Water

WATER

71% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered. 97% of that water can be found in our ocean; 2% is frozen in glaciers and ice caps, and 1% is fresh.  The ocean generates 50% of the oxygen we need to surviveabsorbs 31% of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90% of the excess heat generated by these emissions. It is not just 'the lungs of the planet' but also its largest 'carbon sink' – a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change.

HOW DOES GLOBAL WARMING AFFECT WATER?

  1. Our warming climate has affected water on earth in profoundly interconnected ways — as the oceans heat and the glaciers and ice shelves melt, they all contribute to sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification
  2. Global warming also increases water vapor in the atmosphere, which leads to more frequent heavy rain and snowstorms — all of which leads to heavier flooding. 
  3. Additionally, a warmer and more moist atmosphere over our warmer oceans makes it likely that the strongest hurricanes will be more intense, produce more rainfall, and possibly be larger.
  4. Climate change increases the odds of worsening drought.

HOW DO THOSE ISSUES AFFECT US ECONOMICALLY?

Since tracking began in 1980 through 2024, the top four most economically costly US weather and climate disasters are water-related

  1. Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) at $1,411.2B billion
  2. Severe storms at $485.2 billion
  3. Droughts at $360.2 billion
  4. Inland flooding at $200.2 billion

OUTSIDE OF FUNCTIONING AS A CARBON SINK, CAN THE OCEAN PROVIDE OTHER CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS 

Although the oceans are warming about 40% faster than the UN had previously predicted, a report published by The World Resources Institute in 2023, The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Updated Opportunities for Action, imagines the ocean as a powerful source that could deliver up to 35% of emission cuts needed to limit temp rise to 1.5°C by 2050. Some of these changes include:

  1. Scaling ocean-based renewable energy
  2. Decarbonizing ocean-based transport
  3. Conserving and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems 
  4. Utilizing low carbon food from the ocean 
  5. Developing marine carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage under the seabed 
  6. Decarbonizing ocean-based tourism 
  7. Reducing offshore oil and gas extraction

Maybe it is time to visit these 10 incredible places before they vanish — all due to climate change-related water issues.

More to learn about water here.

Notes: * To stay under a 1.5°C change relative to pre-industrial levels

Figure 2: Summary of Wider Impact of Ocean-based interventions on Sustainable Development Dimensions

Notes: Wider-impact dimensions cover various sustainable development dimension indicators as well as 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SD). The figure shows the relative strength of the relationship between the ocean-based areas of interventions and the SDGs. The relationship between each ocean-based mitigation option and SDG is given a linkage score, positive scores shown by green boxes and negative scores shown by yellow/red boxes. Scores range from +3 (indivisible) to -3 [cancelling) (Nilsson et al. 2016). A zero score (no bar and no colour) means no impact was found in this review of the literature. For intervention areas where there is more than one mitigation option, an average of the linkage score is taken among the mitigation options in that area. Further information on the linkage scores and the associated confidence levels are provided in the Annex.

CURRENT NEWS

The Other Border Dispute Is Over an 80-Year-Old Water Treaty

By Martha Pskowski 05/28/24
Maria-Elena Giner faced a room full of farmers, irrigation managers and residents in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas on April 2. The local agricultural community was reeling. Reservoirs on the Rio Grande were near…
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Mexico City Has Long Thirsted for Water. The Crisis Is Worsening.

By James Wagner and Others 05/18/24
A system of dams and canals may soon be unable to provide water to one of the world’s largest cities, a confluence of unchecked growth, crumbling infrastructure and a changing climate.
Read more

This epic slice of Arizona feeds their souls but lacks a basic necessity: Water

By Tyrone Beason 04/07/24
Gilarya Begaye looks out across the brush-blanketed pastures, red-dirt plains and flat-topped mesas that surround her home in the Navajo Nation. “Everywhere I’ve ever moved, it never felt like home,” says Begaye, 36. “My heart’s…
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This mega-city is running out of water. What will 22 million people do when the taps run dry?

By Patrick J. MCDonnell 03/21/24
When Reina Cervantes Trejo heard the truck, gears grinding as it climbed the street to her house, she rushed outside. “Thanks to our good Lord!” she said. “The water has finally arrived!” Cervantes and her…
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We need to talk about water – and the fact that the world is running out of it

By George Monbiot 03/04/24
There’s a flaw in the plan. It’s not a small one: it is an Earth-sized hole in our calculations. To keep pace with the global demand for food, crop production needs to grow by at…
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How One of the Nation’s Fastest Growing Counties Plans to Find Water in the Desert

By David Condos, KUER 02/10/24
Like many places across the West, two things are on a collision course in Utah’s southwest corner: growth and water. Washington County’s population has quadrupled since 1990. St. George, its largest city, has been the…
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Groundwater Levels Around the World Are Dropping Quickly, Often at Accelerating Rates

By Liza Gross 01/24/24
Groundwater supplies are dwindling in aquifers around the world, a groundbreaking new study found, with the rates of decline accelerating over the past four decades in nearly a third of aquifers studied.
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Boiling Point: Are dams good or bad?

By Sammy Roth 01/23/24
The latest forecast has arrived for the West’s largest reservoir — and, stop me if you’ve heard this one, it’s not great.
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Here’s what you’re really swallowing when you drink bottled water

By Shannon Osaka 01/08/24
People are swallowing hundreds of thousands of microscopic pieces of plastic each time they drink a liter of bottled water, scientists have shown — a revelation that could have profound implications for human health.
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Is The Megadrought Over Or Just On Hiatus?

By Arthur Keith 12/27/23
I’ve written about the megadrought in the Southwest for three years. Hydrology is a subject I never thought I’d become enthralled with. Yet here we are, 24 articles later.
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States dependent on Colorado River required to conserve unprecedented amount of water in deal

By Julia Jacobo and Stephanie Ebbs 05/22/23
The Biden administration has reached a landmark deal with states dependent on the Colorado River to conserve water amid the decadeslong drought.
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KEY RESOURCES

Google’s ‘A Passage of Water’ Brings NASA’s Water Data to Life

11/30/23
As part of the long-standing partnership between NASA and Google, NASA worked with Google Arts & Culture and artist Yiyun Kang to create an interactive digital experience around global freshwater resources titled “A Passage of…

Water Action Agenda

03/30/23
In March 2023 the world will come together during the UN 2023 Water Conference convened by the UN General Assembly. The parameters of the outcomes of the UN 2023 Water Conference are described in General…

Circle of Blue

02/04/22
Award-winning nonprofit journalism from the frontlines of water, food, and energy in the changing climate.

How we drained California dry

12/16/21
The wind finally blew the other way last night and kicked out the smoke from the burning Sierra. Down here in the flatland of California, we used to regard the granite mountain as a place…

State Of The Beach Report

10/31/21
Greta is known for her famous speeches before world leaders. She recently spoke at COP 26 where delegates from around the world are charged with fulfilling goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework…

Where in the World is the Water?

11/19/20
Water is the defining feature of this planet and fundamental to life as we know it. Most everyone knows that. Of course my special focus is the rise of sea level, primarily as a result of…

Science Empowering Communities In The Face Of Flooding

10/06/20
Surging Waters: Science Empowering Communities in the Face of Flooding is a report produced by AGU, a global not-for-profit scientific society dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity.

Water: A human and business priority

08/14/20
Water is the lifeblood of humanity. With it, communities thrive. But, when the supply and demand of fresh water are misaligned, the delicate environmental, social, and financial ecosystems on which we all rely are at…

How Is Climate Change Impacting The Water Cycle?

06/25/20
Find out how rising global temperatures affect the water cycle in our latest infographic.

Acid rain, explained

06/25/20
Acid rain describes any form of precipitation that contains high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids. It can also occur in the form of snow, fog, and tiny bits of dry material that settle to…

Water for People or Nature is a False Choice

06/10/20
When the first photo of Earth was taken from Apollo 17 in 1972, few could understand the cultural impact it would have. The Blue Marble, this singular sphere floating in deep space, was the perfect…

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT H2O?

02/20/20
There’s so much to know about our H2O! Where does it come from and how does it get into our homes? How is it cleaned before we drink it? Which laws protect it? What other…

Ocean Facts

02/06/20
Get the facts about our ocean and coasts.
EWG

EWG’s Tap Water Data Base

01/01/20
Since 2012, water utilities' testing has found pollutants in Americans' tap water, according to an EWG drinking water quality analysis of 32 million state water records.

MORE NEWS

What You Need to Know About Blue Carbon

11/21/23  
Blue Carbon is the term coined for carbon dioxide (CO2) stored in the world’s coastal and marine ecosystems such as mangroves, saltmarshes, and seagrasses. It’s called “Blue” Carbon because of its proximity to the ocean:…
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Desperate for water, a desert city hopes to build a pipeline to the California Aqueduct

By Louis Sahagún   11/09/23  
After decades of unrestricted pumping in the rain-starved northwestern corner of the Mojave Desert, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin Authority has the distinction of managing one of the most critically overdrawn aquifers in California.
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The 20 Farming Families Who Use More Water From the Colorado River Than Some Western States

By Nat Lash and Janet Wilson   11/09/23  
Tens of millions of people — and millions of acres of farmland — rely on the Colorado River’s water. But as its supply shrinks, these farmers get more water from the river than entire states.…
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Scientists have found a ‘sleeping giant’ of environmental problems: Earth is getting saltier

By Kasha Patel   10/31/23  
Human activities are making the globe saltier, specifically in our soils, fresh water and air, according to a study released Tuesday in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.
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EPA to strengthen lead protections in drinking water after multiple crises, including Flint

By Michael Phillis And Mike Stobbe   10/29/23  
About four decades ago, when the Environmental Protection Agency was first trying to figure out what to do about lead in drinking water, Ronnie Levin quantified its damage: Roughly 40 million people drank water with…
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San Diego temporarily solved its water crisis by turning ocean water into fresh water. But desalination won’t work everywhere.

By Maiya Focht   10/28/23  
Experts have said the huge costs and ecological risks mean these plants might not work nationwide.
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US Virgin Islands warns that tap water in St. Croix is contaminated with lead and copper

10/27/23  
The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday warned that people on the island of St. Croix should not drink their tap water because officials found high levels of lead and copper.
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Climate Change Is Driving a Global Water Trade You Can’t See

By Jin Wu and Others   10/18/23  
Every manifestation of the ­dangerous weather wreaking havoc around the world has one thing in common: water. As the Earth’s climate changes, the lack of water, or its sudden abundance, is reshaping the global economy…
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As Drought Grips the Southwest, Water Utilities Find the Hunt For More Workers Challenging

By Wyatt Myskow   10/17/23  
As the general manager of the Hopi Utilities Corporation’s water service, he works with just two other staff members to provide clean and safe drinking water to the Hopi Tribe’s reservation in Northeast Arizona. When…
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California will soon require many cities to significantly cut water use. Here are the details

By Kurtis Alexander   10/05/23  
A second straight wet winter may be in store for California, but state water regulators are turning their attention to the prospect of long-term water shortages, with plans for permanent statewide restrictions.
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They Dredged the Mississippi River for Trade. Now a Water Crisis Looms

By Laura Bliss and Zahra Hirji   10/05/23  
New Orleans is staring down a potential water crisis. A wedge of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is moving up the Mississippi River, and is expected to reach the Louisiana city’s main water supply…
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Otherworldly Images Show Breathtaking Beauty of Oceans in Photo Competition

By Andy Corbley   09/18/23  
Oceanographic Magazine is heralding the conclusion of its photo/photographer of the year awards, and the results highlight the otherworldy nature of our oceans.
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Their water is undrinkable. So these West Texas residents have taken matters into their own hands.

By Pooja Salhotra   09/12/23  
During a community meeting in July, residents of four unincorporated communities south of the Texas Panhandle held mason jars filled with brown, cloudy water — visual evidence of the water quality issues that have for…
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America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow

By Mira Rojanasakul, Christopher Flavelle and Others   08/28/23  
Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view. Many of the aquifers that supply 90…
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Flesh-Eating Bacteria a Threat in Warm Water

By Christopher Walsh   08/24/23  
As if the extreme heat, exceptionally heavy rainfall events, and out-of-control wildfires that characterize the summer of 2023 were not adequate signals that the climate is changing, in recent weeks a deadly bacterium found in…
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Why was there no water to fight the fire in Maui? | Naomi Klein and Kapuaʻala Sproat

By Naomi Klein and Kapua 'ala Sproat'   08/17/23  
All over Maui, golf courses glisten emerald green, hotels manage to fill their pools and corporations stockpile water to sell to luxury estates. And yet, when it came time to fight the fires, some hoses…
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The Guardian view on protecting corals: what lies beneath matters too

08/16/23  
When images of the climate emergency’s impact are so visceral and so widespread, it is easy to neglect what we cannot see. The shocking photographs and video footage of wildfires in Hawaii and Greece, and…
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Here’s where water is running out in the world — and why

By Veronica Penney and John Muyskens   08/16/23  
A growing population and rising temperatures will strain the world’s freshwater supplies over the next 30 years, jeopardizing available water for drinking, bathing and growing food, according to new research. An analysis of newly released…
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How California’s weather catastrophe turned into a miracle

By Scott Dance   07/22/23  
Californians were preparing for another year of unrelenting drought in 2023. Instead, they got months of incessant rain and some of the heaviest snowfall they have ever seen. They feared blasts of spring warmth would…
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EPA

EPA Proposes to Streamline Requirements for States and Tribes, Strengthen Co-Regulator Partnerships to Protect Nation’s Waters

07/19/23  
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule that would streamline and clarify the requirements and steps necessary for states and Tribes to administer programs protecting waterways from discharges of dredged or…
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How a Saudi firm tapped a gusher of water in drought-stricken Arizona

By Isaac Stanley-Becker and Others   07/16/23  
A megadrought has seared Arizona, stressing its rivers and reservoirs and reducing water to a trickle in the homes of farmworkers near this desert valley.
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Drought and extreme heat burn through farmers’ margin for error — and it’s only July

By Annie Probert, J.J. McCorvey and Evan Bush   07/14/23  
Record-breaking heat and pockets of drought are baking farmland across the country, threatening crop yields and squeezing out any remaining wiggle room to cope with more extreme weather this summer.
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International negotiators just missed a deadline to regulate deep-sea mining. Now what?

By Maddie Stone   07/13/23  
This month, a small group of diplomats is meeting to hash out a plan that could affect the future of nearly half of Earth’s surface — including regions containing metals that are vital for the…
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In Arizona Water Ruling, the Hopi Tribe Sees Limits on Its Future

By Umar Farooq   07/07/23  
In September 2020, the Hopi Tribe’s four-decade effort to secure its right to water culminated in a court proceeding. The outcome would determine how much water the arid reservation would receive over the next century…
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Something Was Messing With Earth’s Axis. The Answer Has to Do With Us.

By Raymond Zhong   06/28/23  
Around the turn of the millennium, Earth’s spin started going off-kilter, and nobody could quite say why. For decades, scientists had been watching the average position of our planet’s rotational axis, the imaginary rod around…
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CNN

Humans pump so much groundwater that Earth’s axis has shifted, study finds

By Mindy Weisberger   06/26/23  
Humans’ unquenchable thirst for groundwater has sucked so much liquid from subsurface reserves that it’s affecting Earth’s tilt, according to a new study. Groundwater provides drinking water for people and livestock, and it helps with…
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Supreme Court rules against Navajo Nation in Colorado River case

By Adam Liptak   06/22/23  
The Supreme Court ruled against the Navajo Nation on Thursday in a water rights case, rejecting the tribe’s suit against the federal government in a dispute over access to the drought-depleted Colorado River system.
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We’ve changed Earth’s spin by pumping groundwater

By Kelly Kizer Whitt   06/18/23  
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) made a surprising announcement on June 15, 2023. It said that Earth’s 8 billion humans have pumped so much groundwater that we’ve nudged our world’s spin. Groundwater withdrawal for agriculture,…
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Humanity’s groundwater pumping has altered Earth’s tilt

By Warren Cornwall   06/16/23  
While spinning on its axis, Earth wobbles like an off-kilter top. Sloshing molten iron in Earth’s core, melting ice, ocean currents, and even hurricanes can all cause the poles to wander. Now, scientists have found…
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Crucial Mojave Desert Water System to Rely on Microgrid Power

By Cathy Hitchens   06/14/23  
The Cadiz Water Conservation, Supply and Storage Project covers thousands of acres in the Mojave Desert. It’s designed to store water underground during wet periods, making the region’s water supply more resilient during extreme droughts.
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Terrifying New Study Finds That Ocean Currents Will Soon Collapse

By Will Lockett   06/08/23  
Have you seen The Day After Tomorrow? This early naughties disaster movie’s whole plot revolved around climate change turning off global ocean currents and plunging the world into a sudden Ice Age. Many lambasted the…
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Does oil and gas production consume too much water?

By Jennifer Oldham   06/06/23  
A multiwell oil and gas project proposed for a drought-ridden Denver suburb would require 4.4 trillion gallons of water — enough to fill 6,679 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
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How cities are trying to stop their land from sinking

By Kasha Patel   06/05/23  
Groundwater has historically been a lifeline in California’s Coachella Valley. Water for farming, for your home and community? It came from under your feet, but the extractions didn’t go unnoticed. Much like a deflating balloon,…
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Supreme Court won’t review ruling barring offshore fracking in California

By Zack Budryk   06/05/23  
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined a request by the oil industry to review a lower court ruling barring fracking off California’s shore. In 2014, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) sued to halt offshore…
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Western States Finally Strike Colorado River Deal. But The Hard Work Has Only Just Begun

By Alejandro De La Garza   05/24/23  
t one of Los Angeles’s main water treatment plants a few miles north of the Port of Los Angeles, a small-scale facility is demonstrating what might be part of the solution to the region’s water…
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Future of food production hinges on water

By Ayurella Horn-Muller   05/17/23  
A team of 40+ USDA scientists has listed the most significant looming challenges facing water resources and agricultural production nationwide. Why it matters: Their newly-released plan unlocks a 30-year roadmap for mitigating some of the…
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‘It’s gotten really ugly.’ A community of freedom-lovers squares off against climate change in the Arizona desert

By Osha Davidson   04/26/23  
When I arrived at Karen Nabity’s place in Arizona’s Rio Verde Foothills on a spring afternoon, she opened the door and flashed a big smile. “Oh good!” she said, laughing as she ushered me inside.…
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Biden vetoes congressional bid to undo his water regulations

By Rachel Frazin   04/06/23  
President Biden on Thursday vetoed an attempt by Congress to undo waterway pollution regulations put forward by his administration — marking the second veto of his presidency and effectively killing the attempt to nullify the…
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The Promises—and Perils—of Ocean Desalination

By Molly Taft   04/06/23  
Sean Bothwell can understand why people think desalination is a silver bullet. When he was a kid living in California’s Orange County, the ocean was always close by. It didn’t make sense to him that…
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Unleash the deep-sea robots? A quandary as EV makers hunt for metals

By Evan Halper   04/05/23  
As automakers scour the planet for the metals it will take to build tens of millions of electric cars, they are deliberately taking a detour around one of the only places on Earth where so…
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CNN

Antarctic ice melt poses grave risk to ocean circulation, new study finds

04/01/23  
Michael Holmes interviews Matthew England, one of the scientists behind a new study showing that melting Antarctic ice poses a grave risk for the global climate.
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‘Nature gave us a lifeline’: Southern California refills largest reservoir in dramatic fashion

By Hayley Smith   03/29/23  
Following a series of winter storms that eased drought conditions across the state, Southern Californians celebrated a sight nobody has seen for several punishing years: water rushing into Diamond Valley Lake.
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It’s not just oceans that are rising. Groundwater is, too.

By Julia Kane, Lina Tran, & Diana Kruzman   03/29/23  
Beneath our feet there is an invisible ocean. Within the cracks of rock slabs, sand, and soil, this water sinks, swells, and flows — sometimes just a few feet under the surface, sometimes 30,000 feet…
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UN conference hears litany of water disasters linked to climate crisis

By Nina Lakhani and Oliver Milman   03/23/23  
Accounts of global impact of floods, droughts and storms at New York meeting add to pressure to make water central to Cop28Water is at the heart of the climate crisis, with an increasingly dire carousel…
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Highlights and images for 23 March 2023

03/23/23  
The significance of the UN 2023 Water Conference was apparent as large numbers of participants streamed into the official meetings and numerous side events. The general debate in plenary took place throughout the day and…
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CNN

Wall Street is thirsty for its next big investment opportunity: The West’s vanishing water

By Lucy Kafanov   03/22/23  
Situated in the Sonoran Desert near the Arizona-California border is the tiny rural town of Cibola – home to roughly 300 people, depending on the season.
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CNN

Global water crisis could ‘spiral out of control’ due to overconsumption and climate change, UN report warns

By Sana Noor Haq   03/22/23  
The world is facing a looming global water crisis that threatens to “spiral out of control” as increased demand for water and the intensifying impacts of the climate crisis put huge pressure on water resources,…
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Global fresh water demand will outstrip supply by 40% by 2030

By Fiona Harvey   03/17/23  
Landmark report urges overhaul of wasteful water practices around world on eve of crucial UN summitThe world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40%…
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House GOP votes to overturn Biden rule on water protections

By Matthew Daly and Michael Phillis   03/09/23  
The House on Thursday.........
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High seas treaty: historic deal to protect international waters finally reached at UN

By Karen McVeigh   03/05/23  
After almost 20 years of talks, United Nations member states agree on legal framework for parts of the ocean outside national boundaries
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