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 the United States, property damage from recent hurricanes is bankrupting regional insurance companies, leading to billion-dollar bailouts in states vulnerable to hazardous tropical storms. As E&E News reports, the situation is most dire in Louisiana and Florida, where state-backed insurance associations might have to borrow over a billion dollars combined to pay claims that insolvent companies can’t cover. Louisiana’s insurance commissioner says that the state has an “insurance crisis” due to the costs of storms like Hurricanes Laura and Ida. Those storms hit Louisiana in 2020 and 2021, and led to $23 billion in insurance claims. Because insurance companies can’t pay all the claims, state-backed insurance associations have had to act as a safety net. Associations in Florida and Louisiana will borrow money to pay out existing claims and those funds will be recovered through surcharges or higher premiums on future insurance policies. That means property owners will pay more. According to E&E News, more than a dozen insurers in the Gulf Coast region have been bankrupted by rising insurance payouts.
In Taiwan, the third year of an extended drought has reservoirs across the country staying below 30 percent capacity. In some rice-growing regions, water storage is as low as 11 percent. But the lack of rain isn’t just hurting the farmers, according to NPR. The island’s tech industry is also suffering the drought. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, known by its initials TSMC, is the most important computer chip manufacturer in the world. It depends on water supplies to produce the silicon chips that power the planet’s electronics. Taiwan’s government is prioritizing its factories over its farmers. For the third consecutive year, it’s paying rice farmers in the south not to grow their crop. Critics say that not growing rice hurts soil and ecosystem health, and that importing huge amounts of food is not a sustainable agricultural model. TSMC and other factories are pledging to limit their water use, though semiconductor production is accelerating. Cities are doing their part by reducing residential water use, especially in the drier southern region, where they are cutting off tap water for two days each week. Taiwan’s residents hope that the May rainy season will not fail them.
In the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, UN officials are asking for more money to respond to an ongoing humanitarian disaster. Since March of last year, more than a million people in North Kivu province have fled from violence associated with the rebel group M23. Many of the displaced people have sought refuge in makeshift camps. There, crowded conditions and inadequate sanitation and hygiene facilities have triggered the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera. The UN Refugee Agency says it needs $233 million this year to provide shelter, security services, water, medicine and other essentials to people displaced by the fighting. So far, donor countries have contributed only a small fraction – 15% – of that amount.
And that’s What’s Up With Water from Circle of Blue, where water speaks. You’ll find more news and analysis – and a chance to support our work  – at This is Eileen Wray-McCann – thanks for being here.