The Stream, June 26, 2024: Record-Breaking Floods Coincide with Extreme Heat in U.S. Midwest, Stranding Residents

Dubai skyline in this file photo from 2014. Photo © J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue


  • Severe flooding in Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, and parts of Minnesota has submerged neighborhoods and killed at least two people, prompting disaster declarations and widespread evacuations. 
  • The construction of a hydroelectric dam in Bosnia and Herzegovina is being met with resistance from activists who say its construction will degrade river and wildlife health. 
  • After historic rainfall and flooding brought Dubai to a standstill earlier this spring, the United Arab Emirates announced a $8.2 billion rainwater collection project. 
  • On the heels of severe El Niño flooding, powerful rains have again fallen on Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, prompting thousands of evacuations.

A new study shows that more than half of Australia’s clean energy mines currently sit on formally recognized Indigenous lands.

“Indigenous Australians have not generally done well from the mining of their country. Land has been damaged, creeks and artesian water sources polluted, and communities left in poverty.” — Elizabeth Sullivan, a campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Of Australia’s current critical mineral mining projects, 58 percent are on Indigenous land that has been formally recognized — a number that increases to 79 percent if land with current, outstanding native claims is counted, Mongabay reports.

These projects — meant to retrieve minerals, some of which are crucial to a transition to cleaner energy sources — have been overwhelmingly negative for the native communities. Indigenous Australians often received few of the jobs and financial incentives they were promised, according to Mongabay. Instead they have endured surface and ground waters polluted with acids and other mining waste.

— Christian Thorsberg, Interim Stream Editor

Recent WaterNews from Circle of Blue

The Lead

The collapse of a railroad bridge connecting North Sioux City, South Dakota, with Sioux City, Iowa, is the latest damage after up to 18 inches of rain fell in the area late last week, causing severe flooding and widespread emergency responses, the Associated Press reports. For several cities in South Dakota, including Sioux Falls and Mitchell, the weekend was their wettest two-day period on record.

Evacuations were urged for at least one town near the Nebraska-Iowa border, while 21 counties in northern Iowa were put under disaster declarations. So far, at least two people have died, and officials have urged residents to prepare for additional evacuation orders as forecasts call for more precipitation.

The impact of the deluge on the area’s watershed has been devastating. Several miles to the north, water levels on the Big Sioux River topped out at 45 feet, more than seven feet higher than the previous record, while 13 other rivers in northwestern Iowa flooded. Local flood barriers are themselves in danger of being breached, and Rapidan Dam in southern Minnesota, as of Tuesday, had its abutment fail, CBS reports

As the floodwaters slowly drain, downstream waterways are expected to crest, including the Missouri River, which is likely to spill into Omaha on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, as the flooding itself wreaks havoc on infrastructure — submerging entire neighborhoods — relentless heat in excess of 100 degrees F remains a concern for residents, as most air conditioning and electrical systems have been destroyed or made unreliable. 

“Businesses are shuttered. Main streets have been impacted,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said. “Hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities were evacuated. Cities are without power, and some are without drinkable water.”

This Week’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers


Percent increase in the capacity of the United Arab Emirates’ newly announced $8.2 billion rainwater collection system, Reuters reports. The infrastructure project, called Tasreef, comes on the heels of the worst flooding Dubai experienced in 75 years — up to 10 inches of rain fell in parts of the Gulf over a weekend in April, bringing cities to a standstill, destroying cars and homes, and killing dozens across the region. Experts say the deluge was caused by climate change, and that erratic precipitation, historically foreign to the desert nation, can be expected in the future. The Tasreef project is expected to be completed by 2033.



People in Somalia, most living in the capital Mogadishu, who have been displaced since April due to heavy rains, Citizen TV Kenya reports. Another weekend deluge, which turned the city’s streets into knee-high rivers, further deteriorated the East African country and its infrastructure, which has become accustomed to unpredictable precipitation made worse by climate change. Last November, more than 100 people died and over 100,000 people were displaced in the capital amidst flooding spurred by El Niño weather conditions.

On the Radar

Activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina are resisting the construction of a new hydroelectric dam on the Neretva River, Reuters reports. The dam is intended to aid the transition away from fossil fuels, but the campaigners say it will irreversibly degrade the river and its wildlife. “Vegetation and the animal world — Adriatic brown trout, sculpin, marble trout — all of them are endangered,” activist Lejla Kusturica told the news outlet. Another environmental organization, CEE Bankwatch, says the dam would induce nearly three miles of flooding across its upper banks, an area already prone to landslides. Communities along the Neretva worry that if the river is degraded, the industries they depend upon — ecotourism and rafting — will also begin to fade.

More Water News

New Jersey: Officials in several communities announced “mandatory or optional water restrictions,” including car washing and watering lawns, as the heat index across the state — which is warming faster than others in the U.S. Northeast — remained near or in excess of 100 degrees F for more than a week, the New York Times reports

British Rivers: Thousands of citizen volunteers across the United Kingdom, in a joint effort to test the country’s rivers, found that 75 percent “are in poor ecological health as a result of pollution from water companies and agricultural runoff,” the Guardian reports. Waterways around London and the Thames River, the effort’s leaders said, are particularly degraded.

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