The Stream, September 9, 2020: As Water Shortages Become More Common, So Does Global Unrest

The Global Rundown

Experts warn of social unrest as water shortages become more common around the globe. A water dispute between Mississippi and Tennessee arrives at the Supreme Court. Natural disasters exacerbated by deforestation displace over a million in Afghanistan. A private company has proposed a plan to transfer water from a small Arizona town to a Phoenix suburb. Intense heat, paired with a lack of access to water and shelter, is threatening public health in the U.S southwest.

“If you have limited means to mitigate yourself from temperatures like this, that can have a toll on your body.” – National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Iñiguez. Severe heatwaves throughout the southwest have added an additional threat to the region’s most vulnerable amid the pandemic. Heat is the top weather-related cause in the United States, and can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke without adequate water access and shelter. Extreme heat is an annual threat to public health but has presented an unprecedented challenge this year due to Covid-19. Local shelter capacity has drastically shrunk to abide by social distancing guidelines “and space for heat relief was limited,” spokeswoman for Maricopa County Jennifer Franklin said. AP

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By The Numbers

252 billion gallons The amount of water Mississippi lawyers argue Memphis and the state of Tennessee have wrongfully taken from within Mississippi since 1985. Mississippi argues Tennessee is taking its groundwater from the Sparta Sand Aquifer in North Mississippi near the state lines between the states, while Tennessee maintains that the water is an interstate resource. The aquifer has been the source of numerous lawsuits over the past 15 years, although this is the first case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision on the case is set to come next term. Undark

1.2 million The number of Afghans that have been internally displaced by natural disasters such as floods and droughts since 2012. Large-scale deforestation driven mainly by four decades of war has contributed to widespread flooding throughout Afghanistan, prompting many in rural areas to move to the capital Kabul or leave the country. Only 1.5% of the country’s land mass is still occupied by trees, and climate change has caused frequent droughts and accelerated land degradation, desertification and displacement. In recent years, several projects have been created in hopes of improving the country’s forest cover. Thomson Reuters Foundation News

Science, Studies, and Reports

About a quarter of the world’s people face extreme water shortages that are fueling conflict, social unrest and migration, water experts said last week. According to the World Resources Institute, 17 countries face “extremely high” levels of water stress and more than two billion people live in countries experiencing “high” water stress. Climate change is compounding the challenge, Kitty van der Heijden, the head of international cooperation at the Netherlands’ foreign ministry, said. One key to tackling water scarcity is boosting investment in more sparing use of water in agriculture, the experts said. World Economic Forum

On the Radar

A proposed plan to take water from farmland near the Colorado River and sell it to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek has generated a heated debate about local economies and selling water for profit. Town leaders in Queen Creek have said the deal would help them reduce reliance on groundwater and improve long-term water supplies. The farming community in Cibola, where the water would be taken from, argue that it would clear the way for many more deals in which farmland is bought and water is sold and harm local economies. The Arizona Department of Water Resources endorsed the plan, proposed by GSC Farm LLC, but it will need federal approval in order to be finalized. AZ Central

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