The Stream, April 3, 2020: Rising Lake Levels and the Coronavirus Crisis Converge in Michigan

The Global Rundown

Michigan continues efforts to mitigate shoreline flooding despite the coronavirus as water levels in the Great Lakes rise. Australia’s brutal bushfire season comes to a close. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives push for $25 billion in water infrastructure funding in the next economic stimulus bill. After a two-week delay due to high water levels, shipping opens on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. A movement toward rainwater harvesting in rural Kenya pays off as the coronavirus spreads. 

“I am not so worried about the additional use of my water for washing hands. The rains have began and so I am hoping my tank will always be full.” –Cecilia Nderi, a farmer in Kenya’s Tharaka Nithi County, in reference to a 10,000-liter tank that she installed on her roof to collect rainwater. In recent years, many rural Kenyans have begun rainwater harvesting as a safeguard against increasingly erratic weather conditions. Now, many rural households are relying on their rainwater storage tanks to meet handwashing needs during the Covid-19 outbreak. Reuters

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By The Numbers

2 weeks Length of a delay of shipping season on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The season was stalled due to attempts by the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to reduce water levels in the system to minimize the risk of shoreline flooding later this year. The system was hit by devastatingly high water levels in 2017 and 2019. WRVO

5.5 million hectares (13.6 million acres) Amount of land that was scorched in New South Wales during the course of Australia’s 2019-20 bushfire season. The bushfire season, which came to an official close on March 31, was the most destructive on record. Al Jazeera

In context: In Australia, Echoes of Past, Glimpses of Future As Country Braces for Hot, Dry Summer

Science, Studies, and Reports

As the U.S. government prepares another economic stimulus bill, Democrats in the House of Representatives are calling for more than $25 billion in water-related funding. The funds would go toward repairing or updating aging water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as helping households remain up-to-date on their water bills. Bloomberg Law

In context: $1.5 Billion for Water-Bill Assistance Inserted in House Democrats’ Coronavirus Aid Package

On the Radar

In Michigan, two major problems are converging: rising water levels in the U.S. Great Lakes, and the quickly-spreading coronavirus. The lakes are already causing flooding in some communities, and officials are working to maintain shoreline repair and protection efforts despite social distancing and other virus-related safety measures. The Red Cross, which often provides shelter for those displaced by flooding or other disasters, is also reevaluating their shelter setups due to the risks presented by Covid-19. Detroit Free Press


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