The Stream, December 23, 2020: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act Passes U.S. Senate


  • The U.S. Congress reauthorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act.
  • Water scarcity threatens urban areas of New Zealand as summer approaches.
  • Heavy rain in West Africa brings good fortune to the region’s herders.
  • A federal judge begins hearings over whether or not to approve a proposed settlement linked to the Flint water crisis.

An elderly man in southern India has made a name for himself digging ponds to remediate water scarcity.

“He is a very dedicated man, a very selfless servant for the protection of the environment and ecology. In fact, he is a role model to other people in watershed development.” – Deputy Commissioner M.V. Venkatesh, speaking about the work of Kalmane Kamegowda. Kamegowda, a 72-year-old shepherd living in southern India, has dug 16 ponds 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Bengaluru, India. The ponds are meant to address water scarcity and are dug in such a way to avoid drying up even during summer months, Hindustan Times reports. The ponds were constructed over four decades using the art of identifying ground moisture and using it to create bodies of water, a technique Kamegowda learned from his father. His work has earned him statewide and national approval. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised Kamegowda’s work, and the Karnataka state government has allotted 5 million rupees ($67,500) for further watershed development in the area.


Congress Adds $683 Million in Water-Bill Debt Relief to Coronavirus Package

People who are behind on their water and sewer bills because of the pandemic will be getting some help from Congress.

Federal lawmakers wrapped up their work before the holidays, tying together a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, a $1.4 trillion budget outlay, and several policy measures. Included in the package that the House and Senate approved on Monday evening is $638 million to forgive overdue water and sewer bills.

In Case You Missed It:

Where Are Lead Service Lines? Look for Older Homes and Poverty – The GAO uses demographic and housing data to analyze the location of lead service lines.

HotSpots H2O: Tensions Rise as India, China Clash Over Proposed Chinese Dam — Tensions spiked between China and India this month after the Chinese government announced plans to build a dam across one of the major waterways flowing from Tibet.

Despite Restrictions on Water Use, Water Scarcity Issues Threaten New Zealand Cities

As New Zealand approaches another La Niña summer, some cities could face water shortages. Addressing the gap in water supply and demand in New Zealand’s two largest cities, Auckland and Wellington, has been an ongoing problem. The Conversation reports that adopting water policies to cut down on water use is more cost-effective than increasing water supply. In Auckland, where several water restrictions were just lifted, residents use 30 percent less water than Wellington residents, where there are no restrictions in place. Still, the reductions in water use may not be enough to curb demand, as temperatures increase and water becomes more scarce.



Heavy rain in West Africa has created the thickest vegetation in years, a welcome change for herders in Senegal whose livelihoods have suffered over the past six years due to severe drought. Although the rains caused catastrophic flooding in some areas, herders and their livestock are reaping the benefits of the rain. Reuters reports that vegetation levels have hit record highs in parts of the Sahel region and that grains output is expected to jump over 30 percent this year.


MLive reports that Congress has reauthorized the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act, increasing current funding levels that will continue to grow until 2026, capping at $475 million. The initiative, which started in 2010, has focused on efforts to stop the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species, restore coastline, clean up lakes, waterways and beaches and prevent future contamination. It has since proved to provide economic benefits to the Great Lakes region as well. The reauthorization of the initiative includes updating the Environmental Sensitivity Maps for the Great Lakes, which were last updated between 1985 and 1994.


U.S. District Judge Judith Levy said during a hearing on Monday that she hopes to make a decision on whether to give preliminary approval to a proposed $641.25 million settlement for Flint residents affected by the 2014 water crisis by mid-January. The Detroit Free Press reports that the federal judge said she plans to hear from any Flint resident who wants to speak, adding that the proposed settlement was one of the most complex she’d ever handled or reviewed. The hearing was attended by more than 150 attorneys.

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