Chapter 1 – Drought
Drought in Atlanta and surrounding area, Georgia
Marisha Cautilli, Penn State University vq
Atlanta is the state capital of Georgia and this metropolitan area is home to over 6 million people. The state is known for its famous Georgia peaches, and the surrounding rural areas of Atlanta are home to many peach farms. Sadly, in a decade or two, peaches may no longer be able to grow due to threats climate change poses to Atlanta. The worst of these threats is drought. If we look at, as they say, past as prologue, we can use the 2007 drought as a sign for future events to come. In 2007 and 2008, during a climate-change linked drought, Atlanta suffered a decrease of about 38% of precipitation throughout the year, only receiving 31.85 inches of rainfall over the full year. While the coast of Georgia is expected to get wetter and eventually sink, the area around Atlanta specifically is forecasted to get hotter and drier, meaning drought is more likely to occur and that these droughts will be more intense. What effects do these conditions yield?
According to the Climate Reality Project, these effects are linked to climate change because the area is getting hotter, water is evaporating from the soil, and less water will be available for crops to be watered. These conditions will lead to drier soil and harsher conditions for plants to grow in, and thus less crop yield. In addition to this, health hazards will be more prevalent with drought, including air particles that are suspended in the air that irritates the bronchial tubes and lungs. Finally, these droughts will affect drinking water quality in Atlanta and the surrounding metropolitan area. There will be less water to drink and people would be more likely to get sick from it. According to the CDC, viruses and bacteria can contaminate surface and groundwater and lead to increased risk of illness. In addition, people will be more susceptible to illness because water would be minimally used in hygiene routines. Water conservation groups, such as Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, have appeared in response to the looming threat of drought. They have started many efforts since their founding and have been able to decrease water usage by about 10%. However, even with this conservation, increasing demand will create more strain on water resources, and water conservation on its own will not be able to stop the major effects of drought. Farming should move to drip irrigation and Atlanta should consider buying desalinated water from the Georgian coast. Finally, Atlanta draws its water sources from the Chattahoochee river and lakes Lanier and Allatoona. These water sources have been directly affected by drought in recent years and thus policy should be written to regulate economic uses thus limiting the amount of strain put on water resources.
Drought and Your Health. (2021). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/drought/index.html
HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT GEORGIA? (2018, September 28). The Climate Reality Project. https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-does-climate-change-affect-georgia
Norford, D. (n.d.). The Effects of the 2007 Drought on Georgia’s Water Supply. The Weather Prediction. http://www.theweatherprediction.com/weatherpapers/120/index.html
Conserve Our Water. (n.d.). Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. https://northgeorgiawater.org/conserve-our-water/
Water Supply in Our Region. (n.d.). Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. https://northgeorgiawater.org/conserve-our-water/water-supply-in-our-region/
Masters, J. (2008, January 1). Top U.S. weather story of 2007: the Southeast U.S. drought. Weather Underground. https://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/top-us-weather-story-of-2007-the-southeast-us-drought.html#:~:text=The%20year%202007%20is%20in,the%20average%20of%2048%20inches.
Desertification in Northern Ningxia Hui, China
Marisha Cautilli, Penn State University
Ningxia Hui is a region located in Northwestern China. It is surrounded by three deserts, which all fall near or under the larger Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert, however, is expanding from several problems, but a major one is climate change. Different sources have different statistics, but both Forbes and the ESRI put the rate of desert expansion specifically for the Gobi desert at 2,250 miles annually, while the New York Times puts it at over 1,300 square miles annually. Both sources attribute this continuing expansion to climate change, citing that the already arid climate of that region is becoming even drier due to increasing temperatures. The worry is that as sand from the desert expands, the soil in green areas will erode to the point of becoming sand and the land will not support human life. The desertification of the land spells many negative effects, including the loss of good farmland, destruction of machinery from Gobi dust storms, and a mass migration eastward. The Gobi dust storms have also been identified as a source of pollution and disease (Ratliff, 2003). Reversing desertification is of increasing importance in this area and globally, which is why it is part of the United Nations’ goal to stop all growth by 2030 (CGTN America, 2017).
One of the solutions the region has taken to, and its most popular solution, is the “Great Green Wall,” a project in which trees are planted in the desert to create a natural boundary against the harsh conditions of the desert. The goal is to plant 5 million hectares of trees (Ratliff, 2003). Over 66 billion trees have been planted as of April 2017, but professor Feng Wang at the Institute of Desertification Studies at the Chinese Academy of Forestry points out that because the trees were not taken care of after being planted, they will eventually die off as desertification continues to occur (Petri, 2017).
Another solution that the region has attempted using is a paste-like substance made from the same materials that plants use to hold shape. China has discovered this paste holds water and makes replanting easier (CGTN America, 2017). The paste is made using a sodium carboxymethyl cellulose solution mixed with sand and it is successfully able to trap water, nutrients, and air (Spaen, ND).
Third, China is developing new agricultural techniques and using better existing techniques like drop-to-drop irrigation and evaporation prevention technology, which they are developing (Gallo, 2019). These techniques have been successful in growing watermelons and many other fruits and vegetables.
These techniques will be the ones to prevent Northern Ningxia Hui from losing its land to desert.
[CGTN America]. (2017, September 13). New technology in China turns desert into land rich with crops. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cazVrq9v1mE (source is biased because it is paid for by the Chinese Government to highlight the solutions it is implementing)
The Expansion of the Gobi Desert. (n.d.). ESRI.com. https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=c108d6ff4937464f86cb0fbef796f515
Gallo, A. (2019, July 10). China, the Green Wall which will stop the desert advancing. Ecobnb. https://ecobnb.com/blog/2019/07/china-the-new-green-wall-which-will-stop-the-desert-advancing/
Haner, J., Wong, E., Watkins, D., & White, J. (n.d.). Living in China’s Expanding Deserts. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/24/world/asia/living-in-chinas-expanding-deserts.html?mtrref=www.google.com&assetType=REGIWALL
Petri, A. E. (2017, April 21). China’s ‘Great Green Wall’ Fights Expanding Desert. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/04/china-great-green-wall-gobi-tengger-desertification/#close
Ratliff, E. (2003, April 1). The Green Wall of China. Wired Magazine. 11(4). http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.04/greenwall.html
Rechtshaffen, D. (2017, September 18). How China’s Growing Deserts Are Choking The Country. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielrechtschaffen/2017/09/18/how-chinas-growing-deserts-are-choking-the-country/?sh=5191692e5d1b
Spaen, B. (2019, May 24). China Researchers Find Way To Transform Deserts Into Fertile Land. Green Matters. https://www.greenmatters.com/news/2017/09/25/Z1OEAxp/china-researchers-deserts-fertile-land
Climate Change in Sacramento, California
Neilan Harris, Software Engineering, Penn State University
Sacramento, California is an area that is susceptible to climate change. In the near future, droughts and heatwaves will become more frequent and severe. This will lead to larger and more frequent forest fires, water shortages, and health problems in urban areas. The Sacramento Valley is especially susceptible to these changes due to a number of factors, including prior land management techniques, large suburban development, and rerouting of water from the Sacramento river for agricultural purposes (Houlton & Lund, 2018; Meckler-Pacheco, n.d.).
The decrease in wetlands has put the valley’s fisheries in danger. It is estimated that by 2100 more than 82 percent of the native species will be in danger of extinction (Houlton & Lund, 2018). Reduced rainfall expected in California will result in dryer conditions and provide more fuel for wildfires. In fact, in 2020, California had 6 of the largest 20 fires in known history. The largest of all time occurred in September, just northwest of Sacramento in the Mendocino National Forest (Romero, 2020). The wildfires have also created problems in terms of air quality. Increased ozone levels typically remain in the valley due to the geography of the area. Higher temperatures will create stronger and more frequent “heat waves.” By 2100, average daily temperatures will increase by 10 °F, and the number of extreme heat days will increase from 4 to 40 (Houlton & Lund, 2018). These extreme heat events place a strain on public health (Meckler-Pacheco, n.d.).
Sacramento is an example of a city that has a good plan to combat climate change. They have developed a climate action plan. As of 2016, they have reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions by 18% from levels observed in 2005. Further reductions are planned at both the state and local level (Rincon Consultants, Inc., 2020; Houlton & Lund, 2018). Forest management activities are increasing, with prescribed burns and strategic thinning, to develop more mature forests capable of withstanding impacts from climate change and fewer large fires. These forests will also have the advantage of greater carbon sequestration (Houlton & Lund, 2018). To combat the heat island effect of urban areas, Sacramento has implemented programs to increase green space in the city, and to plant more trees to help shade the city. They even have a program to give 10 free trees to any customer in the city limits (Meckler-Pacheco, n.d.). These actions will help with the weather changes to come, and the population is looking for ways to improve even more.
Rincon Consultants, Inc. (2020, March). Appendix A – Community Inventory and Forecast Methodology. City Of Sacramento. https://www.cityofsacramento.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/CDD/Planning/Major-Projects/App-A—Community-Technical-Appendix-Final-3_16_20.pdf?la=en
Houlton, B. J., & Lund, J. (2018). Sacramento Summary Report. California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment. https://www.energy.ca.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/Reg_Report-SUM-CCCA4-2018-002_SacramentoValley_ADA.pdf
Meckler-Pacheco, A. (n.d.). How climate change will impact Sacramento. The California Aggie. https://theaggie.org/2020/03/13/how-climate-change-will-impact-sacramento/
Romero, D. (2020, September 10). Wildfire north of Sacramento is largest in California history — and it may not be done growing. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/wildfire-north-sacramento-now-largest-california-history-it-may-not-n1239822
Stephanie Reyes, Chemistry, Eberly College of Science
Azraq is a small town in Jordan. It is running dry. This town lies in the middle of the Azraq oasis, the only source of freshwater in the area. The town and country get their water from aquifers which are being over pumped. The government had a plan to have wells shared and governed by cities. In Azraq, there were more than 1000 illegal wells where water was over pumped (Aline Gsell, 2018). In the end, Azraq has started to run dry. Due to climate change, rainfall has also decreased. The country receives less than 50 millimeters of rainfall each year. Another problem Azraq faces is increased population due to refugees and the ongoing war in Syria. A water allowance of 35 liters/day is assumed for each refugee. To ensure the drinking water supply in the Azraq camp, two deep wells have been drilled. Water is being removed at 2.5 times the amount flowing into the groundwater (Whitman, 2019). Sharing the water is not popular, and problems have risen between the citizens and refugees. Despite these efforts, the groundwater table is sinking and there is worry that the water will run out. Problems arise since water is distributed through old pipes. These pipes leak causing water loss. Some leaks are so big, they flood streets. There are some solutions the country has tried to implement. One is education. Schools/universities teach the effects of water shortages and try to educate on water conservation. Still, often one sees car owners washing their car daily or gardens watered during midday. Most houses are not connected to city water pipes, which means water is not recovered, treated, and sent back to the pipes. This water then infiltrates the groundwater. Another solution discussed is modern seed cultures which use less water (Aline Gsell, 2018). Pipes and farming are big concerns, but there is no definitive answer from the government. One of the most expensive solutions has been discussed for years between Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. This is the Red Sea-Dead Sea project, whose goal is to prevent both seas from drying, by desalination of water which would be transported by a canal that would end at the Dead Sea (Bedein, 2020). Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer as there are political and economic problems between these countries. But as these governments fight, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea, and Azraq, Jordan keep drying up.
Aline Gsell. (2018). Azraq: an oasis runs dry. Azraq Runs Dry. https://www.azraq-runs-dry.com/index_en.html.
Whitman, E. (2019, September 4). A land without water: the scramble to stop Jordan from running dry. Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02600-w.
Bedein, N. (2020, April 22). Help save the Dead Sea before it’s too late. The Jerusalem Post. https://www.jpost.com/opinion/help-save-the-dead-sea-before-its-too-late-625525
Water in Chihuahua, Colton Sands
PSU World Campus, Penns Valley Area High School
Now we will focus on the State of Chihuahua in Mexico, more specifically the La Boquilla Dam. In September of 2020, this dam was taken over by a group of farmers protesting against the Mexican government sending stored water across the border to the US. The government was acting in accord with a 1944 treaty that has the US and Mexico sharing the flow of the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers. Local farmers, suffering from severe drought, occupied the dam to stop the deliveries. Two people have been killed in conflicts between the farmers and the National Guard. Why is this happening? As we know, climate change is causing a decrease in the water supply in arid regions like the southern United States and northern Mexico. With a latitude right under 30 degrees N, the region falls directly into the zone the IPCC predicts to see a decrease in water supply and an increase in competition for said water supply. While the average annual precipitation during the 2000s was 39 centimeters, this decade has seen it fall to 33 centimeters, a 15 percent decrease. Due to decreased rainfall, farmers have relied increasingly on underground aquifers, which are beginning to run low due to overdrilling. This lack of water has seen farmers suffering huge losses. In 2012, a year of severe drought in the region, it is estimated that 350,000 cattle died, costing farmers the equivalent of over 100 million dollars. This year’s drought is likely having a similar impact. The United States, also suffering from water shortage, has demanded Mexico pay its debts, which some feel unfairly burdens the farmers of Chihuahua. Currently, Chihuahua is footing 54 percent of Mexico’s water bill to the United States, which many farmers feel is unfair, due to the fact that water received from the US is not given to Chihuahua in the same proportions. The Mexican government has acknowledged the danger of climate change, and in 2012 became the second country to set a legally binding carbon emissions target. Lowering global carbon emissions, developing more efficient means of agriculture, and rethinking how to distribute water resources are all necessary to help ease the effects of climate change on Chihuahua’s farmers. Unless something is done, the violence at La Boquilla Dam is likely a sign of things to come as more and more people become deprived of our most basic resource.
Hibbard, K.A., Hoffman, F. M., Huntzinger, D., & West, T. O. (2017). Changes in land cover and terrestrial biogeochemistry. Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 277-302, doi: 10.7930/J0416V6X.
Jiménez Cisneros, B.E., Oki, T., Arnell, N.W., Benito, G., Cogley, J. G., Döll, P., Jiang, T., & Mwakalila, S. S. (2014). Freshwater resources. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L.White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 229-269.
Kitroeff, N. (2020, October 14) This is War: Cross-Border Fight Over Water Erupts in Mexico. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/world/americas/mexico-water-boquilla-dam.html.
Tegel, S. (2012, July 12). Chihuahua: Where the Rain Doesn’t Fall Anymore. Pulitzer Center. https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/chihuahua-where-rain-doesnt-fall-any-more#:~:text=Drought%20conditions%20persist%20in%20Mexico’s,32%20states%20have%20been%20affected.
Wilson, E. (2020, October 8). Mexico’s Water Crisis Heats Up as Transfer to US Looms. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/8/mexico-water-crisis-heats-up-as-us-transfer-deadline-looms.
Desertification in Burkina Faso
Skip Star, Security and Risk Analysis, Penn State University
The place I want to write about for the fourth capstone assignment is Burkina Faso. I knew nothing about Burkina Faso until about 8 years ago; my business partner decided to take a break from our American reality and head to Burkina Faso for two months to build a school, a well, and a town center building for a small village in the northeast named Nelba. Nelba is in a region of Africa called the Sahel. The Sahel is a biogeographical region that separates the Sahara Desert to the north and the Sudanian savanna to the south. The Sahel belt runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf and is over 600 miles wide, 3,360 miles long, and gets less than 600mm of rain each year (UNDP, n.d.). The Sahel runs right through the top of Burkina Faso and is getting pushed south as the Sahara grows southward due to global warming. This desertification will directly affect Nebal and the Tuareg people that live there, reducing what little freshwater they already have to unsustainable levels (Sahel, 2020). Another downside of the desertification is that the number of dust storms will increase as the Saraha creeps to the south. These dust storms are responsible for soil loss and prevent the locals from maintaining what little food security they have. The only way the Tuareg would be able to slow down the desertification and the reduction of freshwater and topsoil is through carbon reduction and reforestation. Currently, there are two Green New Deals in the works, one in the US and another in Europe. If these two deals can go through, the world will have a model roadmap to follow to reduce carbon emissions substantially and keep the planet under the 2 degrees C threshold. Lastly, there are reforestation groups such as Ecosia which specialize in planting trees where they are needed most. Ecosia and its partners are responsible for planting over 15 million trees covering over 14 thousand hectares since 2014. This movement creates employment and nutrition through agroforestry and helps the communities take charge of their futures (Ecosia Blog, n.d.).
Burkina Faso. (n.d.). UNDP. https://www.adaptation-undp.org/explore/western-africa/burkina-faso
Burkina Faso: Re-greening the Desert. (n.d.). Ecosia Blog. https://blog.ecosia.org/burkina-faso/
Sahel. (2020, October 28). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahel
Droughts in Stratford, California
Lucas A. Barnak
The town of Stratford, California has been forced to make difficult decisions that come as consequences of the extreme droughts that they face, and I will dive deep into the threats of these droughts, why Stratford is so vulnerable, the forecasted impacts of said threats, and their solutions.
In this small town of Stratford, the threats of these droughts cover a wide variety of things. For example, local farmers have been forced to sell land that they’ve owned for generations to keep their business afloat, as it is impossible for them to farm and harvest crops without water. This leaves local store owners with a lack of products to provide for the community, leaving their businesses hanging on by a thread, and the citizens looking for fresh produce. Furthermore, there are a multitude of canals that used to be full of life and offered a place for locals to cool off in the heat, but now they have been reduced to strips of dirt and dust.
As for the forecasted impacts of the community, it is apparent that if the droughts continue to be this aggressive and continue to put these local farmers out of work, it will create a chain effect. First, the farmers will have to shut down, thus causing the stores that buy from them to shut down, resulting in the locals being deprived of not only this fresh produce and supplies, but also the water that everyone is so desperately looking for. Furthermore, with all these businesses shutting down, it leaves many locals out of work, so the town will continue to struggle financially as a whole.
The solutions to these threats consist of individuals from outside this very niche community stepping in and aiding them in these difficult times. Produce can be delivered to the town in refrigerated vans to keep the local stores open and, in turn, fueling their economy by allowing people to keep their jobs in these stores. Another way to help slow or ease the problem is to regulate the small town’s use of water in unnecessary practices. The town can limit the amount of water that, for example, gyms, dry cleaners, etc. can use on a regular basis to cut back on waste. Also, an extreme tactic, water restriction, can be used for any non-essential activities, and all local businesses would have to abide by this, otherwise they would be fined.
Raynor, M. (2016, June 15). After the Drought. Slate. https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/06/the-effects-of-drought-in-stratford-california-video.html
Terselic, R. A. (2003, June 1). Small Town Develops Strategy to Counter Drought. Water World. https://www.waterworld.com/home/article/16190519/small-town-develops-strategy-to-counter-drought
Almost every American has heard about the water shortage in California. But not everyone has heard of how it impacts the lives of the Hoopa Valley people. They are a Native American Tribe in Northern California, and their community’s livelihood is based on salmon fishing off the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. Salmon are easily impacted by droughts. These fish experience lower reproduction rates in environments of warmer water temperatures and lower water levels. Warmer water temperatures have also led to disease outbreaks in salmon species. Less fish in the water is also caused by the Klamath River Dam, among others, blocking the fish from swimming upstream from the ocean and into their typical breeding grounds. Overall, Salmon fishing in Northern California is becoming more and more difficult and less and less financially productive. For a tribe dependent on fishing for integral cultural and economic reasons, this is a very important issue. Although the famous five-year drought officially ended in 2017, it’s effects are still being felt in communities like these, and the state is still struggling with dry climates. Waterways management by the state is often misguided and leads to salmon deaths. For instance, the crowded conditions, warm water temperatures, and low water levels caused by the diverting of too much water from the Klamath River for irrigation purposes caused 34,000 salmon to die, including both commercial and endangered species. This hugely impacts underrepresented rural fishing communities. Managing waterways should be done by consulting communities that depend on those waterways, and taking the entire ecosystem into account rather than just one aspect of the problem. Fortunately, the federal government diverted water to prevent salmon deaths in the Klamath river a few years ago, but that doesn’t solve the whole problem. The world is warming, and near desert states like California are feeling the brunt of the impact in the US, especially in rural and low income communities, like the Hoopa Valley. We need to change the way we look at water, and change the way we look at our world. Agriculture, almond farms, meat production, cattle ranches, the American lawn, the daily shower, washing dishes, and doing laundry are all aspects of water use that we can help decrease, and do our part to help climate change and mitigate drought in communities like these.
Wong, K. (2018, October 31). California’s Drought Continues to Harm Native Tribes and Fishermen. Civil Eats. https://civileats.com/2017/02/03/californias-drought-continues-to-harm-native-tribes-and-salmon-fishermen/.
El Niño and Drought in Cape Town
Luke Cantrel, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
Historically, Africa has been known for experiencing droughts, but in recent years, the strengthening of El Niño has dramatically increased the droughts’ frequency and severity, having severe repercussions for African communities, most notably, South Africa’s second largest city, Cape Town. Water resource workers say that in 2018, Cape Town experienced its worst pattern of drought in thirty-five years (Taylor, 2018). These severe droughts are putting incredible pressure on the resources of the city, threatening the population’s access to water for drinking and agriculture.
The primary reason behind Cape Town’s vulnerability to drought comes from its location with respect to the El Niño Southern Oscillation. During the El Niño phase, Cape Town and the surrounding region becomes significantly drier, leading to less precipitation and less river flow. According to Dr. Niko Wanders, the increased strength of El Niño in recent years has amplified the drought issue beyond the normal conditions (Wanders, 2021). These droughts are further exacerbated by the recent influx of residents. In recent years, more people in Africa have been moving from rural communities to cities like Cape Town. This creates an increased demand for water with a continuously decreasing supply in a small area (Taylor, 2018).
With El Niño amplifying the droughts and the migration of more people to the city, the major concern is that Cape Town will simply run out of water. Forecasts are on alert for when a Day Zero could occur. Day Zero refers to when the city is forced to shut off direct water to homes, and implement a ration system where people have to line up for their daily water allocation. Back in May 2018, city officials predicted Day Zero occurring by July. Luckily, subsequent rainfall and conservation efforts prevented this, but the threat has merely been postponed, not eliminated (Taylor, 2018). Today, unless conditions change to mitigate the drought, it is only a matter of time before Cape Town reaches critical water levels that cannot support its population.
With regards to combating these droughts, it appears that changing the infrastructure of the city is the most supported method for restoring Cape Town’s water supply. First of all, actions such as improving or altering the reservoirs and irrigation systems are being considered in order to minimize the amount of water being wasted or polluted (Wanders, 2021).
Additionally, time and effort are being invested into new sources of water, primarily, groundwater extraction (Taylor, 2018). All of these methods are being explored for the overall goal of gathering more water and being more efficient with its use, a task that is absolutely necessary with the growing strength of El Niño and the droughts imposed on Cape Town.
Taylor, D. (2018, May 11). Cape Town’s Crisis Draws Attention, But Worse Droughts Threaten Africa – World. ReliefWeb. reliefweb.int/report/world/cape-towns-crisis-draws-attention-worse-droughts-threaten-africa.
Wanders, N. (2021, February 25). Drought in South Africa Caused by El Niño, Human Action and Climate Change. Universiteit Utrecht. www.uu.nl/en/news/drought-in-south-africa-caused-by-el-nino-human-action-and-climate-change.
Drought in Castle Pines, Colorado
Nicolette Cusate, Agricultural and Extension Education, Penn State Behrend
Castle Pines is a mid-size town in Douglas County, CO with a population of a little over 10,000 people. It is located in the Rocky Mountain region and is part of the South Platte watershed. In more recent years, Colorado has been a location of concern when it comes to drought, specifically in Douglas County. The county had been under watch as the dry season crept near, while drought categories for the area went from what was considered exceptional drought to extreme drought in just a four-month period. In addition, Douglas County only receives an average of approximately 20 inches of rainfall annually.
Castle Pines is vulnerable to drought for many reasons, but the main cause of its vulnerability is due to the South Platte basin, where residents of Castle Pines receive their water. Since 2012, there has been increasing temperatures in the areas in which snow melts off of the surrounding mountains that lead into the watershed, providing residents with water. But this increase in temperature means less overall annual snowfall, and therefore less water flowing into the South Platte basin, leading Castle Pines to a drought. Some reports compare the extent of the 2012 drought to that of the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s. Droughts, like the one happening now in Castle Pines, are projected to continue as global warming increases. In addition to already having a dry season coupled with drought, Castle Pines is also susceptible to wildfires. The most devastating forecasted impacts of this drought on Castle Pines is the potential to severely reduce the towns water supply more than it already has, which could in turn shut down businesses, government offices, and threaten livelihoods. The drought could also have long-term impacts on the surrounding areas’ agriculture and forests, as well as the wildlife that inhabits them. Recurring drought could also lead to the loss of recreational attractions, which contribute millions of dollars to Colorado’s economy annually
The solutions to the drought occurring in Castle Pines and all of Douglas County are not able to be carried out overnight, a lot of them will take a considerable amount of time. Residents are advised to be mindful of their water use and to preserve water they do have available to them. Additional reports recommend being very careful around sources of fire to prevent a wildfire from starting. There has been increasing pressure on water management companies to find a way to avoid the water shortages before they become too severe, but that requires money and additional infrastructure, and perhaps the most time out of any other solution. Currently, residents of Castle Pines, CO are doing their part during this challenging time, and are hoping for a breakthrough soon.
Drought Impacts in the Rocky Mountain Region. (2017, April 26). United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/sites/default/files/documents/files/r2-droughtfactsheet.pdf
Miller, B. (2020, July 9). Drought Conditions in Colorado Currently Worst Among the U.S. TheDenverChannel.com. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/weather/weather-news/drought-conditions-in-colorado-currently-among-worst-in-u-s
Wenzler, E. (2021, February 23). Douglas County Prepares for Likely Tough Wildfire, Drought Season. Douglas County News-Press. https://douglascountynewspress.net/stories/douglas-county-prepares-for-likely-tough wildfire-drought-season,373216
Shayleen Daley, International Relations, Penn State University
Irbid, Jordan lacks access to many water resources. Drought is a somewhat regular occurrence, but the severity of the continuing droughts is impacted severely by climate change, which exacerbates multiple variables that put additional strain on the city’s water systems, leading to increased water stress. Most of Jordan, including the city of Irbid, is in a desert climate, making what water is available particularly precious to them. War and instability in the region leaves the city particularly vulnerable to disruptions to water resources such as the Yarmouk Jordan river which flows down from Syria.
As an urban city with one of Jordan’s largest populations and multiple refugee camps, the effects of droughts in Irbid are amplified with more stress added onto an ever-decreasing water resource. From an economic perspective, this means the city now has to import more food from regions farther and farther away, as the land just outside struggles more and more to sustain reliable agricultural development.
The city diverts a significant portion of what water it does have towards irrigation. In the long run, this is likely to have a negative effect on the mortality rates of elderly and children in the city as water becomes less accessible.
Irbid is participating in water desalination projects promoted by the Jordanian government as a means of divesting itself from relying on underground water or rivers that prove less and less reliable as countries upstream divert water to fulfill their own needs. Along with desalination research, the city has wastewater treatment plants as a method to reuse water, and has started pulling on already stressed, non-renewing ground water to meet the population needs.
Unless an extremely cheap, effective, and reliable method of desalination is found, in the long run Irbid cannot sustain its current patchwork solutions. The climate in the region and the city has become too unreliable to sustain civilization for long if the global temperature average continues to increase and droughts continue to be forecasted.
Abdulla, F., & Farahat, S. (2020). Impact of Climate Change on the Performance of Wastewater Treatment Plant: Case study Central Irbid WWTP (Jordan). Procedia Manufacturing, 44, 205-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.promfg.2020.02.223.
Rajsekhar, D., & Gorelick, S. (2017, August 30). Increasing drought in Jordan: Climate change and cascading Syrian land-use impacts on reducing transboundary flow. Science Advances, 3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319365538_Increasing_drought_in_Jordan_Climate_change_and_cascading_Syrian_land-use_impacts_on_reducing_transboundary_flow
Drought in San Joaquin Valley, California
Sakura Davitt, Management Information Systems, Smeal College of Business
More than a third of California is experiencing a degree of drought. According to a bioclimatologist at Columbia’s Earth Observatory, the current drought may be the second worst in the past one thousand years. This is a conclusion reached through the study of past and present droughts using information from tree-rings. This “megadrought” is exacerbated by hot temperatures and a lack of precipitation due to climate change. Droughts bring about many problems that mainly deal with water shortages.
San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest area of agricultural production, is literally sinking. This is a result of farmers pumping groundwater from aquifers for irrigation. Around 60% of the water used by the state comes from the ground during drought periods. Thinning underground clay layers lead to a dip in the land, damaging infrastructure such as roads and bridges. During California’s 2011-2017 drought, some areas of the valley sank 60 centimeters per year. The current rate of water being pumped is unsustainable, as wet seasons don’t replenish aquifers enough. The presence of climate change makes saving aquifers even more important, as mountain snow as a source for surface water is becoming unreliable due to rising temperatures. Therefore, more and more farmers are turning to groundwater.
The biggest victim of drought in the valley is arguably East Porterville. During the five-year drought, this humble community’s wells dried up and its citizens were left bathing in portable showers provided by churches, dumping water in toilets in order to flush, and relying on donated pet bottles since the water was not potable.
Solutions for saving up water for irrigation include making smarter arrangements in dam logistics, growing crops that are not so irrigation heavy, and manually filling aquifers through methods such as flooding fields during wet seasons. There is also pressure to install water-efficient toilets, sinks, and the like. However, this probably is not enough to save groundwater unless agricultural production itself is reduced. There is also a push for hiring researchers to evaluate the extent of the crisis, since there is a serious lack of data. Without measurements, it is hard to come up with solutions. Nevertheless, the burdens of drought are clearly felt in East Porterville and the rest of Central Valley.
Kasler, D. (2020, April). California and West suffering worst ‘megadrought’ in centuries, study of tree rings shows. The Sacramento Bee. https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/water-and-drought/article242063336.html
Stevens, M. (2016, May 06). The Wells have run dry in this California town, so why is a $1.2- million water system untapped? Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/local/drought/la-me-east-porterville-drought-20160506-story.html
Stokstad, E. (2020, April 16). Droughts exposed California’s thirst for groundwater. Now, the state hopes to refill its aquifers. Science. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/droughts-exposed-california-s-thirst-groundwater-now-state-hopes-refill-its-aquifers
The Drought Crisis in the Village of Mal Nor
Alexandra Diaz, Microbiology, Eberly College of Science Penn State University
Droughts threaten the livelihood of any community. However, it is the most isolated and the least technologically advanced communities that suffer the most when drought hits. The isolated villages of the Thar Desert of southeast Pakistan have been experiencing a three-year drought as reported by BBC (Jilliani, 2015). In particular, the small village of Mal Nor has been impacted rather severely by the ongoing drought (Johnstone, 2019). The southeastern desert regions of Pakistan experience long-withstanding droughts on a cycle. A 2019 report by the IFRC places this drought cycle at approximately every 10 years. However, in the same study, it is noted that Pakistan saw 45% less rainfall during the monsoon season before the beginning of the drought as a result of El Nino (2019). This has the implied possibility of worsening the impact of the ongoing drought. With climate change, it will only worsen more.
The isolated nature of the Mal Nor village leaves it particularly vulnerable. Surrounded by desert, commodities like running water, electricity and medical care are incredibly difficult to access for the residents of the village. It is for this reason that an ongoing drought can become deadly. The report by the BBC details that a result of the lack of running water is that inhabitants of the Thar villages are forced to rely on well water. The water in these wells is more often than not heavily contaminated and generally unfit for human consumption, however, it is consumed anyway out of the necessity of the situation (Jilliani, 2015). This can lead to rampant disease in the community exacerbated by the lack of access to medical treatment.
The drought eventually ended in the summer of 2020 with the monsoon season as detailed by NASA Earth Observatory (Patel, 2019). However, it is the proposed expectation that the next drought experienced by the Thar desert villages and in particular the Mal Nor village, will last longer than the previous one (“Pakistan: Drought…,” 2019). This is the warning as detailed by the situational analysis by IFRC.
The solution to the threat that prolonged droughts pose to the isolated village of Mal Nor is relatively complex. To solve the crisis and prevent or protect from future impact involves many different aspects in need of improvement. Firstly, the issue of the drought itself could lie with climate change. As the globe continues to warm, the pattern of weather systems becomes more variant. To address this, global emissions need to be evaluated and possibly lessened. Secondly, the implications on the cleanliness of the water available during the drought can be rectified by the introduction of running water from distant cities. This, of course, is much easier said than done, as the running water would need to cross a desert to reach the Mal Nor village. Finally, the occurrence and increase of disease brought on by the drought can be addressed by an improved means of access to medical treatment for those who inhabit the village.
Jillani, S. (2015). Ray of Light in Pakistan’s Drought Hit Thar Desert. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31851835
Johnstone, H. (2019). Ghosts of the Thar Desert: On the Climate Change Frontline in Pakistan. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/78bb819e-a822-11e9-b6ee-3cdf3174eb89
Pakistan: Drought Emergency Plan of Action. (2019). IFRC. https://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/pakistan-drought-emergency-plan-action-epoa-dref-n-mdrpk015
Patel, K. (2019). Extreme Monsoon Rains in Pakistan. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147330/extreme-monsoon-rains-in-pakistan
El Niño/La Niña in Sodo, Ethiopia
Amelia Emahizer, University Park
Sodo, a town in Ethiopia, is currently facing many problems with food insecurity and drought due to El Niño and La Niña. El Niño is when uncharacteristically warm weather happens in many parts of the world, while La Niña causes more severe precipitation events. One of the places that is affected the most is Sodo. Ethiopia in itself is a poor country, so when it comes to issues like food insecurity, drought, and flooding, there is not much that they can or will do to help their communities. Sodo itself is one of the more well-off areas of Ethiopia, being the center of health and education in the country. However, even with that, it is still extremely affected by the previously mentioned issues. Since El Niño provides uncharacteristically warm weather, Sodo goes into a period of drought when it is happening. This prevents crops from growing and people from being able to find clean drinking water. Without these things, the life expectancy of those in Sodo has gone down a lot (Berhane & Tesfay, n.d.). Without clean water, more health issues arise, and those health issues cannot be treated at Sodo’s hospitals without water. With La Niña, flooding is extremely common. Although this doesn’t cause water shortage issues like El Niño, it does prevent crops from being grown with ease. This yet again leads to food insecurity. El Niño and La Niña come at opposite times, meaning Sodo is struggling to grow crops and have sufficient water supplies a large portion of the time. With the climate changing, these issues are only projected to get worse, further shortening the life expectancy and many health and hunger problems. To combat these issues, Sodo is beginning to attempt to plant hardier crops with better timing (“Wolaita Zone,? n.d.). If they are planted before El Niño or La Niña begin, there is a much stronger possibility of the crops surviving and being able to be harvested. Irrigation is also attempting to be provided, increasing the likelihood of crops surviving, especially during drought. If climate change lessens, it is more likely that El Niño and La Niña can be predicted accurately, allowing for better preparation. With luck and effort, these things can happen, and life in Sodo, Ethiopia can be improved.
Berhane, A., & Tesfay, T. (n.d.). Impact of El Niño and La Niña on Agriculture in Ethiopia: Implications for El Niño and La Niña Adaptation and Food Security in Ethiopia. Preprints. https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/202009.0074/v1#.
Wolaita Zone, Ethiopia. (2019, January 30). BRTE Project. http://brte.eu/about/overview-wolaita/#1539356659209-5b42291f-98e2.
D. V. Escobar
One would think that for a planet that has such a large body of water like Earth, having drinking water would not be an issue, but unfortunately, for people in Hajjah, a Governorate of Yemen, having to worry about the availability of clean drinking water is a harsh reality. Weather and climate change such as global warming affected water cycle patterns and thus placing drinking water availability at risk due to increased droughts.
Continued extreme changes in climate will continue affecting water cycle patterns, making the climate drier. The lack of potable water could also lead to diseases and contaminants. For the people of Hajjah, the threat doesn’t just stop there. Civil unrest in the region could also lead to manipulating the availability of what little water is available for criminal reasons.
On the path that global warming is on, water cycle patterns will likely continue to change and continue to place the future and health of Hajjah citizens in jeopardy. There are things such as water filtration mechanisms, importing of bottled water, and assistance they can receive, but to make significant improvement and change, stopping the increased trend in climbing global warming will be key.
The Paris Climate agreement is a good formal start for the solution. One of the key aspects of this initiative is one that emphasizes the thinking of a unified effort. Therefore, thinking of only one’s immediate environment will only harm communities like those of Hajjah. For those that need a wakeup call that water shortage can only happen in regions like that of Hajjah, the U.S. already has regions such as California that have dealt with drought, and officials have already started to implement controls to water use for its citizens. Better water management and irrigation conservation need to be factored into government response. However, we don’t need to wait for governments to take formal actions. Everyone on Earth needs to consider the path we are all on and that we all need to take action now to save our future.
UNICEF. (2020, March 20). Water and the Global Climate Crisis: 10 Things You Should Know. https://www.unicef.org/stories/water-and-climate-change-10-things-you-should-know.
Law, T. (2019, September 30). These Six Places Will Face Extreme Climate Change Threats. Time. time.com/5687470/cities-countries-most-affected-by-climate-change/.
Droughts’ Impact on the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona
Maggie Fechtman, Community, Environment, and Development, College of Agricultural Sciences
Arizona has been consistently facing droughts since 1994, due to the increasing heat and demand for water and decreasing precipitation (Drought frequently…, n.d.). The Hualapai Tribe stretches throughout three counties in Arizona, where the terrain is very hot and dry. Their reservation includes part of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. Although their reservation covers a large area, their population is only 1,621 (About the…, n.d.). Within their community, the economy is driven by recreational activities, tourism, cattle ranching, and arts that are ingrained in their culture. The droughts that their community has faced impacts both the Hualapai people themselves and their economy.
One of the most notable impacts of the droughts that the Hualapai Reservation faces is a water crisis. Due to the decreased supply of water, they are continuously selling or losing their livestock because the vegetation is dying and there is no spare water for the animals (Christensen, 2003). This both hurts their economy and causes them to have less food sources. Another way water is affected during droughts is the water level of the Colorado River is lowering. With tourism around the Grand Canyon being another driver of the Hualapai Tribe’s economy, when the water level drops, the rafting industry suffers. The water shortages are also problematic because the Hualapai have less access to clean drinking water and water for domestic uses like showering, doing the dishes, cooking, etc. (Christensen, 2003).
Another reason why the droughts affect the Hualapai Tribe is because it causes an increase in wildfires. As of 2003, there were more than 50 wildfires annually on the Hualapai Reservation, and with the increasing temperatures and severe droughts, the assumption could be made that this number has increased (Christensen, 2003). This forces part of the limited water supply to be used in order to stop the spread of these fires.
The Hualapai Tribe is vulnerable to these impacts from droughts because their droughts typically last between two and three years due to the extremely dry conditions. It is forecasted that the droughts will exacerbate the impacts detailed above, but the nine-member Tribal Council that governs the tribe has developed a detailed contingency plan as the droughts increase in severity. In addition, many United States agencies work with the tribe to help mitigate and reduce their vulnerability to the droughts. Luckily for the Hualapai Tribe, their water sources do not run out suddenly, giving them time to prepare and appropriately allocate their water as necessary during droughts. The following are both long-term and short-term mitigation projects the tribe has planned: Constructing a hydroelectric dam in order to conserve water and generate electricity, installing above ground water storage tanks for agriculture and wildfires, and installing more wells (Christensen, 2003).
Drought frequently asked questions. (n.d.). Arizona Department of Water Resources. https://new.azwater.gov/drought/faq.
About the Hualapai Tribe. (n.d.). Hualapai-nsn.gov. http://hualapai-nsn.gov/about-2/.
Christensen, K. (2003, December). Cooperative drought contingency plan Hualapai reservation. http://drought.unl.edu/archive/plans/drought/Tribal/HualapaiTribe_2003.pdf.
Hualapai. (2020, October 18). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hualapai.
Drought in Hatkarwadi, Maharashtra, India
Mikhail Galperin, Business Administration, Penn State World Campus
In the Indian village of Hatkarwadi, Maharashtra, the few remaining residents are experiencing the worst drought in at least a decade. Buckets of water line the streets, put there to collect the little rainwater that may fall. Many of the village’s 35 wells sit dry and empty, even as farmers dig over 600 feet into the ground in search of the dwindling water reservoir. Over half of the residents have fled to neighboring cities in recent years, splitting apart families who cannot survive together without enough water. Three years of poor rain have decimated the once-fertile land, stripping villagers of their ability to produce products such as cotton and millet. Hundreds of animals have been moved out to avoid starvation. Throughout these terrible conditions, even water tankers are unable to deliver water due to the dilapidated condition of the one road that connects the village to other towns.
In addition to several years without proper rainfall, another major contributing factor is the ongoing deforestation in the area, leaving only 2% of the broader Beed district protected from the sun. Few farms are irrigated, leaving them dependent on localized rainfall to produce crops; even 10 days of no rainfall can lead to crop failure. The Godavari river has been drying out, along with the dams and wells in the area, forcing villagers to drink contaminated water treated with chlorine. Blame is also directed at industrial and urban areas that divert water sources at the expense of the poor, redirecting water to swimming pools and cash crops.
For many, the only hope of resolution is for the rains to return, but with climate change forecasted to make the region hotter and drier, this is unlikely. Without systemic change to address the other contributing factors behind the drought, there are little options. Outside intervention may be a possibility if charity organizations are willing to step in. Otherwise, like many have already done, they will be forced to leave their home and find work elsewhere, if they can.
Biswas, S. (2019, June 10). ‘There is no water. Why should people stay here?’. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48552199
Oliviah Gearhart, Global and International Studies, College of Liberal Arts
El Niño is a time period of unusually warm waters in the ocean, specifically in the Equatorial Pacific. This leads to periods of devastating rainfall for places in the southern part of the United States and periods of drought in the West Pacific. These El Niño caused droughts are particularly impactful in Cape Town, South Africa, where individuals of this city are experiencing a continuous water shortage (Grobler, 2018). This community is especially vulnerable to the effects of the El Niño Southern Oscillation because their water system relies completely on rainfall. It contains 14 dams and pipelines and cannot operate without reliable and stable rainfall. While the system is built to sustain droughts with a return interval of one in fifty years, climate change and the El Niño effect have exacerbated the issue of drought, leaving the system unable to withstand the effects (Otto et al., 2018). This can lead to dehydration and death in humans, and could also result in food scarcity and starvation.
One of the most recent El Niño events to affect and hurt Cape Town, South Africa was in 2015. There is a lot of uncertainty about El Niño’s next dry spell in Cape Town that will affect the population, leaving them without water. Scientists were saying that the next El Niño event to exacerbate issues would be in the summer of 2019; then it was declared that the La Niña event occurred in 2020. Thus, there is an uncertainty behind when the El Niño may return to cause problems in Cape Town, but it is not a complete mystery. The fact is that the El Niño will return at some point following the La Niña cycle, and Cape Town is severely underprepared to deal with the consequences of this event. The government of Cape Town is planning a “Day Zero” where they cut off water supply to everyone and turn taps off (Winter, 2018). This is meant to ration water, but it will be devastating to those in immediate need of hydration. More sustainable methods of addressing the El Niño cycle include increasing water efficiency, creating water restrictions to lessen demands, and increasing water supply through desalination plants (Otto et al., 2018). None of these methods of addressing the water shortage problem that is exacerbated by El Niño can be done overnight. It takes preparation and dedication by the government of Cape Town and of South Africa. If this community waits until the next El Niño cycle to start addressing this problem, there will be a myriad of consequences.
Otto, F. E. L. et al. (2018, July 13). Likelihood of Cape Town Water Crisis Tripled by Climate Change. World Weather Attribution. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/the-role of-climate-change-in-the-2015-2017-drought-in-the-western-cape-of-south-africa/
Grobler, R. (2018, Nov 06). El Niño to Bring Less Rain and More Heat for South Africa: 5 Things You Need to Know. News 24. https://www.news24.com/news24/green/news/el-nino-to-bring-less-rain-and-more-heat-for-sa-5-things-you-need-to-know-20181116
Winter, K. (2018, Feb 20). Day Zero is Meant to Cut Cape Town’s Water Use: What Is It, and Is It Working? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/day-zero-is-meant-to-cut-cape-towns-water-use-what-is-it-and-is-it-working-92055
Impact of extended droughts on water balance: Guyra, Australia
Eathan R. Gottshall
Over the past few years, there has been a major increase in wildfires and droughts occurring in locations that historically already had lower precipitation levels and more extreme wet/dry seasons. One of the most extreme cases is Australia, which has seen some of the most extreme droughts and wildfire frequencies across the world within the last ten years. Summer average temperatures during the dry season easily exceed 100°F, increasing evaporation and decreasing available surface water for commercial, agricultural, and ecological uses. The increase in evaporation, coupled with excessive groundwater extraction, has caused major concerns over the future sustainability of the natural water sources on the continent as rivers and lagoons continue to dry up. Even Australia’s largest dam Warragamba saw a 50% decrease in water level over the period of 2016-2019, this is a major warning sign for smaller water sources important to small communities and ecosystems across Australia. A large portion of the agricultural production in Australia occurs in the South and Eastern areas of the continent; these areas have also seen major drops in available fresh water causing a lack of irrigation and a dire forecast for the future of water availability for local towns and cities. Guyra is a small agricultural town of about 2000 residents just outside of Sydney, it produces billions in agricultural products yearly, but its local water supply has been drying up rapidly in recent years. In order to fight the drop in water levels, local organizations have built a pipeline to another local water source and are drilling deeper wells to find better water sources at lower depths. They have also dumped truckloads of fresh water from other sources into the lagoon to buy themselves more time to develop long-term management strategies. The Australian government has provided Guyra and towns just like it with forecasted projections of how long supplies will last, and they are incredibly bleak. Towns across Australia were expected to run out of available water within a year of when the forecasts were provided, giving little time for officials to come up with solutions. Without major changes in water management, Guyra and its neighbors will more than likely run out of water, be crippled economically, and cause major migrations to cities with better water sources. Residents of Guyra have already begun to see the major effects of the drought as fields begin to wither and farmers spend a ridiculous amount to truck in fresh water daily. If no major solutions are found soon, small communities like Guyra will take major economic hits and will more than likely create major civil unrest. Since 2019, Australia has created an annual water usage level for regions of the major agricultural producers in Australia. This may aid the issue, but precipitation is predicted to continue dropping and drought to continue increasing in arid climates such as Australia. This has caused citizens like those in Guyra to begin speaking out and advocating for stricter regulations to dampen climate change. Undoubtedly, soon we will begin to see a continued struggle in the daily lives of small communities and a major blow to the agricultural production of the country as a whole. Many critics say that the measures Australia has put into place are too little too late and they should be increased to decrease water usage even more and give the major basins an opportunity to recover. Only time will tell, but for small town residents like those in Guyra, this will be a constant worry for them and their families’ wellbeing for years into the foreseeable future.
Barret, J. (2019, September 27). Drought-hit Australian towns prepare for ‘unimaginable’ watercrisis. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-drought-water/drought-hit-australian-towns-prepare-for-unimaginable-water-crisis-idUSKBN1WC2EP
Crystal N. Graziano
The threat that the community of Malia, on the Island of Crete, Greece faces is desertification. The eastern portion of Greece receives less rainfall than the western side, and Malia, on the eastern island of Crete, is one of the driest communities. Excessive water consumption, soil erosion, limited freshwater reserves, forest losses, vegetation losses, poor infrastructure, and lack of research investment into alternative water management all contribute to desertification in the Mediterranean, among other arid communities (United Nations, 2008).
Though the community uses most of its water for agriculture, it also uses its water to provide for the increased tourism developed over the past 20 years. Malia has an invigorating nightlife scene (TUC, 2019). Water scarcity is a huge threat to Malia, especially considering much of its gross domestic product is produced from tourism and one in five employed Grecians are hospitality workers, especially on the Island of Crete, where Malia is located, where 55% of locals are in hospitality (statistica.com, 2020). Because Malia is a coastal community, it is more vulnerable to a reduction in soil fertility, which causes an inability of plant life to flourish due to high evaporation rates and salt water degrading the groundwater.
The water quality has been depleted over the past 30 years because of saltwater intrusion of the aquifer, over-pumping resulting in low aquifer levels, and high chlorine concentrations which degrade the groundwater. The aggressive draw of the agriculture activity has also increased the nitrate concentrations in the groundwater (TUC, 2019). Because the withdrawal of water is more than the natural recharge supply from rainfall, the aquifers become drained, which allows salt water to seep in and contaminate the remaining water. The increased temperatures of the area, due to climate change, can cause more intense and frequent droughts, which will strain the water supply even more. It is not necessarily a direct effect of not having enough rainfall, although Malia does not see much rainfall, about 343 mm of rainfall per year compared to Maryland’s average rainfall of 1409 mm per year (Maryland.gov, 2020), but how quickly the water evaporates because of the elevated temperatures and lack of vegetation (climate data.org, 2015).
A strategy had been proposed in 2003 by the Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works including solutions developed by the community which are based on the reduction of water loss (versus the previous focus on finding new water sources) through improved irrigation systems structure, management of irrigation water, and reuse and recycling of water (United Nations, 2008). Other solutions include upgrading of piping systems to reduce wasted water via leaks through leak tracing and restoration, collection of rainwater by private tanks, funding of education and research into the effects of recycling runoff water, transfer of surface water, and managing forest ecosystems to reduce rainwater losses (Climatechangepost.com, 2021). Desalination units have been used in other communities, which convert salt water into fresh drinking water, and the eastern islands of Greece are hoping for funding to build their own units, so they don’t have to rely on expensive water shipments from Athens (Heggie, 2020).
TUC. (2019). Malia – Greece. Sustain-Coast. https://www.sustain-coast.tuc.gr/en/living-labs/malia-greece
United Nations. (2008). Desertification: Greece: Sustainable Development. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/dsd/dsd_aofw_ni/ni_pdfs/Natio nalReports/greece/Greece_II_Drought_Desertification.pdf
United Nations. (2008). Combating Desertification. https://www.un.org/en/desa/opening international-conference-combating-desertification
Greece: Desertification Greece: Vulnerabilities. (2021). Climate Change Post. https://www.climatechangepost.com/greece/desertification/
Climate-Data.org. (2015). Malia Climate Greece. Climate-Data. https://en.climate-data.org/europe/greece/malia/malia-27635/
Maryland.gov. (2020). Maryland At a Glance: Weather. Maryland. https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/weather.html
Heggie, J., (2020). Preventing a water crisis in Greece. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/partner content-where-our-water-goes-greece
Statista.com, (2020). Greece Unemployment rate from 1999 to 2020. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/263698/unemployment-rate in-greece/
Drought in Murrurundi, Australia
Sarah Kern, Environmental Resource Management, College of Agricultural Sciences
A severe threat to the town of Murrurundi, Australia is drought. This town has had water restrictions implemented for years to ration water sources. Water has been transported into the town from outside resources to help increase water availability (Connell, 2020). Murrurundi has become almost fully reliant on this water being transported in by trucks. The town water supply by itself could no longer sustain the people living there. The farmers in the area were also struggling because there is not enough water to sustain their operations and livestock. The dryness of the ground has even caused some buildings to crack and vegetation to die (Connell, 2020).
This community is particularly vulnerable because of its location in Australia. Murrurundi experiences extreme heat, especially during the summer. Precipitation in Murrurundi also continues to decrease as temperatures increase. There has been little rain in Murrurundi for several years, causing the river that runs through the town to dry up (Watson et al., 2020).
If climate change continues to worsen, it is likely that drought conditions will continue to threaten Murrurundi in the future. The impacts on the town have been devastating from drought. Local businesses struggle to survive under the water restrictions, farmers have lost their animals, and residents have struggled to perform basic tasks like doing their laundry (Connell, 2020). A new pipeline project in the town will bring in a more reliable water source, so the negative impacts on the community should lessen for the time being. Recently, rain has also returned to the area which has brought back some of the river water and vegetation as well (Watson et al., 2020). However, the community will still have to follow some water restrictions. Until the negative impacts of climate change improve, it is unlikely that the town of Murrurundi will have a consistent and unlimited water supply without restrictions.
One solution to the threat is to have Australian legislation put more emphasis on addressing climate change. A significant portion of Australia’s economy relies on income from fossil fuels (Watson et al., 2020). Because of this, there is not as big of a push towards renewables due to fear that it will negatively impact this industry. Australia is therefore contributing to the emissions problem even though they are suffering from negative results of climate change (Watson et al., 2020). Australian legislation needs to discourage the fossil fuel industry instead of encouraging it. Another solution that has already been put in motion is the implementation of a new pipeline into the city. This pipeline will provide a more reliable, plentiful water source and will lessen the current water restrictions the town has been following for several years. While this provides a short term solution, until climate change is fully addressed, the threat of drought will continue to worsen for Murrurundi, Australia.
Connell, C. (2020, May 29). Murrurundi’s taps turned on in drought-ravaged town living for years on restrictions. ABC. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-29/murrurundi-taps-turned-on-in-town-with-highest-restrictions/12298474
Watson, A., Stevens, A., & Devitt, P. (2020, January 14). The parched legacy of drought in Murrurundi, an Australian town with beer but no water. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/14/australia/australia-fires-water-beer-intl-hnk/index.html
Many US cities are extremely impacted by droughts each year. Even though it may seem as if a drought would not have the same damage as a hurricane, it certainly can with its slow spread and huge impact on the community. There are a lot of risks that come with droughts including loss of crops, risk of wildfires, the widespread water shortages, and many others. Phoenix, Arizona is more likely to be impacted by droughts each year because of its extreme dry state, even during wet years, and climate change will make the area hotter and drier. The Colorado River Basin, which provides the city’s water supply, looks to be drying up due to droughts, which can have a negative effect on both its inhabitants and environment.
In 2018, 181 people died in Phoenix due to heat-related causes. This issue shows the alarming threats of the rise in temperatures that people have to be aware of to keep each other in the community safe. These temperatures have the potential to cause dehydration and heatstroke that can lead to other severe health risks. The heat could not only put the residents’ health in a vulnerable state but can also have detrimental impacts on the environment.
With the climate changing ever so rapidly, the environment, including wildlife and farming, is not given enough time to adapt to these changes, putting things in danger. Increasing rates in wildfires will lead to residents seeing a decline in the quality of air, which will have an effect on people with respiratory and heart issues. Farming is also big in the community, with about two thirds of its water going to the crops. Agriculture is the economic powerhouse of Arizona, so any threat to it at all could be devastating for the future of the communities.
In dry conditions like Phoenix, it is very common for a drought to be a leading cause of wildfires. This issue is a forecasted impact that the community will prepare to take on as it is projected to see 115 at-risk days for wildfires each year by 2050. The community will also see a 12.2 percent decrease in crops for every degree Celsius of warming that occurs. Because of the heat island effect which allows Phoenix to get up to 21 degrees Fahrenheit hotter, its extreme heat days can go from 80 to 247 by the end of the century.
Because of climate change, desert cities like Phoenix are in constant threat, and they must know how to plan and prepare accordingly. However, the community is in a climate crisis that is subject to immediate action. Luckily, Phoenix, Arizona is built for the drought. They have developed a long-term strategy to ensure the city is in the best positions to respond to these changing conditions. These plans include educating people on the present conditions as well as future ones, maximizing the efforts to get water supplies when they need to, managing water supplies today to meet the community’s needs, and planning and preparing the residents now so the impact of the drought could be greatly lessened. Other ways to mitigate the drought include building green buildings and planting more plants to reduce the effects of the city’s heat island.
Drought Information. (2021). City of Phoenix. https://www.phoenix.gov/waterservices/resourcesconservation/drought-information
How the Climate Crisis is Affecting Arizona. (2019, November 25). The Climate Reality Project. https://climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-climate-crisis-affecting-arizona.
For my final capstone, we will finish with the drought ravaged community of Guyra, New South Wales, Australia. Guyra is a small community of about 2,000 people in eastern Australia, a few hundred miles from Sydney. It is a historically cool area that grows livestock, primarily sheep and cattle, and some vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes (Guyra…, 2021).
The major threat to Guyra is extreme drought that has been rampant in the country in recent years. The drought is likely caused by surface sea temperatures on the rise, which affects rainfall patterns. Further, the rising air temperatures that have been occurring over the last 100 years have been affecting both the drought and subsequent devastating wildfires that have also been widespread over the last few years (Barrett, 2019). Primarily, the climate variability is caused by ENSO. ENSO deeply affects rainfall across these areas with the El Niño part of the oscillation being associated with the dry years (Nicholls, 1998). Both of those occurrences are a substantial threat both to the people that live in the area as well as their forms of livelihood. The losses in 2019 alone were estimated to be 100 million Australian dollars (Robertson, 2019).
A seemingly equally large challenge is both local politics and the fact that many of the inhabitants simply do not believe in climate change. They will blame fires on power lines hitting dry tinder or have the belief that it is all cyclical and will change again for the better (Butler, 2019). Unfortunately, as we have seen elsewhere in this course, these views are both dangerous and hard to overcome. If the very people who are suffering the losses cannot advocate for sustainable change, then those of us from thousands of miles away will meet with little success. Without addressing both the climate change and the attitudes, the future holds more rainfall instability, more wildfires, and a much worse local impact to the habitability of Guyra if those who live there cannot work to help themselves.
Many temporary solutions have been tried in the area of Guyra. Just to get by, the local government was trucking in water, which cost about Aus$1 million a year. This solution is not sustainable. They are also building a pipeline into the area, but this solution is also not sustainable for the level of drought they have. Drilling deeper into aquifers has been attempted, but once depleted, they will be in the same situation (Butler, 2019). The only ultimate solutions are the ones that address climate change on a global scale. While localities can manage their resources as best they can and reduce their own abuses, we as a world need to come together to do all that we can to slow the melting of the ice caps and sheets, slow rising in sea surface and air temperatures, and reduce our input of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. We have one planet; we need to set aside our egoic desires and think of our home and all the creatures, including humans, that inhabit it, first.
Barrett, J. (2019, September 27). Drought-hit Australian Towns Prepare For ‘Unimaginable’ Water Crisis. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia drought-water/drought-hit-australian-towns-prepare-for-unimaginable-water-crisis idUSKBN1WC2EP
Butler, G. (2019, September 18). As Drought-ravaged Australia Burns, Voters Cling to the Idea That Climate Change Is ‘Unproven’. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en/article/mbm78a/drought-hit-australia-burns-bushfires-climate change-crisis-global-warming-unproven
Nicholls, N. (1998). El Nino – Of Droughts and Flooding Rains. ABC.net. https://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/elnino/story.htm#:~:text=Australia%20is%20a%20land%20%22of,everywhere%20it%20strikes%2C%20including%20Australia.
Robertson, H. (2019, September 19). ‘Day Zero’ Looms in Australian Outback as Climate Change Bites. Phys.org. https://phys.org/news/2019-09-day-looms-australian-outback-climate.html
Guyra, New South Wales. (2021, March 19). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guyra,_New_South_Wales
Image Source: Theaustralian.com
El Niño is a phenomenon that occurs every three to eight years. This phenomenon affects the tropical Pacific by warming the waters, which in turn affects wind patterns and changes the precipitation in many areas. The village of Tizamarte, located in eastern Guatemala, is plagued by widespread droughts due to El Niño weather patterns, which are only worsening. This threat is especially harmful to this community because it has deeply impacted their agricultural community. The drought causes disruptions in entire harvests of crops used to feed the village of Tizamarte. This community is especially vulnerable to threats caused by El Niño due to the widespread poverty in this community that is also present in many parts of Guatemala. Many people in the city and surrounding areas rely on the land for their food, as well as their income source. Where farmers used to be able to make up to 100 quetzales (about 14 US dollars) they are now making less than half of that. Many farmers attempt to look for other jobs when their crops constantly fail due to droughts. However, there is a shortage and these jobs do not pay nearly enough, leaving farmers without a stable source of income, and leaving their communities starving due to lack of successful harvests. The people suffering most from the droughts are the children of Tizamarte. The country of Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of malnourished children in the world, meaning nearly fifty percent of children in Guatemala are underfed to the point of starvation. The forecasted impacts do not look good for this village as the El Niño weather impacts last years and cause uncertainty about whether the financial risk for the inhabitants of Tizamarte is worth it, as many of its inhabitants have taken to fleeing the village in hopes of a better life. However, there are few solutions to help the drought-plagued community. The most common solution for the inhabitants of Tizamarte is to migrate to other areas where they will have better living conditions and more opportunities for a stable source of income.
Abbott, J. (2019, May 13). ‘No other option’: Climate change driving many to flee Guatemala. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2019/5/13/no-other-option-climate-change-driving-many-to-flee-guatemala
Lakhani, N. (2019, July 29). ‘People are dying’: How the climate crisis has sparked an exodus to the US. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jul/29/guatemala-climate-crisis-migration-drought-famine
Pons, D. (2021, February 18). Climate extremes, food insecurity, and migration in Central America: A complicated Nexus – Guatemala. Relief Web. https://reliefweb.int/report/guatemala/climate-extremes-food-insecurity-and migration-central-america-complicated-nexus
Taiwan is experiencing one of the worst droughts in more than 50 years for the country. This drought has led the government to make the decision to halt irrigation for many of the small rice farms in the country. One area specifically hit hard is in Hsinchu, Taiwan, where tens of thousands of acres of small farms are having their access to water cut off. The government is prioritizing the large factories that make computer chips to have access to water, while the small farmers receive a payout for their crops that will not be growing this year. The main factory in Hsinchu is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, and with demand for electronics and the chips that go in them ever increasing, and with the predictions for more droughts in the future, things are not looking good for the small rice farmers in the area.
The government has tried many different strategies to try and bring water to the area. The government tried to seed the clouds above reservoirs by burning chemicals, they have reduced water pressure, and they built a seawater desalination plant. They built a pipeline to the rainier north side of the island, but none of these actions did enough, and the country felt forced to cut off irrigation to the farmers to preserve the income received from being home to the chip plant. The plant said they have not been affected by the drought yet, probably because the government is doing all they can to make it that way, but unfortunately at the expense of the small farmers and citizens of the country. Tian Shou-shi, a rice grower in Hsinchu said “TSMC and those semiconductor guys, they don’t feel any of this at all, We farmers just want to make an honest living.”
Most of the water that is used by citizens comes from seasonal typhoons in the area. Not one made landfall last rainy season, which is something that has not happened in almost 60 years, although it is said that Taiwan’s rains are highly variable, so many people are not believing that drought in Taiwan is a permanent problem yet. Many believe that last year was just a bad year and things will get better. If the problem continues to get worse and rice farmers continue to fall low on the prioritized list, and the rain does not come, many believe that the agriculture industry on the island will continue to die out and be replaced by more manufacturing jobs.
Zhong R. & Chang-Chien, A. (2021, April 8) Taiwan’s Drought Pits Chip Makers Against Farmers. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/technology/taiwan-drought-tsmc-semiconductors.html.
Alyssa Martin, Advertising/Public Relations, Bellisario College of Communications
For this entry I chose to talk about a small town in Eastern Australia by the name of Guyra, which is inhabited by about 2,000 people. Guyra has been suffering tremendously from drought caused by climate change. The increase in sea surface temperatures has been severely altering the precipitation. This community is particularly vulnerable because air temperature has also risen. Given this combination of altered precipitation and air temperatures, the droughts seem to be here to stay for quite some time. They are even struggling to find drinking water, and their vegetation is dying off like they have never seen before.
The forecasted impact for this community is really hard to imagine for someone like me, who has access to clean, running water whenever I want it. It really puts into perspective how grateful I should be for something I take for granted on a daily basis. Guyra is fully expecting to be out of drinking water in a little over 1 year’s time. The exact number that they were given was 400 days, and they are quite literally counting down until that time runs out. One of the largest dams nearby has depleted tremendously, when it was full just 3 years ago. This is just one example of how this town is struggling to get the resources that it needs.
The solution to this threat of drought right now for Guyra is that there is fresh water being brought in on trucks and they are trying to find new spots to drill, hoping that this will allow them to gain access to more resources. They also need to adapt by lowering demand for water for personal and agricultural use. The government has also discussed the issues, but the Prime Minister of Australia seems to believe that people are overlooking Australia’s ability to overcome this drought. He thinks by meeting the Paris Climate Agreement emission numbers, that the issues will soon begin to resolve on their own. The people of Guyra seem to think differently, and they definitely are frightened because they are living through the worst drought they have ever seen.
Barrett, J. (2019, September 27). Drought-hit Australian towns prepare for ‘unimaginable’ water crisis. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-drought-water/drought-hit-australian-towns-prepare-for-unimaginable-water-crisis-idUSKBN1WC2EP
Drought in Fort Jones, California
Drought is the primary threat to Fort Jones, a small agriculturally based community in Northern California. More than 20 local farms, including Five Marys’ Farms and Four Brothers’ Heritage Farm, rely on ample access to high-quality water to grow their crops and produce their livestock, which in California is usually cattle. Their position in the Klamath Basin in Northern California is a popular drought hotspot. From December 2011 to March 2017, this region experienced a serious and prolonged drought. Drought issues are resurfacing in this region in 2021. The high percentage of community members who own/work and depend on farming in this area makes Fort Jones particularly vulnerable to drought. This year, about 39% of California is experiencing severe drought, including the area where Fort Jones is located, and it is expected to have a negative impact on crop and farm outputs as the growing season begins. Weather patterns can change as the effects of climate change intensify, and droughts in the United States are expected to last longer. Furthermore, moisture deficiency is a problem in Northern California, where Fort Jones is located. Moreover, precipitation variability by year is expected to increase in the Fort Jones region, which means that the frequency of droughts and dry years will increase. This is not good news for Fort Jones farmers, as water access is limited, and their demand for water will only rise as climate change affects worsen, increasing the likelihood of water shortages in Fort Jones. Water is difficult to transport and/or produce in large amounts, making solutions for drought and dry areas difficult to come by. Water conservation and relocation are two approaches to dealing with current water levels. Strict water controls enforced by the local and/or state governments may be enough to ensure that both farming and residential uses are not harmed in this town. The Fort Jones Water Company was issued a notice of unavailability due to decreasing river flow and height in order to preserve the flow/volume of the Scott River’s water, which is a source of water for numerous local farms and livestock. Another potential limitation is one close to what was implemented in 2014, when farmland water allocations were required to be decreased by 50%. This solution may be feasible during the non-growing season/months, but it may damage local farmers to the point that they believe it is easier to relocate rather than drastically reduce water use.
California. (2021, June 8). U.S. Drought Monitor. https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA
Carlmark, R. (2021, April 22). Updated drought map shows half of California experiencing ‘extreme’ conditions. ABC 10. https://www.abc10.com/article/weather/california-drought/california-extreme-drought-dry-conditions/103-7d74894e-28db-4780-99bf-36368bb8717a
Kaye, B. (2021, April 15). How a historic drought is threatening the future of Klamath Basin farms and endangered species. Siskiyou Daily News. https://www.siskiyoudaily.com/story/news/2021/04/15/klamath-basin-farmers-face-dry-summer-little-water/7241063002/
Pierce, D. W., Kalansky, J. F., & Cayan, D. R. (2018, August). CLIMATE, DROUGHT, AND SEA LEVEL RISE SCENARIOS FOR CALIFORNIA’S FOURTH CLIMATE CHANGE ASSESSMENT. State of California Energy Commission. https://www.energy.ca.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/Projections_CCCA4-CEC-2018-006_ADA.pdf
Population Demographics for Fort Jones, California in 2020, 2019. (n.d.). Suburban Stats. https://suburbanstats.org/population/california/how-many-people-live-in-fort-jones
State Water Resources Control Board. (2016, July 5). California Water Boards. https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/docs/scott_river/scottunavailabilityjuly.pdf
2011–2017 California drought. (2021). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011%E2%80%932017_California_drought
Drought is not a new concept to people residing in Australia. In many parts of Australia, lack of rain and dry climate has ravished agriculture and stunted economic growth. Dams and reservoirs dry up quicker than they can be replenished. This is the harsh reality of life in many parts of Australia.
In the small town of Guyra, Australia, located north of Sydney, drought took on a new meaning in 2019. The people of this small eastern community watched helplessly as their freshwater lagoon was decimated into a nearly dry reservoir. With a population of 1,983 people, the need for water was growing with every passing day. With an estimated 400 days until drying, this issue became critical to the town’s survival. An ongoing threat of global warming has created warmer ocean temperatures, impacting rainfall patterns and making this community, along with many others, a victim of intermittent drought since 2016. These harsh conditions quickly decimate dam, river, and lagoon levels, leaving people in fear of economic collapse, loss of jobs, and possibly the threat of their own lives (Reuters, 2019).
Temporary solutions to the problem in Guyra include trucking fresh water into the town, building a pipeline to a local dam, and experimental drilling to possibly tap into a clean water source underground (Reuters, 2019). None of these resolutions have addressed the larger issue of climate change, and have created even more financial burden. Although many want to make changes to address the issue of climate change, a conservative government debates that strict environmental action would hinder its economy and prevent any progress. The local government supported new coal mines despite global protests. But at a recent climate change summit involving world leaders in New York, Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, has maintained his stance that Australia is on task to reduce emissions on par with the Paris Agreement (Reuters, 2019).
Unfortunately, according to the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, some droughts across Australia remain in effect today. There continue to be deficiencies in rainfall patterns and deficits in dam, river, and reservoir levels in eastern Australia. Southwest regions of Australia are seeing a decrease in root-zone moisture of soil affecting agriculture (Drought, 2021). As far as Guyra, they are no longer in dire straits but continue to face the effects of climate control. Until we tackle the broad issue of climate control and more specifically, the unchecked production of greenhouse gasses, communities such as Guyra will continue to struggle with obscure weather patterns that directly impact their lives. Band-aids and temporary solutions will be exhausted if we do not stop using fossil fuels and creating excess CO2 in the atmosphere. A shift to solar energy and windmills could dramatically reduce emissions. But before any real progress happens, we must first come together as a world unit and lay down strategies and guidelines like what has been offered in the Paris Agreement. This is our first step in healing our home.
Drought. (2021, February 5). Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/drought/drought.shtml
Reuters. (2019, September 28). Drought-hit Australian towns prepare for ‘unimaginable’ water crisis. The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/world/drought-hit-australian-towns-prepare-for-unimaginable-water-crisis-6035995/
Sabian Neidich, Philosophy, Penn State Behrend
New Harmony is a small town in the south western corner of Utah in Washington County. Its population just increased to above two hundred and thirty people in 2019. And it sits next to a sub par water reservoir. Coincidentally, that same year, the town and the county faced its worst drought since 1929. In 2019, the entire county went for over one hundred and forty days without a new supply of water. This has spurred the community into discussing ways to acquire alternate water sources for occasions similar to this. According to the statistical data on water.utah.gov, these droughts will only get worse and more frequent. This of course means that the population of New Harmony will be subject to more extreme drought, possibly causing them to be out of water for extended periods of time.
Though New Harmony may be at risk, they are also one of the best contributors to their county in the fight against the droughts they face. Following the drought of 2019, the county instated the Ash Creek Project, where a pipeline will be made to transport water from the Ash Creek Reservoir at New Harmony and transport it to a reservoir at Toquer. The project is still underway as the reservoir at Toquer must still be made. This would benefit the entire surrounding area, providing them with a source of water where there was previously none. This would not be detrimental to the Ash Creek Reservoir, as the idea is to simply transport the water that would naturally be lost to seepage. This seepage has been an issue since the 1960s when the reservoir was built, and is claimed to never have worked to the degree it should. The plan also involves things such as using a closed pressurized piping system instead of an open one to prevent water loss from evaporation.
Utah. (2021). U.S. Drought Monitor. https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?UT.
Kessler, M. (2019, November 9). Water managers: New Toquer Reservoir will bring additional reliability to county water system. St. George News. https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2019/11/09/mgk-water-managers-new-toquer-reservoir-will-bring-additional-reliability-to-county-water-system/#.YDqFWhKiUl.
New Harmony, Utah. (2021). City-Data.com. http://www.city-data.com/city/New-Harmony-Utah.html.
Peery, L. (2019, November 5). Washington County’s latest proposed reservoir will help with water scarcity. The Spectrum. https://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/2019/11/05/utah-washington-county-reservoir-water-scarcity-climate-change-drought/4157600002/.
The Dead Sea is an endorheic (having no outflow to other bodies of water) salt lake in the Jordan Rift Valley. It is a common attraction for many tourists, as the salinity of the water is very high, allowing people to float due to its high density. However, it is facing a huge problem. Due to climate change, the Dead Sea is shrinking. The Dead Sea receives its water from rivers and streams, and loses it by evaporation, which is what causes the 33% salinity. For many years, water in and water evaporated has been equal, creating a steady water level. In the 1960s, one of the Dead Sea’s main freshwater sources was diverted, and in the 1970s, another source was diverted, reducing its water level dramatically. Scientists say that equilibrium will be restored, but not before it loses another third of its mass (Moss & Morton, 2020).
As the Dead Sea shrinks, different problems arise. Freshwater aquifers line the perimeter of the lake, and as the water level recedes, the aquifers flow into salt deposits, dissolving them. As the deposits dissolve, the earth will collapse to make way for sinkholes. In the past 15 years, over 1,000 sinkholes have appeared. The lake is also evaporating by human processes, like mining different minerals, which is speeding up the sinking. The Dead Sea’s surrounding ecosystems are also seeing the effects of the lake’s reduction. Many oases feed the Dead Sea and are receding away right along with it, displacing many indigenous animals and plants that rely on them. Agriculture also takes away much of the freshwater needed to keep the Dead Sea level, despite only making up three percent of Israel’s gross product (Hammer, 2005).
According to scientists and environmental experts, one way to save the Dead Sea and these communities is to stop diverting and using up freshwater sources. However, agricultural lobbying is much stronger than environmental lobbying, so many believe this is not an attainable solution. Another way is to use alternative water sources. Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental organization, proposes that households and farmers conserve water use and regulate freshwater diversion. The Israeli government is also promoting wastewater treatment and desalination facilities (Hammer, 2005).
Hammer, J. (2005, October 1). The Dying of the Dead Sea. Smithsonian Institution. www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-dying-of-the-dead-sea-70079351/.
Moss, T. & Morton, C. (2020, July 12). 18 Destinations Impacted By Climate Change. Condé Nast Traveler. www.cntraveler.com/gallery/10-places-to-visit-before-theyre-lost-to-climate-change.
Chris Nicola, Civil Engineering, Penn State University Park
Vosburg, a town located in Northern Cape Province, Africa, highlights severe cases of drought and food shortages. Not only does the barren landscape contribute to its dire circumstances, but also the dried-up streams and dwindling livestock. This drought, which has ravaged much of South Africa the past few months, is responsible for financial struggles among farmers in the area. According to the United Nations, millions of inhabitants endure such food shortages, especially in less prominent towns such as Vosburg (Magome, 2019). Louis van der Merwe, a farmer located in Vosburg, blames the drought for his livestock losses over the past 2 years. Approximately $28 million will be needed to overturn such devastation imposed on thousands of farms according to Agri-SA, a farmers’ organization. In addition to the financial toll left on the town’s inhabitants, many insurance policies along with medical aid have been rescinded. Racial divide is another issue, as the wealthy locate themselves in more developed areas, leaving the poor in the dilapidated, arid parts of town. Vosburg is an exception as there is a degree of collaboration between large- and small-scale farms.
It is evident that Vosburg and even Northern Cape are susceptible to drought due to the low water supply in the region and the high demand. This is most likely a result of climate change. Such variations in climate are responsible for uneven rainfall distribution, leaving certain regions with excess water supply and others with a shortage. Another factor involves El Niño, which describes patterns of warming in the Pacific along the equator. This phenomenon influences rainfall patterns and causes extreme climate variations (Pearson & Grobler, 2018). Because of these factors, poor crop development ensues. Desertification, identified as a period of drying, has had disadvantageous effects on certain towns’ water reservoirs as well, further stressing the problems of shortage (Van Dam, 2017). Vosburg is one town where such problems occur.
The short term forecasted impacts on Vosburg are not completely dire. Christian Engelbrecht, a notable meteorologist of the South Africa Weather Service, states that only slightly below average rainfall is expected in the area (Magome, 2019). As long term climate models suggest, drying trends will become more intense, thus reducing rainfall significantly in these areas (Van Dam, 2017). Ways to mitigate these effects involve imposing water restrictions on communities, some of which have already been implemented in areas local to Southern Africa. Clearly, demand for water must be reduced to offset the limited supply, and this implies that residents make sacrifices. This may involve changing crops as well.
Van Dam, D. (2017, June 01). Cape town contends with worst drought in over a century. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/31/africa/cape-town drought/index.html
Person & Grobler, R. (2018, November 16). El Nino to bring less rain and more heat for SA: 5 things you need to know. News 24. https://www.news24.com/news24/green/news/el-nino-to-bring-less-rain-and-more-heat for-sa-5-things-you-need-to-know-20181116
Magome, M. (2019, November 21). Southern Africa’s deadly drought leaving millions Hungry. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/1e1b5a489dba4aab9cb13709e80fe11c
Staff, S. (2016, February 12). Drought caused by El Nino Threatening southern Africa: UN. Phys.org. https://phys.org/news/2016-02-drought-el-nino threatening-southern.html
Drought evacuates Indian Village
Zachary Plunkett, Software Engineering, Penn State Behrend
Throughout India’s history, droughts have caused catastrophes. Typically, these droughts would cause crops to fail, leading to famine that would affect the population. Often these droughts would coincide with El Niño-related winds that end up causing dry air to be pulled from Central Asia into India. Normally, this would cause what would be expected to be a wet and humid monsoon season to be dry. Climate change has caused an increase in the drought prone regions of India.
One of these locations that has been heavily impacted by is the village of Hatkarwadi. Hatkarwadi, like many other rural locations in India, relies completely on wells for water as the region is extremely dry. Historically, Hatkarwadi was known to have completely dry summers and winters that average about 75mm of rainfall.
With Hatkarwadi already being located in a dry region, climate change has turned the village and its surrounding areas into a wasteland. The area used to receive yearly rainfall to help contribute to the ground water stores, but has now been experiencing year long droughts. This has caused the ground stores of water that feed the wells and hand pumps to be dry for much of the year. In other areas of India with similar issues, people are able to purchase water from tanker trucks, but that is not possible for the residents of Hatkarwadi who rely upon agriculture for their income. As can be expected, years of drought have not allowed for significant crop yields.
For water and work, most of the inhabitants of Hatkarwadi have had to relocate to other cities. Records show that the village used to have a population of over 2,000 residents, but has now dropped to only 300. Almost all of the remaining inhabitants rely upon seasonal employment in the cities, leaving only a handful of residents in the summer. Currently, there is no plan to help the village as there is no future for the area as long as water is as scarce as it is.
Biswas, S. (2019, June 10). ‘There Is No Water. Why Should People Stay Here?’ BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48552199.
Relph, S. (2019, June 11). Indian Villages Lie Empty as Drought Forces Thousands to Flee. The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/12/indian-villages-lie-empty-as-drought-forces-thousands-to-flee.
Drought in India. (2021). In Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drought_in_India.
Hatkarwadi, Maharashtra. (2020). In Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatkarwadi,_Maharashtra.
Elizabeth Raifsnider, Civil Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg
Thar Desert is located in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. It is known as the Great Indian Desert and is a natural boundary that separates Pakistan and India. Since 2013, this area has been struggling with drought conditions. Large monsoons that used to bring two months of rain now barely bring 20 days of rain. This drastic reduction in rainwater has severely impacted the villages in the area, and it is only forecasted to worsen with climate change. Water stocks that used to hold water are now empty. Villagers must walk at least twice a day to a well to retrieve their water. More often than not, by the time the villagers return, their water is contaminated and unhealthy for consumption. The drought has also affected the vegetation growth in the area. Low rainfall has devastated the crop production. This causes the cattle and livestock to die of starvation and dehydration. With the reduction of crops and livestock, villages are suffering, and children are starving to death. If these drought conditions continue there could be a “water war” between neighboring India and Pakistan.
Finances are a concern when looking at possible solutions to this major problem. The Pakistan government has, however, created a 33-million-dollar project to install 750 purification pumps across the area. These pumps pump the underground water to the surface where it is filtered, through a process called reverse osmosis. The biggest of the pumps can hold two million gallons of purified water each day. This much water could help 300,000 villagers. This system is also beneficial because it runs on solar panels. These pumps will greatly benefit the health and livelihood of the villages in the area. It will help them have access to clean and healthy water which will reduce the waterborne disease deaths. It will also give them a way to irrigate their crops and water their livestock, decreasing the starvation of the people. The drought conditions in Thar desert are fatal to the people living in the local villages, but with the financial support and installation of the water pumps, people will be able to get back on their feet and start living a fruitful life in the desert.
Ghosts of the Thar Desert: On the Climate Change Frontline in Pakistan. (n.d.). Financial Times. www.ft.com/content/78bb819e-a822-11e9-b6ee-3cdf3174eb89.
Jillani, S. (2015, March 31). Ray of Light in Pakistan’s Drought-hit Thar Desert. BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31851835.
On August 18th, 2020, the small, beautiful town of Aspen, Colorado was elevated from severe drought conditions to extreme drought conditions. The city entered into stage 2 water restrictions that included no washing of sidewalks, patios, tennis courts or any paved areas, no refilling of swimming pools, no non-commercial washing of private vehicles, and many more.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, which started in 2000, has recorded some of the most intense drought periods the country has experienced in recent times (since 2000). The drought system is measured in terms of categories ranging from D0 to D4, with D4 being the most extreme. The most intense score Aspen has received was recorded as a D4 during the week of August 18th, 2020 and has extended until March 2020.
A drought in this area has severe consequences, as the city and state are landlocked. The main water supply for Aspen is from local streams. However, these have been running at 40-70% of median flows currently. Without this water supply, homes will not have accessible drinking water, and neither will livestock or agriculture.
While many associate precipitation with rain, it is important to remember snow. Aspen is a ski town and relies on their snowy winter slopes for tourism, a main source of revenue for this city. It has been noted in the Aspen Times that the snowfall recorded during December of 2020 was only 14 inches, a significant decline from their average 21.8 inches. Dry slope conditions reduce the number of tourists and/or regulars that visit the beautiful ski resorts. A resort, Aspen Highlands, was reported to have been forced to open later after the season to make up for their lost business because of dry conditions. Ski seasons are becoming shorter due to the lack of precipitation. This demonstrates that drought does not only affect water supply but major economies in this region.
Currently, the present-day drought is not expected to worsen or better within the next thirty days. Eventually the drought will ease, however, with the coming El Nino, the west will become drier and will potentially affect this community once more. As temperatures across the globe spike, the amount of snowfall will decline and will also melt at faster rates affecting the ski season here.
A study published by the city of Aspen showed the total precipitation rate has decreased by 6 percent and the amount falling as snow decreased 16 percent. In the future, Aspen’s annual precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow. The city also expects there to be no skiable snow in Aspen by 2100 under the highest emissions scenarios. Mid-summer droughts will become more frequent and normal resulting in agricultural loss for the community.
Solutions for this drought in Aspen can first be linked to surrounding reservoirs and making sure that there is enough emergency water supply for an extended period of time. However, most of these reservoirs would run out in a matter of days because of everyday water usage by the residents around them. There also needs to be additional policies set up around water trading opportunities due to the position of the city. It is landlocked, so having a relationship and trading agreement with coastal states would help. Corporations, not only local to Aspen but nationwide, should reevaluate their water management policies and create more widespread awareness of the value of water.
Water is something everyone knows we need, however it’s extremely easy to take it for granted and to not realize its true value until it turns into a luxury.
Aspen Global Change Institute, Center of the American West, Rural Planning Institute, Stratus Consulting, Inc, & Wildlife & Wetland Solutions, LLC. (2006). CLIMATE CHANGE AND ASPEN: AN ASSESSMENT OF IMPACTS AND POTENTIAL RESPONSES. Aspen Global Change Institute. https://www.cityofaspen.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/330
Conditions for Aspen, CO (Pitkin County). (n.d.). Drought.gov. https://www.drought.gov/location/Aspen%2C%20Colorado
Condon, S. (2020, December 4). Ongoing drought starts to take toll on Aspen area. The Aspen Times. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/ongoing-drought-starts-to-take-toll-on-aspen-area/
Doyle, M., & Harrison, C. (2014, December 10). Innovating for a Sustainable and Resilient Water Future: A Report from the 2014 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum. Aspen Institute. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/innovating-sustainable-resilient-water-future-report-2014-aspen-nicholas-water-forum/
Drought Watch and Water Conservation. (n.d.). City of Aspen. https://www.cityofaspen.com/1157/Drought-Watch-2021
Sackariason, C. (2020, August 26). Aspen, Pitkin County in ‘extreme drought’. The Aspen Times. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/local/aspen-pitkin-county-in-extreme-drought/
Sackett, H. (2021, February 25). Report: Estimates of future Upper Colorado River Basin water use confound previous planning. The Aspen Times. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/report-estimates-of-future-upper-colorado-river-basin-water-use-confound-previous-planning/
Stein, A. (2021, February 12). With Climate Change, Colorado Ski Seasons Are Getting Shorter. Westword. https://www.westword.com/news/with-climate-change-colorado-ski-seasons-are-getting-shorter-11891646
Drought: Village of Rezeshk, Afghanistan
Hannah Richardson, General Arts and Sciences, Penn State Behrend
Just outside of Herat, Afghanistan, is a small village whose entire culture and way of life relies completely on its agriculture. After four years of drought, the villagers of Rezeshk have been forced to seek refuge in the much more affluent neighboring city of Herat. In trying to survive, residents of Rezeshk have sold their livestock, suffered—and continue to suffer—from malnutrition, and have seen their village fall into near economic ruin, with many in severe debt to neighbors. In an area that is already high with tensions, with regard to the Taliban, the added stress from food scarcity and displacement from the continued drought illuminates that climate change is intertwined with human rights.
Rezeshk has been hit so hard during this drought because of its reliance on agriculture. Crops have died. Animals are ill and underfed, making things like milk production damn near impossible to sustain. With the fields gone dry, the price of seed and animal feed has gone up as well, another added burden to the villagers. The drought is only expected to worsen. In response, many have turned to neighbors, family, or friends, to get some type of loan. This money usually goes toward moving to refugee camps and medical aid in their clinics.
In an attempt to provide some kind of relief, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has sent drought-resistant seeds in addition to volunteers to help plan and work the land to get the best yield, and monetary assistance, of course. Taking similar steps is the United Nations World Food Programme, providing $34.6m in relief.
The future looks uncertain, however. Many who are displaced from the severe drought, especially those from Rezeshk, will not be able to return to their homes—there is nothing left to go back to, and what little money they had has been spent getting to shelter—it is simply too costly. Another looming threat is that when the rains do come, they will cause severe mudslides, because what vegetation and topsoil were there pre-drought has been removed. It seems incredibly unfair that a community that barely contributes to the global climate crisis is suffering the most because of it.
Afghan Drought ‘Displacing More People than Taliban Conflict’. (2018, October 17 2018). BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45872897.
Communities Affected by Drought in Afghanistan Are Struggling with Hunger – Afghanistan. (2019, March 27). ReliefWeb. https://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/communities-affected-drought-afghanistan-are-struggling-hunger.
Ratcliffe, R. (2019, March 25). ‘The Country Could Fall Apart’: Drought and Despair in Afghanistan. The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/mar/25/country-could-fall-apart-drought-despair-afghanistan.
Drought in El Rosario, Honduras
El Rosario, Honduras is a rural farming village that has been drastically impacted by drought in recent years. This drought is considered a direct consequence of climate change, as recent anomalies in weather patterns have prevented the annual August rain that this community’s crops rely on. Their main crops, corn and beans, have depleted and have not produced due to this drought—leaving many of the people there who depend on this food panicked. The recent rise in temperature and lack of water is exacerbated by deforestation, as the pine trees that once surrounded the village and provided much needed shade fell victim to logging and an infestation of bark-eating beetles.
This community is especially vulnerable due to its location and relatively homogenous means of production. Many of the urban centers in Honduras are controlled by gangs or corrupt government authorities, making it an unsafe option to search for work in. Leaving Honduras to work in other countries also adds a level of uncertainty and risk, resulting in hesitation among those in El Rosario who would even be able to afford to migrate. As the village’s land is currently cultivated for specific crops, replacing those or cultivating new land for crops that are better suited for the recent droughts could be too expensive an undertaking for the farmers there. The output from the crops is the main source of food and income for this community, making El Rosario very vulnerable if this trend of crop failure continues.
The most prominent forecasted impact on this community is continued crop failure. If conditions remain as they were in 2019 when drought decimated this community’s crop supply, it is unlikely that the village will be able to recover. Many of the people in the village will be out of work, as they will no longer be able to produce the crops that provide for them.
There are solutions to this problem, but they require significant assistance from government entities or other large groups. A solution to this problem would be for the Honduran government or another group to provide financial aid to El Rosario, allowing them to purchase and plant trees in the surrounding areas, as well as crops that are better suited for arid climates. The planting of trees will hopefully offset some of the impact that rising temperatures are having, but what these people need most is rain. If this rain does not come, migration is inevitable. These people will likely need assistance to migrate to a place that is safe, which can be a tall order for the Honduran government and external organizations that support climate migrants.
Gistin, G. (2019, June 8). Ravaged by Drought, a Honduran Village Faces a Choice: Pray for Rain or Migrate. Inside Climate News. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08072019/climate-change-migration-honduras-drought-crop-failure-farming-deforestation-guatemala-trump/
Drought in Chiquimula, Guatemala
Caitlin Ruiz Jimenez, Labor and Employment Relations, College of Liberal Arts
In the town of Chiquimula, Guatemala, residents have only recently seen relief from an El Niño-related drought that lasted over four years—the worst canícula the country has experienced in 40 years. This drought drastically affected the food security of residents and bankrupted small farmers. Thousands of Guatemalans were forced to migrate and seek asylum in other countries, though the outdated 1951 Refugee Convention (also known as the Geneva Convention) prevented them from successfully seeking asylum. Although the negative effects of climate change are being studied and experienced worldwide, international law has not yet been updated sufficiently enough to aid those adversely affected by it.
Chiquimula is part of the Central American Dry Corridor, making it especially vulnerable to droughts. This area experiences drastically variable rainfall, thereby causing growing seasons to be unpredictable. Climate change has caused decreased rainfall in this once lush area, and continually hotter annual temperatures compound the suffering of Chiquimula residents. Chiquimula’s inhabitants are no strangers to hunger, since these droughts create impossible conditions for subsistence farmers to grow in. Children and adults alike suffer from malnutrition and a total lack of food security; in fact, Guatemala has one of the highest rates of malnourished children in the world. Families are often forced to eat only once a day, or even every other day. Many residents of Chiquimula survive on corn tortillas and meal replacement drinks provided via government programs. Jobs are also becoming increasingly more scarce as farmers struggle to make ends meet and can no longer afford to pay workers.
In the future, the effects of global warming and climate change will only increase suffering in Guatemala, particularly in Chiquimula. Droughts are expected to increase both in frequency and severity, and inhabitants of the Dry Corridor will not survive without both local government and international assistance. Education must be provided to farmers regarding climate forecasts and how to plan ahead for planting and harvesting crops based on forecasts. International aid will be needed to combat malnutrition, provide medical care, and bring financial assistance to vulnerable communities.
Abbott, J. (2019, May 13). ‘No other option’: Climate change driving many to flee Guatemala. Climate News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2019/5/13/no-other-option-climate-change-dri ving-many-to-flee-guatemala
Broadbent, C. (2020, July 7). CLIMATE INEQUALITY: MISSING RAINFALL. Planet Earth Games. https://www.planetearthgames.org/archive/climate-inequality-missing-rainfall/
Lakhani, N. (2020, October 15). “People are dying”: how the climate crisis has sparked an exodus to the US. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jul/29/guatemala-climate crisis-migration-drought-famine
Rose, A. (2019). Combating drought in the Dry Corridor of Guatemala. CCAFS: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. https://ccafs.cgiar.org/news/combating-drought-dry-corridor-guatemala
Steffens, G. (2021, February 10). Changing climate forces desperate Guatemalans to migrate. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/drought-climate-change -force-guatemalans-migrate-to-us
Ethan Ruschman, Political Science BS, College of Liberal Arts
Tessaoua is currently facing a crisis. Located on the southern end of the African country Niger, it faces a wall of sand called the Sahara Desert. And that desert is growing. Since 1920, the Sahara Desert has grown by about 10 percent. This expansion is mostly southward into already impoverished communities that rely on local farming to survive. This growth is causing a food shortage not just in Tessaoua, but in all of middle Africa. This community in particular is especially threatened for a few reasons. The first is just how close to the Sahara Desert they currently are. The vast majority of Niger is composed of a portion of the Sahara with only a tiny sliver being arable, with Tessaoua on that tiny sliver. Additionally, Niger is one of the poor countries in the region, which means that Tessaoua is unlikely to receive any federal support. If someone doesn’t do something, Tessaoua and countless other communities will be swallowed up by the ever-encroaching desert. All of the citizens that currently live in Tessaoua have a choice: starve or leave. But how do you stop the third largest desert in the world? There is a project called the Great Green Wall. This plan is a joint project of eleven countries in the Sahel-Sahara region. Their plan is to create a wall of greenery 15 kilometers wide and 7,775 kilometers long along the southern border of the Sahara. With this buffer zone of greenery, it will be much harder for the Sahara to erode the land enough to continue growing further south. In addition to the actual wall, there is a lot of work being put into regenerating the land so that it can grow crops better than ever before. Lastly, there is talk about having the southern border of the wall (the side that people can access) consist of food giving trees that can be harvested for more food. This project has a budget of two billion dollars and is already underway. This will be one of the largest projects humanity has ever attempted and its success will determine the lives of the millions that live in that area and the billions that will in the coming decades.
Means, T. (2021, April 23). What Is Desertification, and Where Is It Happening? Treehugger. https://www.treehugger.com/what-is-desertification-5115926
Schleeter, R. (2013, November 4). The Great Green Wall. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/great-green-wall/
Weisberger, M. (2018, March 29). The Sahara Desert Is Growing. Here’s What That Means. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/62168-sahara-desert-expanding.html
The Impact of Drought on Chester, Utah
Katriel Simpson, Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
The West has been facing serious drought for over a decade. However, since 2018, drought conditions have been increasing at an alarming rate. One community in particular has been struck severely by these conditions: Chester, Utah, located in Sanpete County. In July of 2018, land in the area had become extremely infertile and irrigation ponds had turned to dust. Many native farmers have started to strip away all of their crops, trying to make any profit they can, including a big farming family: The Sunderland’s. This community is exceedingly vulnerable because most local farming businesses are failing and scraping together anything they can in order to make a living due to a paucity of water in the smaller reservoirs that provide the irrigation water for the season. This is directly linked to the decreased amount of snowfall received in the past winter. There are still the larger reservoirs that contain a decent amount of water; however, the local farmers only have access to a minimal amount of it, maybe enough to irrigate about 25 percent of their land (Penrod, 2018). These farms provide the locals with produce and other materials, and depending on the size of the farm, also distribute to other parts of the country. So, due to the severity of drought, a decrease in farming around the area can lead to a shortage of produce, a decline in the town’s infrastructure and a possible major recession in the local area. The Agriculture Sustainability Task Force has realized the severity of this issue and has come out with possible solutions for handling the drought. These include: preserving farmland, supporting local farming businesses as well as the livestock industry for grazing purposes and grassland maintenance, promoting agricultural conservation, improving distribution capacity, and developing a new system for the irrigation infrastructure and a system for residential needs (Agriculture Sustainability Task Force, 2012). With this, there is hope to restore the local farming society in Chester, Utah before it becomes too late.
Agriculture Sustainability Task Force. (2012). Agriculture Sustainability in Utah. PDF.
Penrod, E. (2018, August 13). Drought Forces Hard Choices for Farmers and Ranchers in the Southwest. The New Humanitarian. www.deeply.thenewhumanitarian.org/water/articles/2018/08/13/drought-forces-hard-choices-for-farmers-and-ranchers-in-the-southwest.
Angel C. Sowatskey
Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we were quarantined, I decided to bury my head in the sand by bingeing a show whose title before then had seemed too frivolous for me to ever consider, “90 Day Fiancé”. It enlightened me to the rest of the world in a way I never expected, and because I saw how other people lived, I no longer felt sorry for myself just because I had to take an extra day off work and go out of my way for toilet paper. I watched in amazement as people who had access to technology such as smartphones and the internet still slept in the dirt with rats and struggled to find clean water. This in part is what motivated me to go back to school to see what I could do about water shortages, if only to educate myself and others. Currently one such place with access to the best technology in the world is Taiwan, and they are facing the worst drought they have seen in 50 years, despite being a place known for having some of the most rainfall on the planet. Of the areas most impacted, and perhaps home to the most controversial water dispute in all of Taiwan is the city of Hsinchu.
Hsinchu has the highest income level in Taiwan, but the drought has made the disparity in wealth blatantly obvious. Hsinchu Science Park is basically the Silicon Valley of Taiwan, the park is home to over 400 tech companies, several prestigious universities and even their National Space Organization. The local farmers of Hsinchu argue that cutting off water supply to their irrigation systems is being loosely justified by stating that the importance of the local agriculture is less than that of the software businesses. One of the companies responsible is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which provides the world’s top innovators with chips, meanwhile they and the rest of the Science Park use the majority of the water from local reservoirs. In 2019, they used over 60 million tons of water, though they have since implemented recycling measures to reduce use going forward. The overall value and contribution of these opposing professions is being taken into question, which is something many of us have had to do since the pandemic, but there may also be pressure for Hsinchu to do whatever it takes to continue to supply the necessary competitive technology if they want to present themselves as valuable enough to ward off a possible Chinese invasion.
Currently, water is being rationed as a desperate attempt to preserve what is left, pressure has been reduced and supply is completely cut two days out of the week. A typhoon or three would have been welcomed during Hsinchu’s rainy season, but not even one made landfall, which is something that has not occurred in over half a century. While simultaneously restricting water to the agricultural industry the TSMC has taken to stockpiling water, having truckloads brought in, and even setting up a pipeline to siphon in water from the northern part of the country. Hsinchu seems to be covering all of its bases and then some as they’ve begun the typical route of drilling for new wells, but they are also home to a desalination plant which is intelligent and necessary for inevitable future water shortages. One of the atypical solutions has been for the local government to have their air force fire chemicals into the atmosphere to manipulate weather patterns and cloud seeding, which is too expensive to continue. Finally, where all else fails, the people of Hsinchu have turned to their temple to offer prayers and blessings meant to invoke the sea goddess to bring them rain while they wait patiently to see if this drought is in fact once in a lifetime or a sign of the new norm.
Wang, A. (2021, March 18). Sea goddess, air force C-130s called upon to fight Taiwan drought. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-water-day-taiwan-drought/sea-goddess-air-force-c-130s called-upon-to-fight-taiwan-drought-idUSKBN2BB082
Hioe, B. (2021, March 14). Effects of drought on semiconductor industry raise questions about resource distribution in society. New Bloom. https://newbloommag.net/2021/03/14/drought semiconductor-effect/
Chien, A., Chang, & Zhong, R. (2021, April 8). Drought in Taiwan pits chip makers against farmers. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/technology/taiwan-drought-tsmc semiconductors.html
Ian Brehm, Business, Penn State World Campus
The town of Storm Lake, population 10,558, is the county seat of Buena Vista in northwestern Iowa. Storm Lake is surrounded by agricultural lands; 96 percent of Buena Vista County is active farmland (National Agricultural Statistics Service [NASS], 2017). Eighty-eight percent of that land is dedicated to only two crops: corn (48 percent) and soybeans (40 percent). Buena Vista is also ranked seventh in the state for livestock and poultry production, another important Iowa product.
The threat to Storm Lake, as with all of Buena Vista County, is drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor map, published weekly by a consortium of government and research institutions, shows drought severity on a six-point scale: no drought, abnormally dry (D0), moderate drought (D1), severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3), and exceptional drought (D4) (Fuchs, 2021). According to the most recent data, Buena Vista County is experiencing severe drought.
Climate change has meant that although Iowa is getting more rain annually, the rain comes in heavy spring storms, leading to more frequent flooding, and the summer droughts are more severe due to both higher evaporation (due to global warming) and lower rainfall. Extremes in precipitation and temperature, not averages, have a greater effect on crops and livestock (National Service Center for Environmental Publications, 2016).
However, the frequency of droughts – an exposure indicator – is only one factor determining vulnerability to drought. When exposure data is combined with data on sensitivity (characteristics that influence the impacts of drought) and adaptive capacity (characteristics that influence the ability to adjust to and rebound from drought) Iowa ranks in the top three most vulnerable states, along with Montana and Oklahoma (Engström et al., 2020). Iowa shows vulnerability in seven of eleven categories, especially agriculture and irrigation. A high percentage of agriculture land heightens drought sensitivity; 88 percent of land in Buena Vista County is dedicated to agriculture, 93 percent statewide (NASS, 2017; Crop and Land Use, 2015). A lack of irrigation infrastructure hampers drought adaptability; only two percent of farmland in Iowa is prepared for irrigation, and in Buena Vista County, the number is so low it has been withheld to protect privacy (Land in Farms…, 2017; NASS, 2017). These two indicators, combined with the lack of renewable water resources, suggest that Iowa and Storm Lake, especially, are extremely sensitive to drought.
Severe drought has historically impacted Storm Lake and surrounding areas in several ways: it stresses even drought-tolerant corn varieties; it causes soybean plants to abort (drop) their pods; it causes extremely low crop yields; it stresses animals; it leads to low pond and surface-water levels; causes grasses to dry and brown; and it greatly magnifies the risk for fires. Together, the impacts of this drought are the most severe for Storm Lake since 1999 (Cullen, 2021). Furthermore, the duration and severity of droughts are expected to increase.
As a short-term solution to the drought, Storm Lake officials are planning to impose mandatory measures to conserve water and protect the town’s water infrastructure. This would be the earliest the town has enacted such protections for over 10 years. Neighboring towns are considering additional measures such as prohibiting fireworks to reduce fire risk (Konz, 2021).
True long-term solutions require building resilience to withstand what is inevitable and fighting what can be fought. To build resiliency, Storm Lake must consider the vulnerabilities identified by Engström et al. Building irrigation infrastructure into farm requirements could help alleviate harms to crops. This requires water, and officials are considering drilling more wells to supplement the town’s current aquifer and alluvial well supplies, but there is question as to the effectiveness of this strategy (Cullen, 2021). Planting drought-resistant crops offers an additional adaptation strategy. To reduce the effects of climate change, Storm Lake must both support state and federal efforts aimed at battling climate change and encourage residents to adopt climate conscious choices in their daily lives, including in agriculture.
Crop and Land Use: Statewide Data. (2015). Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. www.extension.iastate.edu/soils/crop-and-land-use-statewide-data
Cullen, T. (2021, June 11). Drought gets real as wells run dry. The Storm Lake Times. www.stormlake.com/articles/drought-gets-real-as-wells-run-dry/
Engström, J., Jafarzadegan, K., & Moradkhani, H. (2020). Drought Vulnerability in the United States: An Integrated Assessment. Water, 12(7), 2033. doi.org/10.3390/w12072033
Fuchs, B. (2021, June 8). Iowa. U.S. Drought Monitor. droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/ StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?IA
Konz, N. (2021, June 11). Lake City Council discusses possibility of prohibiting fireworks around holiday due to dry conditions. CBC. www.1380kcim.com/2021/06/11/lake-city council-discusses-possibility-of-prohibiting-fireworks-around-holiday-due-to-dry conditions/
Land in Farms, Harvested Cropland, and Irrigated Land by Size of Farm: 2017 and 2012. (2017). National Agricultural Statistics Service Census of Agriculture. www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_1_State_Level/Iowa/st19 _1_0009_0010.pdf
National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2017). Buena Vista County, Iowa. www.nass.usda.gov/ Publications/AgCensus/2017/Online_Resources/County_Profiles/Iowa/cp19021.pdf
National Service Center for Environmental Publications. (2016, August). What climate change means for Iowa. United States Environmental Protection Agency. nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ ZyPDF.cgi/P100QV94.PDF?Dockey=P100QV94.PDF
Effects of Drought on Ledoux Village, New Mexico
Chris Annear, Industrial Engineering, Penn State Behrend
For this assignment, I will be examining the effects of climate-change-related droughts on Ledoux New Mexico, an agricultural community of around fourteen hundred people that relies heavily on seasonal snowmelt and precipitation for irrigation.
For over 400 years, this community has relied on rain and snowmelt to provide running water for their irrigation canals. Since this community’s economy mostly relies on farming, a few years of mass crop failure would be devastating. In the 20th century, this community grew significantly, and their farms have become an essential pillar of the community, providing locally grown native plants used in a variety of traditional recipes important to the culture. Already, 77 percent of New Mexico is experiencing extreme drought. This dire lack of precipitation has resulted in crop yields dropping by 80-95 percent and the growing season dropping from April to October to just April to July (Romero, 2021).
With the southwestern Region of the United States expected to become drastically drier, droughts, such as the one Ledoux is currently experiencing, are supposed to become more common and last longer in duration. The most recent droughts are some of the worst the area has experienced in the past thousand years. If the current trend of the region becoming drier continues, agriculture utilizing natural water sources may become impossible. If this is the case, small farming operations such as those common in Ledoux may no longer be cost-effective, robbing the town of an important source of food and income. Without farming, the town and local culture may lose their identity and source of jobs, causing people to move away to more fertile farmland.
Some potential solutions to combat the devastating effects of these droughts lie in innovation and sustainable irrigation methods. The first of these methods is solar powered groundwater pumps, these small-scale pumps can be deployed anywhere there is groundwater and are cost-effective for local farmers (Gadeberg, 2020). The fatal flaw of groundwater pumps is that eventually, local aquifers will run dry after repeated years of low precipitation and heavy use. A better solution is to improve the efficiency of irrigation. One of the most efficient methods is drip irrigation. What drip irrigation entails is pipes running low-pressure water directly to the plant’s roots through pipes dripping water directly above the plants. This reduces the amount of soil surface that is wet and the amount of water that is lost to evaporation (Water Science School, 2015). Another solution is planting and developing more drought resistant crops. These methods could help lessen the devastating droughts, but the best solution to these farmers most likely is relocation to a less arid region.
Gadeberg, M. (2020, 18 March). Solar-Powered Irrigation Could Boost Climate Resilience for Millions. Agrilinks. USAID. https://agrilinks.org/post/solar-powered-irrigation-could-boost-climate-resilience-millions.
Water Science School. (2015). Irrigation: Drip or Microirrigation. USGS. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/irrigation-drip-or-microirrigation?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects.
Romero, S. (2021, July 13). Drought Hits the Southwest, and New Mexico’s CANALS Run Dry. The New York Times.
Drought in Bradford County, PA
Andrew Bennett, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Penn State University
Bradford County, PA is a rural county in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania. Precipitation in this community has been an interesting story over the last couple of years. I will focus on the last two years to illustrate the vast swing and how it can negatively effect the community. The year 2020 saw one of the worst droughts this region has experienced (Hicks, 2020), and in 2021 they’ve had multiple flooding events from rain that would continue for days on end. Weather is not climate, but this zoomed in look gives us an idea of where things are heading in terms of intensity and frequency of major events, which is attributable to climate change.
This is an area that has a long history of agricultural development and these changes in precipitation create a threat to the future livelihood of these farms and farmers. A census from 2017 reported 1,449 farms in Bradford County. 60% of the land on these farms was used for growing crops (2017 Census…, 2017). Uncertainty in the precipitation that will occur in the months between spring and fall creates a challenge for farmers trying to plant, grow, and harvest crops. It is hard to plan when you don’t know whether to expect a drought or for your fields to get washed out.
People’s personal lives and properties have been negatively impacted by the results of the flooding that occurred this summer. There was extensive damage to roadways as well as homes that were flooded out (Dunphy & Smith, 2021). The county’s report from the July 12th flooding shows $2.5 million dollars worth of damage (O’Dell, 2021). There will hopefully be state aid to help recovery, but this does not address the root of the issue or safeguard against future occurrences.
These events may increase to a level that it influences the already decreasing population to accelerate an exodus for more fair-weather locales. The 2020 census recorded less than 60,000 residents in the county, the first time since 1970 that the population was that small.(Bradford County…, 2021; Bradford County, Pennsylvania, 2021). Unless serious attention is paid to addressing climate change, this area will continue to experience severe precipitation anomalies, and in the future these will be more wet, according to most of the models from our course (Bralower, 2021).
Taking proactive approaches to flood prevention are one way that people can reduce the impact these events will have on their personal lives. This would involve building in areas less prone to flooding, or raising existing structures. These are costly tasks that not everyone can afford to make happen. Flood insurance is an option for some people to recover from the financial and physical losses, but does not prevent damage and is not affordable to everyone. The real answers will be in addressing the climate change causes of these precipitation events. That is not likely to be supported by the residents of this community because of the financial interests many have in natural gas and mineral extraction in the area.
2017 Census of Agriculture County Profile. (2017). Bradford County Pennsylvania. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Online_Resources/ County_Profiles/Pennsylvania/cp42015.pdf
Dunphy, J. & Smith, Z. (2021, July 13). Bradford County deals with flooding, damage after Monday night storms. PA Homepage. https://www.pahomepage.com/news/local-news/bradford-county-deals-with-flooding-damage-after-monday-night-storms/
Bradford County, Pennsylvania Population 2021. (2021). World Population Report. https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-counties/pa/bradford-county-population
Bralower, T. (2021). Earth 103N Module 4 – Precipitation. Penn State Canvas. https:// psu.instructure.com/courses/2120248/modules/items/32987823
Hicks, M. (2020, November 18). Ten drought watches lifted — Bradford County not one of them. The Daily Review. https://www.thedailyreview.com/news/local/ten-drought watches-lifted-bradford-county-not-one-of-them/article_7415f5aa-4609-5646- a3dd-183e65cf948c.html#tncms-source=login
O’Dell, P. (2021, August 3). County awaiting possible state aid for July 12 floods. The Daily Review. https://www.thedailyreview.com/news/local/county-awaiting-possible state-aid-for-july-12-floods/article_221995fc-5b4a-5bd6-a790-010e1e156699.html
Bradford County, Pennsylvania. (2021, July 21). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradford_County,_Pennsylvania
Ryan Crinnigan, Digital Journalism and Media, World Campus
Mendocino is a small unincorporated community in northwestern California with a population of around 850. It is a popular tourist locale near the Pacific Ocean. Northwest California has struggled through periods of extreme drought in recent years. Despite Mendocino’s low population, its status as a tourist town drives up water demand. This demand, paired with dry conditions, leaves Mendocino vulnerable to low water access.
Drought and low water access impacts day to day living in Mendocino, as well as its hospitability as a tourist attraction. Since wells have run dry, many businesses are forcing customers to use portable toilets on the streets instead of restrooms, and some inns are even charging extra money for shower usage. Law enforcement is even monitoring fire hydrants to prevent the potential of water theft (Fuller, 2021). Shipping water from outlying areas is vastly more expensive than using local water, and as a small town reliant on tourism, this method of water access may not be sustainable. Another surprising challenge is the massive growth of marijuana farming in the region. Between regulated and illegal, there are up to 10,000 growers in the region, and marijuana is a highly water-intensive crop, making conservation efforts more challenging (Wilson, 2021). Lake Mendocino levels have fallen to extreme lows, rendering it useless as a water resource.
Mendocino, and northern California in general, seem destined to face this problem indefinitely. As we have discussed in this class, future climate projections indicate that the region will face hotter and drier conditions as overall temperatures rise and atmospheric CO2 levels increase. This year marks the second consecutive La Niña year, but projections are unclear as to whether or not drought conditions will improve in northern California as a result. The 2021 summer was California’s driest since 1895, and managers at California’s Department of Water Resources predict that the impact of drought will only worsen as it continues (Wilson, 2021).
Mendocino may struggle to resolve its water access. Local and state government have issued water usage restrictions that only provide temporary relief. Reservoirs in the area are running low, and locals are considering inventive but increasingly desperate measures to bring water to the area. Suggestions have included miles of fire hoses to the nearby town of Ukiah or airdropping water into the nearby Fort Bragg reservoir via military helicopter. Some have even suggested installing machines to convert the abundant fog in the area into potable water, as some nearby towns face their own water shortages and have stopped selling to Mendocino (Fuller, 2021). Given the drier projections for the region, relying on nearby locales will become almost impossible, as they will face their own access issues. Desalination and pipelines are options, but are incredibly expensive and face their own environmental challenges; local officials do not consider a potential desalination plant in nearby Fort Bragg as a long-term solution (Wilson, 2021). Locals are installing 5,000-gallon plastic water tanks to collect any available rainwater, and may use “gray water” as an option to water gardens.
Fuller, T. (2021, November 4). Small Towns Grow Desperate for Water in California. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/14/us/drought-california-water-shortage.html.
Wilson, S. (2021, October 22). In this California county, one town has no water. Another has enough to share. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/in-this-california-county-one-town-has-no-water another-has-enough-to-share/2021/10/21/a04df778-2b92-11ec-9e50-971e1983edc6_story.html.
Drought in Rosario, Argentina: Paraná River in Crisis
Rachel Crozier, Political Science, World Campus
Rosario, Argentina, an agricultural export city near the Paraná River, is dealing with the effects of ongoing drought. This year, the Paraná River is at a 77-year low. For the last several years, Brazil and Argentina have experienced very low rainfall. According to a New York Times article, this has caused the river to drop 10.5 feet lower than its usual level (Politi, 2021). Rosario is one of the regions under a new water advisory by the Argentinian government. A July report from Reuters noted that the government has asked people to save water in order to preserve the river on which they depend (Heath, 2021).
The Paraná River is crucial to the Rosario community. First, the river provides drinking water to this community and many others. Additionally, Rosario’s economy is built on the export of soy, corn, and wheat. With the low water level, the ability to load cargo on outgoing ships has been severely impacted. The head of Maritime and Port Activities Chamber in Rosario explained that exporters have been loading 26% less cargo to prevent the ships from becoming stuck, and the percentage will likely rise. The shipping issues and costs will have a devastating effect on Rosario’s economy. Along with the economic impact, the water shortages could impact energy supplies, as the dams are providing less and less energy to the community (Politi, 2021).
The forecast for rainfall predicts that drought will continue or worsen at least until 2022 (BBC). While experts are not sure if this is a new normal, they worry that these droughts may become more frequent (Politi, 2021). If the level of the Paraná continues to drop, the community could suffer more economic loss, as well as higher energy costs and lack of drinking water. The main cause of the water shortages in the Paraná River stem from lower rainfall in parts of Brazil, partially due to La Niña but exacerbated by deforestation, according to The Wilson Center (Cimatti & Tosi, 2021). One major component to addressing the problems of drought would be preserving and reestablishing the rainforests. Conservation methods such as restrictions on households could also be employed. The other overarching solution is for the world’s nations to work together in limiting CO2 emissions to control global warming.
Cimatti, B. V. & Tosi, N. (2021, July 30). Cloud Seeding and Water Rationing in Drought-stricken Latin America. The Wilson Center. www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/cloud-seeding-and-water-rationing-drought-stricken-latin-america.
Heath, M. (2021, July 20). Argentina Urges People to ‘save water’ with Parana River at 77-year Low. Reuters. www.reuters.com/business/environment/argentina-urges-people save-water-with-parana-river-77-year-low-2021-07-20/.
Politi, D. (4, September 2021). An Economic Lifeline in South America, the Paraná River, is Shriveling. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2021/09/04/world/americas/drought-argentina-parana-river.html.
South America’s drought-hit Paraná River at 77-year low. (2021, September 1). BBC. www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-58408791.
Drought in Santiago K, Bolivia
Marabelle DeLaurentis, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Penn State University
The small village Santiago K of Bolivia, not to be confused with the capital of Chile Santiago, is located in highlands bordering Chile. The village has a deep history dating back to the 12th century when the Incas settled there and built a shrine. Decades later, the Spanish also built a church which still sits in the village indicating a time of conquest (Walker, 2017). Today, Santiago holds physical evidence of invasion and expansion illustrating the strength of the village to overcome all. However, Santiago is threatened by a drought that may be its downfall. Santiago’s inhabitants are farmers whose primary source of income is making and selling quinoa (Walker, 2017). Quinoa growing started with the Incas in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru and has been a main product in South America for 5000 years (Quinoa History…, 2015). While it is not very water intensive to grow, quinoa does need moist soil to germinate and needs 10 inches of water during its growth period (Hayes, n.d.). In normal years, scarce rainfall in the region was enough to keep harvests high. Fortunately, in 2012, demand for quinoa shot up exponentially and famers in Santiago had to expand production to meet up with high demand. In just two years from 2012 to 2014, quinoa price doubled making business soar (Average global…, 2021). However, 2015 to 2016 was an El Nino period. This brings warm and wet weather to South America, which can cause major flooding or extreme weather events especially near the coast. Unfortunately, Santiago is a village vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events. It is just enough inland that the odd weather cycle combined with increasing global temperatures stopped any rain they got. With no rain, their crops and land dried and they could not produce anything. Their one river also dried up during this drought (Walker, 2017). This is also in comparison to Peru where their production of quinoa was at an all-time high and was aided by El Nino. This is another case of climate change hitting poor, rural areas harder than other communities. The villagers of Santiago solely rely on quinoa to survive and this event left farmers and families with a difficult choice of staying or leaving to seek better opportunities. Unfortunately, 80 percent of Santiago’s inhabitants have left the village since the drought started going from 125 families to 25 (Walker, 2017). This is a long-term impact that may be facing community: environmental migration. As more villagers migrate out to places such as urban center El Alto or even out of Bolivia to Chile for work, the village has less money, less power, and less opportunities for young people to grow remain. Researchers fear the village, and many like it, will soon disappear and lose its roots. Fortunately, there are many who still want to see Santiago survive, including its residents. One solution is tourism as three hours away from Santiago is tourist center Uyuni where many go to see some of the largest salt flats in the world. Another solution is mining as Uyuni, with similar geological features to Santiago, is home to large deposits of platinum (Walker, 2017).
Walker, B. (2017, August 25). Climate Change Is Making This Bolivian Village a Ghost Town. Inside Climate News. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25082017/climate-change-shocks-bolivia-rural-poor-migration-agriculture-quinoa/.
Average global price of quinoa 2010-2020. (2021, May 10). Statistica. https://www.statista.com/statistics/520974/average-price-of-quinoa-worldwide/
Hayes, B. (n.d.). Growing Quinoa: A Complete Guide on How to Plant, Grow, & Harvest Quinoa. Morning Chores. https://morningchores.com/growing-quinoa/
Quinoa History and Origin. (2015, March 18). Ancient Grains. https://www.ancientgrains.com/quinoa/quinoa-history-and-origin/
Images source: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25082017/climate-change-shocks-bolivia-rural-poor-migration-agriculture-quinoa/
Drought in Claremont, California
Aran Jacobs, Weather Risk Management, Penn State University
Claremont, California has long been known for its rich history of trees, especially American Elms and Eucalyptus trees. According to the city website, Claremont is home to over 23 thousand trees. Those iconic trees are officially at risk due to drought. On a local level, Claremont gets its water from three different sources including the Sierra Nevada snowmelt and Mt. Baldy. All of these sources rely on precipitation, which has been decreasing for the past 4 decades. In 2020, the city recorded precipitation almost 3 inches below average. According to NOAA, Los Angeles County, home of Claremont, experienced its 9th driest year in the past 127 in 2020. With drought conditions seemingly not improving, officials turned to cutting residential water usage by 30 percent. While some impact was seen, Professor Char Miller does not think this was enough. As professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, he cites that up to 80 percent of water usage comes from agriculture. In the meantime, local universities have taken things into their own hands. Scripps College in Claremont has removed 15,000 square feet of turf and substituted it with low water grass. In addition, they have installed low-flow plumbing, which significantly decreases water usage in appliances such as toilets and sinks. Pomona College also installed low-flow plumbing, along with aerators and waterless urinals. While these efforts do help to reduce the impacts of drought and allow for water to be spread around to more people, it does not fix the root cause. The reality is that precipitation is forecasted to continue to decrease on average in the state for decades to come. With Claremont being 100% reliant on precipitation for its water source, change is going to have to come. Drought is not only costing the residents of the city of Claremont by having to cut down water, though. With drought comes a heightened risk of fires, especially in a state already fire-prone like California. As a result, Claremont saw tens of thousands of acres burned in 2020. With drought and subsequent fires, the city of Claremont is at heightened risk due to climate change. While the community has been taking steps to alleviate the impacts, the root cause still remains, and is only on track to get worse for years to come.
Our Historic and Specimen Trees. (2022). City of Claremont. https://www.ci.claremont.ca.us/government/departments-divisions/community-services/trees/our-historic-and-specimen-trees
Afshar, K. & Swift, S. (2021, September 16). ‘Drought is the norm:’ California’s water crisis becomes perpetual. The Student Life. https://tsl.news/california-perpetual-drought/
Editor. (2020, September 2). Sept. 1 Claremont Fire: UPDATED: EVACUEES return home; aircraft helped the western edge. Plumas News. https://www.plumasnews.com/sept-1-claremont-fire-remains-59-percent-contained/
Drought in the City of Chennai, India
Natasha S. Katoch, Psychology and Life Sciences, Earth and Sustainability Minor, Penn State University
For my first entry, I am choosing to discuss the case of Chennai, a city in the South of India. As an Indian, I have often heard that Chennai’s water crisis was induced by both drought and flood. Year after year, the news would either depict Chennai as a dehydrated city fighting for every drop of water, or, as a city drowning underwater, and in both cases, unable to keep up with the sporadic rainfall pattern. In terms of the drought that has parched up the city’s four major reservoirs (Sengupta, 2014), the threats that are posed to the community include: lack of a regular and inexpensive source of water, drying up of local lakes (such as the Velachery), and depletion of the groundwater (Sengupta, 2014). Generally, these threats can be attributed to the two-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature since the 50s, and the complications of overpopulation, both of these which will only get worse with climate change.
Chennai is a densely populated city that houses people of different socioeconomic backgrounds. For those who can afford it, water is mainly available from desalination plants. The vulnerable section of the community includes those who must budget their water consumption —
ranging from skipping regular showers, drilling wells, lining up for hours to access public taps, to even collecting drip water from air-conditioners (Sengupta, 2014). Hence, it is fair to conclude that the absence of a regular water supply makes the community vulnerable.
The locals believe that one of the many forecasted impacts of the drought on the community would be the eventual abandonment of the city, that is, abandonment of childhood homes and settlements (Sengupta, 2014). This, the locals reason, would be inevitable, as no establishment can function without a regular supply of water. Furthermore, as the lakebeds are shrinking (as in the case of lake Velachery), those in the community who are dependent on the lakebeds for farming and cropping will have to find other resources (Sengupta, 2014).
Solutions to the threats include, for starters, a better rainwater harvesting system. Given the erratic precipitation, Chennai should invest in better rainwater harvesting in all possible areas. Buildings and landscapes should be constructed with rainwater harvesting in mind. Next, regulating and preserving natural resources such as groundwater from bore wells should be encouraged at municipal level.
Sengupta, S. (2019, July 11). Life in a city without water: Anxious, exhausting and sweaty. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/11/world/asia/india-water-crisis.html.
Drought in Harper County, Oklahoma
Jenny MacDougall-Jeffery, Digital Multimedia Design, World Campus
I live in Utah and concern for drought in our future seems to be on everyone’s mind, so I originally intended to discuss the impact of climate change and the effects of drought on a community here in Utah. But after doing some research, I found that my focus is better served on Harper County, Oklahoma. Harper County consists of seven towns and a total population of 5,594, it is also considered high risk and the most vulnerable to drought (Harper County…, n.d.). Drought is a slow accumulating natural disaster; it can cause significant damage, loss and irreparable damage to a region if proper measures aren’t taken. In the case of Harper County, it is most at risk due to extensive agricultural activities, cattle ranching, and, most critically, an outdated drought plan coupled with limited irrigation (Oklahoma, n.d.). It should be noted that the Great Plains, which includes the state of Oklahoma, has experienced severe drought in the past, in the 1950s and the 1980s. However, in modern times, drought appears to have a steady effect on community members of Harper County. In fact, August 2021 was the driest August over the past 127 years, and climate change will only worsen this (Harper County…, n.d.).
One of the major areas of impact forecasted for Harper County is lack of agricultural water resources. Agribusiness relies on precipitation and soil retention of that moisture, and with a good irrigation system or aquifer groundwater, drought may be less of a concern. However, aquifers can still be at risk, for example the Ogallala in the Panhandle (West of Harper County) has declined 20 feet to date (Khand et al., 2018). But for Harper County, they rely on surface water for irrigation. During a drought, water availability is scarce and depletes quickly, causing serious concerns for the sustainability of agriculture in Harper County. Cattle will have limited water sources and feed, grasses will become dormant and hay will be nonexistent. Unfortunately, the solution for Harper County does not exactly have an easy answer. One solution could be to proactively invest in irrigation and search for additional groundwater or wells, but that is costly and not guaranteed. Another solution could be drip irrigation, so not a drop is wasted of new incoming water, but this of course would depend on reliable levels of surface water or groundwater.
Oklahoma. (n.d.).U.S. Drought Monitor. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?OK.
Harper County CONDITIONS. (n.d.).Drought.gov. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://www.drought.gov/states/oklahoma/county/harper.
Khand, K., Taghvaeian, S., & Ajaz, A. (2018, February 1). Drought and its impact on agricultural water resources in Oklahoma. Oklahoma State University. https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/drought-and-its-impact-on-agricultural-water-resources-in-oklahoma.html.
Drought and the Napa Valley Wine Industry
David Marcial, Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Penn State University
Wine production is an inherently precise process in which slight alterations in grape quality can noticeably affect the taste of the subsequent wine produced (Asimov, 2019). Therefore, increased climate variability, often in the form of excessive heat and drought, has caused and will continue to cause modifications in the wine industry, particularly that of California’s Napa Valley.
The effect of the current prolonged drought on the Napa Valley vineyards is multi layered. Grapevines have run dry by overexposure to the sun, abnormally high temperatures, and a lack of water, both in the soil and in irrigation reservoirs. Additionally, the dry conditions have favored wildfire development, which has directly scorched vineyards in regions once thought to be safe. Even more concerning is the fact that smoke can enter the skin of grapes, meaning that distant wildfires have impacted the quality of unsuspecting vineyards. Some farmers have become so desperate that they now coat grapevines with sunscreen during heat waves and import trucks of treated wastewater as a substitute for natural irrigation (Flavelle, 2021). Additionally, these heat and drought events are only expected to increase with climate change.
The economics of the wine industry are just as delicate as the production of the wine itself. For example, in 2019, vineyards in the Napa Valley made over $800 million in revenue from red grapes, while in 2020, a year marked by especially bad drought and wildfire conditions, revenue plummeted to less than $400 million. To make matters worse, insurance companies have begun pulling out of the Napa Valley. Those companies that remain have inflated insurance costs (Flavelle, 2021), realizing the high probability for more drought-related damage to the wine industry in the future.
Many solutions exist to keep the wine industry alive, but each comes with its own risk and potential advantages and disadvantages. For one, the geographic range of wine production has expanded poleward with a warming climate, and wine is being grown in places once thought unimaginable, such as England, northern Germany, and Patagonia. Such a poleward expansion, however, does not help farmers whose lives are rooted in the Napa Valley. Another thought is to re-orient crops to enhance shading during the brightest part of the day (Asimov, 2019). Other solutions include genetic modifications to create more heat and drought resistant grapes (University of Reading, n.d.) and experimentation with new grape varieties. In Napa, for instance, some farmers have realized that a replacement may be needed for cabernet sauvignon, one of the most famous wines of the region (Asimov, 2019). If done successfully, profits from new types of grape can continue well into the future. The risk, though, is that new varieties will taste too different from the original cabernet, drawing unwanted attention from a highly-critical consumer base and staining the Napa Valley’s rich history and reputation.
Asimov, E. (2019, October 14). How climate change impacts wine. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/14/dining/drinks/climate-change wine.html
Flavelle, C. (2021, July 18). Scorched, parched, and now uninsurable: Climate change hits wine country. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/18/climate/napa-wine heat-hot-weather.html
University of Reading. (n.d.) Wine production: How to adapt to climate change. Future Learn. https://www.futurelearn.com/info/courses/climate-smart-agriculture/0/steps/26595
Joseph McManus, Political Science, Penn State University
The city of Las Vegas is a marvel of engineering. It sits in the scorching Mojave desert and is fed by Lake Mead, which is filled by the Colorado River. Drought is a very real threat to the community. Vegas experienced a record 240 days without rainfall last year, which was only broken up by a paltry 0.04 inches of rain (Ford, 2020). This summer, the water level in Lake Mead fell to the lowest on record, an ominous sign for the future.
Climate change will make droughts in Las Vegas longer and more severe. It shares an ever shrinking water supply with other communities across seven states, in an agreement governed by the Colorado River Compact (Colorado River…, 2021). Due to recent low water levels in Lake Mead, Las Vegas only received 279,000 acre feet of water last year instead of their usual amount of 300,000 acre feet.
Compounding the matter, Las Vegas is also a rapidly growing community. It was the second fastest growing city in the entire United States in 2020 (News 3 Staff, 2020), and is expected to reach a population of 3.4 million by 2060, nearly a 42% increase from current levels (Study Las…, 2021). The Colorado River compact, ratified in 1944, apportioned water rights by population, so Las Vegas suffers in comparison to its neighbors in terms of the volume of water provisioned to it (Milman, 2021). This will necessitate a vigilant focus on water conservation.
One major impact of drought is its effect on the power generating capacity of the Hoover Dam. As water levels in Lake Mead decrease, so does the dam’s energy capacity, by about six megawatts per foot of water (Canon, 2021). Las Vegas demands an enormous energy budget due to its entertainment industry, and this should make rates more expensive in the future. Many other changes in the community will take the form of extreme conservation methods.
The most high-profile change involves a law to ban “useless grass,” defined as the purely decorative grass found in medians and business parks (Drought and…, n.d.; Pitzer, 2021). The city also incentivized homeowners to remove lawns and replace them with more desert-appropriate landscaping, paying $3 per square foot replaced. Strict fines are being levied for water waste, and enforcement must be rigorous. But perhaps more significantly, cultural changes are necessary. Those who are resistant to regulations for water must be convinced or coerced to follow them faithfully. The effects of climate change becoming more visible throughout the 21st century may provide a stimulus for these holdouts to act in a more community-conscious manner.
Ford, A. (2020, December 17). Las Vegas ends record dry streak at 240 days. Las Vegas Review Journal.
Colorado River Compact Agreement. (2021, August 26). Las Vegas Nevada.gov. https://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/News/Blog/Detail/colorado-river-compact-agreement
News 3 Staff. (2020, December 22). Las Vegas ranked 2nd fastest growing city in 2020, study says. News 3. https://news3lv.com/news/local/las-vegas-ranked-2nd-fastest-growing-city-in-2020
Study: Las Vegas area to reach 3.4 million residents by 2060. (2021, July 22). AP News.
Milman, O. (2021, July 9). ‘We live in a desert. We have to act like it’: Las Vegas faces reality of drought. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/09/las-vegas-climate-change-drought-water-conservation
Canon, G. (2021, June 10). Lake Mead: largest US reservoir falls to historic low amid devastating drought. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/10/lake-mead-reservoir-drought-low
Drought and conservation measures. (n.d.). Las Vegas Valley Water District.
Pitzer, G. (2021, June 25). AS CLIMATE CHANGE TURNS UP THE HEAT IN LAS VEGAS, WATER MANAGERS TRY TO WRING NEW SAVINGS TO STRETCH SUPPLY. Western Education Foundation. https://www.watereducation.org/western-water/climate-change-turns-heat-las-vegas-water managers-try-wring-new-savings-stretch
Lake Mead Water Shortage. (2022, March 23). Las Vegas Nevada.gov
Morton, M. C. (2021, May 28). Is Green Las Vegas Gone Forever? Eos.
Master Plan (n.d.). Las Vegas Nevada.gov. https://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/Business/Planning-Zoning/Master-Plan
Cape Town, South Africa – Drought
Michael Taradash, Supply Chain and Information Systems, Penn State University
Cape Town is the beautiful capital of South Africa and is home to almost 5 million people. However, looking beyond the picturesque landscape of South Africa’s capital, we can see a city struggling with drought and all of its effects. Cape Town is situated in a region that is vulnerable to drought and heat waves (The Conversation, 2020). Cape Town is at risk of increasing temperatures, rainfall changes, and heat waves as global warming continues. Back in 2018, Cape Town faced a water shortage due to a 3 year rainfall deficit brought on by climate change and the El Niño weather pattern. El Niño causes below average rainfall, increased temperatures, and dryer air in South Africa as a result of higher sea temperatures. (Grobler, 2018). This dryer climate has devastating effects on the population of South Africa as well as the ecosystem. The threat to Cape Town is increased likelihood of future droughts as a result of global warming. Cape Town is vulnerable because they already have had droughts and will have more in the future. The El Niño event is becoming much more likely due to the increased amount of heat in the ocean from global warming. Stronger and more frequent El Niños will have a devastating effect on Cape Town as they will become victim to more and more drought. The forecasted impacts on the community include decreased biodiversity. The likelihood of droughts similar to the Day Zero water crisis from 2018 are projected to increase up to 80% by 2100 (Odoulami et al., 2020). This will have devastating effects on the community and could potentially make Cape Town the first dry city if proper measures aren’t taken. There are solutions being proposed to create water supply such as more hand pumps, water conservation efforts, recycling rainwater, and even creating desalination plants, but these are only short-term solutions. The real issue is global warming and El Nino’s effects on Cape Town. If nothing is done to reduce carbon emissions worldwide, Cape Town will experience terrible drought in the future.
Grobler, R. (2018, November 16). El Nino to Bring Less Rain and More Heat for SA: 5 Things You Need to Know. News24. https://www.news24.com/news24/green/news/el-nino-to-bring-less-rain-and-more-heat-for-sa-5-things-you-need-to-know-20181116.
The Conversation. (2020, November 11). How Cape Town’s Climate Strategy Falls Short. US News. https://www.usnews.com/news/cities/articles/2020-11-11/how-cape-towns-climate-strategy-falls-
Odoulami, R. C., Trisos, C., & New, M. (2020, December 8). Dimming the Sun Could Reduce
Future Drought Risk in Cape Town – but There’s a Catch. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/dimming-the-sun-could-reduce-future-drought-risk-in-cape-town-bu
Drought: Climate Change in Mendocino, California
Sierra Chromiak, Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State Lehigh Valley
California faces severe drought events, specifically in the community of Mendocino, California. Mendocino’s warm climate and lack of rainfall predispose it to drought, and with the increasing temperatures, drought is becoming more severe in this area. In the years of 2020-2021, California has seen the driest months of the century (Karlamangla, 2021). Mendocino is feeling the effects, to the point that water is becoming unaffordable.
Water in Mendocino has become increasingly scarce over the past two years. The community is being affected by this drought in a variety of ways. For example, some local restaurants have had to close their bathrooms to the public due to lack of water supply. Hotels have to pay extreme prices for the water their guests use, as a five-minute shower costs the hotel owners five dollars, which is adding strain to the hotel business. Fire companies have even had to protect their fire hydrants from water thefts (Fuller, 2021). All of these affects are ultimately because of climate change caused by human activity, which have led to warming and drought.
This drought situation is not even the worst it will get in Mendocino. It is projected that over the next twenty-five years, California’s widespread drought severity will triple (America’s Preparedness…, n.d.). This will cause the water supply in Mendocino to dwindle even further. Large, wealthy cities in California may have resources that can suffice in an extreme drought, such as the one that is projected. However, smaller, less wealthy communities such as Mendocino are already running out of water resources (Fuller, 2021).
Drought in Mendocino desperately calls for a solution. The best solution would be to slow climate change through reduction of human-induced activities that contribute to it, such as the burning of fossil fuels. This would slow the warming of the planet, which would decrease the amount of the humidity in the air, and therefore improve this drought situation. In the meanwhile, it is important to ensure that each community has access to water sources. In areas like Mendocino, California, it may be helpful to import and store water that could be available to the public (Fuller, 2021). It would also be helpful to explore other sources of water with new wells or implement strategies such as deslination. Overall, it would be ideal to slow the intensity of drought in Mendocino and provide water sources for the public.
America’s Preparedness Report Card 2015: California. (n.d.). States At Risk. https://reportcard.statesatrisk.org/report-card/california/drought_grade. (Accessed 8 February 2022).
Fuller, T. (2021, August 14). Small Towns Grow Desperate for Water in California. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/14/us/drought-california-water-shortage.html.
Karlamangla, S. (2021, October 21). How did California’s Drought Get So Bad? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/21/us/california-drought.html#:~:text=The%20short%20answer%3F,into%20a%20full%2Dblown%20crisis.
Destruction, Despondence, and Drought, Al-Raqqa, Syria
Ava Drum, Industrial Engineering, Penn State University Class of 2022
The drought caused by human-induced climate change was one of the factors that lead to the Syrian Civil War (Holleis, 2021). From 2006 to 2009, Syria, particularly northeastern Syria, experienced a major drought, and it was the country’s driest 3-year period in their recorded history (Selby, 2020). The city of Al-Raqqa saw an average decrease in rainfall of 36% from the normal rainfall, the highest decrease in all major Syrian cities (Selby et al., 2017). At this time, the residents were experiencing reduced agricultural production, poverty, and high fuel prices (Syria Drought…, 2010). Nutrition-related diseases were also on the rise for these three years, and Al-Raqqa saw a 42% rate of anemia in children the ages of 6 to 12 months (Syria Drought…, 2010). These poor conditions led to migration of people out of northeastern Syria, and among the cities of Al-Raqqa, Dayr az Zawr, and Aleppo, 30,000 families left (Syria Drought…, 2010), with a possible total of 1.5 million people total in northeast Syria leaving their homes (Kelley et al.,2015). Years later, in 2011, civil war broke out, one of the reasons being that the people were physically and mentally drained, and therefore susceptible to further conflict (Stier, 2017).
Today, the drought is even worse, and after 10 years of conflict, much of Al-Raqqa is destroyed (Wight, 2021). It is estimated that between 270,000 to 300,000 people live in the city, with 36% of the city and 80% of the schools destroyed (Wight, 2021). The drought has led to a lack of access to clean water in Al-Raqqa, and it has seen an increase in water-borne diseases (Wight, 2021; Water crisis…, 2021). Al-Raqqa also struggles with COVID-19, in terms of keeping the residents from spreading the disease and providing the sick with clean water and food (Wight, 2021). The forecasted impacts of the community are that as the drought and higher temperatures continue, more communities in Al-Raqqa will struggle to drink clean water and eat enough food, and the percentage of families currently in this precarious situation is 80% (Wight, 2021).
Solutions to this threat are few, but increasing the adaptive capacity of the residents of Al-Raqqa is a prime focus. In a report issued in November 2021, repairs had resumed to the Alouk Water Station (a major water station that feeds Al-Raqqa), concluding the water station was working but not at full functionality (Water Crisis in Northern…, 2021). Improving the water system in Al-Raqqa is another priority because untreated sewage (70%) is entering the Euphrates River which is also a source of water for the residents (Water Crisis in Northern…, 2021). Other solutions moving forward to increase the adaptive capacity of Al Raqqa include food assistance programs, funding to repair infrastructure (including irrigation canals), and drought mitigation (including more efficient irrigation systems) (Water Crisis in Northern…, 2021).
Holleis, J. (2021, February 26). How climate change paved the way to war in Syria. DW. https://www.dw.com/en/how-climate-change-paved-the-way-to-war-in-syria/a-56711650
Selby, J. (2020, September 29). On Blaming Climate Change for the Syrian Civil War. MERIP. https://merip.org/2020/09/on-blaming-climate-change-for-the-syrian-civil-war/.
J. Selby, J., Dahi, O. S., Fröhlich, C., & M. Hulme. (2017). Climate change and the Syrian civil war revisited. Political Geography, 60, 232–244. doi: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.05.007.
Syria Drought Response Plan 2009-2010 Mid-Term Review. (2010, February). United Nations. https://www.unocha.org/sites/dms/CAP/2010_Syria_DroughtResponsePlan_SCREEN.pdf.
Kelley, C. P., Mohtadi, S., Cane, M. A., Seager, R., & Kushnir, Y. (2015). Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 112(11), 3241–3246. doi: 10.1073/PNAS.1421533112.
Stier, S. (2017, January 6). Seeing the devastation of climate change in the ruins of Aleppo. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stier-climate-change-and-syrian-civil-war 20170106-story.html.
Wight, E. (2021, July 27). Four years after the battle for Al Raqqa, children are living among ruins – Save the Children. ReliefWeb. https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/four-years-after-battle-al-raqqa-children-are-living-among-ruins-save.
Water crisis and drought threaten more than 12 million in Syria and Iraq. (2021, August 23). ReliefWeb. https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/water-crisis-and drought-threaten-more-12-million-syria-and-iraq.
Water Crisis in Northern and Northeast Syria – Immediate Response Funding Requirements. (2021, September 9). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/whole-of-syria/document/water-crisis-northern-and-northeast-syria-immediate-response-and/?_gl=1*rk4cca*_ga*NjU2NDcyNjIuMTY3MzkxODI1OA..*_ga_E60ZNX2F68*MTY3MzkxODI1OC4xLjEuMTY3MzkxODQ4MC41Ni4wLjA.
Drought in Navajo County Arizona
Sydney Dutton, Biology, Penn State University
Drought is becoming a more pressing issue everywhere around the world as climate change continues. However, there are some communities that are struggling with drought more than others, one of those being Navajo County in Arizona. As the population continues to increase, the demand for water also increases, causing a negative feedback loop to occur when faced with a population in a drought. Climate change also plays a role in causing droughts. With warmer temperatures becoming more common, water evaporates quicker, drying out fields of soil and vegetation, while also limiting surface water. Specifically, the Navajo County community is extremely susceptible to droughts as it is a small, spread out county, and is in one of the poorest areas in the U.S. The county is 9,960 square miles, and only 9.3 square miles of that contain water. The 2010 census found that there were 107,449 people living in the county, which means there are 10.8 people per square mile. Within the county, over 40% of homes do not have access to water infrastructure normally, and small lakes and ponds that they would get their water from are completely dried up. Another reason this community is so vulnerable to the effects of droughts is because their livelihood comes from working with and being on the land. Navajo County is the largest Native American Reservation, and traditions that involve land have always been a part of their lifestyle. Without water, the land is becoming drier by the day, and traditions cannot be maintained.
The effects of drought on this community are and will continue to be devastating. About half of the community lives without electricity and running water, and as droughts become more severe and temperatures continue to rise, the threat of illness and death from droughts becomes bigger every day. Farmers have no way to water their crops or feed their animals, so many are losing jobs and money. Plants that are dying will allow for erosion and put sediment and pollutants into the already scarce water sources, causing filtering issues leading to less availability of drinkable water. Looking at the economic effects, the drought has caused a loss of 8.2 million dollars in the cattle sector, and 0.4 million in the hay sector in this country. With no end in sight, these numbers are projected to increase.
There are a variety of solutions to reduce the impact of drought on this community. The government should continue to monitor drought status to keep the public informed. Many people in the community must drive miles to get water, so providing closer water facilities where people can fill up containers would allow for less travel and more access. Providing livestock aid to the farmers that cannot feed their animals would allow for time and energy to be allotted elsewhere. Finally, providing aid in general to the community to give water, food, electricity, and more would relieve stress and give hope.
Drought and Climate Change. (n.d.). Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. https://www.c2es.org/content/drought-and-climate-change/
Navajo County, Arizona. (2022). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo_County,_Arizona
Magill, B. (2014, May 28). The Navajo Nation’s Shifting Sands of Climate Change. Climate Central. https://www.climatecentral.org/news/navajo-nation-climate-change-17326
Navajo County. (2017). Navajo County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan. https://www.navajocountyaz.gov/Portals/0/Departments/Emergency%20Management/Document s/NCHazardMitigationPlan.pdf
Drought and Subsistence Farming in Bahia, Brazil
Anton Fatula, Environmental Resource Management, Pennsylvania State University
Brazil, home of the Amazon rainforest, holds one of the largest water reserves on the globe. Consequently, Brazil is also one of the major agriculture producers, exporting coffee, soybeans, beans, wheat, and many other common products. In western Bahai, traditional subsistence farming has long been the norm for residents of the Cerrado grasslands (or Gerais). Following Brazil’s agricultural boom in the late 1900s, locals saw more and more irrigated crop land pop up in the region. This was great for the local economy; however, Gerais have noticed their springs and streams drying up over the past two decades, and farmers have been pitted against each other in a battle for water resources. What could possibly be responsible for turning off the spicket to such a bustling agricultural community?
One explanation is drought. Changes in Earth’s climate system have caused the major agricultural regions of Brazil to become dryer overall, and projections show no signs of this slowing down. A study published in Nature Climate Change reports that 28% of Brazil’s agricultural land has already been pushed out of optimum climatic conditions. This study also projects that, given business as usual scenarios, this will increase to 51% by 2030 and 74% by 2060 (Rattis et al. 2021). This has detrimental implications for the region’s ability to produce and, subsequently, for its economy.
The subsistence farming community is further destabilized by the introduction of industrial farming to Bahia. Big agricultural corporations commonly have more resources and more capital than local farmers, meaning they are both less vulnerable to climatic changes and more likely to have first dibs on dwindling water reserves. This largely effects subsurface aquifers like the Urucuia aquifer, which was the subject of a 2020 study that determined that 2 cubic miles of water had been used up in just 12 years (Goncalves et al. 2020). Underground reserves like this one provide a safety net when surface water dries up, but traditional subsistence farmers are last on the list to pull from them.
To some extent, this story is a representation of a common theme in environmentally damaging industries: poor government regulation of an industry getting out of control. Like in the fishing industry, the energy industry, and many more, profitable practices outcompete ethical and sustainable practices almost every time. The situation in Bahia also invites a broader scope of climate considerations. Similar droughts will be experienced in agricultural regions across the world. This includes other major producers such as the United States and China. Unfortunately, we have no way of avoiding these effects as we are already experiencing some of them, but international adherence to things like the Paris Agreement can only help. Additionally, new research concerning ocean water desalination could provide some relief to farming communities, though this in no way solves our broader climate dilemma.
Gonçalves, R. D., Stollberg, R., Weiss, H., & Chang, H. K. (2020). Using grace to quantify the depletion of terrestrial water storage in northeastern Brazil: The Urucuia Aquifer System. Science of The Total Environment, 705, 135845. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135845
Grossman, D. (n.d.). Water war: Is Big Agriculture killing Brazil’s traditional farms? Yale E360. https://e360.yale.edu/features/with-traditional-farms-withering-why-is-brazil running-dry
Paes, C. de F. (2020, October 7). In Brazil’s Bahia, peasant farmers and Cowboys keep the Cerrado alive. Mongabay Environmental News. https://news.mongabay.com/2020/09/in-brazils-bahia-peasant-farmers-and-cowboys-keep-the cerrado-alive/
Rattis, L., Brando, P.M., Macedo, M.N. Spera, S. A., Castanho, A. D. A., Marques, E. Q., Costa, N. Q., Silverio, D. V., & Coe, M. T. (2021). Climatic limit for agriculture in Brazil. Nature Climate Change, 11, 1098–1104. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01214-3
Olivia Friend, Earth Science, Penn State University
As of February 10th, 2022, Colorado Springs, a city in Colorado, is on the border between being in moderate and severe drought. These levels indicate suffering of dryland crops, increase of wildfires, a longer fire season, low surface water, decreased river flow, reduction in crops, etc. The drought in this area is affecting 100% of the residents in the surrounding county. The state of Colorado has been in-and-out of droughts since 2000. The drought occurring as of now might not be the worst it has ever been, but it can certainly get there again.
Ever since climate change has been increasing the temperatures in the southwestern part of the U.S, the amount of available water in Colorado has been decreasing constantly. The Colorado River Basin is the central water source provider for Colorado Springs. As the western area of Colorado is experiencing severe drought, it is using more of the water from the River Basin, directly impacting Colorado Springs. In eastern Colorado, livestock and field crops utilize pumped groundwater from the High Plains Aquifer. However, as rates of evaporation increase due to lower relative humidity, irrigation demands increase and the natural recharge of the aquifer takes longer. This contributes to further decreasing of accessible water sources, as well as affecting farmers financially. Additionally, as the water supply is diminishing, the frequency of wildfires increases. The county of El Paso, where Colorado Springs is located, is home to Colorado’s most destructive fires. For instance, the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire burned more than 17,000 acres of land and burned 347 homes. A year later, the Black Forest Fire burned more than 15,000 acres and ruined over 450 homes in the process. As of today, the county still hasn’t made a universal fire code, making homeowners and vulnerable areas susceptible to wildfire damage. If the drought gets worse in Colorado Springs, water temperatures will increase, water restrictions will be regulated, dust storms will become more frequent, and pasture conditions will decrease.
There are various ways we can begin to solve this issue. We can teach farmers how to conserve soil and use grazing methods. Additionally, we can use stream temperature models and increase groundwater levels to help stabilize water levels. Forest plan revisions can be used to restore ecological processes and assist with vegetation treatments.
Drought impacts in the Rocky Mountain region. (2017, September). United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/sites/default/files/documents/files/r2-droughtfactsheet.pdf
Colorado. (2017). Drought.gov. https://www.drought.gov/states/colorado
What climate change means for Colorado. (2016, August).US EPA. https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/climate change-co.pdf
Folsom, B. (2021, July 16). Drought to the west matters to Colorado Springs Water Supply. KOAA. https://www.koaa.com/news/covering colorado/drought-to-the-west-matters-to-colorado-springs-water-supply
Gabbert, B., & Handy, R. M. (2019, August 25). A county in Colorado where 833 homes burned in a two year period, considers addressing wildfire risk. Wildfire Today. https://wildfiretoday.com/tag/colorado-springs/
Katelynn MacPherson, Psychology, Penn State World Campus
One of the most significant human characteristics is adaptability, which allows us to figure out ways to live in environments that lack easy access to some of our basic biological requirements, such as the need for water. The resourcefulness required to provide water to communities in drought conditions is one of humanities greatest achievements. However, this century’s worldwide population explosion combined with the effects of climate change highlights a glaring need for a reconsideration of how we are planning to use our planet’s dwindling water supply to support our growing population in the coming years.
Las Vegas, Nevada is a city in the western United States that has seen booming population numbers and increasing water demands since the 1970’s. When considering the numbers, the city’s tourism industry is surprisingly not the culprit in the city’s wasteful water use, instead, historically high residential water averages are to blame (Lassere, 2015). While the residential percentages have gone down in recent years, maintaining an adequate water supply for future citizens is a great dilemma. 90% of Las Vegas’s water comes from Lake Mead, which is increasingly becoming one of the most drastic current examples of western water loss. Created in 1939 during the groundbreaking construction of the Hoover Dam, the lake provides water to Arizona, California, and Mexico to meet the municipal, agricultural, industrial, and environmental demands of at least 25 million people (Edalat, 2019). Water flows to Lake Mead from the Colorado River Basin, which has experienced a loss of over 15 cubic miles of freshwater in the past decade (Holthaus, 2014).
Global warming and the rise of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased Earth’s surface temperatures, reduced soil moisture, and led to less rainfall and longer dry periods (Edalat, 2019). All of these factors contribute to drought conditions, which has devastating impacts on regional food supply and wildlife habitats. Once known as the largest man-made lake in the United States, Lake Mead’s reservoir of stored water has dropped significantly over the past decade. Lake Mead plays a critical role in sustaining much of the western United States’ access to water, including Las Vegas. Without this resource, the consequences to surrounding communities would be devastating, and the region is likely to become uninhabitable.
Models have predicted that there is a 50% chance of Lake Mead drying completely by 2047 (Eladat, 2019). In response to a decade of drought in the region, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is working to pump 140 million cubic meters of water from northeastern valleys straight to storage at Lake Mead (Jarvis, 2013). Additionally, it is believed that one of the focuses of future water management needs to center around addressing the over-use of the groundwater system. Groundwater is used to supplement the water supply when surface water is tapped during drought conditions, but the increased depletion of groundwater is projected to have significant negative impacts in the future habitability of the region (Castle, et al., 2014).
Many government institutions are working together in the hopes of a sustainable water solution for communities like Las Vegas that rely on Lake Mead. In addition to their focus on limiting overall water use, the Southern Nevada Water Authority facilitates the recycling of sewer water in treatment facilities and uses treated water for agricultural purposes (SNWA). They have established conservation rebates as incentives for residents and businesses to reduce water waste, seasonal watering restrictions, and landscaping programs that have removed water-thirsty plants from communities (SNWA). In January 2022, the federal government officially began reducing the amount of water allocated from Lake Mead to surrounding communities and established a 2050 Master Plan with the goal of reducing water use to less than 100 gal/person/day. Realistically, Las Vegas is likely to only get drier, and addressing the water needs of the community is a necessary task in assuring the future habitability of the region.
Castle, S. L., Thomas, B. F., Reager, J. T., Rodell, M., Swenson, S. C., & Famiglietti, J. S. (2014). Groundwater depletion during drought threatens future water security of the Colorado River Basin. Geophysical Research Letters, 41(16), 5904–5911. https://doi.org/10.1002/2014gl061055
Holthaus, E. (2014). Lake mead before and after the epic drought. Slate. http://www2.csr.utexas.edu/grace/publications/press/20140725_Slate.pdf
Edalat, M. & Stephen, H. (2019) Socio-economic drought assessment in Lake Mead, USA, based on a multivariate standardized water-scarcity index, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 64(5), 555-569, DOI: 10.1080/02626667.2019.1593988
Jarvis, W. T. (2013). Water scarcity; moving beyond indexes to innovative institutions. Ground Water, 51(5), 663-669. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwat.12059
City of Las Vegas. (2021). Lake mead water shortage. https://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/News/Blog/Detail/lake-mead-water-shortage
Lasserre, F. (2015). Water in Las Vegas: Coping with scarcity, financial and cultural constraints. City, Territory and Architecture, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40410-015-0027-4
SNWA. (2019). Joint Water Conservation Plan. Southern Nevada Water Authority. https://www.snwa.com/assets/pdf/reports-conservation-plan 2019.pdf
Drought in Cape Town, South Africa
Tim Mykulyn, General Biology, Penn State University
Drought and the issues surrounding it is yet another issue that in many places throughout the world is being exacerbated by climate change. Water shortages have plagued many parts of the world, but perhaps nowhere as dramatically as the city of Cape Town, South Africa. In 2018 the city was forced to consider what it named a “Day Zero” scenario where the water levels of the six dams that supply the city with water fell so low due to drought that municipal water supplies would be turned off.
The city was fortunately able to implement effective efforts at reducing water consumption and reduced the city’s daily water use in half to 500 million liters. The city was able to continuously push the projected date of Day Zero back until heavy winter rains in 2018 were able to raise dam levels to manageable levels.
Short term solutions that Cape Town was able to employ to stave off Day Zero included drastic measures with long lasting economic impacts. Practices such as washing cars, and filling swimming pools were prohibited entirely. Water supplies were diverted away from local agriculture and towards municipal supplies causing the loss of some 30,000 agricultural jobs. At the most extreme point of the crisis, citizens were rationed to 50 liters of water per day. Approximately 250,000 water management devices were installed on private properties in the city to monitor water usage and cut off supply once the daily limit was reached. A practice that was widely criticized for unfairly targeting poor communities within the city.
The city has experienced more favorable precipitation in recent years which has returned the reservoir to its full capacity. In other parts of South Africa however, similar drops in dam levels have led to concerns of a similar Day Zero scenario in Johannesburg. In the long term the city and the wider country of South Africa has made wider use of those same water use reduction measures. Along with this, plans to consolidate public utilities as a means of reducing water loss in transit, use of new water sources, efforts at desalination in some areas, and preventing water loss at the dams themselves have all been considered essential parts of the South African long term plans concerning water management.
Avoiding a Water Crisis: How Capetown Avoided ‘Day Zero’. (2020, Marh 6). Global Resilience Institute. https://globalresilience.northeastern.edu/avoiding-a-water-crisis-how capetown-avoided-day-zero/.
Alexander, C. (2019, April 12). Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Water Crisis, One Year Later. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04- 12/looking-back-on-cape-town-s-drought-and-day-zero.
Brühl, J. & Visser, M. (2021). The Cape Town Drought: A Study of the Combined Effectiveness of Measures Implemented to Prevent ‘Day Zero.’ Water Resources and Economics, 34, 100177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wre.2021.100177.
Harding, A. (2021, November 10). Cape Town’s Day Zero: ‘We Are Axing Trees to Save Water’. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-59221823.
Heggie, J. (2021, May 4). Day Zero: Where next? National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/partner-content-south-africa-danger of-running-out-of-water.
How Cape Town Was Saved from Running out of Water. (2018, May 4). The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/04/back-from-the brink-how-cape-town-cracked-its-water-crisis.
Mlaba, K. (2020, October 9). How Cape Town Went from Water Crisis to Overflowing Dams in Just 2 Years. Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/cape-town-water-crisis-day-zero overflowing-dams/.
Raphelson, S. (2018, January 23). Drought-Stricken Cape Town Braces for Water to Run out in April. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2018/01/23/579784235/drought stricken-cape-town-braces-for-water-to-run-out-in-april.
Tucker, D. T. (2020, November 9). Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Drought a Sign of Things to Come. Stanford News. //news.stanford.edu/2020/11/09/cape-towns-day-zero-drought-sign-things-come/.
Drought in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Marley D. Turbett, Finance and Economics, Penn State University
Hawaii is known to have relatively weaker wet and dry seasons than other tropical islands, but historically, this has played out well for the state (Love Big Island, 2022). However, rainfall has significantly lessened over the past 3 decades (Less & Heavy Rain, 2022). Since 2008, the islands have been experiencing more droughts during the dry season followed by intense rainfall during the wet season. Net rainfall throughout the year over the islands is decreasing (Less & Heavy Rain, 2022). More intense weather is causing farmers to struggle during the summer and cities to struggle with flooding during the winter (Less & Heavy Rain, 2022). One specific set of farmers that are struggling are the cattle ranchers in the Waikoloa Village in the northwest portion of Hawai’i Island (Morales, 2021). The region has experienced some of the most severe droughts in the state over the past couple of years and is currently experiencing a severe drought in March (2022), the end of the wet season (Pugh & Sanchez-Lugo, 2022). Over the past two years, the region has only received six inches of rain when it typically receives a minimum of 22 inches (Morales, 2021). This drought has caused ranchers in the village to relocate their cattle to areas with more sustained pastures (Morales, 2021). The drought is especially difficult for farmers in this area because the state heavily relies on beef production, and the ultimate revenue from that production is the primary source of income for many inhabitants in the area (Morales, 2021). If current conditions pursue, the ranchers may go out of business altogether. Ranchers are currently dealing with drought conditions by moving their cattle around and by purchasing thousands of dollars of supplemental nutrients to keep their cattle alive and healthy (Morales, 2021). Healthier pastures are receiving irrigation from aquifers. However, this is only a short-term fix, and rerouting water in aquifers can only service so many endpoints. Unfortunately, the larger issue causing the extreme droughts and period of heavy rainfall coincides with the frequency of El Nino (ENSO) years (Less & Heavy Rain, 2022). The increasing frequency of El Nino years is partially due to increasing ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which is largely caused by climate change. In order to reverse current surface temperature warming trends, all humans need to reduce emissions to change the current path of warming on the planet. These cattle ranchers are a great example of how climate change for the entire globe hits specific communities harder than others.
Less & Heavy Rain. (2022). State of Hawaii Climate Change Portal. https://climate.hawaii.gov/hi-facts/rain/
Love Big Island. (2022, January 7). Weather on the Big Island, explained. https://www.lovebigisland.com/weather/
Pugh, B. & Sanchez-Lugo, A. (2022, March 29). Hawaii. U.S. Drought Monitor. https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?HI
Morales, M. (2021, November 23). Drought conditions endanger Hawaii’s cattle industry. Knon 2. https://www.khon2.com/local-news/drought-conditions-endanger-hawaiis-cattle-industry/