The Stream, December 30, 2020: Drought in Mexico City Brings Push For Sustainable Water Use Plan


  • Low rainfall in Mexico City prompts officials to consider long-term solutions to the city’s water scarcity issue.
  • An environmental group in Oregon sues in federal court for information on the structural integrity of over a dozen dams south of Portland.
  • Scientists warn dredging on a river near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor site in Ukraine could resurface radioactive sludge.
  • Native American and environmental groups file a lawsuit to stop the construction of the Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota.

Last-minute funding could bring water to communities across the Little Colorado River region in Arizona by the end of the year.

“We are the forgotten people and therefore we cannot really sustain ourselves.” – Leslie Shephard, a resident of Black Falls, Arizona. The nonprofit Tolani Lake Enterprises (TLE) was awarded $3.46 million from the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources CARES Act budget this year to establish wells, watering points, water catchment systems and delivery strategies to bring water to families in the Little Colorado River region. TLE has been operating since 2000 on a variety of projects to provide food-and-water-security systems to Navajo farmers and ranchers, Arizona Republic reports. This project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, to comply with the requirements of the CARES Act funding. Water scarcity has put the livelihoods of many Native Americans throughout the region on hold. Now, as TLE wraps up the project, older members in the community are feeling hopeful for the first time in decades and hope a younger generation of Navajo people are inspired by the progress.


EPA Revises Rules for Lead in Drinking Water – EPA strengthens some provisions but does not take the bigger step of requiring replacement of all lead services line.

Environmental Group Sues To Access Information On Structural Integrity of Oregon Dams

The Willamette Riverkeeper environmental group sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to access information about the structural integrity of 13 dams in the Willamette River south of Portland, Oregon. The Associated Press reports that the group filed a public records request in March to read safety reports risk assessments written by the Corps but have not received them. The lawsuit also includes claims that the Corps failed to protect threaten and endangered fish species in its management of the dams. 

In context: Country’s Aging Dams, a ‘Sitting Duck,’ Facing A Barrage of Hazards


1240 MILES (2000 KM)

Dredging along the Pripyat River could resurface radioactive sludge from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster, scientists have warned. The Guardian reports that workers began the dredging in July as part of a project to create a 1,240-mile (2,000km) waterway linking the Baltic and Black seas. The dredging goes against recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and several experts told The Guardian that the project not only poses a threat to those working and living near the reactor but raises several environmental concerns as well, including a potential loss of biodiversity.


Native American and environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit that aims to stop construction on the Enbridge Energy Line 3 pipeline. Work on the 337-mile (542-kilometer) northern Minnesota portion of the pipeline began earlier this month when final permits were granted to the Canadian energy company after a contentious process that lasted several years. The Associated Press reports that the suit claims the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who issued a water quality permit for the pipeline, failed to address several environmental issues, including the risk and impacts of potential oil spills and the pipeline’s impact on climate change.


Low rainfall has caused Mexico City’s reservoirs to drop to below average rates this year, prompting officials to seek a sustainable solution to water scarcity in the city. Reuters reports that climate change is expected to exacerbate the issue, which is fueled by an over-exploited aquifer and old, leaky pipes. Authorities reduced water flow from the reservoirs in the second half of this year, forcing many of the city’s 20 million residents to rely on trucks and cisterns for their water supply. Experts say the most cost-effective solution to the problem is repairing leaky pipes, which account for 40 percent of lost water supply. The city government is also working to implement a plan that will create sustainable use of the city’s main aquifer by 2040.

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