The Stream, May 28, 2020: U.S. Department of Agriculture Plans to Invest $281 Million in Rural Water Infrastructure

The Global Rundown

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announces plans to invest $281 million in rural water infrastructure. Greece faces increasing water stress as demand outstrips supply. Good rains boost corn harvests in Zambia. A new study finds that drinking water contaminated with perchlorate is more dangerous than previously thought. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer calls for a state investigation into two dam failures that deluged part of mid-Michigan last week.  

“This flooding forced thousands to evacuate their homes, destroyed public infrastructure, ruined homes and businesses, and caused major natural resource damage. We must ensure accountability and prevent a disaster like this from happening again.” –Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in reference to failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams that occurred last week after several days of heavy rainfall. Whitmer has asked the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to open an investigation into the dam breaches, as well as providing recommendations on preventing future dam failures. MLive

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By The Numbers

$281 million Amount that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to invest in rural water and wastewater infrastructure, according to an agency announcement this week. The funding for the projects comes from the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, and will be used for initiatives in 36 states as well as Puerto Rico. Upper Michigan Source

70 percent Proportion that corn harvests in Zambia increased over last year’s crop, according to the country’s agricultural sector. The 2018-2019 season, which was heavily affected by drought, yielded around 2 million metric tons of corn. This season, the estimated yield is closer to 3.4 million tons following recent abundant rainfall. Bloomberg

Science, Studies, and Reports

Newly-published research by Vanderbilt University found that perchlorate, a pollutant found in drinking water, is more dangerous than previously realized. The study, published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, says that perchlorate heavily disrupts the uptake of iodine, a necessary part of thyroid hormones which are crucial to human development. Researchers say the populations most at risk from perchlorate are pregnant women, nursing women, developing fetuses, and newborn babies. The study comes just as the U.S. EPA dropped plans to regulate perchlorate in drinking water. Vanderbilt University 

On the Radar

Water demand is exceeding supply in Greece, and the shortage is becoming more severe as climate change disrupts normal weather patterns. Greek leaders are turning to desalination as a way to alleviate current and potential water shortages, but experts say a collective effort is needed to decrease water use in the country, which has one of the highest per capita water demands in the European Union. National Geographic 

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