Aboriginal officials in Australia approved the rounding up and killing of up to 10,000 camels because of drought conditions, claiming that the thirsty camels are drinking up too much of a dwindling water supply, as CBS News reported.
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A third cougar has been sighted wandering through a residential neighborhood in the Chilean capital of Santiago as millions of the city's residents are under lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
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By Tara Lohan
Aerial photos of the Sierra Nevada — the long mountain range stretching down the spine of California — showed rust-colored swathes following the state's record-breaking five-year drought that ended in 2016. The 100 million dead trees were one of the most visible examples of the ecological toll the drought had wrought.
Now, a few years later, we're starting to learn about how smaller, less noticeable species were affected.
By Raya A. Al-Masri
Different strategies for resisting the spread of the new coronavirus have emerged in different countries. But the one that has cut through everywhere is simple and, supposedly, can be done by anyone: "Wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds."
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By Jose Pablo Ortiz Partida
The immediate emergency of COVID-19 has been a powerful reminder that the most valuable things in our lives are our families, friends, and the welfare of our communities.
Thousands of People in the SJV Live Without Reliable Access to Water.<p>California is the wealthiest state in the most prosperous country in the world, and yet, there are close to one million people living without reliable access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. Most of these people are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/us/california-central-valley-tainted-water.html" target="_blank">concentrated in disadvantaged communities</a> in the SJV. California identifies <a href="https://oehha.ca.gov/calenviroscreen/sb535" target="_blank">disadvantaged communities</a> as areas that experience disproportionate levels of a combination of poverty, air and water pollution, high unemployment, and high rates of cardiovascular diseases and asthma. According to a report from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, residents in these communities are <a href="https://regionalchange.ucdavis.edu/publication/water-justice" target="_blank">over 60% Hispanic</a>.</p><p><span></span>The SJV is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, <a href="https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/water-and-the-future-of-the-san-joaquin-valley-overview.pdf" target="_blank">producing more than half of California's agricultural output</a> with over 200 different crops and annual revenue of about 20 billion US dollars. The astonishing volume of water that agriculture requires has led to over-exploitation of groundwater and the continuous lowering of groundwater levels that has impacted water quality and quantity.</p><p>Groundwater is the primary source for household water needs and agricultural water supply. Yet, thousands of people are unable to drink and use the water in the SJV, because there are multiple contaminants in it. Some of the water pollution comes from natural sources and includes substances like arsenic, but most of it has emerged due to agricultural practices. These contaminants include pesticides and nitrates, which are linked to cancer, birth defects, and blue baby syndrome.</p><p>In years with average precipitation, water flowing in California's rivers from rain and melted snowpack meets about 60 percent of the state's water demand and groundwater meets the remainder. However, during dry years water supply sources shift and put severe stress on groundwater levels. During the California drought from 2012 to 2016, groundwater use, mostly from agricultural water pumping, <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/droughts-exposed-california-s-thirst-groundwater-now-state-hopes-refill-its-aquifers" target="_blank">grew to 80 percent</a> in some regions of the SJV increasing overdraft. Groundwater overdraft occurs when water extractions exceed recharge into an aquifer. An analogy is your bank account; extract more money than is put in, and your account will go dry. Aquifers are like a shared account, with some people taking out more than others. Consequently, thousands of domestic wells ran dry, unable to reach water due to lowered groundwater levels, in large part due to increased agricultural water pumping, and affecting thousands of people across the valley.</p><p>We think about drought as standalone events, but in reality, human actions triggered by droughts can have effects that continue long after the drought has ended, like permanently lowering the water table. In the SJV, the last drought has permanently reduced the capacity of some aquifers because overdraft left air in between soil particles instead of water, and the soils subsided eliminating the space for water storage. Overdraft also leads to infrastructure damage from land subsidence, that is when the ground levels drop, plus reduction of surface water, and an increase in water quality problems. That range of concerns brought by overdraft formed the basis of SGMA.</p>
Groundwater Sustainability Plans Could Fix Part of the Problem but Are Currently Inadequate.<p>SGMA passed in 2014 and is the first legislation in California to mandate sustainable management of groundwater resources. SGMA is intended to bring about groundwater sustainability by the year 2040. Local water agencies describe the means to achieve this goal in their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). For those interested in the details of SGMA, <a href="https://water.ca.gov/Programs/Groundwater-Management/SGMA-Groundwater-Management" target="_blank">here is a thorough description of it</a>. The focus of this post is on the latest developments.</p><p>The 21 most critically over-drafted groundwater basins submitted their GSPs at the beginning of the year and are now under review by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). External reviews of these plans argue that some of them do not sufficiently address current and future impacts on disadvantaged communities. For example, the Groundwater Leadership Forum (a group of organizations funded by the <a href="https://waterfdn.org/" target="_blank">Water Foundation</a> focused on ensuring the success of SGMA and of which UCS is part) also reviewed several GPSs and found gaps in how drinking water, climate change, stakeholder involvement, managed wetlands, and groundwater-dependent ecosystems were addressed in the plans. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reviewed 36 plans submitted for basins overlapping the SJV. They found Kings Basin (surrounding Fresno) stands out for having the highest number of domestic wells that may go dry, about 600 of them, under the proposed water level sustainable thresholds and yet the local groundwater plan considers that an <a href="https://www.ppic.org/blog/will-groundwater-sustainability-plans-end-the-problem-of-dry-drinking-water-wells/" target="_blank">insignificant impact from continued overdraft</a>. This is concerning and unacceptable. Public comments can be consulted in the <a href="https://sgma.water.ca.gov/portal/gsp/all" target="_blank">SGMA portal from DWR</a>.</p><p>I, and many others are concerned that multiple GSPs have questionable integrations of climate change projections. GSPs are considering numerous projects to tackle their local overdraft, yet they are not planning for the uncertain future that climate change is bringing. To reduce some of the vulnerabilities that we see now, GSPs need to integrate climate change and show benefits on the range of future scenarios.</p><p>Another concern is that on May 14, the <a href="http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/FullBudgetSummary.pdf" target="_blank">Governor announced</a> a $40 million cut on funding for SGMA. Part of the money was expected to support 37 new staff positions at DWR to uphold its statutory obligation on reviewing GSPs. While the budget still allocated $26 million of existing Proposition 68 bond funds to help with implementation projects in critically overdraft basin, it is unlikely that DWR will have the capacity to review the GSPs thoroughly. However, the governor's budget did prioritize safe and affordable drinking water and the State Water Board approved <a href="http://californiawaternewsdaily.com/infrastructure/state-water-board-approves-2020-21-funds-to-improve-access-to-healthy-drinking-water/" target="_blank">$130 million for 2020-2021</a> to projects that support such objective on vulnerable communities.</p>
Without Bold Action and Preparation, Climate Change Threats May Bring Similar Impacts to Those of COVID-19.<p>The lack of drinking water causes many residents in the valley to rely on bottled water as their primary source for drinking and cooking. Panic buying at the beginning of the pandemic left stores across the valley without bottled water. In the case of COVID-19, unsafe and unreliable access to water has endangered a multitude of low-income communities by preventing them from performing protective, hygienic acts, handwashing, in particular, and forcing them to go to public water supply kiosks. As we've all learned, hand washing is one of the most necessary measures needed to slow and stop the spread of a virus. Without a correct implementation of groundwater sustainability plans under SGMA, many of these risks will continue.</p><p>Shelter in place orders resulted in people losing their jobs and hence, their source of income and being unable to pay utility services. Small utility services were also impacted because of low economic margins of operations in which small drops in income translate to being unable to provide service. Fortunately, many organizations and individuals wrote a letter to Governor Newsom that prompted him to issue an <a href="https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/04/02/governor-newsom-issues-executive-order-protecting-homes-small-businesses-from-water-shutoffs/" target="_blank">executive order</a> protecting homes and small businesses from water shutoffs.</p><p>We now have the opportunity to give meaning to these current hardships by learning from them to prevent hardships from climate change. Climate change is a threat intensifier. In this case, the threat is a virus, and historical inequities and water vulnerabilities increased its impact on the most vulnerable among us. An example of the unpreparedness of the system to support our vulnerabilities during times of crisis is seen in the case of school children who rely on school lunches as their main meal of the day but are now unable to access this resource due to school closures. Some farmworkers, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/us/coronavirus-undocumented-immigrant-farmworkers-agriculture.html" target="_blank">while cataloged as 'essential' by the federal government</a> during this crisis, are undocumented and were not part of the stimulus package. The height of irony is <a href="https://www.kvpr.org/post/covid-19-deepens-food-insecurity-san-joaquin-valley" target="_blank">farmworkers struggled with access to food distribution</a> when they needed it.</p>
There Is No Scenario Where Water Is Not Absolutely Necessary to Lessen the Impacts During a Crisis.<p>One of my <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/cecilia-moura/covid-19-air-pollution-and-health-impacts-an-interview-with-pediatric-pulmonologist-dr-denise-serebrisky" target="_blank">colleagues wrote</a> that moments of crisis often expose the weak points of a system. In the SJV, the weak points of the water system have been exposed for years and won't be strengthened without managing water resources sustainably. This is evidenced by the number of people in the SJV without access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. Considering that about <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/28/california-water-wells-dry-sgma" target="_blank">95% of valley residents</a> depend on groundwater for at least part of their water, it is critical that GSPs explicitly include strategies for addressing some of the current and future water issues in the SJV.</p><p>Numerous, various kinds of climate threats will come, whether they develop as <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0804-2" target="_blank">floods, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, or other climate hazards</a>, we need to be prepared and do everything possible to improve sustainable water management for all. While future climate-change-derived crises most likely will be different than COVID-19, there is no scenario where water is not absolutely necessary to lessen the impacts.</p>
By Tharanga Gunawardena
Extreme climate events are increasingly threatening countries and livelihoods. Devastating natural disasters and unpredictable weather have made communities more vulnerable and impoverished, especially women. According to the United Nations, 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. But what makes them more susceptible to the effects of climate catastrophe?
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By Dan Nosowitz
While the northern reaches of the continental U.S. are finally starting to feel a little chill, the Southeast is dealing with something very different.
NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.
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By Albert Van Dijk, Luigi Renzullo, Marta Yebra and Shoshana Rapley
2019 was the year Australians confronted the fact that a healthy environment is more than just a pretty waterfall in a national park; a nice extra we can do without. We do not survive without air to breathe, water to drink, soil to grow food and weather we can cope with.
Environmental condition scores by local government area, and values for each of the seven indicators. See more data on www.ausenv.online.
Values for 15 environmental indicators in 2015, expressed as the change from average 2000-2018 conditions. Similar to national economic indicators, they provide a summary but also hide regional variations, complex interactions and long-term context. ANU Centre for Water and Landscape Dynamics
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