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"States Challenge Native Americans’ Claims to Groundwater." That story and more in the latest edition of "This Week in Water"[ Show/Hide Transcript ]

U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Review Decision Recognizing Native American Rights to Groundwater

There is a water case so significant that last week ten states from Nevada to Texas asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review it. A federal appeals court recently ruled that the Agua Caliente tribe has a right to groundwater dating back to the creation of their reservation in the 1870s. That could mean that tribes have federally protected rights to surface and ground water that would give native Americans priority over rights created under state law.

The Desert Sun reports that the Agua Caliente tribe sued agencies in 2013 asserting they had rights to groundwater under its reservation in Palm Springs, California, and the surrounding area. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and if its ruling prevails the case would set a powerful precedent for other tribes across the country, strengthening their claims to groundwater. There is no guarantee that the high court will take the case. However, it seems more likely because the U.S. Supreme Court has never been asked to rule on Native Americans' claims to similar water rights.

Disaster Looming for North Korea, but Not Due to Threats of Nuclear War

While attention has been focused on the rhetoric between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a dire humanitarian crisis is facing the people of Kim’s country: drought and famine. The United Nations warned late last month that the lack of rain could be the worst for the country since 2001. This year a severe dry spell hampered the planting season for rice and cereal producing provinces.

Famine due to drought is not new in North Korea. CNN reports from 1995 to 1999 about 2 to 3 million people died from hunger. In 2016, the UN said that about 40% of the North Korean population was malnourished. Now the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for other countries to donate more food; but the likelihood of that is not great, given the international community’s inclination for increased sanctions.

A U.S. Agency Is Being Dismantled in Secret

Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, is dismantling the agency by closing offices, eliminating staff, and rolling back regulations, and he is doing so as secretly as he can. Interviews conducted by the New York Times of 20 current and former EPA employees reveal that Pruitt takes extraordinary steps to run the agency behind closed doors–literally. Some told the Times that doors to the floor with Pruitt’s offices are locked and employees must have an escort to gain entrance. Some are also told not to bring cell phones to meetings and not to take notes. Pruitt has armed security with him 24/7, and sometimes makes important calls not from his own office, but elsewhere.

An example of the stealth of Pruitt’s method in rolling back rules is how the agency has reset the definition of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. Staffers were told to eliminate an assessment by the Obama Administration proposed rule that showed favorable economic results. A report was then prepared saying that there was no economic benefit to preserving wetlands, when the earlier version showed a benefit of nearly $600 million. The process to change the analysis was done overnight without the usual examination that can take up to months or even years.

Pruitt’s secrecy has recently drawn a lawsuit. The State of California is suing the agency because it allegedly failed to comply with a request for documents that might indicate whether Pruitt has conflicts of interest. The suit is aimed at stopping Pruitt from being involved in rolling back rules over which he sued EPA while Oklahoma’s Attorney General. An EPA spokesperson denied the allegations.

Fires Are Burning All Over the Globe Even Greenland

Wildfires across the US have burned almost 6 million acres which is nearly 2 million more than the average. Smoke from the fires has spread east across the country. Conditions were so bad in Montana, that the people of the town of Seeley Lake, were advised to leave or at least find somewhere else to sleep due to the smoke.

Fires have also been burning in Canada, Italy, Romania, Russia, other parts of Europe, and even in Greenland, an island covered mostly in ice. According to Wildfire Today thousands of acres of permafrost are being charred releasing carbon as they burn.

This news about wildfires comes as NOAA recently released data showing that the first half of this year was the second warmest ever for the planet and that the month of June was the third hottest. In Europe, a record breaking heat wave has been dubbed Lucifer. And the New York Times reports that in parts of Asia including Pakistan, new high temperature records have people comparing it to living in hell.

High temperatures also struck the American Northwest and Southwest. ThinkProgess reports that based upon 20 studies extreme heat is one of the signature characteristics of global climate change. In other words, the hotter the world is the greater chance that a heat wave will bring extreme temperatures.

Climate Change Sinks Art Work About Climate Change

Wetland And finally, seems that climate change has a sense of humor. Last week a floating art installation designed to raise awareness about rising waters...sunk during a severe storm. An environmental art project called WetLand, that looks like a partially submerged home, was inspired by images of houses flooded during Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

But last weekend, the artwork that’s built on a houseboat, collapsed after it took on water from heavy rain and was pummeled by debris floating down the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Ironically, the artist Mary Mattingly had created the work as a commentary on climate change. According to WHYY, the installation included solutions like solar panels as well as a water garden that might help coastal residents adapt to environmental damage.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the plan is to lift the boat from the river bottom and tow it to a location to assess the damage. That undertaking could cost thousands of dollars, and it’s not clear who will ultimately foot the bill for removal—but fair to say, it won’t be cheap. But neither is the adaptation to climate change. And perhaps that’s the biggest takeaway from the artwork's message.





Music Credits: The Fixer, Funkygroove  | Qin, Dr.Guonake  | Jah Moon, Sun Ska Riddim Originale  |  Scott Holmes, Cat and Mouse  |  Grégoire Lourme, Rain  |  Creative Commons

Want to hear past episodes? Here are shows from this year and archives from 2016



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