Chinese company approved to run water mining operation in drought-stricken Queensland

Chinese company approved to run water mining operation in drought-stricken Queensland

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 27, 2019 SNIP: A Chinese-owned company has been granted approval to run a 96m litre a year commercial water mining operation in severely drought-hit southern Queensland, where locals are on water rations and communities at imminent risk of running dry. Last week the Southern Downs regional council approved a development application for the company, Joyful View Garden Real Estate Development Resort Pty Ltd, to operate a water extraction and distribution facility at Cherrabah, a large property at Elbow Valley near the Queensland-New South Wales border. The following day the council implemented extreme water restrictions for residents at the nearby towns of Warwick and Stanthorpe, limiting residents to 80L a day. Stanthorpe is expected to run out of drinking water within weeks. Neighbours of Cherrabah have told Guardian Australia they have not had a reliable water supply at their properties for more than a year, and have been trucking water in on a regular basis. Some cattle properties have removed all their cattle. “I don’t understand how it is allowed to happen,” one resident says. Joyful View is ultimately owned by Chinese investors Wenxing and Wenwei Ma. The company had attempted to build a large-scale luxury resort at the remote property but pulled the proposal in 2016 after planning and environmental difficulties, including concern for a local population of spotted-tailed quolls. The water extraction licence for the property was first issued by the Queensland government in 2008 and extended in 2016 to allow Joyful View to pump 96m litres from the aquifer until 2111 – another 92 years. Council documents show the company plans to...
Megafarms and deeper wells are draining the water beneath rural Arizona – quietly, irreversibly

Megafarms and deeper wells are draining the water beneath rural Arizona – quietly, irreversibly

SOURCE: AZCentral DATE: December 5, 2019 SNIP: Vast expanses of lush green fields are multiplying in the Arizona desert, forming agricultural empires nourished with billions of gallons of groundwater in the otherwise parched landscape. Arizona’s groundwater levels are plummeting in many areas. The problem is especially severe in unregulated rural areas where there are no limits on pumping. The water levels in more than 2,000 wells have dropped more than 100 feet since they were first drilled. The number of newly constructed wells is accelerating, and wells are being drilled deeper and hitting water at lower levels. This free-for-all is draining away the water that homeowners also depend on, leaving some with dry wells. As the groundwater is depleted, Arizona is suffering permanent losses that may not be recouped for thousands of years. These underground reserves that were laid down over millennia represent the only water that many rural communities can count on as the desert Southwest becomes hotter and drier with climate change. Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping. Buying property from struggling small farms and homeowners, they’ve drilled wells a thousand feet deep or more, often spending more than half a million dollars per well to irrigate tens of thousands of acres of hay,...
Trump’s Border Wall Endangers Arizona’s Wildlife Amid Drought

Trump’s Border Wall Endangers Arizona’s Wildlife Amid Drought

SOURCE: Truthdig DATE: October 4, 2019 SNIP: August is normally Arizona’s wettest month. Not this year, though. The usual monsoon season failed to arrive, and just 1.5 inches of rain fell sporadically on the state throughout the month — the same period that the city of Phoenix experienced record high temperatures of up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also driven wildlife managers to fret over whether the state’s abundant wildlife — which rely on infrequent rains — will have enough water to survive. “As the drought has deepened, the waters that wildlife traditionally used are going away or have completely disappeared,” says Kevin Woolridge, a teacher at Blue Ridge High School in Arizona who, with his students’ help, has collaborated with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to monitor the drought and its impact on wildlife. Meanwhile a new manmade threat to Arizona’s water has cropped up. The Trump administration has begun construction on a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. As part of construction, the Trump administration plans to pull up some of Arizona’s precious groundwater — not to hydrate people or animals, but to mix with concrete to build a 44-mile section of the border wall. While the federal government spends billions on its wall across the border and sucks up some of Arizona’s last remaining ancient groundwater in the process, Arizona wildlife officials are asking the public for millions of dollars in donations to fund the delivery of water to animals in parched areas across the state. Beginning in the 1940s, long before the world was...
River Flows All Across the Globe Are Dropping

River Flows All Across the Globe Are Dropping

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: October 2, 2019 SNIP: Another slow-motion, man-made environmental disaster has been discovered, and it’s underneath your feet. About 70% of the water pumped out of underground aquifers worldwide is used for agriculture while much of the remainder quenches the thirst of cities. As industrial development spreads at a speedy clip, the rate at which those critical reservoirs are emptied is far outpacing the rate at which they are naturally replenished. A new study released Wednesday says that diminishing groundwater is causing the level of streams and rivers to fall as well. Like the shrinking aquifers, surface water is critical to farms, towns and cities for everything from food to trade to energy production. With water systems all over the planet already strained by global warming and overuse, this new discovery poses an additional threat. “Our overuse of groundwater resources is one of those quiet, under-appreciated challenges,” says Jason Morrison, president of the Pacific Institute, who wasn’t involved in the study. “The impacts are more profound than we understood. We’re kind of in this Wile E. Coyote moment where we’re over the cliff and we’re running still.” The authors of the study, from universities in the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and the U.S., say their results “reveal the current and future environmental legacy of groundwater use.” The research is novel for its focus on the effects of pumping water out of the ground on the rest of the watershed. They define the threshold as diminished stream-flow for at least three separate months, two years in a row—or the point at which the flow can’t keep animals and plants...
A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises

A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises

SOURCE: NY Times DATE: August 6, 2019 SNIP: Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: The prospect of running out of water. From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have, according to new World Resources Institute data published Tuesday. Many are arid countries to begin with; some are squandering what water they have. Several are relying too heavily on groundwater, which instead they should be replenishing and saving for times of drought. In those countries are several big, thirsty cities that have faced acute shortages recently, including São Paulo, Brazil; Chennai, India; and Cape Town, which in 2018 narrowly beat what it called Day Zero — the day when all its dams would be dry. “We’re likely to see more of these Day Zeros in the future,” said Betsy Otto, who directs the global water program at the World Resources Institute. “The picture is alarming in many places around the world.” Climate change heightens the risk. As rainfall becomes more erratic, the water supply becomes less reliable. At the same time, as the days grow hotter, more water evaporates from reservoirs just as demand for water increases. Water-stressed places are sometimes cursed by two extremes. São Paulo was ravaged by floods a year after its taps nearly ran dry. Chennai suffered fatal floods four years ago, and now its reservoirs are almost empty. Today, among cities with more than 3 million people, World Resources Institute researchers concluded that 33 of them, with...