The Stream, September 24, 2021: Low Water Levels In Montana Affect Farms, Recreation, Wildlife


  • In the American West, low water levels on Montana rivers force farmers to change their irrigation practices and billionaires in California have the power to protect themselves from drought.
  • The state of Michigan announced it will provide residents of Benton Harbor with bottled water and water filters after elevated levels of lead were found in the city’s drinking water supply.
  • A new analysis found hundreds of thousands of homes and workplaces in London are at risk of flooding if climate change continues to worsen.
  • A federal judge dismisses several of the water rights claims brought forward by the Ute Indian Tribe.

Residents in Ludhiana, India, stage a protest over clogged sewer lines and contaminated water supplies.

“The authorities have turned a blind eye towards the problems. The residents were forced to state a protest due to negligence on the part of the authorities.” – Balwinder Singh, the husband of an area councilor in Ludhiana, India. Residents in the Indian city of Ludhiana gathered outside a local government building on Wednesday for a protest over months of choked sewer lines and contaminated water supplies. The Hindustan Times reports that the protesters threatened to lock the gates of the Municipal Corporation office if officials failed to resolve the issue by early next week.


In Climate Talks, Plans to Keep Planet from Overheating Should Not Ignore Water

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on September 21 that his country would no longer finance coal-fired power plants abroad, making a high-profile commitment to move away from some forms of fossil fuel infrastructure less than six weeks before a pivotal global climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

While climate campaigners applauded the carbon-reducing benefits of fewer new coal plants, the move comes with another, less obvious dividend: less strain on water. Coal power, from mining to generation, is among the thirstiest and most polluting ways to produce electricity.

Eliminating coal from the world’s energy mix is a no-brainer for climate policy and a win for water, as well as for human lungs. But as diplomats meet in Glasgow starting on October 31 to solidify plans to keep the planet from dangerously overheating, water experts say the negotiators need to keep more than carbon in mind.

Some carbon-reducing energy options, if not well designed, can deplete rivers and pollute waterways.

In Case You Missed It:  

Toxin Levels Spike, Prompting Drinking Water Emergency in Northern California – Cyanotoxins in the state’s second largest freshwater lake soared this month amid a hot, dry summer.

The Town that Flood-Proofed Itself – Ottawa, Illinois learned how to keep its residents out of harm’s way. But on the river’s edge, safety has often required sacrifice.

Drought in the American West

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

Low Water Levels On Montana Rivers Affect Farms, Recreation, Wildlife

Low water levels on Montana’s rivers and streams are forcing farmers to cut back or stop irrigation practices, KTVQ reports. The low levels have affected other areas of life as well, including recreation and wildlife. Currently, 98.7 percent of Montana is suffering from severe drought.

California Billionaires “Insulting Themselves From The Drought”

One farming company in California is drawing criticism for its water use, Forbes reports. Wonderful, a company owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, has the opportunity to outspend almost every other farmer in the region, which may influence water prices. Where the Resnick’s store their water—in the critical Kern Water Bank—is another source of controversy. Experts like Char Miller, the director of environmental analysis at Pomona College, say the Resnicks are “insulating themselves from the drought,” in an area where too many communities are going without any water at all.



Tests revealed that high levels of lead have been found in the water supply in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a majority low-income, Black community. The Associated Press reports that after 20 advocacy groups accused state and local governments of not adequately responding to the crisis over three years ago and urged the Biden administration to intervene, the state of Michigan announced it would provide bottled water and water filters to residents. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy also announced that testing children for elevated levels of lead.


The Guardian reports that an analysis from London City Hall found that 200,000 homes and workplaces, as well as 25 percent of rail stations and 10 percent of the network are at high risk of flooding if climate change continues to raise temperatures and flooding worsens. The analysis also discovered one-fifth of London schools will be at risk, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said this week. During a speech on Thursday, the mayor urged the United Kingdom government to take bold action against climate change when it hosts world leaders for Cop26 in Glasgow at beginning of November.


The Ute Indian Tribe announced this week that they would appeal a decision by a federal judge to dismiss much of a lawsuit over the federal government’s handling of the tribal water rights, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The tribe sued the U.S. Interior Department in 2018, claiming that the federal government had violated tribal sovereignty and had been overly discriminatory against the tribe in the administration of water rights. This week, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols dismissed 12 of the tribe’s 16 causes of action, ruling that many of the tribe’s claims were raised too late or barred for various reasons.

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