The Stream, December 27, 2019: Precipitation, Waterways Disrupted as Alaska Experiences Warmest Year on Record

The Global Rundown

Alaska’s warmest year on record causes ecological turmoil across the state. Bushfires threaten the main water catchment in Sydney, Australia. Nations along the Houston, Texas, considers solving its flooding problem by building massive stormwater tunnels beneath the city. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins a $842 million campaign to address water shortages in seven of the country’s key agricultural states. Mekong River develop a plan for protecting the waterway. 

“The Mekong River is not a tap. It’s not a toilet. It’s not like you open it, that you turn on the water: it’s a whole fragile ecosystem, an invaluable system that you need to protect.” –Pianporn Deetes, a campaigner in Thailand for International Rivers, in response to a plan put forth by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) for protecting the waterway. The governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam worked alongside the MRC to develop the five-point plan, which focuses heavily on drought mitigation. Some experts feel that the report overlooked several key issues, however, including the large number of hydropower projects along the river. Al Jazeera

In context:
Dams, Sand Mining Threaten to Wreck Mekong Delta
One By One Big Hydropower Dams Disrupt Mekong River’s Free Flow

Latest WaterNews from Circle of Blue

Dams, Sand Mining Threaten to Wreck Mekong Delta  — More than sea-level rise, unsustainable development on its rivers is the biggest risk to the delta’s economy and ecology.

HotSpots H2O: Drought Devastates Food, Power Supplies in Zambia and ZimbabweVictoria Falls, the iconic waterfall along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, has slowed to a trickle amid months of dry weather. The falls’ diminished flow is a visible symptom of a much larger drought problem. 

By The Numbers

34.5 ºF (1.4 ºC) Average 2019 temperature in Alaska through November, the warmest conditions on record. Experts say the state is warming at twice the rate of the planet as a whole, a situation that is causing disruptions to weather, wildlife, and livelihoods. Toxic algae blooms and erratic precipitation are two byproducts of the changing conditions. Reuters

$842 million Size of a government campaign launched on Wednesday, December 25, that will address water shortages in seven of India’s heartland agricultural states, including Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the funding will focus on replenishing groundwater and improving overall availability. Reuters

Science, Studies, and Reports

Bushfires are encroaching on the main water catchment in Sydney, Australia, leaving officials scrambling to protect the city’s supply. The Green Wattle Creek and Ruined Castle fires have scorched more than 223,000 hectares (551,000 acres) of land around Lake Burragorang, the source of about 80 percent of the city’s water. Only a “small portion” of the land around the catchment remains undamaged. Sydney Morning Herald 

On the Radar

Houston, Texas, is undertaking more than 200 projects as part of a $2.5 billion flood prevention bond. City engineer Scott Elmer, however, is considering the most ambitious project of all, large tunnels running from the city’s bayous to Houston Shipping Channel. The idea of the tunnels has received support from experts and city officials, but at a cost of $100 million per mile, funding would be a substantial obstacle to the initiative. Houston Chronicle 

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*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the city of Houston, Texas, was undertaking a $2.5 million dollar bond for flood prevention. The post has been updated to reflect the true amount of the bond.

2 replies
  1. Circle Blue says:

    Thank you for pointing this out. It has been updated. We will send out a correction in Monday’s edition in The Stream.

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