The Stream, January 7, 2022: The World’s Lakes Are Losing Ice Cover At An Alarming Rate


  • Lakes in the Northern Hemisphere are losing ice coverage faster than ever before.
  • California officials impose outdoor water use restrictions.
  • Flooding displaces thousands and destroys crops in Indonesia.
  • A recent court ruling forces a mining company will decrease its water use at a Chilean copper mine.

Environmental activists lose faith in the South African government’s willingness to clean the contaminated Vaal River.

“There is no end in sight to the Vaal sewage pollution crisis, just a long trail of broken promises, lack of political will and lack of funding for the repairs to the Emfuleni wastewater treatment system.” – Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) chair Maureen Stewart. Environmental activists say their government isn’t doing enough to clean up South Africa’s Vaal River, which supplies water to an estimated 19 million people. Years of mismanagement and lack of government funding are to blame for the pollution, Stewart said. Contamination from raw sewage in the river is not only a threat to public health and the environment, but to the local economy as well. Rosemary Anderson, chair of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, said tourism and development along the river has “potential,” but the pollution has stopped any construction.

In Recent Water News

Speaking of Water: Mapping People, Power, and Water w/ Giulio Boccaletti and Parag Khanna

Since the dawn of civilization, water has defined where people live, when they thrive, and when they move. In a special episode of Speaking of Water authors Giulio Boccaletti and Parag Khanna interview each other about their new books that are capturing attention around the world and provoking debate about borders, conflicts, and what sustainability may look like for the human race.

Northern Hemisphere Lakes Are Losing Ice Coverage At Alarming Rates

A new analysis from The Narwhal found that ice is forming later and melting earlier across many lakes in the Northern Hemisphere. Lakes have lost ice six times faster in the last 25 years than during any other period over the last century, the analysis found. Some lakes, including Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, have endured some winters without freezing at all. Less ice cover can lead to summer algal blooms and decimate fish populations. 

Today’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers

$500 FINES 

The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted new rules which will impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use for the second time in the last decade. The new rules, which could take effect at the end of the month, mandate that residents not water lawns for 48 hours after a rainstorm or let sprinklers run onto the sidewalk. Anyone who does not comply with the new rules could face fines up to $500, but experts say such fines would be rare.

30,000 PEOPLE

Heavy rain has displaced more than 30,000 people on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Evacuees are sheltering in mosques and public buildings, but economic disaster could await them upon their return. “All the rice paddies in the area are underwater,” said Muhammad Hatta, who lives on the outskirts of the town of Lhoksukon. “The farmers were just about to harvest them, but crops usually die after three or four days of being completely submerged. The farmers will have lost everything.”

On the Radar

After a Chilean court prohibited the mining company BHP from drawing water from the Lagunillas aquifer for operations at its Cerro Colorado copper mine, the company said it will halt one of the plants and operate remaining facilities with some limitations. The First Environmental Court of Chile’s northern city of Antofagasta issued a measure last week prohibiting the mine from extracting aquifer water for 90 days or until it determines the mine poses no environmental risk.

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