The Stream, December 19: “Mega-Drought” Is Possible in U.S. Southwest, Experts Warn

The Global Rundown

The Southwest U.S. may be heading for a “mega-drought.” A new dam on the Mekong River may threaten the critically-endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. The United Nations appeals for $2.7 billion in aid to bring food, water, and medicine to refugees of South Sudan. Glacial melt depletes water supplies across the globe, a new study finds. A government report says that the hydrological impact of coal mines planned in the Galilee Basin of Queensland, Australia, has been understated.

“It’s clear from this analysis that mining the Galilee Basin will have a very significant and irreversible impact on our water resources.” –Carmel Flint, campaign coordinator for environmental group Lock the Gate, in reference to a report released by the Australian government. The report found that there was a greater than 95 percent chance that mines planned in the Galilee Basin, including Adani’s Carmichael mine, will cause hydrological changes in the Belyando River Basin. The Guardian

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As PFAS Lawsuits Proliferate, Legal Tactics Emerge — Individuals, utilities, and states seek monetary compensation for chemical pollution of water supplies.

HotSpots H2O, December 17: Refugees Returning to Syria Face Devastated Water, Sewage Infrastructure — Islamic State militants were ousted from key Syrian cities in 2018, but water access in the country remains poor.

By The Numbers

92 Irrawaddy dolphins left in a section of the Mekong River in northeast Cambodia. The stretch of river is home to the largest remaining group of the critically-endangered species. The population has increased slightly in recent years, but environmentalists fear the planned Sambor Hydropower Dam could disrupt fish and nutrient flows in the river, causing local extinction of the dolphins. Al Jazeera

In context: One By One Big Hydropower Dams Disrupt Mekong River’s Free Flow.

$2.7 billion Aid requested by the United Nations to provide food, water, medicine, and other assistance to South Sudanese refugees. More than 2 million people have fled to neighboring countries during South Sudan’s five-year civil war. Reuters

In context: HotSpots H2O, October 8: Millions in South Sudan Rely on Distant, Dirty Water Sources.

Science, Studies, And Reports

Glaciers in both the Andes and the Tibetan plateau are melting rapidly, say researchers from Ohio State University. As a result, water supply in parts of Peru, Pakistan, China, India, and Nepal will diminish, and further decreases are likely in coming decades. Researchers predict that half to two-thirds of the glaciers will vanish by 2100.

On The Radar

The Southwest U.S. is teetering on the edge of a “mega-drought,” according to some experts. Only three mega-droughts–defined as dry spells lasting 20 years or more–have occurred in the region in the last 1,000 years. The Southwest has experienced 19 years of drought, and the impacts of global warming make it likely that the dry conditions will continue, scientists say. The Atlantic

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