The Stream, April 30, 2021: Glacial Lake In Tibet Threatens Chinese Hydropower Development


  • An unstable glacial lake created by a landslide could pose a threat to a massive Chinese hydropower dam proposed to be built downstream.
  • The island of St. Vincent was hit with severe flooding after a volcanic eruption devastated the Caribbean country last week.
  • Four were killed and dozens were injured during a clash between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan forces over a disputed water reservoir.
  • Six more cases of liver illness in Las Vegas have been linked to a commercially marketed water bottle brand.

Shifting narratives around water insecurity on Native American reservations could help tribes gain representation in Colorado River talks.

“Covid-19 has pulled the curtain aside—none of these issues we’re talking about today are new, but we’re talking about them in a totally different way.” – Bidtah Becker, an attorney for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and a Navajo member of the Water & Tribes Initiative. A new report that found that limited access to clean water in Native American communities contributed to a high infection rate of Covid-19 could help the tribes gain better representation in negotiations around Colorado River water. Inside Climate News reports that as the conversation around water insecurity shifts to include Native American voices, many hope to use that momentum to gain a seat at the table to discuss how to manage water from the Colorado River. Indigenous communities have often been left out of that conversation, even though the tribes have priority rights to about 20 percent of the water.

  • Why it matters: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 15 percent of Navajos don’t have piped water in their home. Water scarcity no doubt exacerbated the Covid-19 pandemic on Navajo reservations and in other Native American communities. Still, the Navajo Nation and 28 other federally recognized tribes throughout the Colorado River basin command a considerable role in directing the drought-stricken region’s future. Circle of Blue reported in 2015 that once tribes have the money to build out irrigation systems and develop commercial enterprises, they intend to use more of the 20 percent of Colorado River water they own. How tribal water use evolves in the decades to come is perhaps the biggest question mark on the demand side of the Colorado River’s water availability equation.


In Case You Missed It:  

Federal Aid for Overdue Water Bills Is Slow to Arrive – The Department of Health and Human Services still has not distributed $638 million that Congress appropriated at the end of December.

Innovation in Financing Brightens WASH Galaxy – Funding for water, sanitation and hygiene starts to arrive faster, with clearer requirements.

After Volcanic Eruption, Island of St. Vincent Now Threatened By Severe Flooding

Torrential rain has caused severe flooding on the island of St. Vincent, only days after the La Soufriere volcano covered the island in ash and devastated local water supplies, Nation News reports. One seismologist said that lahar, or mudflows, after the rains could cause extreme damage, warning that floods like this could continue over the rainy season.



Residents on each side of the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border threw rocks at each other late Wednesday due to a dispute over a reservoir and pumping station, claimed by both countries, on the Isfara river. The clash escalated on Thursday when Kyrgyz and Tajik security forces exchanged fire across the border, killing four civilians and injuring dozens more, Reuters reports.


Las Vegas health officials have linked six cases of liver illness to the bottled water brand Real Water, Associated Press reports. The company is currently facing a U.S. Food and Drug Administration probe and lawsuits by people alleging they were sickened and hospitalized.


An unstable glacial lake on the Yarlung Zangbo River in Tibet could jeopardize China’s plans to build a major hydropower dam on the river, the Hindustan Times reports. The hydropower project is projected to have nearly three times the electricity generation capacity of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River and its construction has been included in China’s 14th five-year plan.

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