The Stream, June 1: Majority of England’s Floodplains Degraded, Report Finds

The Global Rundown

The vast majority of floodplains in England have been degraded by agriculture, urbanization, and poor management. The expiration of a key water-sharing agreement along the Delaware River could lead to more extreme droughts and floods, activists say. Oil and gas development in the shale formations of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas has not contaminated drinking water supplies, the U.S. Geological Survey found. A drought in Florida has drawn down Lake Okeechobee to critical levels. A land court in Queensland ruled against a proposed mine expansion that opponents say threatened groundwater supplies.

“I think it is a watershed [decision] because it is so rare a group of landholders and locals can win against a big, well-resourced mining company.” –Jo-Anne Bragg, chief executive of the Environmental Defenders Office Queensland, commenting on a court ruling against the proposed expansion of the New Acland coal mine. Opponents of the mine had warned that it could threaten groundwater supplies for Queensland farmers. (Guardian)

By The Numbers

90 percent of the floodplains in England are no longer effective at slowing down or storing water during storms, according to a report by researchers at Salford University. The report found that intensive agriculture, urbanization, the loss of wetlands, and poor river management are to blame for the floodplains’ degradation. Guardian

469 million liters Amount of water, per day, that will be released into the Delaware River from New York City reservoirs after a water-sharing agreement between Delaware, New Jersey, New York City, New York state, and Pennsylvania expires today. That amount is a 70 percent cut from the releases in effect under the previous agreement. River advocates say the lapse could increase the risk of droughts and floods. Times Herald-Record

Science, Studies, And Reports

Oil and gas wells are not currently causing widespread groundwater contamination in the shale formations of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey that examined concentrations of methane and benzene. However, because water moves slowly through the aquifers, it could take decades to determine the full effects of oil and gas development on drinking water supplies, the authors found. USGS

On The Radar

Officials in Florida may be forced to implement emergency pumping measures in Lake Okeechobee if summer rains fail to end a severe drought. Lake levels are currently so low that they threaten water supplies used for farming, Everglades restoration, and as a back-up for South Florida communities. Sun-Sentinel

In context: Political, financial, and ecological barriers block water solutions in South Florida.