YOUR GLOBAL RUNDOWN
- Millions of Australians are affected by record rainfall and flooding.
- Two Colorado utilities will test the feasibility of a controversial reservoir in the state’s Western Slope.
- An Alaskan construction company and the EPA reached a settlement over violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- The United States and Ethiopia hold talks over a controversial Ethiopian dam.
A small island in the U.S. Virgin Islands is pleading the new Biden administration to revoke permits from an oil refinery known for water and air pollution.
“We only have one aquifer.” – Frandelle Gerard, a St. Croix business leader and the executive director of the Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism Foundation. Environmental groups on the island of St. Croix, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, are urging President Biden to revoke an air pollution permit from one of America’s largest oil refineries. Inside Climate News reports that the refinery, Limetree Bay, has a history of water and air pollution over multiple decades, including polluting the island’s only aquifer with millions of gallons of oil. Production was shut down in 2012, but new ownership rushed to reopen the plant over the past year with the aid of the Trump administration, which ignored decades of precedent in issuing new permits.
IN RECENT WATER NEWS
In the coming decades, as planet-warming greenhouse gases produce increasingly unstable patterns of precipitation and heat across the United States, the Great Lakes region could emerge as a climate refuge. Michigan boasts comparatively ample fresh water reserves and comparatively stable meteorological conditions. Leading analysts at the Rhodium Group speculate that the state could become a haven for people fleeing California’s wildfires, the Gulf Coast’s hurricanes, or Arizona’s heat.
For many years the warning signs flashed the same message: the Mekong River, Southeast Asia’s main waterway, was headed toward environmental disaster. Then, in 2019, the bounty seemed finally, and literally, to dry up. The monsoon rains that fill the river each year and turn the basin into a wonderland of biological riches didn’t come until the mighty Mekong had been reduced, in parts, to a virtual trickle. In Cambodia’s interconnected Tonle Sap Lake, the heart of the world’s largest inland fishery, some fishers reported catch declines of more than 80 percent.
Is this the new normal in the Mekong? For several years, Stefan Lovgren has reported on the environmental changes in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Much of that reporting has focused on the decline and degradation that is undeniably occurring throughout the basin. But he has also covered positive developments and innovative new approaches that, if increased and expanded, could reverse the river’s decline.
In Case You Missed It:
HotSpots H2O: Following Hurricanes, Water Insecurity Spikes in Nicaragua – Since Hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated Nicaragua last winter, an estimated 500,000 people along the northern Caribbean coast do not have access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation facilities.
What’s Up With Water – March 22, 2021 – This week’s episode covers a lifted citywide boil-water advisory in Mississippi’s capital, new research out of the University of California, Santa Barbara that examines the physical links between rivers and aquifers and California state regulators who are developing the world’s first guidelines for small plastic particles in drinking water.
Colorado Utilities Given OK To Test Feasibility of Controversial Reservoir
Two Colorado utilities can move ahead with testing to see whether a controversial reservoir is feasible, Colorado Sun reports. If built, the dam would divert water from rural Western Slope communities to fast-growing cities. Conservationists in the West Slope oppose the dam, citing concerns over their own water availability.
TODAY’S TOP WATER STORIES, TOLD IN NUMBERS
The Alaskan construction company North Start Paving & Construction Inc. reached a $130,000 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after allegations that the firm violated the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Associated Press reports that the firm was accused of having an unauthorized underground injection well on its property. The company will be required to close the well and remove all contaminated materials.
10 MILLION PEOPLE
Reuters reports that 10 million people throughout Australia are affected by record precipitation and flooding. The national weather agency posted severe weather warnings in every mainland state or territory but one. Although no deaths have been reported, thousands have been rescued by emergency services in the last few days.
ON THE RADAR
A U.S. envoy and Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs Demeke Mekonnen held talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Al Jazeera reports. Mekonnen said he assured U.S. Sen. Chris Coons that Ethiopia was committed to the African Union’s sponsorship of GERD negotiations.
Jane writes The Stream and covers domestic and international water issues for Circle of Blue. She is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University, where she studied Multimedia Journalism and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. During her time at Grand Valley, she was the host of the Community Service Learning Center podcast Be the Change. Currently based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jane enjoys listening to music, reading and spending time outdoors.