The Stream, October 26, 2022: Multiple Cholera Outbreaks Overwhelm Global Vaccine Supply

Women transplant rice in a field near Meerut, India, that is irrigated with industrial wastewater pumped from a nearby canal. Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue


  • Multiple cholera outbreaks in countries like Haiti, Malawi, and Syria are challenging global health agencies.
  • The Mississippi River drops to a record low at Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Scarce water in Colorado is increasing the cost of new homes along the Front Range and prompting landscaping restrictions.

Villagers in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh worry that polluted groundwater is causing deformities, stunted growth, and childhood cancers.

“Vikas is a living corpse.” — Satendar Rathi, the father of Vikas, a 23-year-old in Uttar Pradesh who has stunted growth and bone deformities.

Only 5,000 people live in Gangnauli, located 110 miles north of India’s capital. But villagers say that about a third of the children are ill with deformities, skin allergies, and cancers. They blame groundwater polluted with heavy metals, possibly from local paper mills, dye makers, and slaughterhouses. Al Jazeera reports that state agencies have not carried out remedial actions suggested by a national tribunal.

Why It Matters: Across India, and particularly in the nation’s big metropolitan regions, countless numbers of farmers raise their crops with untreated wastewater. Medical specialists say farmers and their families risk serious disease from exposure to harmful sewage-borne microorganisms and metals. Scientists have measured unsafe levels of heavy metals and other toxic substances in Indian crops – posing a public health threat if consumed.

— Brett Walton, Interim Stream Editor

Recent WaterNews from Circle of Blue

Drought in the American West

Scarce water in Colorado is pushing up the price of new homes along the Front Range and prompting some communities to enact landscaping restrictions, the Colorado Sun reports. The news outlet scrutinized recent policy changes in two Denver suburbs. Last week Castle Rock banned grass lawns in front of new homes and limited backyard turf to 500 square feet. Arvada, meanwhile, more than doubled the fee charged to homebuilders to connect to the city’s water, sewer, and stormwater system. The fee is now $54,000.

Check out Circle of Blue’s drought coverage for more of the biggest headlines out of the drying American West.

This Week’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers

-10.81 Feet

The Mississippi River dropped to a new record low at the Memphis, Tennessee, gauge on October 22. Negative readings indicate the river is especially dry. Though the river level has since climbed 1.5 feet, the near-term outlook is not promising. With a third consecutive La Niña winter in place, the three-month forecast indicates continued dryness.

On the Radar

Cholera has broken out in more than two dozen countries, causing a vaccine shortage that is challenging global health organizations. The body that coordinates the distribution of cholera vaccines said it will now use a single dose instead of the typical two-shot regimen. Restricting patients to a single shot will reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness in children. But the strategy allows for more vaccines to go around.

The World Health Organization says that cholera cases have been recorded in 29 countries this year — almost 50 percent more than the typical number of countries affected. There have been severe outbreaks in Haiti, Malawi, and Syria. Health experts worry that outbreaks may occur more frequently in a warming world with more people displaced because of conflict and disaster.

More Water News

PFAS Pollution: Cow-harming ‘forever chemicals’ strain USDA’s relief resources.

Groundwater Depletion: The Cochise County groundwater wars.

Nutrient Pollution: EPA sued over lack of plan to regulate pollution from factory farms.

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