The Stream, April 21, 2021: Climate Change Causes Decline in Global Agriculture Productivity


  • New research finds global agricultural productivity has declined due to climate change, especially in Africa and Latin America.
  • A proposal in Louisiana could create a program to grade community water systems.
  • Dams across Mexico sit below half of their total capacity.
  • Lake Mead levels could drop significantly later this year, triggering water cutbacks in some U.S. states.

A new report illustrates the ways climate change could increase flooding and precipitation in Illinois.

“These changes will affect all parts of Illinois, including our cities, our agricultural production, our water resources, and even the health of our people and the ecosystems in our state.” – Dr. Donald J. Wuebbles, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois. A new report from The Nature Conservancy found that rapid changes in weather patterns due to climate change could transform Illinois. The research found that precipitation has increased by 20 percent in some parts of the state and annual precipitation is projected to increase by up to 10 percent by the end of the century. The report also found that flooding from streams and rivers is likely to become more common and that heavy rainfall will continue to overwhelm already flood-prone urban drainage systems.


Pandemic Brings WASH To Rare Inflection Point

After interviewing more than 40 thought leaders and frontline professionals on five continents, Circle of Blue found that the WASH world is at a rare inflection point. Pursuing WASH outcomes in the 20th century essentially meant that outside funders spent a fortune on water supply and sanitation equipment in developing regions. But the water stopped when loan agreements and grant funding ended. Though progress was made, a lot of pumps, pipes and toilets failed.

Frustrated by the intractable impediments—many of which were of their own making—funders and practitioners have spent much of the last decade tossing aside those clumsy approaches and replaced  them with disciplined business strategies and systems management that stress earned revenue streams, data collection and analysis, and measurable performance. The new tools helped the WASH world gain much keener understanding of the various components of their ecosystem (finance, governance, installation, management, operations, oversight) and how each influenced the others. In essence, the WASH community embraced a fresh set of approaches that simplified the complexity of what they were after.

Water Access: As Moratoria on Shutoffs End, Old Problems Return to the Forefront

Across the Great Lakes region, moratoria on water shutoffs that were instituted during the pandemic have expired, a number of them at the end of March, even as states including Michigan and Minnesota are seeing surges in coronavirus cases.

A recent study by Cornell University and Food and Water Watch found that states with moratoria on shutoffs had lower COVID-19 death and infection rates. The study surmised that more than 9,000 deaths and half a million infections could have been prevented with a nationwide moratorium on shutoffs.  

Even with shutoff moratoria in place, only a small number of water utilities nationwide had programs for reconnection, according to Food and Water Watch. Grant said that some cities, like Miami and Philadelphia, were proactive and successful in reconnecting many households. In other cities including Detroit and Buffalo, residents needed to request reconnection.

In Case You Missed It:

HotSpots H2O: Russia Under Pressure as Thousands in Crimea Ration Water – Moscow is under increased pressure as thousands in Crimea have been rationing water for months due to a Ukrainian water blockade.

What’s Up With Water – April 19, 2021 – This week’s episode covers contaminated water supplies on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, a dried up wetland outside of New Delhi and a settlement paid by one of the United States’ largest poultry companies over claims of groundwater and air pollution.

Louisiana Bill Could Create Water Grading System

A proposed bill in Louisiana would set up a system to grade the condition of the state’s community water systems, the Associated Press reports. The program would grade water systems based on benchmarks like history of federal and state water quality violations, financial sustainability, operations and performance, and customer satisfaction.



Recently published research found that global agricultural productivity declined by 21 percent between 1961 and 2020, SciDevNet reports. The decline can be attributed to climate change, the researchers concluded, and is most prevalent in Africa and Latin America.


Mexico’s National Water Commission said that many of the country’s dams sit below 50 percent of their total capacity, as officials are urging citizens and all levels of government to practice water responsibility. The Mexico News Daily reports the water agency attributed the decline in dam levels to increased water use during the pandemic coupled with a lack of rain. So far, the agency has delivered almost 40 million liters of water to vulnerable communities, especially in affected states like Guerrero, Guanajuato, Michoacán, and Oaxaca.


Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States that supplies water to millions throughout the Southwest, could drop to record low levels, according to the latest projections from the federal Bureau of Reclamation. CNN reports that the decline in water levels could trigger significant water cutbacks in some states as early as next year, based on the terms of a 2019 agreement between Colorado River Basin states.

  • Why it matters: Circle of Blue named water scarcity throughout the Colorado River Basin one of the top stories to watch in 2021. Severe drought has crippled the region for years. In 2014, Lake Mead sat at a mere 1,081.8 feet above sea level—the lowest level since 1937. Since then, water managers in the basin have implemented water conservation efforts that reduced water consumption in the lower basin to 6.5 million-acre feet in 2019, a 33-year low. Still, there are pressures. Climate change is making the basin drier and states in the upper basin are seeking to divert more water from the river.
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