Welcome to “What’s Up With Water” – your need-to-know news of the world’s water from Circle of Blue. I’m Eileen Wray-McCann.
In Kenya, a horrific drought that has withered crops and caused widespread hunger has prompted government authorities to make a significant change to agricultural policy. Kenya’s governing cabinet lifted a decade-long ban on genetically modified crops. Reuters reports that the executive decision allows farmers to grow seeds that have been genetically engineered to better withstand drought. It also allows for the import of genetically modified animal feeds. Experts say that Kenya’s current drought is the worst in four decades due to four consecutive rainy seasons that have been below average.
Insufficient rainfall is also affecting the central United States, where in recent weeks the Mississippi River has slowed to a relative trickle. The Mississippi is one of the country’s most important transportation waterways, and the low river flows have snarled its commercial shipping. The U.S. Coast Guard has reported at least eight barges running aground in the river and in the last month, the number of grain barges unloading in New Orleans is down nearly 40 percent compared to the five-year average. In addition, a barge and a tanker collided last week, spilling over 400 thousand gallons of fuel, according to CNN. The river near New Orleans was closed to shipping while the spill was cleaned up. Disruptions to barge traffic are not the only threat of low river flows in the Mississippi. Another is the potential for salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to push upstream. That would be a terrible outcome for towns in Louisiana that use the river for drinking water. To counter the upstream movement of salt water, the Army Corps of Engineers is constructing an underwater barrier across the bed of the Mississippi River downstream of New Orleans. Because saltwater is denser, it moves along the bottom of the river. This is the fourth time the Corps has installed the barrier, which is made from dredged sediment.
In Michigan, attempts to hold government officials accountable for Flint’s drinking water crisis have hit another roadblock. Michigan Radio reports that a circuit court judge dismissed criminal charges against seven officials. Judge Elizabeth Kelly said that prosecutors made procedural mistakes when they indicted the officials. The ruling, however, does allow prosecutors to refile charges. A separate misdemeanor charge against former Gov. Rick Snyder is still being heard in district court.
And that’s “What’s Up With Water”  from Circle of Blue, where water speaks. More water news and analysis await you at This is Eileen Wray-McCann – thanks for being here.