The Stream, April 1, 2020: NASA, University of Nebraska, Release Global Satellite-Based Groundwater Maps

The Global Rundown

NASA and the University of Nebraska introduce satellite-based global groundwater maps. Spain and the U.S. state of New Jersey ban water shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. Colorado cities prepare to vie over large amounts of water freed up by closing coal plants. For the first time in several years, water is flowing in Australia’s parched Menindee Lakes. 

“It’s hard to put into words. After the fish kills there’s a more emotional viewing of water coming through. The significance of these pools being refreshed and fish getting a chance to survive, it’s pretty moving.” —Graeme McCrabb, a resident of Menindee, New South Wales, Australia. No significant water flows have reached Menindee in the past three years, and the town witnessed several mass fish kills last year. The Menindee Lakes are now receiving large inflows of water, however, as officials begin to release replenishment water from an upstream weir. The Guardian

Latest WaterNews from Circle of Blue

HotSpots H2O: U.S. Federal Judge Calls for Full Environmental Review of Dakota Access PipelineLast week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg struck down federal permits for the Dakota Access pipeline, calling for a full environmental review of the controversial crude oil line that Native American tribes and other activists have opposed for years. 

What’s Up With Water – March 30, 2020 — This week’s edition of What’s Up With Water includes coverage on waste dumping in Malaysia, a new ruling on environmental permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the first round of bids for construction of a major canal on the outskirts of Istanbul, Turkey

By The Numbers

94,000 acre-feet Amount of freed up water from coal plants in Colorado, after consumption was found to be lower than anticipated by state water planners. For water permanently consumed in cities, this amount could meet the needs of 1.25 million people, according to the Colorado Water Plan of 2015. As the plants close in the state, questions are arising over the future of the newly-available water, which could benefit many of Colorado’s cities. In some cases, the coal plants own conditional water rights, and will have to go to water court to change or sell the rights. The Colorado Sun

Science, Studies, and Reports

NASA and the University of Nebraska have rolled out new satellite maps detailing groundwater and soil moisture conditions worldwide. Researchers hope that the data will allow for more timely drought-monitoring in developing nations, where observations from the ground often fail to give a full picture of an unfolding dry spell. NASA

On the Radar

On Tuesday, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias announced that the country will block utility companies from turning off water and electricity for non-paying customers during the coronavirus pandemic. The move is one of several measures to protect vulnerable groups as the disease spreads rapidly through the European nation. Reuters

The U.S. state of New Jersey, which has the second-highest coronavirus caseload in the United States, announced similar measures on Tuesday. All of the state’s community water systems are committed to stopping shutoffs during the crisis, according to state officials.Prior to the statewide directive, many of New Jersey’s largest utilities had already put a moratorium on shutoffs.

In context: As Cities Suspend Shutoffs, Water Access and Hygiene at Front of Coronavirus Response


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