The Stream, March 17, 2020: Ninety U.S. Cities Halt Water Shutoffs for Duration of Coronavirus Outbreak

The Global Rundown

As of Monday evening, nearly 90 U.S. cities have agreed to suspend water shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, but many water departments have no plans to reconnect homes where water is currently shut off. Illegal gold mines across Ghana are poisoning water supplies. Thunderstorms across California may alleviate some of the state’s dry conditions. Scientists discover a freshwater aquifer off the coast of New Zealand. Improvements at three Superfund sites in Michigan are at a standstill due to inadequate funding. 

“Suspending water shutoffs is the right thing to do, but reconnecting every household in the country is essential during this emergency in which handwashing is a primary measure to stop the spread.” –Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan congresswoman, in reference to water availability across the U.S. as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. Almost 90 cities have suspended water shutoffs as of Monday evening, which will protect around 57 million Americans from possible cuts for the duration of the crisis. Many cities, however, have not announced plans to restore water service to households that are already disconnected. The Guardian 

In context: As Cities Suspend Shutoffs, Water Access and Hygiene at Front of Coronavirus Response

Latest WaterNews from Circle of Blue

HotSpots H2O: Venezuela, Where Hospitals and Homes Lack Soap and Water, Announces First Coronavirus Cases — For years, Venezuela’s healthcare system has veered toward collapse. Water, medicine, protective equipment, and other essentials have been in short supply. As the country reports its first coronavirus cases, experts fear the nation could be an ideal breeding ground for the disease. 

As Cities Suspend Shutoffs, Water Access and Hygiene at Front of Coronavirus Response — Governments, water utilities brace for coronavirus impacts.

By The Numbers

48.1 percent Proportion of California that is experiencing moderate drought. An additional 30.4 percent of the state is enduring abnormally dry conditions. A week of thunderstorms is bringing precipitation to much of the state, however, which may alleviate parts of California’s drought. The Washington Post 

3 Superfund cleanup projects in Michigan that are at a standstill due to a lack of funding. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot say when funds will become available to continue cleanup at the polluted sites, which include locations in St. Clair Shores in Macomb County, St. Louis in mid-Michigan, and Mancelona Township in northern Michigan. Chemicals tainted local water supplies at all three sites. Bridge

Science, Studies, and Reports

Scientists have found a freshwater aquifer off the coast of New Zealand, a discovery that may provide future water supplies for the country’s South Island. The aquifer, located under the Pacific 60 kilometers (37 miles) off the coast of South Island, could contain up to 2,000 cubic kilometres of freshwater, equivalent to half of current groundwater supplies across New Zealand’s Canterbury region. As several parts of New Zealand grapple with groundwater scarcity, researchers say the aquifer could fill growing gaps in supply. The Guardian

On the Radar

Across Ghana, thousands of illegal gold mines are in operation, a practice that is tainting water supplies and jeopardizing agriculture. Some communities are running out of drinking water, prompting warnings that clean water may need to be imported. Al Jazeera

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