The Stream, August 20, 2021: Taliban Takeover Threatens Afghanistan Water Security, Scholars Say


  • The Taliban do not have the expertise to manage Afghanistan’s already troubled water systems, researchers say.
  • The fashion industry in Africa is tainting rivers with discharges of polluted wastewater, a report finds.
  • Indigenous women block the dumping of a poison into a Canadian watershed to kill an non-native fish.
  • Bees in North Dakota struggle in hot, dry weather, with implications for California

A fast-growing Colorado city searches for water.

“Everybody looks at the population growth and says, ‘Where is the water going to come from?’ We can still have growth, but we have to make sure we’re thinking ahead. We need to manage the water efficiently and mindfully.″ — Lisa Dilling, an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado. The population of Greeley, Colorado, and surrounding Weld County grew by more than 30 percent in the last decade. The Associated Press reports that the city secured access to groundwater near the Wyoming border to meet future demands. A citizens’ group hopes to challenge that deal with a ballot initiative this November. The group is concerned about rising water costs and the presence of uranium in the aquifer.


In Case You Missed It:

Shrinking Reservoirs Trigger Deeper Water Cuts for Lower Colorado River — The implications of the drying American Southwest and the limits to the region’s water supply are steadily becoming more apparent. The federal government acknowledged the changing conditions on Monday, declaring a Tier 1 shortage for the lower Colorado River basin, setting the stage for more drastic measures in the near future.

Drought in the American West

Your need-to-know drought coverage for the week.

Bees Struggle in North Dakota, Implications for California Almonds

Hot, dry weather in North Dakota, the country’s top honey-producing state, is stressing bee colonies, an outcome that will ripple across agricultural economies. Reuters reports that honey production is down in the state and that hives will not be at peak health this winter, when many are trucked to California and other western states to pollinate almond and fruit orchards. “What happens in North Dakota in August has a direct impact on what happens in California in February,” said John Miller, a beekeeper. “Weak colonies that lack sufficient stores of honey going into winter will not be in good shape for the upcoming almond bloom.”

Emergency Water Deal Secured for Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuge

Fish and birds are struggling in this drought, especially in Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, where wetlands are drying up and increasing the risk of disease. The refuge is in California’s portion of the Klamath River basin. According to the Herald and News, an agreement will free up 10,000 acre-feet of water for one of the refuge’s wetlands in hopes of avoiding an outbreak of avian botulism, which happened last year and killed 60,000 ducks. The agreement is between a dam operator, farm districts, the federal government, and a conservation group.



Revenue generated pre-pandemic from Africa’s fashion exports. A report from the non-profit group Water Witness International finds that the continent’s textile and apparel industry is poisoning rivers through discharges of polluted wastewater. The report used case studies from Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Tanzania. Though regular water quality monitoring data was not always available, the group found “credible evidence” of the discharge of toxic metals, dyes, and bleaches at unsafe levels into rivers. Major fashion brands in both Europe and the United States purchase from these suppliers, which are owned locally or by Asian companies.

In context: Toxic Water, Toxic Crops: India’s Public Health Time Bomb


The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan does not bode well for the country’s already troubled water sector, according to an international group of scholars. More than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s people do not have access to clean drinking water, and most of the country experiences water stress. The Water, Peace, and Security partnership argues that the Taliban do not have the technical or managerial expertise to oversee complex and deficient water systems. The brain drain due to current officials fleeing the country will not help either. The Taliban must also manage river systems that cross international boundaries.

Women with the Wolastoqey First Nations have been paddling in a lake in Canada’s New Brunswick province this week in order to delay the spraying of a pesticide in the watershed, the CBC reports. The pesticide rotenone is meant to kill non-native smallmouth bass, which are voracious eaters and could out-compete native salmon in the Miramichi River basin. The First Nations are seeking additional consultation before the poisoning operation proceeds. The fisheries group and local government carrying out the operation will trap and remove salmon before applying the pesticide, which they say will rapidly degrade and is not toxic to birds.

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