I’m Eileen Wray-McCann, for Circle of Blue, and here’s What’s Up with Water, your “need-to-know news” of the world’s water.

India, blistering under extreme heat and drought, has received its monsoon at last. The Indian Meteorological Department says that southern India will see heavy rainfall for the next few days. Last weekend, the monsoon reached Kerala’s coast, bringing relief to the western region where key reservoirs had shrunk to 11 percent of capacity. A lack of rain compounded by a heat wave had put millions of people in India’s western and southern states at risk. 

Although the monsoon offers a respite, in Bangalore officials are grappling with growing water shortages as the city rushes to develop its tech sector. In the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India, rapid urbanization and rising population is putting increased pressure on poorly managed and polluted water systems. While jobs are plentiful, municipal water is unavailable for millions of residents. They depend on private tanker services or unauthorized wells. Bangalore’s population is expected to reach 20 million by 2031, but experts warn the city’s water sources could be all but depleted by then.

Russia plans to dump Moscow’s trash in a remote northern region, but locals fear the refuse will pollute nearby rivers. Moscow intends to send some 500,000 tons of waste each year to a former village some thousand kilometers from the capital. The trash will be compressed into plastic-wrapped bales, in what authorities describe as a modern approach that will solve Russia’s trash problem. Critics say the plastic wrap will break down into microplastics that will contaminate the water system, and then the waste, once unprotected, will release toxins. Al Jazeera reports that changes in the waste disposal process have made residents suspicious of corruption in what it termed “an opaque, monopolized industry.”

In Cape Town, just a year after the city avoided its ‘Day Zero’ crisis, citizens are again facing dry conditions. Although stringent conservation policies kept Cape Town’s taps from going dry, South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies says that poor water management is still a concern. Scientists say conditions will continue to harshen, and populations will grow, so wise solutions are vital. Villagers coping with the stark reality of parched existence are trying drip irrigation, drought-resistant crops and water-collection strategies. But the very sources of water are vanishing, and the competition for them – between plants, animals and people – is growing fierce.

The United Nations warns that in Somalia, one-fifth of the population is struggling to meet minimum food requirements amid drought. What was forecast as an average rainy season turned out to be one of the driest in 35 years. A UN relief coordinator said that aid agencies are overstretched and lack funds. The agency warns that without international aid up to 2.2 million Somalis face starvation by September. The UN official called for proactive measures for mitigating drought and hunger in order to minimize response times, costs and human suffering.

The UN is also sounding an alert for southern Madagascar, where over 360,000 people are at risk of famine. The warning is due to recurrent drought and natural disasters in the region. The island nation is prone to extreme weather, having faced 35 cyclones, eight floods, and five droughts in the past 20 years. Madagascar is one of Africa’s poorest countries. UN data show that 9 out of 10 residents subsist on less than $2 a day. Over half the children under age 5 are chronically malnourished. Access to clean water is fourth-lowest on the continent. A humanitarian official at the UN said the poorest and most vulnerable bear the brunt of climate change, although they are not responsible for creating it.

In coastal Bangladesh, floating homes could boost sustainability. A researcher from the University of Dundee in Scotland has designed a small floating home that might help coastal communities adapt to a changing climate. The homes were introduced in Bangladesh and are resistant to cyclones, earthquakes, and erosion. Making them widely available would require lowering costs and changing home ownership norms in low-income coastal communities.

In Scotland, whiskey distilleries revealed last week that they were forced to halt operations for a month last September after running out of water. The shortage was due to unusually hot temperatures and below-average rainfall. The industry warns that a similar problem could happen again this summer. 

In Chile, the booming avocado industry is straining water resources. Chile is the world’s third-largest exporter of the fruit, but residents say large-scale avocado companies that arrived a decade ago are sapping the water supply and causing rising tensions, including death threats. Many villagers rely on trucked-in water they don’t trust as safe, and others have had to abandon their homes. Chile’s designation of water as a commodity, as well as its water and agricultural management, has come under fire as the country tries to balance jobs and economic development with the risks of commercial exploitation in a drying climate.

In the United States: Over the weekend, the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri crested at its second-highest level ever. On Saturday, the river reached  46 feet, which is six feet above the mark associated with major flooding in the city. By Sunday, the level was down by a handful of inches. The Army Corps of Engineers predicted the Mississippi would recede slightly by mid-week in St. Louis, although it would stay well above the flood stage.

Floodwaters continue to swamp the Midwest, most recently in central and southeastern Oklahoma, where severe storms struck over the weekend. Farmers, homeowners, and businesses in nearly every Midwestern state are struggling to recover from the unprecedented flooding, which has come amid the wettest 12 months on record in the U.S. 

In Nevada, a new bipartisan bill aims to protect the state’s aquifers. Senate Bill 140 has unanimous support in both the Nevada House and Senate. Some water basins in Nevada still have water allocations that have not been claimed by any users, but someday could be acquired. The Nevada Independent reported that outdated hydrology and early settlement policies meant that regulators often issued more rights to water than the amount actually available to use sustainably. Most of Nevada’s groundwater is already spoken for by residents, ranchers, businesses and industries, but there are some basins with available claims. The new legislation intends to address future water stress by creating allocation buffers. If Gov. Steve Sisolak signs the bill, it will require the state to protect 10 percent of water in such basins. The bill is supported by a variety of water users who considered it a step in the right direction for water security.

In West Virginia last week, several environmental groups, including the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club, issued notices of intent to sue to nine coal companies in the state. They argue that the coal facilities have illegally dumped pollutants into waterways. The green groups say that proof of the violations is found in routine reports submitted by mining companies to state regulators. The groups say the polluters should be held accountable.

In California, tribes outside Los Angeles are fighting for the rights to their groundwater. The indigenous residents of Owens Valley named the area “land of flowing water,” but in the early 1900s the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power quietly secured vast holdings of ranchland, along with the water rights.  Los Angeles now owns hundreds of thousands of acres in the area, and pumps away a huge portion of groundwater. Owens Valley is now a much drier place, and tribal residents struggle for a sustainable economy. Their water rights are not established.  The water program coordinator for the Owens Valley Big Pine Paiute tribe told Reuters “We’re a resource colony for Los Angeles. We are impacted by the decisions made in Los Angeles, and really have no ability to influence those decisions.” A 2017 Supreme Court ruling, which upheld another California tribe’s rights to groundwater below its reservation, could signal a shift in the ability of tribes to prosper from their water resources. It could also provide ways for them to restore ecosystems, which many tribes revere as sacred.

In Michigan, authorities seized former Gov. Rick Snyder’s cell phone and hard drive as part of their ongoing investigation into the Flint water crisis. A search warrant, signed on May 19, named over 60 current and former Michigan officials whose electronic devices were sought, including members of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environmental Quality. The municipal water in Flint was tainted with lead after officials changed the source from Lake Huron to the more corrosive Flint River. Blood tests found high levels of lead in local children and the water was also linked to an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that killed at least a dozen people. Critics of the state’s water management are calling for high-level officials to be held legally accountable. The Michigan Solicitor General said the current team of prosecutors recognizes that there is “substantial potential evidence” that was not available to the team that conducted the initial stage of the investigation.

Water levels in Lake Erie, one of the U.S. Great Lakes, set a record-high this May, surpassing a mark from 1986. Lake Superior also set a new record for the month of May. Rainfall in the region was 21 percent above normal last month, and the resulting high water has swamped some coastal homes. A hydrologist at the Army Corps of Engineers told the Detroit News that Lakes Huron, Michigan and Ontario might also break records this summer, and that the threat of flooding and coastal erosion will continue along the Great Lakes coasts, particularly during storms.

Circle of Blue last week published a special report on how a North Carolina community is struggling to recover from repeated floods. Fair Bluff, some 75 miles west of the Atlantic coast, was flooded with four feet of water in October 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.

At least 71 homes and an apartment complex were ruined. It was the largest flood in the historical record — a distinction it would not hold for long. History repeated last September when Hurricane Florence, which broke rainfall records across the Carolinas, flooded the same properties again. The water on Main Street rose a few inches higher than during Matthew. The only business to have reopened in the flood zone is the U.S. Post Office.

The damage accelerated a residential exodus that was already in motion. Fair Bluff’s population peaked two decades ago at just under 1,200. After that, the decline was slow and steady, due in large part to economic and technological changes that are suffocating America’s rural communities. Those changes include industrial mechanization, shuttered factories and processing plants, the appeal of metropolitan areas, and the rise of e-commerce. Right before the floods, about 900 people called Fair Bluff home. Today, after displacement from the storms, about 600 remain.

In a dynamic era of more powerful storms and withering droughts, rural communities are on the front lines of newly hazardous terrain. During California’s historic five-year drought that ended in 2017, thousands of rural wells went dry. Today, in the Mississippi River basin, breached levees have flooded small towns in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. At the same time, many rural communities are in the throes of a disruptive demographic transition. People are aging, populations are contracting, and the burden of maintaining roads, sewage facilities, and drinking water treatment plants that were designed for more inhabitants is falling to a smaller number of people.

The twin disasters in Fair Bluff are the latest page in this story of rural tumult. Several residents called their birth place a “dead town.” Al Leonard, the part-time town manager, said that Fair Bluff residents do not have the financial reserves to bring about recovery on their own. “The recovery in Fair Bluff will go as far as someone else’s money will take us,” he said.

So far, the town is surviving on the generosity of others. State and federal agencies have pledged $28.5 million to help with housing, the sewer system, and public buildings. There is now talk of moving the downtown business district to higher ground.

“We’re the poster child right now for destruction,” Leonard reflected. “Maybe we’ll get you back in three or four years and show you a park where there used to be a downtown.”

Fair Bluff, in the end, may have to tear itself down before it can build itself back up.