The Stream, July 6: More Crops Grown With Untreated Wastewater Than Thought

The Global Rundown

Millions of people around the world are at risk as more crops are grown with untreated wastewater. An overflowing Brahmaputra River displaced thousands of people in India. Crop diversification could be one way to help farmers in South Asia reduce their reliance on dwindling groundwater supplies. Ethiopia is moving forward with plans to restore forest lands and secure water resources. Rome has started shutting off some of its popular public drinking fountains amid a drought and heat wave.

“There are really no incentives to save water. The minute you try to impose a tax, or raise the price for overdrawing the resource, you get a massive backlash. Once you have subsidized it for so long, the addiction is there, so what are you going to do?” –Sonali McDermid, a climatologist at New York University, discussing the stubborn problem of groundwater depletion in India and Pakistan. She says crop diversification will be key to helping farmers in South Asia meet the challenges of climate change and finite water resources. (Yale Environment 360)

In context: Free water and energy cause food waste and power shortage in India.

By The Numbers

400,000 people Number displaced by floods along the Brahmaputra River in India’s Assam state. Twenty people have died, and officials expect heavy rains will persist over the next several days. Associated Press

30 drinking fountains Number shut off in Rome. The popular public fountains normally run nonstop, but a heat wave and drought have strained the city’s water system. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

As many as 885 million farmers, food vendors, and consumers around the world may be exposed to health risks stemming from the use of untreated urban wastewater to grow crops, according to a study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The study found that approximately 30 million hectares of crops are irrigated with untreated water within 40 kilometers of an urban center, a 50 percent increase from previous estimates. BBC News

On The Radar

Ethiopia plans to add 5 million hectares of trees within the next three years as part of a massive reforestation effort. The project aims to reduce the effects of climate change and secure the country’s water supplies. Reuters