Circle of Blue
January 8, 2015
  Top 10 Water News Stories of 2014
  Top 10 Water News Stories of 2014  

Dear <<First Name>>,

The United States and China late last year reached an agreement to curb climate-changing emissions. The pact included two provisions to secure water supplies that are essential to energy production in both countries. Circle of Blue and the Wilson Center, our partner in Washington, D.C., played a big role in convincing the leaders of the world’s largest economies of the importance of the water-energy nexus in ecological and economic security.

The U.S.-China climate agreement also is a singular success for a distinctive model — marrying frontline data gathering to international networking and dialogue — for making a big difference in the world.

Below are our Top 10 Stories of 2014, as selected by Circle of Blue reporters and editors. Also make sure to check out our previews of what to expect in 2015, both internationally and within the United States.

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  Top 10 Water News Stories of 2014

  U.S.-China Climate Deal Includes Provision on Water-Energy Research  
  Signed by President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China, the pact is seen as a breakthrough diplomatic step that could lead to an international climate accord in Paris later this year. It includes two provisions to secure freshwater supplies for energy production. The United States and China are 1) investing in research to improve efficiency and conservation in water supply for energy generation and 2) developing a carbon-sequestration demonstration project in China to put to good use the produced water from deep beneath the surface that is displaced by deep geologic carbon-dioxide storage. Read More...  
  Choke Point: India — Uttarakhand’s Furious Himalayan Flood Could Bury India’s Hydropower Program  
  The unavoidable challenge that India’s 20th-century hydropower engineers and contractors recognized, but largely ignored, was whether the world’s most truculent mountain range would accept dozens of big new dams in the 21st century. In June 2013, the Himalayas answered that question during two days of monstrous floods that killed an estimated 30,000 people and wrecked the state’s hydropower sector. Read More...  
  Choke Point: Index — Jerry Brown, Smart and Prepared, Responds to California’s Drought Emergency  
  The California drought ranks as one of the worst ecological emergencies in the United States since the 1930s. Each passing week without rain, according to the Choke Point: Index project, pushed California into new economic, environmental, and governing frontier. Governor Jerry Brown understands that. Through a series of major actions and a host of less visible steps, Brown is conducting a clinic on how to direct public investment and dispatch personnel to shift how California businesses and citizens respond to conditions of water scarcity. Read More...  
  Choke Point: Index — Toledo Issues Emergency ‘Do Not Drink Water’ Warning to Residents  
  In August, the City of Toledo issued a “Do Not Drink” advisory for residents after chemical tests confirmed the presence of unsafe levels of the algal toxin microcystin in the city’s drinking water. The advisory, spanning three counties in Ohio and one in Michigan, left more than 400,000 people in the Toledo area without drinking water. The Toledo water shutdown came eight months after a prescient Choke Point: Index report on how massive green outbreaks of toxic algae have emerged in recent years as the source of the most unhealthy, unsightly, and urgent water-quality problem in the Great Lakes region. Read More...  
  Price of Water 2014: Up 6 Percent in 30 Major U.S. Cities; 33 Percent Rise Since 2010  
  The price of water rose again in 2014, though less steeply than in previous years, according to Circle of Blue’s annual survey of single-family residential water rates in 30 major U.S. cities. The average price for a family of four using 100 gallons per person per day increased 6.2 percent, the smallest year-to-year change in the five-year history of the survey. The median increase was 5.2 percent. For families using 150 gallons and 50 gallons per person per day, average prices rose 6.6 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively. Read More...  
  Voices From Detroit: Life Without Water  
  Thousands of residents of Detroit — a city under emergency management that is reeling from decades of deindustrialization and neighborhood decay — were cut off from drinking water supplies last year. Roughly 17,000 residences were shut off between March and August. because of overdue bills. Residents pushed back, taking water from fire hydrants to drink, cook, bathe, and flush their toilets, and community leaders organized emergency water deliveries. Meanwhile the accountants, lawyers, and traders collected tens of millions of dollars in fees to complete the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Read More...  
  West Virginia Chemical Spill Reflects Dramatic Weakness in U.S. Resolve to Enforce Drinking Water Safety  
  Not only was a harmful chemical stored haphazardly near a major drinking water source, but scant information was available to regulators, public health officials, and citizens about the chemical’s effects on people and aquatic species. The January spill from a chemical storage tank on the bank of West Virginia’s Elk River leaked approximately 10,000 gallons of 4-methyl-cyclohexane-methanol (MCHM) — a chemical used to process coal — into the river just 1.5 miles upstream of the drinking water intake for 300,000 people in Charleston, the state capital. In December, the Department of Justice indicted the company’s chief executive and three other top officers for violations of environmental law and perjury connected with the federal investigation. Read More...  
  Sao Paulo’s Water Waiting Game Avoided Rationing But Produced Huge Risk of Severe Shortage  
  Situated in a nation that typically enjoys one of the most abundant freshwater supplies on Earth, Sao Paulo quickly became desperately dry in 2014. After nearly a year of record-setting drought, the drinking water system that supplies half of Sao Paulo’s growing population was only 12 percent full and had less than 100 days of water in reserve as the year ended. Read More...  
  Colorado River’s Course Through A Drying Landscape Is Draining Lake Mead  
  The effects of lingering drought and the unrelenting demand for water from farmers, cities, and energy producers converged last summer at Lake Mead, which drained to its lowest level since 1937, when the Hoover Dam closed off the Colorado River to begin filling the largest reservoir in the United States. Read More...  
  Choke Point: Index — Texas and Kansas Farmers Take Different Paths to Saving Water  
  Six decades have passed since grain growers and cattle producers began tapping the Ogallala Aquifer with such sustained thirst that they drew more water to the surface each year than flows annually in the Colorado River. In Choke Point: Index, Circle of Blue found that the eight-state, $30 billion agriculture and livestock industry that has relied on the aquifer for its own wealth and to produce one-fifth of the nation’s corn, wheat, and cattle faces a new era of reckoning. The problem that the Ogallala’s users face is that significantly more water is pumped out each year than filters back into the ground. Read More...  
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