The Stream, October 16, 2019: Mysterious Mussel Die-Offs Disrupt Rivers in North America and Abroad

The Global Rundown

Scientists search for the source of mussel die-offs in U.S. and other world rivers. An analysis of Australia’s Drought Communities Program shows that funding is sometimes used on events, equipment, or non-water infrastructure. Drought and starvation stalk pastoralists in Angola. Residents await updates months after Michigan lawmakers dismissed criminal charges related to the Flint water crisis and promised to begin a new investigation. Deadly legionella bacteria, identified several months ago, remains in the water system of a California prison. A new analysis by the United Nations shows that farmers lose up to 20 percent of the food they grow. 

“[L]and and water resources have been wasted, pollution created and greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted to no purpose.” –Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in reference to data showing that up to a fifth of food produced worldwide is wasted. The FAO report says that food is lost all along the supply chain, from harvest to markets, but says that the right policies could help alleviate the waste. Reuters

Latest WaterNews from Circle of Blue

What’s Up With Water – October 14, 2019  — This week’s edition of What’s Up With Water includes coverage on Typhoon Hagibis in Japan, improvements to water infrastructure in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and flood buyouts in the United States.

HotSpots H2O: Egypt and Ethiopia Spar Over Nile River Dam in Latest Round of Talks — Negotiations over how to fill and operate a controversial dam in Ethiopia are once again deadlocked after a tense back-and-forth. 

By The Numbers

100+ Days since Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud dismissed all criminal charges related to the Flint water crisis, while promising to begin a new probe. Months later, there have been no updates or new charges, leading to growing frustration among Flint residents. MLive 

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

67 percent Proportion of Angola’s grazing land that is controlled by commercial livestock farmers, leaving just 33 percent for pastoralists. An analysis by Amnesty International suggests that large portions of land were taken from pastoralists without due process. Now, as drought overwhelms the country, pastoralists and their herds are at increasing risk for food shortages and starvation. Amnesty International

Science, Studies, and Reports

Scientists are searching for the causes of mass mussel die-offs in parts of North America and Spain. Mussels, which filter water and manage silt levels, are a crucial part of river ecosystems. In some locations, they have recently been dying by the thousands, and researchers are unsure why. Scientists say the die-offs are possibly due to disease, or potentially a type of water contamination, and warn that the deaths will alter rivers regardless of the cause. The Guardian  

On the Radar

A survey of $100 million in grants awarded under Australia’s Drought Communities Program (DCP) found that, although much of the funding is used on water infrastructure projects, other communities utilized the grants for things like music festivals, airstrip upgrades, and a virtual gym. The guidelines for the DCP states that projects must either boost employment opportunities for those involved in the farming industry or bring economic activity and “business retention” to drought-hit communities. The Guardian

In March, two inmates at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tested positive for the legionella bacteria, which later killed one of them. Since then, California has spent more than $8 million on portable showers, bottled water, and other measures, while the source of the bacteria remains unknown. Several prison buildings are still under a water advisory. The Sacramento Bee

In context: The Rapid Rise of Legionella: Q&A with Patrick Breysse of the CDC

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