The Stream, June 25, 2021: Southern California Reservoir Could Keep Water Running in Drought


  • In the United States, a major reservoir in Southern California could save locals from water restrictions, while low water on the Mississippi River are creating obstacles for barges.
  • A U.S. senator has blocked vital funding from going to Palestinians to restore water resources and roads.
  • Arsenic is contaminating water supplies in communities across India.
  • Two U.S. congressional representatives are calling for an investigation into a Canadian company’s oil and gas explorations on a major delta in southern Africa.

Agricultural contamination is polluting waters in Brazil’s largest wetland.

“We can no longer drink from the river because it gives us diarrhea and vomiting.” – Lourenço Leite, a fisherman from Cáceres, Brazil. Mongabay reports that agrochemicals from soybean farms are washing downstream into Brazil’s Pantanal wetland. Although most of the Pantanal is preserved from agribusiness, more than half of the high plains upstream from the wetland have been taken over by the industry. Studies have found that fish are growing scarce in certain locations within the wetland as waterways feeding the Pantanal are contaminated and silted up.


Drought, The Everything Disaster

Nearly 89 percent of nine western states are in some form of drought, and more than a quarter of the region is considered in exceptional drought, the worst category in the U.S. Drought Monitor.

When water stops flowing, painful days are at hand. Droughts have distinctive characteristics that separate them from other calamities. They are geographically diverse, spreading across a few counties or entire watersheds and regions. They are slow to begin but can last indefinitely, some “megadroughts” upending social and political stability over several decades.

Drought, like a fearsome boxer, has a long reach. And like that fearsome boxer, the long reach of drought is pummeling.

In Case You Missed It:  

Hotspots H2O: Longstanding Drought in Iran Begets Farmer Protests, Power Outages, and Widespread Water Rationing – A decades-long drought in one of the warming world’s most arid regions, heightened by what many consider to be governmental mismanagement, has set the state for a severe, dangerously dry 2021.

Drought In The American West

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

Southern California Reservoir Could Keep Water Running

Diamond Valley Lake, in Riverside County, is the largest storehouse of water in Southern California, holding nearly 800,000 acre-feet of water, the Los Angeles Times reports. Brent Yamasaki, regional chief of operations for the Metropolitan Water District, said the reservoir, in times of disaster or drought, is designed to deliver water to 18 million people for six months. The massive reservoir, often referred to as an “inland ocean,” is stabilizing the increasingly arid region and could keep water running for customers as drought worsens throughout the American West.

Low Water Levels in the Mississippi River Present Challenges for Commercial Boating

Fox47 reports that low levels in the Mississippi River are leading to navigation problems for barges, which are encountering unexpected sandbars. The Army Corps of Engineers works consistently to dredge navigation channels along the river, although it’s difficult to keep some channels clear. This is especially difficult on stretches of the river that run through Wacouta, Minnesota, where the river goes from very narrow to exceptionally wide. At any time, only one barge with a tugboat is able to pass through the area in either direction.



Sen. James Risch put $50 million in economic assistance from the United States to Palestinians on hold, delaying dire reconstruction of water resources and roads following Israeli airstrikes in May. Al Jazeera reports that although the funds were already approved by Congress, the Idaho Republican used procedures under a 2018 U.S. law to block their distribution. Risch claims he wants to ensure the money would not go to the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.


Arsenic contamination in water supplies across India has increased by 145 percent in the past five years, the Guardian reports. A team of researchers analyzed groundwater samples from Sabalpar village, east of Patna, and found arsenic contamination to be more than 20 times higher than the World Health Organization recommended limit.

  • Why it matters: Polluting industrial development, ambitious agricultural production, and grave hydrological mismanagement have produced an economic and environmental crisis that is now endemic to India, Circle of Blue reported in 2018. Even in the diminishing number of regions where groundwater supplies are still adequate for drinking and irrigation, most aquifers are contaminated with hazardous concentrations of pollutants like fluoride, pesticides, arsenic, chromium, lead, cadium, and nitrate.


National Geographic reports that two U.S. congressional representatives called for an investigation into oil and gas exploration in southern Africa that includes parts of the Okavango Delta. One of the largest inland deltas in the world, the Okavango supports more than one million people and is home to rare wildlife. In a letter to top U.S. officials, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry cited previous reporting from National Geographic that found the Canadian oil company ReconAfrica has violated Namibian government regulations by beginning work in the delta without certain water permits.

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