The Stream, June 29, 2021: Detroiters Face Severe Flooding After Heavy Rains


  • Residents of Detroit, Michigan, face severe flooding after heavy rain storms last weekend.
  • Louisiana lawmakers plan for a complete overhaul of the state’s water infrastructure.
  • China begins operating the world’s second-largest hydropower generating station amid environmental concerns.
  • Turkey will begin constructing a major canal that opponents say will damage marine ecosystems and the country’s fragile water supply.

In the American West, wildfires can damage urban water supplies for years after flames die out.

“Here we are in 2021. We’re really removed from the 2020 wildfire season. Most people are thinking the problems are over.” – Kevin Bladon, a hydrologist at Oregon State University. The New York Times reports that the impact wildfire has on urban water supplies can last for years after the fire is put out. A wildfire has the potential to contaminate water supplies with sediment, dissolved nutrients and heavy metals, or debris. In a worst case scenario, water could become untreatable, forcing cities to look elsewhere for their supplies. Severe fires can also alter water availability. Burned slopes absorb less rain and new vegetation consumes more water as forests regrow.

  • Why it matters: After wildfires tore through the American West last year, essential public infrastructure was destroyed. This included drinking water systems, which in some cases were showing signs of contamination from chemicals released during the fires. The destruction and contamination of drinking water systems is a new and unsettling chapter in the story of wildfires in the West. Past fires have burned watersheds, depositing into reservoirs debris and ash that interfere with the water-treatment process. Now, subdivisions are burning, putting the plumbing itself at risk.


In Case You Missed It:

HotSpots H2O: Anishinaabe Activists and Allies Resist Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline, a Project that Threatens Wetlands and Ignores Treaty Territory – In northern Minnesota, the new Line 3 corridor cuts directly through wetlands and waterways that are already struggling in unusually dry conditions. The pipeline also infringes upon centuries-old tribal treaty rights, and runs near, and sometimes through, reservation lines, water crossings, and state forests.

What’s Up With Water – June 28, 2021 – This week’s episode covers the body of Indigenous activist Tomás Rojo Valencia that was recoverd last week in Mexico and drought and toxic algal blooms in Iowa that are putting drinking water supplies for more than 500,000 people at risk.

After Heavy Rain, Detroiters Report Flooded Homes and Roadways

After heavy rainfall caused catastrophic flooding in Detroit, Michigan, over the weekend, residents of hard-hit neighborhoods like Jefferson Chalmers are picking up the pieces of their lives. According to the Detroit Free Press, residents reported severe flooding in their homes, resulting in the complete loss of furniture and family keepsakes. The storms flooded major roadways and trapped cars. As of Sunday, parts of I-94 were still inundated.

  • Why it matters: Neighborhoods like Jefferson Chalmers are no stranger to flooding. The area — a labyrinth of canals leading to the Detroit River on the city’s far east side – is often called Detroit’s version of Venice. But for the past two summers, it has looked more like a floodplain. Over time, scientists expect severe floods to become increasingly common as climate change alters rainfall and temperature patterns in Michigan, bringing more intense periods of rain and drought. That leaves locals with two options: Reinforce their properties to prevent the next flood, or live with the consequences.



The Associated Press reports that Louisiana lawmakers are prioritizing improvements to the state’s water systems amid more frequent extreme weather events. Although officials from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office said a total overhaul of the state’s water infrastructure could cost around $4 billion, a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated Louisiana’s 20-year funding needs were upwards of $7 billion.

  • Why it matters: Days after Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana in 2020, over 70 water systems were inoperable, affecting roughly 142,000 people. The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in late August with wind speeds touching 150 miles per hour. The powerful gusts uprooted trees, snapped water pipes, and toppled water towers across a swath of southwestern Louisiana, particularly around the parishes of Allen, Cameron, and Calcasieu.

289 METERS (948 FEET)

China began operating the Baihetan Hydropower Station on Monday, which state broadcaster CCTV said could eventually generate enough electricity daily to meet the power needs of 500,000 people for an entire year. The Times of India reports that Baihetan, located on the upper reaches of the Yangtze, is the second-largest hydropower dam in the world measured by generating capacity. Officials praise the 289-meter (948-foot) dam as a milestone towards Beijing’s carbon neutrality goals. Environmental groups, however, have long warned against dam building, which can disrupt rare plants and animal habitats.


Turkey broke ground on a major canal on the western edge of Istanbul, Al Jazeera reports. Supporters of the canal, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, say the project will ease ship traffic and reduce the risks of accidents in the Bosporus Strait. Opponents, however, say Canal Istanbul will have adverse ecological impacts and endanger Turkey’s already at-risk water supply.

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