The Stream, January 3, 2020: More than a Foot of Rain Deluges Parts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Leaving Dozens Dead

The Global Rundown

The death toll from flash floods in Jakarta, Indonesia, hits 30 as the city endures the heaviest rain in 20+ years of record-keeping. California begins winter with nearly normal snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. 2020 may be the year that the U.S. Supreme Court resolves a decades-long water quarrel between Florida and Georgia. Desalination is providing clean water to Antofagasta, Chile, but the brine from the process is disrupting marine life. New South Wales, Australia, declares a state of emergency as thousands flee bushfires. 

“It is hell on earth. It is the worst anybody’s ever seen.” –Michelle Roberts, a business owner in Mallacoota, New South Wales, who has been stranded on the beach along with 4,000 other residents and visitors as bushfires and smoke smother Mallacoota. A total of 200 fires are now blazing in NSW and Victoria. The NSW government declared a state of emergency effective Friday, which allows authorities to forcibly evacuate endangered residents. Tens of thousands of people have already fled their homes. Reuters

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HotSpots H2O: Australian Communities Unite as Bushfires Blaze and Taps Run DryAustralia’s drought crisis, years in development, continues to escalate.

By The Numbers

30 Death toll from deadly storms and flash flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia, as of Thursday evening. Some parts of the city were deluged by more than a foot (0.3 meters) of rain on Tuesday, and the torrential downpours are forecast to continue over the next week. The rainfall is the most intense since record-keeping began more than 20 years ago, and has displaced an estimated 35,500 people so far. The New York Times

360,000 Residents of Antofagasta, Chile, the largest settlement in the parched Atacama Desert. The city relies on desalination for 82.5 percent of its drinking water, but local fishermen say the leftover brine is devastating marine life in Antofagasta’s harbor. According to one diver, the harbor’s floor is now covered in a thick layer of salt sludge due to desalination. The Guardian

In context: Desalination Has a Waste Problem.

Science, Studies, and Reports

Overall snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains is 90 percent of normal, a promising sign for California’s water supply over the next several months. Recent storms boosted the southern Sierra to 104 percent of normal, while the northern Sierra sits at 77 percent of the long-term average. San Francisco Chronicle

On the Radar

2020 may be the year that a decades-long debate over water supplies between Florida and Georgia will be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. The debate centers on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which meets some of Georgia’s agricultural needs as well as serving Atlanta, the state’s capital. Thousands of people in the Florida panhandle also rely on the river system, however, and Florida’s lawsuit claims Georgia’s use of the waterways unfairly depletes the supply of downstream users. NPR

In context: In Supreme Court, Florida and Georgia Argue Over Water Use.

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