The Stream, July 20: Farmers Struggle as Worst Drought of the Century Grips New South Wales, Australia

The Global Rundown

Farmers in New South Wales, Australia, grapple with the region’s worst drought in more than 100 years. Lawmakers call for an independent water quality watchdog in Hong Kong after lead is detected at a new apartment complex. Drought-stricken Sweden requests help from neighboring countries as wildfires engulf thousands of hectares of forest. A federal watchdog urges better oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the wake of Flint’s water crisis. Taps in Arizona’s Sulphur Springs Valley run dry as nearby farms deplete the valley’s aquifer.

“The water looked like the desert surrounding the house. The same color.” –Lori Paup, a resident of the Sulphur Springs Valley of Arizona, in reference to the water quality when she moved into her home four years ago. Since then, the water quality continued to decline, before her home’s 300-foot well ran dry altogether. Other residents of the valley are grappling with similar issues as industrial agriculture depletes the area’s aquifer. The New York Times

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By The Numbers

20,000 hectares Amount of forest that is burning in parched Sweden. Normally, wildfires in Sweden burn about 2,000 hectares each year, but the country is enduring its worst drought since 1944, allowing the fires to spread rapidly. With no rain in sight, Sweden is asking other European countries for help in fighting the flames. Al Jazeera

116 years Length of time since New South Wales, Australia, has experienced a drought as severe as this year’s, according to residents. In the midst of the extreme dry spell, farmers are being forced to take on debt and import food for their livestock. Despite this, many animals are still dying as pastures dry up. The Guardian

Science, Studies, And Reports

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General published a recent report calling for better EPA oversight of state drinking water systems in light of Flint’s, Michigan, devastating lead crisis. The report urged the agency to take preemptive measures that would allow it to react more quickly to similar water emergencies. The New York Times

In context: Circle of Blue’s coverage of the Flint water crisis.

On The Radar

Three years ago, high lead levels were detected in several of Hong Kong’s housing estates. This week, lead contamination was found again in samples from a new housing complex, raising concerns that the problem has not been sufficiently addressed. Hong Kong lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan is calling for an independent water quality watchdog to investigate the issue. South China Morning Post

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