Assessment report launched with stark warnings that drought could be next pandemic — The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

Photo credit: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

From the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction:

The UN agency responsible for leading global disaster risk management today warned that drought affects more people than any other slow onset disaster and will determine the course of human development in the coming years as the climate emergency worsens.

“Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it. Drought has directly affected 1.5 billion people so far this century and this number will grow dramatically unless the world gets better at managing this risk and understanding its root causes and taking action to stop them,” said Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“Most of the world will be living with water stress in the next few years. Demand will outstrip supply during certain periods. Drought manifests over months, years, sometimes decades, and the results are felt just as long. Drought exhibits and exacerbates the social and economic inequalities that are deep-rooted within our systems and hits the most vulnerable the hardest.”

Ms. Mizutori was speaking at the launch of the GAR Special Report on Drought 2021, which was prepared by a team of experts commissioned by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Also, speaking at the event, Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive-Secretary for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, spoke before opening the global observance of the World Day for Combating Desertification. “We must all act now to ensure that droughts do not set humanity back on its great endeavour to build a sustainable future,” he said.

Droughts have always been part of the human experience, but the damage and costs resulting from them are seriously underestimated. This is due to widespread and cascading impacts that are often not explicitly attributed to the knock-on effects of drought.

Estimates of costs arising from drought impacts from 1998 to 2017 show droughts have affected at least 1.5 billion people and led to economic losses of at least US$124 billion across the world. Estimates of some of the direct costs include annual losses in the United States of America of approximately US$6.4 billion per annum, and some €9 billion in the European Union.

The effect of severe droughts on India’s gross domestic product is estimated at 2–5%. As a result of the Australian Millennium Drought, total factor agricultural productivity in Australia fell by 18% in the period 2002–2010.

The Special Report on Drought 2021 calls for a new global mechanism to support countries in addressing the transboundary nature of drought risk through strengthened risk governance, partnerships and innovation at regional level and risk-informed action at community level.

The report also promotes the establishment of national drought resilience partnerships that would mobilize public, private and civil society partners and work to ensure a seamless link between national and local levels.

It makes the following recommendations:

  • Prevention has far lower human, financial and environmental costs than reaction and response.
  • Increased understanding of complex systemic risks and improved risk governance can lead to effective action on drought risk.
  • Drought resilience partnerships at the national and local levels will be critical to managing drought in a warming world where rainfall will become ever more unpredictable and require practical solutions to tackle issues like deforestation, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, overgrazing, salination, waterlogging and soil erosion.
  • A mechanism for drought management at the international and national levels could help address the complex and cascading nature of drought risk.
  • Financial systems and services need to evolve to encourage cooperative approaches, to promote social protection mechanisms and to encourage risk transfer and contingent financing, so as to provide diversified adaptive support to drought risk management.
  • New pathways are needed to encourage inclusion of indigenous and local knowledge, sharing of values and opportunities for realizing the benefits of effective risk governance, and effective sharing of drought risk management experiences.
  • Ute Water celebrates 65 years of clean water — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Penny Stine):

    Ute Water is celebrating 65 years of serving the Grand Valley community with clean and safe drinking water, and owes its existence to a bunch of visionary farmers who wouldn’t take no for an answer. The towns of Fruita, Grand Junction and Palisade, as well as the community of Clifton, all had municipal water sources by the mid-twentieth century, and were able to deliver convenient, safe water directly to their faucets.

    There were, however, plenty of Grand Valley residents who didn’t live in Clifton, or the municipalities of Palisade, Fruita or Grand Junction. Most of them were farmers or involved in agriculture, and most of them didn’t just use irrigation water to water their fields, but they had to also use it to fill their cisterns for household use, as well, and then hope that the chlorine they added to it protected their health. If they didn’t pull water from irrigation canals, they got it from the Colorado River, or had to contract with a water service delivery company to come and fill their cisterns.

    When the Bureau of Reclamation announced that there would be water available from the reservoirs on Grand Mesa as a result of the Collbran project’s two hydroelectric plants in Molina, and that water would be enough to supply the needs of the entire Grand Valley, those farmers decided they were ready to abandon their cisterns…

    Undeterred, the farmers formed a water conservancy district, elected a board of directors and raised money to build the necessary infrastructure to bring water from Grand Mesa into the rural homes in the valley.

    When Ute Water started, it had just 1,800 water taps to serve. Today, the upstart water district serves more than 85,000 people with 35,000 water taps, serving an area that’s larger than 250 square miles, with more than 900 miles of distribution pipe.

    “We serve about 70% of the valley,” said Larry Clever, general manager for Ute Water.

    Ute Water began servicing the city of Fruita several decades ago when Fruita’s original system that brought water from the Uncompahgre Plateau through Colorado National Monument couldn’t be upgraded and brought to modern standards.

    Although the Western Slope is in a severe drought, and many of Grand Mesa’s reservoirs won’t fill to capacity this year, Ute Water has been steadily diversifying its portfolio of water sources, and isn’t solely reliant on water from the Collbran project. In addition to its stake in 31 Grand Mesa reservoirs, Ute Water bought water rights from Ruedi Reservoir near Basalt almost a decade ago, and also has rights to pull from the Colorado River, although that’s not its first choice.

    Parts Of Western Colorado Face Months Of Above-Normal Chance For Significant Wildfire Activity — #Colorado Public Radio

    The Grizzly Creek Fire jumped Grizzly Creek north of Glenwood Canyon. (Provided by the City of Glenwood Springs)

    Parts of Colorado’s West Slope face an above-normal risk for significant wildfire activity through August, a four-month wildfire forecast from the National Interagency Fire Center suggests.

    During a presentation on the report, Gina Palma, a fire meteorologist with the Great Basin Coordination Center for the United States Department of Agriculture, said the unprecedented heat wave that just swept across the western United States rapidly worsened fuel conditions.

    “That is quickly pushing many areas into an early start to the fire season that we typically do not see,” Palma said.

    About 30 percent of Colorado is in extreme or exceptional drought — all west of the Continental Divide. Palma said this region is experiencing fire and fuel conditions that wouldn’t typically be seen until July and August.

    Colorado Drought Monitor map June 15, 2021.

    Palma said vegetation like sagebrush and timber is drier than normal, making the wildfire fuel easier to burn. Large fires tend to grow on their own when fuels are this dry, Palma said, even without high heat or strong winds. Another impact of the drought is a widespread report of die-off in Western Colorado’s pinyon and juniper forests, Palma said. Those dead trees increase available fuel for wildfires.

    The forecast shows that the risk for wildfire will return to normal levels for all of the Western Slope by September due to seasonal monsoon rains.

    Lower South Platte & Parker: Working with Farmers — @WaterEdCO

    Hunter in fog at Prewitt Reservoir via Colorado Open Lands

    From Water Education Colorado (Jason Plautz):

    For the Parker Water and Sanitation District, collaboration is a guiding principle when it comes to water storage. To add supply for its 50,000-person Douglas County district and surrounding agricultural users, Parker acquired land that had water rights in Prewitt Reservoir, the 32,000 acre-foot reservoir south of Sterling, which it could pump more than 100 miles south to store in its own reservoirs. The Prewitt Reservoir was built for sugar beet farmers in northeastern Colorado, where North Sterling Irrigation District manager Jim Yahn says he worries that having municipalities draw from it could end up taking storage from agricultural users. Yahn encouraged Parker to consider a way to serve all users, including farmers.

    “Buy and dry is the old way, and on the one hand, it’s probably easier to do it that old way. But it’s not the right way,” says Ron Redd, executive director for Parker Water. “Farmers have knowledge and they’ve helped us out on what we can and can’t do. When multiple stakeholders benefit, it’s a win all around.”

    Parker is now looking at two new reservoirs, both on the Eastern Plains: a 6,000-7,000 acre-foot site near Iliff, northeast of Sterling, and, eventually, a 72,000 acre-foot site near Fremont Butte, southwest of Sterling and still some 100 miles from Parker’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir. Not only will they serve Parker, but through a partnership with the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, local agricultural users could draw from the reservoirs as well. The project will efficiently convey water through existing and improved Prewitt infrastructure.

    Project partners are still working out how to share the water, but Yahn says the partnership represents a new way of thinking. “Even if agriculture can’t afford a new storage project, a new storage project can incorporate agriculture.” Parker will offset some maintenance costs for Prewitt when it draws from the reservoir as part of a deal Yahn describes as “a little like a toll road.”

    Redd says the deal is just the start of work that could continue with the collaborative South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group.

    “Partnerships are hard and that’s why most people used to go it alone,” Redd says. “But our customers pay us to do the hard work and we’re seeing a lot more benefits when we partner with other districts.”

    Jim Yahn: Photo by Havey Productions via

    EPA to repeal Trump-era water rule — The #Taos News #dirtywaterrule

    New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via

    From The Santa Fe New Mexican (Scott Wyland) via The Taos News:

    U.S. regulators aim to repeal a contentious Trump-era rule that stirred fierce opposition from conservationists and many New Mexico leaders because it removed most of the state’s water from federal protection.

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s head said the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had determined the rule was causing substantial harm to water bodies and pointed to New Mexico and Arizona as among the states most affected.

    The current rule, which has spurred a string of lawsuits, only protects waterways that flow year-round or seasonally and connect to another body of water.

    It excludes as “ephemeral” storm-generated streams as well as tributaries that don’t flow continuously to another water body – disqualifying most of New Mexico’s waters. Unregulated storm runoff can carry contaminants into rivers used for drinking water, conservationists say.

    Water advocates see the announced change as an encouraging move, but warned it will take time to repeal and replace the rule…

    After the EPA states its intention to scrap “the dirty water rule” in the Federal Register, a 30-day public comment period will follow and then the agency can work to repeal it, said Rachel Conn, projects director for Taos-based Amigos Bravos.

    Establishing a new rule will take considerably more time, Conn said, but in the meantime it’s crucial to get rid of a standard that is leaving most of New Mexico’s waters unprotected…

    Conn and other critics of the current rule have worried it would nix the EPA’s oversight of heavily polluted runoff from Los Alamos County into the Río Grande – a prime source of drinking water – and that it might disqualify the Gila River from protection because that waterway runs dry before reaching the Colorado River.

    “After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

    The lack of protections is especially significant in arid states such as New Mexico and Arizona, where nearly every one of over 1,500 streams has been found to be outside federal jurisdiction, the EPA said in a news release.

    Regan said the agency is committed to creating a “durable definition” of U.S. waters based on Supreme Court precedents, learning from past regulations and getting input from a variety of interested parties. The agency also will consider the impacts of climate change, he said…

    New Mexico is one of just three states that has no authority from the EPA to regulate discharges of pollution into rivers, streams and lakes under the Clean Water Act, which leaves it at the mercy of whomever is in the White House, Conn said…

    If the rule is repealed, the regulations will revert to more stringent ones enacted in 1987, said Charles de Saillan, staff attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center…

    Congress should intervene and create well-defined and permanent updates to the Clean Water Act to stop the political seesawing that happens every change of administration, de Saillan said.

    Congressional action would be much better than having the U.S. Supreme Court make rulings on it, de Saillan said. The last high court decision on which waters merited federal protection was ambiguous, causing more confusion and legal battles, he said.

    Major Corporations and Foundations Commit Final Funding to Close Gap in Landmark #ColoradoRiver Water #Conservation Deal — Business for #Water Stewarship #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate

    Wheat fields along the Colorado River at the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation. Wheat, alfalfa and melons are among the most important crops here. By Maunus at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    Here’s the release from the Business for Water Stewardship (Sean Keady):

    Business for Water Stewardship, Environmental Defense Fund and the National Audubon Society today announced that corporations and foundations have committed the funding to close an $8 million funding gap required to complete a landmark water conservation project with the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) and the state of Arizona. The announcement marks the completion of one of the largest multi-sector collaborative drought response efforts ever achieved. To date, a combination of Arizona state, philanthropic, and corporate funding has provided over $38 million to secure 150,000 acre-feet of conservation (nearly 49 billion gallons of water) to help shore up Lake Mead through the CRIT system conservation project.

    Funding was provided by leading corporations spanning many sectors. Companies and brands include: Intel Corp.; Google; Microsoft; Procter & Gamble; Reformation; Keurig Dr Pepper; Ecolab; Cascade; Cox; The Coca-Cola Foundation; Silk; Target; Brochu Walker; and Swire Coca-Cola, USA. The corporate funding is joined by private philanthropic funds, led by the Walton Family Foundation and Water Funder Initiative, with additional contributions from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation.

    “How we use, manage, and value water will dictate our future,” said Todd Reeve, CEO of Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Co-Founder of Business for Water Stewardship. “Today is a major milestone made possible by collective impact. We’re redefining how businesses work collaboratively with tribes, community and policy stakeholders, philanthropy, and nonprofit partners to advance solutions that ensure that the people, economies, and ecosystems along the Colorado River have enough clean water to flourish.”

    The funding directly supports the CRIT and their comprehensive system conservation project developed as part of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) negotiations that included Arizona and six other states that rely on water supply from the Colorado River. The project will help shore up declining water levels in Lake Mead, which has fallen to 36% of capacity, the lowest levels since it was filled in 1935, and help delay and reduce future water shortages that would impact Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico. As a result of dry conditions, Arizona is expected to have to reduce its take of water from Lake Mead by 512,000 acre-feet (nearly 167 billion gallons) in 2022.

    “The importance of the DCP cannot be overstated as drought conditions persist,” said Amelia Flores, Chairwoman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. “CRIT is proud to play a key role in mitigating water shortfalls facing Arizona. We are able to do so by careful conservation that benefits Arizona while protecting our water rights. The partnerships and alliances that have been forged across all levels of government as well as corporate and non-profit entities demonstrate the level of commitment needed to solve this crisis.”

    “Through our water positive commitment, Microsoft is focused on improving water conditions for people, nature, and society in water-stressed locations around the world,” said Paul Fleming, Microsoft Global Water Program Manager. “We’ve supported the CRIT project because of its tangible benefits to the community and because it has helped to coalesce and scale the activities of individual entities into a collective action framework. By aligning state government, tribal government, the non-profit and philanthropic communities, and the private sector, the CRIT project provides an example of how we can work together to steward a resource that sustains us all.”

    “P&G is continually looking for innovative solutions to protect water for people and nature. We recognize millions of people, hundreds of species and thousands of miles of land rely on the Colorado River to thrive each day,” said Shannon Quinn, P&G Global Water Stewardship Leader. “Being a part of the CRIT project gives P&G the opportunity to collaborate with partners that make a positive impact and build a more resilient future for the states and Tribal Nations that rely on this precious resource.”

    “The stakes couldn’t have been higher for this work, but together with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, philanthropic and private sector support, we were able to find solutions that work for nature and people together,” said Ted Kowalski, Director of the Walton Family Foundation’s Colorado River Initiative. “This needs to be the way of the future. There is obviously still a tremendous amount of work to be done across the Colorado River Basin, and no one sector or group meets this challenge on their own. The only way to meet the challenges of climate change and water is through collaboration.”

    #ColoradoSprings Utilities’ water-wise rules are here — The Fort Carson Mountaineer

    Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

    From The Fort Carson Mountaineer (Susan C. Galentine):

    Colorado Springs Utilities, with approval by the City of Colorado Springs, launched new water-wise rules last year to encourage the efficient use of water in the community.

    The rules align with other Colorado municipalities in conserving water during irrigation season every year, not just during drought conditions. These practices are considered foundational to water use efficiency programs in Colorado to conserve limited resources.

    Springs Utilities is focusing on water-wise rules education and resources to help customers have healthy landscapes while being water wise.

    The impact of the new program on Fort Carson residential water users depends on where people live.

    Fort Carson Family Homes, as a large-water user, will operate under a water allocation plan for managed irrigation areas within housing, said Victor Rodriguez, utility manager, DPW. On-post housing residents may water up to three days a week of their choosing to comply with Springs Utilities guidance.

    Off-post Springs Utilities residential water customers will be required to follow the water-wise rules outlined below.

    Six key customer rules to new water-wise rules:

  • Customers can water up to three days a week on days of their choice.
  • In warmer weather, from May 1 to Oct. 15, run sprinklers before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. to reduce evaporation.
  • Do not let water pool on hard surfaces or flow down gutters.
  • Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
  • Use a shut-off nozzle when washing anything with a hose.
  • Clean hard surfaces (such as driveways, sidewalks and patios) with water only if there is a public health or safety concern.
  • 2021 #COleg: #Colorado passes [HB21-1268 Study Emerging Technologies For Water Management] to study blockchain for water management as #drought worsens — CoinGeek #ActOnClimate

    From CoinGeek (Steve Kaaru):

    The state of Colorado has passed a bill that sets the groundwork for the exploration of blockchain technology for water management. State lawmakers approved the law that also studies other emerging technologies such as remote sensors, satellite systems and unmanned aerial vehicles.

    House Bill 21-1268 was passed by both chambers of the state’s legislature and was sent to Governor Jared Polis, and once he appends his signature, it becomes law. The governor recently floated the idea of the state accepting taxes in digital currencies someday. “I’d love to set that up and wouldn’t it be great to be the first state to do that?” Polis said.

    The bill was co-sponsored by 45 legislators. It states that it’s in the public interest to authorize and direct the University of Colorado and the Colorado Water Institute to “conduct feasibility studies and pilot deployments of these technologies and to report to the general assembly on the potential of these technologies to improve Colorado water management.”

    The use of these technologies will improve the monitoring and management of both surface and groundwater. They will also reduce inefficiency and waste as well as allow all parties to have more confidence in the data gathered.

    It then lists the technologies that it will direct the university to explore, one of which is blockchain. It advocates for the use of “blockchain-based documentation, communication, and authentication of data regarding water use; fulfillment of obligations under Colorado’s system of prior appropriation, including augmentation plans; and water conservation.”

    On or before July 15, 2022, the university shall provide live testimony and a written report on the progress of the feasibility studies and pilot deployment, the bill states.

    Graphic via Caribbean Dev Trends

    Ground Temperatures Hit 118 Degrees in the Arctic Circle — #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Image: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3 imagery

    From (Isaac Schultz):

    Newly published satellite imagery shows the ground temperature in at least one location in Siberia topped 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius) going into the year’s longest day…

    While many heads swiveled to the American West as cities like Phoenix and Salt Lake City suffered shockingly hot temperatures this past week, a similar climatological aberrance unfolded on the opposite side of the world in the Arctic Circle. That’s not bizarre when you consider that the planet heating up is a global affair, one that isn’t picky about its targets. We’re all the target!

    The 118-degree-Fahrenheit temperature was measured on the ground in Verkhojansk, in Yakutia, Eastern Siberia, by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites. Other ground temperatures in the region included 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in Govorovo and 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) in Saskylah, which had its highest temperatures since 1936. It’s important to note that the temperatures being discussed here are land surface temperatures, not air temperatures. The air temperature in Verkhojansk was 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius)—still anomalously hot, but not Arizona hot.

    But the ground temperature being so warm is still very bad. Those temperatures beleaguer the permafrost—the frozen soil of yore, which holds in greenhouse gases and on which much of eastern Russia is built. As permafrost thaws, it sighs its methane back into the atmosphere…

    Besides the deleterious effects of more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the permafrost melting destabilizes the Siberian earth, unsettling building foundations and causing landslides. It also exposes the frozen carcasses of many Ice Age mammals, meaning paleontologists have to work fast to study the species that thrived when the planet was much colder…

    The same region also suffered through a heat wave that led to a very un-Siberian air temperature reading of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) exactly a year ago to the day from the new freak heat. It’s the hottest temperature ever recorded in the region. It was also in the 90s last month in western Siberia, reflecting that the sweltering new abnormal is affecting just about everywhere. And it’s not just the permafrost suffering; wildfires last year in Siberia pumped a record amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, ensuring more summers like this are to come.