The Stream, December 9, 2020: Flint’s Lead Service Lines Have Almost Been Entirely Replaced


  • A regional EPA official said Flint, Michigan is close to fully replacing lead service pipes throughout the city.
  • Environment Agency officials in the United Kingdom are under pressure after a landowner said they ordered him to perform work on a protected river.
  • Refugees around the world are increasingly facing water and sanitation issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • A United States-based water initiative releases a report citing several threats to the Mississippi River Watershed.

Experts say rainwater harvesting, a practice gaining clout among water-stricken countries across the globe, could help solve water woes in the American West.

“The more that people use rainwater and stormwater, the less water we’re using that comes from the Colorado River and groundwater.” – Harold Thomas, assistant director of the Watershed Management Group in Tucson, Arizona. The ancient practice of rainwater harvesting, or the collection of rain from building surfaces into vessels, is once again becoming popular in water scarce areas around the world. The Counter reports that the practice could help bring water to drought-stricken areas in the American West, which has seen hotter and drier conditions as climate change worsens. A lack of government awareness and understanding, the practice has yet to be embraced beyond the community level in the U.S. Other factors, such as financial feasibility and lack of short-term benefits, have prevented its adoption in the U.S.


In the Northern Great Plains, A Search for Ways to Protect Drinking Water from Fossil Fuel Industry Pollution – North Dakota’s water supplies are at risk from contaminants from fracking wastewater, but residents are fighting back.

HotSpots H2O: U.N. and Ethiopia Reach Aid Deal After Weeks of Conflict – After thousands of Eritrean refugees were stranded for weeks without food, clean water, and supplies in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray due to conflict, the Ethiopian government and the United Nations reached a deal to allow unobstructed humanitarian access to areas under federal control last week.

U.K. Environment Agency Officials Questioned About Work Ordered on Protected River Lugg

After officials from the U.K.’s Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission issued an order to stop a landowner on the banks of the protected River Lugg in England, the landowner is insisting that he was asked to do the work by the Environment Agency. On Monday, the local parish council told The Guardian the EA had been in discussions with them since July about remediating flooding in the area. The local wildlife trust said the work, halted by officials and police last week, would have devastating effects on wildlife and water quality if not stopped.



More than 9,700 lead service lines in Flint, Michigan have been replaced so far, according to Kurt Thiede, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5, which includes Michigan. The Associated Press reports that the city has also completed a number of actions require under an emergency order the EPA issued in 2016. In a recent statement, the EPA said it recommends that residents continue using certified drinking water filters, although the Flint hasn’t exceeded the federal action threshold for lead in four years. Thiede said Flint is close to the end of what he called “a rather dark and challenging time” following the Flint water crisis in 2015.


For many of the world’s 50.8 million people living in refugee camps, the pandemic has exacerbated already harsh living conditions. The Independent reports refugee camps, which are often set up as temporary settlements but can house people for years, often battle poor access to water. Many travel far from their homes to gather water for themselves and their families and water for handwashing is often seen as a luxury, rather than a necessity. In overcrowded settlements with fragile healthcare systems, the coronavirus has spread fast inside refugee camps. Aid organizations have worked to reduce movement inside camps and set up more handwashing stations, but the pandemic has shone a light on longstanding issues for the world’s refugee population.

In context: World’s Refugee Camps At Risk for Major COVID-19 Outbreak


America’s Watershed Initiative, a group developed to help improve management of the Mississippi River Watershed, gave the Mississippi River and its 250 tributaries a C- ranking. This year’s report card was only a slight improvement from the D+ grade issued from the group in 2015, the Associated Press reports. The report cited aging infrastructure and pollution, along with increasingly frequent and extreme flooding as major threats to the river. The initiative called for $2 billion in annual funding through government and private sources to address several issues in the river and urged a more collaborative approach to information gathering and public education.

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