The Stream, August 12, 2021: Major Rivers in India Are Rising To Dangerous Levels


  • Water levels on India’s Ganga and Yamuna rivers are rising by the hour amid torrential rainfall, striking fears of flooding among residents.
  • Ohio officials say fracking fluids did not contaminate drinking water in Washington County.
  • Fires caused by three oil wells, which spilled more than 4,000 gallons of oil and wastewater, are contained in North Dakota.
  • A water district in California’s San Joaquin Valley is accused of illegally diverting water from two federal canals.

More frequent extreme weather events are threatening China’s 98,000 dams.

  • Why it matters: A report published by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health from earlier this year found that the global dam-building binge that spanned the early- to mid-20th century is now reaching a turning point. Circle of Blue reported that these dams are nearing middle and old age, when their operation and maintenance poses growing financial, environmental, and safety challenges.


Dry Wells in Northern California Bring Home the Costs and Stresses of Drought

Though it was a sudden death, happening overnight during a record-smashing June heat wave, the demise of Maralee and Noal Childs’s household water well was not entirely unexpected.

The Childses live in Glenn County, an agricultural area of northern California that is latticed with irrigation canals and blanketed with almond and walnut orchards. A relentless interval of hot, dry weather, made worse by heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, has turned this section of the state into a cauldron of flame, dust, and smoke.

The signs of ecological stress from this drought course through the Childs’s rural neighborhood, located eight miles northeast of the town of Orland. A nearby creek hasn’t held water for nearly two years, a sign that groundwater levels were dropping. They bought their house and 10-acre property in 1985, a month before they were married. The well itself is even older, dating back more than a century. As far as they know, across 106 years it had never run dry. Until the night of June 16.

Climate Change Is Intensifying the Water Cycle, New IPCC Report Finds

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of the world’s leading climate scientists, released its sixth climate assessment on Monday. The 1,300-page paper is the most comprehensive, up-to-date report yet on the physical science of climate change, synthesizing the findings of thousands of recent publications.

The report paints an alarming picture of the future of fresh water. It concludes that man-made contributions to a warming planet are far-reaching. It finds more evidence that severe weather events are linked to carbon in the atmosphere and are becoming more extreme. And it shows that certain trends such as rising seas and shrinking ice sheets will continue even if carbon pollution were halted immediately. But it also indicates that by swiftly and drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the worst effects of climate change can be prevented, avoiding worst-case outcomes for water availability.

In Case You Missed It:  

Three River Communities, Worlds Apart, Tell Stories of Indigeneity in the Age of the Anthropocene – On the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, the Dry River separates two regions that have divergent histories. 

“We Can’t Have Land Back Without Water Back” – Julia Bernal came of age while living in a watershed turned upside down by dams and diversions. Now an activist, she campaigns for Indigenous rights – and the water to sustain them.

Ohio Officials Say Fracking Fluids Did Not Contaminate Washington County Drinking Water

A report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources found that nearby drinking water wells were not affected by a 2019 leak of hydraulic fracturing waste in Washington County. According to reporting from The Columbus Dispatch, the state paid an environmental firm more than $50,000 to test private water wells within a one-half mile radius of nine oilfield wells. Although the samples did not show evidence of brine contamination—the industry name for hydraulic fracturing waste fluids—some experts say because the testing was conducted more than a year after the incident occurred, the results could be incomplete.

  • Why it matters: A 2015 study from the S. Geological Survey found that the volumes of water used per well for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are as varied as the American landscape on which the energy development takes place. Circle of Blue reported that the researchers combed an industry database and compiled information on nearly 264,000 wells drilled between 2000 and 2014. They found that horizontal wells — those that drill thousands of feet downward, then urn and run parallel to the surface — required significantly more water to frack than traditional vertical or slanted wells.



The Associated Press reports that fires caused by three oil wells in McKenzie County, North Dakota, were brought under control over the weekend after burning for 16 days straight. Officials said the company operating the oil pad, Petro-Hunt, said early estimates indicated that 4,200 gallons of oil and 4,200 gallons of produced water spilled during the incident.


On Tuesday, the Hindustan Times reported that water levels on India’s Ganga and Yamuna rivers were rising around three centimeters every hour, striking fear in nearby residents who remember devastating floods in 2013 and 2019. Rising waters in some areas has cut locals off from aid as National Disaster Response Force and local officials began evacuating some homes close to the water.


The Panoche Water District in California’s San Joaquin Valley has allegedly been taking water from the federal government, in addition to indictments of top officials for embezzling public funds and illegally dumping toxic waste. According to a settlement agreement obtained by The Sacramento Bee, Panoche agreed to pay the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation nearly $7.5 million earlier this year to compensate for “unauthorized diversion of water” from two federal canals. The alleged diversions took place in 2009 and 2015 under the leadership of then-general manager Dennis Falaschi, who is currently being charged for embezzlement.

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