The climate crisis is making droughts more frequent and longer-lasting, a new UN report has announced. The report, Drought in Numbers, 2022, was released Wednesday in honor of Drought Day at the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)’s 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) taking place in Abijan, Côte d’Ivoire from May 9 to 20. “The facts and figures of this publication all point in the same direction: an upward trajectory in the duration of droughts and the severity of impacts, not only affecting human societies but also the ecological systems upon which the survival of all life depends, including that of our own species.” UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said in a press release.
Eight years ago, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan began, the effects of which linger today. The nation was shocked to see a city fail so spectacularly to meet its most basic responsibility to provide safe water to its citizens. Unfortunately, Flint is not alone. According to a 2020 Natural Resources Defense Council analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data, nearly 30 million people in the U.S. drink from unsafe water systems. The rate is significantly elevated in communities of color. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania water system was one of them. As in Flint and other cities, structural racism, chronic disinvestment, and economic austerity meant that Pittsburgh’s communities of color were most impacted by the failing water systems. Entering the 2000s, Pittsburgh’s water infrastructure was in dire need of repair and modernization.
When Governor Whitmer signed the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan, she chose to allow a $50 million subsidy to Michigan Potash Company to remain in the bill. MCWC and other concerned groups and citizens learned about this gift to a poorly conceived start-up project only days before the bill came out of the legislature for signature. We have been investigating and opposing this unnecessary and potentially destructive scheme for the last 6 years. Clearly neither the legislature nor the Governor took the time to investigate this venture before slipping it into the otherwise decent infrastructure bill. The people of Michigan deserve a better deal.
Total Congressional funding for all aspects of the Navy’s Red Hill water contamination debacle is now over $1.1 billion according to Hawai’i Congressional representative Ed Case and billions more are needed to complete clean-up, defueling and closing of the massive leaking Red Hill jet fuel storage facility. In a news release on March 9, 2022, Rep. Case said, “These funds ($700 million) are in addition to the $403 million in emergency funding we obtained in another bill we passed just weeks ago, bringing Congress’ total funding for all aspects of Red Hill in the current fiscal year alone to over $1.1 billion. But billions more will be required to complete all aspects of the cleanup, stabilization, defueling and closing of Red Hill and the relocation of its fuel and build fuel storage capacity elsewhere.”
Ever since Nestle applied for the permit to increase pumping at the White Pine Springs well (PW 101)in Evart for its bottling operation in Stanwood in 2016, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has been contesting this outrageous water grab. We have argued in public forums, educated across the state about the injustices this grab represents to the people and ecosystems of Michigan, and worked with organizations and citizens who submitted thousands of comments opposing the more than 200,000 gallons a day increase. Failure of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to deny this increase has left two former trout streams badly damaged. We have had a few victories along the way, but without strict enforcement by EGLE, the damage will continue.
By some estimates, more than two million people in the United States do not have running water and sanitation in their homes. Water utilities shut off water access to about one out of every twenty people, or close to fifteen million people, every year for nonpayment. Unsurprisingly, this affects racial minorities more than others. This barbaric practice has likely killed tens of thousands of people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given how wealthy the United States is, it doesn’t have to be this way. And throughout the pandemic, we’ve caught some brief glimpses of alternatives. Though the federal government declined to pass a national moratorium on water shutoffs, some states and cities passed laws to prevent utilities from shutting off water to people during the pandemic.
In a strongly worded proposed decision and order, on December 27, 2021, David Day, the Hawai’i State Department of Health Red Hill case Hearing Officer and Deputy Attorney General announced in a 33-page proposed decision and order that the “imminent peril” caused to the drinking water by the U.S. Navy’s leaking jet fuel tanks in the island of O’ahu outweighs the military’s claims that the tanks are key to “national security.” On November 28, approximately 19,000 gallons of jet fuel and water leaked from the massive 20 underground fuel storage tanks at Red Hill and contaminated two wells providing drinking water for over 93,000 persons on the U.S. Navy’s water system. Each of the fuel tanks holds 12.5 million gallons of jet fuel and the tank complex sits only 100 feet above Honolulu’s main aquifer.
Hawai'i - On Friday, December 24, I went to Aliamanu Military Reservation at Red Hill housing area which is located above the entryway into the main tunnel that leads into the U.S. Navy’s deep, massive, leaking 80-year-old Red Hill underground jet fuel storage tanks complex. These tanks are only 100 feet above the main aquifer of drinking water for 400,000, half the population of the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i. A recent leak of at least 19,000 gallons of jet fuel and water leaked from a fire suppressant pipe into two Navy operated wells that supply drinking water to over 93,000 residents in the Pearl Harbor-Hickam Air Force Base area. Built during World War II, the tank complex has 20 huge tanks, each measuring 100 feet in diameter and 250 feet high — the height of a 20-story building, or Aloha Tower, a famous landmark for tourist ships in Honolulu harbor.
Climate change is only one symptom of a broader ecological crisis; the rapid loss of wild life is equally critical. Most species other than humans and our livestock, (and pets and pests) have had horrifying drops in population within the last 70 years or so, even if they are not yet threatened with extinction. We and our livestock are now 96% of the mass of land vertebrates, leaving all wild creatures together to comprise a mere 4%. At this rate within another generation there may be virtually nothing left but us and our coterie—and we would not survive that, as we depend on a network of life more complex than we can imagine. We’re also seeing the oceans acidifying, filling with plastic and toxins, and warming; topsoil depleted, rivers and aquifers running dry; and the proliferation of nuclear weapons and power plants leaving sites potentially dangerous for thousands or even millions of years.
Tribal activists, drinking water advocates, and commercial and subsistence fishers are asking the public to stand with them in the fight for both the Trinity and Sacramento River salmon by supporting a California state process to restore flows in California’s largest rivers, and by fighting a proposal for a twenty square mile reservoir, the Sites Reservoir. They are asking the public to attend an online Virtual Rally and Public Testimony Training on December 6, a state hearing on the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Bay Delta flows on the December 8 at 9 a.m. and Sites Reservoir related public hearings on December 15 at 6 p.m. and on December 16 at 9 a.m., and the California Water Commission meeting on public funding for Sites Reservoir on December 15 at 9 a.m..
Activists with CodePink, in solidarity with Hawaii-based water protectors, on Friday projected images on a submarine tower outside the Navy museum in Washington, D.C., calling for a shutdown of a military fuel storage facility associated with contamination of Oahu drinking water. Messages displayed on the USS Balao Conning Tower included "Shut down Red Hill tanks," "Demilitarize Hawaii," and "Navy is poison." In a Saturday statement, CodePink said that the "Navy's failure to protect its sailors, their families, and the broader community is further justification of the need to demilitarize and decolonize Hawai'i and serves as a testament to the military's prioritization of 'business as usual' over the health and wellbeing of the people."
The survival and development of human society depends on water. In fact, global water demand increased nearly eightfold between 1900–2010 as a result of factors like population growth, economic development and a shift in diet. But in China, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, the vital resource is running out. The country’s 1.4 billion population needs water to thrive but it has become limited and unevenly distributed. After decades of urbanisation and pollution, the country is now faced with both water shortages and flooding - only made worse by the effects of climate change. And pollution is making water quality worse, meaning much of the water available is unusable. Insufficient management of local resources plays a part too.
For at least the past five years the Okinawa Prefectural Government has been monitoring the amount of foreign substances in Okinawa's water. In 2016 Okinawans discovered high levels of toxic chemicals originating from U.S. Kadena Air Base in the drinking water of the densely populated region of central Okinawa, home to some 450,000 people (ANN News). The chemicals are referred to as PFOS, PFAS, and PFOA, and are linked to a plethora of serious health problems, including cancer, reproductive issues, stunted development, immune diseases, cardiovascular problems, and hepatic issues, among others (CDC). They are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not breakdown and instead accumulate over time (EPA).
Masafer Yatta, Occupied West Bank - Last weekend, around 600 Israeli, Palestinian and international activists marched across Masafer Yatta in the Occupied West Bank to deliver a water tanker to Palestinian villagers. Their message was clear: Water is a human right, and Israel is depriving Palestine of this basic necessity. Amid a sea of rippling Palestinian flags, demonstrators walked alongside a tractor transporting the water tanker from the village of At-Tuwani. The protesters did not reach their intended destination. Instead, they turned back at the village of Mfakara in order to avoid a confrontation with the Israeli Army waiting for them atop a nearby hill. “Water is a right for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or white or Jewish or Arab,” Adam Rabee — an activist with Combatants for Peace (CFP), one of the march’s organizers — told MintPress News.
Lerma/Coyotepec, Mexico - In the San Lorenzo Huitzizilapan Otomí indigenous community, in the state of Mexico –adjacent to the country’s capital–, access to water has been based on collective work. “Public services come from collective work. What we have done is based on tequio (free compulsory work in benefit of the community), cooperation. The community has always taken care of the forests and water,” Aurora Allende, a member of the sector’s Drinking Water System, told IPS. In San Lorenzo Huitzizilapan, a town of 18,000 people in the municipality of Lerma – about 60 kilometres west of Mexico City – some 10 autonomous community water management groups are responsible for the water supply in their areas. The first community system emerged in 1960 to meet local needs.