The Stream, August 6, 2021: The Drought Edition


  • In the American West, drought and wildfire are threatening California’s power grid and Nestle will continue bottling water in a drought-stricken Colorado county.
  • Drought in Hawaii results in the state’s largest wildfire on record.
  • Ranch cattle are starving to death in Mexico amid a historic drought.
  • In South America, snowfall on the Andes Mountain range is at a historic low.

Regional drought is found on most continents around the world.

“The probability of simultaneous drought across multiple regions is increasing.” – Franziska Gaupp of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. An article in Nature Climate Change found that regional drought can be found on most continents. Countries like Mexico and Brazil are experiencing one of the worst water crisis in almost a decade due to increased water consumption and below-average rainfall. In Central Asia and Madagascar, drought is also threatening food security, causing crop failure and widespread livestock death. New technologies in places like Madagascar and Brazil, however, are detecting droughts before they occur.


Drought in the American West

This week, Circle of Blue and leading experts from the Pacific InstituteVector Center, and others on the front lines held a live briefing about the drought in the American West.

Watch the event, Drought in the American West, featuring:

  • Andre Fourie, Anheuser-Busch InBev
  • Bidtah Becker, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority
  • Giulio Boccaletti, Author, Water: A Biography
  • Heather Cooley, Pacific Institute
  • Susana De Anda, Community Water Center
  • Dr. Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute
  • Hon. Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
  • Cody Pope, Vector Center
  • Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times

Read more of Circle of Blue’s drought coverage. 

In Case You Missed It:

Waste-To-Energy Tech Could Slash U.S. Water Sector Carbon Emissions, But Its Potential Remains Underdeveloped – U.S. utilities have been slower to adopt the energy- and emissions-saving technologies than those in other parts of the world.

HotSpots H2O: Indigenous Communities, Biodiversity Along Brazil-Peru Border Threatened by Highway Construction – Canopied by rubber trees and sprawling vines with apple-sized nuts, Acre state in northwest Brazil frames earth’s portrait of natural beauty. And lurching too across Acre state, a highway heaves its concrete girth.

Drought in the American West

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

Drought and Wildfire Threatens California Power Grid  

As wildfire and drought threaten infrastructure, grid operators in the American West are struggling to keep operations running smoothly, CNBC reports. Californians have experienced preemptive power cuts when fire risk is high, while rolling blackouts have been put in place when supply is stretched thin. Aging infrastructure also poses a major issue. The latest version of Congress’s $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure plan includes $73 billion for investment in power infrastructure.

Nestle Will Continue To Bottle Water In Chaffee County Despite Local Opposition

Commissioners in Chaffee County, Colorado, unanimously passed the final version of a water permit BlueTriton Brands, formerly known as Nestle Waters North America, despite opposition about persistent drought. CPR reports that the permit will allow the company to continue bottling 65 million gallons of Chaffee County spring water per year. Colorado water officials say that the overall amount of water the company takes comes out to about 5/100ths of 1 percent of the state’s annual water use. Still, opponents like Jennifer Swacina with the nonprofit Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County, say that amount of water is equivalent to the annual use of 400 homes.


40,000 ACRES

Drought in Hawaii results in the state’s worst wildfire ever recorded, KXLY reports. The Mana Road fire has burned an estimated 40,00 acres since July 31. High pressure weather patterns and Hawaii’s volcanic peaks led to pockets of higher drought where the fire occurred.

635,000 CATTLE  

Ranch cattle are dying off at an alarming rate in northern Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reports. After two years of extreme drought that has brought with it a food shortage, ranchers are being forced to prematurely sell and slaughter their livestock, or watch the animals starve to death. In the state of Sonora, the number of cattle has dropped from 1.1 million to only around 635,000.


Amid a decade-long drought in South America, the Andes Mountain range is facing historically low snowfall. According to Reuters, communities that depend on the mountains for water supply are likely to suffer shortages and ski resorts are being forced to move snow to cover popular ski runs or make artificial snow.

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