania, a state minister says.

“This could rewrite the ecology of the whole Amazon. We must now see the river, the forest and the reef working together, interconnected, and making up the richest biodiversity in the world – a mega biome.” –Ronaldo Francini-Filho, an ecologist at Paraíba University in Brazil, referring to a newly discovered coral reef that stretches more than 1,000 kilometers from the mouth of the Amazon River. After finding a vast array of species — some new to science — on recent dives at the site, scientists say the reef could rival the Great Barrier Reef in ecological importance. (Guardian)

By The Numbers

4 percent of capacity Level of the Boqueirão reservoir in northeastern Brazil, where it supplies 400,000 residents in the city of Campina Grande. Officials hope to channel water through the contentious São Francisco diversion project to relieve the region’s five-year drought as early as next month. Reuters

$250 million Amount Bolivia is requesting from the Green Climate Fund for its national irrigation program. The program aims to help farmers and boost food production, which was cut by a severe drought. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

Historic and systemic racism and segregation were a factor in the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan, according to a report released by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. “The vestiges of segregation and discrimination found in Flint made it a unique target. The lack of political clout left the residents with nowhere to turn, no way to have their voices heard,” it concluded. The report’s authors urged the state to adopt an environmental justice plan and restructure its emergency manager law, among other recommendations. Michigan Civil Rights Commission

In context: Learn about the Flint water crisis through the voices and stories of city residents.

Rising global temperatures could turn much of the snowfall over the Alps into rain by the end of the century, according to a study published in the journal The Cryosphere. Researchers found that snow cover in the Alps could drop 30 percent if temperatures warm 2 degrees Celsius, or 70 percent if that limit is exceeded. Guardian

On The Radar

The U.S. Senate voted Friday to approve Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt expressed a desire to give more power to state governments, and is expected to dismantle the Clean Water Rule, which asserted federal jurisdiction over wetlands and ephemeral streams. Bloomberg

Areas of Northern California near San Francisco could receive as much as 13 centimeters of rain over the next three days, raising concerns about flooding. A storm in Southern California killed five people over the weekend, and earlier this month the Oroville Dam was damaged after releasing massive amounts of water from its spillways, forcing thousands of people to evacuate downstream. Reuters

In context: Read how the Oroville emergency is a warning for U.S. dam safety.

Local government efforts to improve water and sewage infrastructure in Tasmania are not adequate, according to the state’s minister for planning and local government. He says a greater level of investment is needed to end drinking water advisories, control sewage overflows, and bring wastewater treatment into regulatory compliance. ABC