The Stream, May 11, 2022: Wildfire Season Starts Early As U.S. Battles Drought

Lake Havasu in 2012. Photo © J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue


  • More than half of the continental United States is experiencing drought.
  • Water scarcity threatens more than four-fifths of the world’s croplands.
  • Around one-fifth of aquatic ecosystems in the Brazilian Amazon have been impacted by agriculture and dam construction.
  • In the United States, more than 2,000 aging dams pose threats to nearby communities.
More than a thousand people in one First Nation community in Manitoba, Canada have been evacuated due to severe flooding.

“We have no home to come back to. This is all we had.”

– Jessica Sutherland, a Peguis First Nation resident.

Heavy rains and ice jams on a local river have forced nearly 1,600 people in Canada’s Peguis First Nation to evacuate, CBC reported last week. Many residents, like Sutherland, returned to the community to find their homes in ruins. Volunteers have flooded in to aid the community, piling sandbags around homes and assisting families in salvaging their belongings. Waters have receded in the last couple days, but forecasts predict levels could rise back up again by 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) or more this week.

In Recent Water News

High Cost of Water Hits Home — Rising rates hurt the state’s poorest residents.

  • As the nation prepares to pour hundreds of billions of federal dollars into rescuing water systems, the Great Lakes News Collaborative investigates the true cost of water in Michigan. Keep up on the series from Bridge Michigan, Circle of Blue, Great Lakes Now, and Michigan Radio here.

What’s Up With Water—May 10, 2022 — This week’s episode of What’s Up With Water covers recent heatwaves in India and Pakistan and the reason some homes in Australia may become “uninsurable.” Plus, Circle of Blue reports on how rising water costs in Michigan are impacting low-income households.

Wildfire Season Begins Early, More Than Half of U.S. in Drought

More than half of the contiguous United States is experiencing drought, NOAA announced at the beginning of the month. The news comes as multiple wildfires continue to burn and merge in New Mexico. More land across the U.S. has received less rainfall than expected than in any other year since 2012, NBC reports.

More Drought News: 

  • Californians will likely experience power outages during peak summer months due to climate hazards and supply chain and regulatory issues.
  • Wildfires threaten to destroy culturally significant buildings and monuments in New Mexico’s Native American and Hispanic communities.

This Week’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers


Water scarcity could impact 84 percent of the world’s croplands by 2050, according to a new study. Researchers developed a new index in order to estimate water levels for green water, which comes from rain, and blue water, which comes from rivers, lakes and groundwater. The study, published in the AGU journal Earth’s Future, is the first to apply this index worldwide and predict global water scarcity for blue and green water.


Another water index, this one developed by Ambiental Media, found that 20 percent of aquatic ecosystems in the Brazilian Amazon have severely impacted by agriculture and dam construction. The index is meant to serve as a reference point of understanding the impacts of human activity on the Amazon River Basin.

On the Radar

A new analysis by the Associated Press found that more than 2,200 dams across the United States are in poor or unsatisfactory condition. Increasingly frequent climate hazards like floods and hurricanes threaten to overwhelm the dams, which on average were build over 50 years ago.

In context: A United Nations’ report from last year found that dams across the world are aging and pose a threat to surrounding communities. The report argued that governments should begin planning for the decommissioning and removal of the structures whose costs now outweigh their benefits.

More Water News

One man in Malawi sold his precious livestock to save his community from frequent floods.

Record heatwaves in India are particularly threatening to the nation’s women, who are often tasked with gathering water for their families.

Water scarcity on southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake is forcing fishing families into poverty.

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