Los Angeles, California – Amid a once-in-a-millennium prolonged drought fuelled by the climate crisis, one of the largest water distribution agencies in the United States is warning six million California residents to cut back their water usage this summer, or risk dire shortages.
The scale of the restrictions is unprecedented in the history of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 20 million people and has been in operation for nearly a century.
Adel Hagekhalil, the district’s general manager, has asked residents to limit outdoor watering to one day a week so there will be enough water for drinking, cooking and flushing toilets months from now.
“This is real; this is serious and unprecedented,” Hagekhalil told Al Jazeera. “We need to do it, otherwise we don’t have enough water for indoor use, which is the basic health and safety stuff we need every day.”
The district has imposed restrictions before, but not to this extent, he said. “This is the first time we’ve said, we don’t have enough water [from the Sierra Nevadas in northern California] to last us for the rest of the year, unless we cut our usage by 35 percent.”
A lawsuit filed last month by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority accuses firefighting foam manufacturers of negligence in selling a product that has contaminated local airports with harmful chemicals.
The lawsuit alleges the compounds “are present in certain areas of” Tampa International Airport, Peter O. Knight Airport, Tampa Executive Airport and Plant City Airport. They are commonly called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down well and may taint the groundwater and soil, accumulating over time and sickening people who ingest them.
A spokeswoman for the Aviation Authority declined to answer questions about where specifically the chemicals have been found or at what levels.
“Because of pending litigation, we cannot comment on specifics of the case or speculation of damages,” wrote spokeswoman Emily Nipps. “The lawsuit is a proactive step by the Authority to recover potential costs associated with any future mitigation or remediation as a result of commercial airports, including (Tampa International Airport), using this (Federal Aviation Administration)-mandated chemical in its firefighting methods.”
The lawsuit asks for money from the manufacturers to pay for investigating, fixing and monitoring the “ongoing contamination” of its “surface, surface water, groundwater, soil and sediment.”
Florida is suing the makers of certain firefighting foams, accusing them of polluting the environment and potentially sickening people with chemicals.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed suit in mid-April in Hillsborough circuit court. The state’s lawyers accuse several businesses — including DuPont de Nemours, Inc.; The Chemours Company FC, LLC; Tyco Fire Products; and Chemguard, Inc. — of using materials that could put people at risk of cancer and other illnesses. The substances are commonly called “forever chemicals.”
The companies, the Attorney General’s Office said, did not warn customers or the public about the danger.
Florida’s case follows similar lawsuits from other states and agencies, including Tampa Bay Water, which oversees much of the region’s drinking water, and the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees Tampa International Airport.
The city of Portland is notifying water customers that the drinking water has exceeded the maximum contaminant level for total trihalomethanes.
According to a public notice issued by the city, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality notified the city that the water exceeded the 0.080 milligram per liter level of trihalomethanes established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Trihalomethanes are volatile organic compounds that are formed when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in the water. Some who drink water containing an excess of trihalomethanes over a long period of time could experience problems with liver, kidney or central nervous systems and may have an increased risk of cancer, a news release said.
LELAND — The Black Bayou Water Association, which now connects to nearly 3,000 rural customers in the Delta, was started about 30 years ago by a rice and soybean farmer with no water service experience.
David Koehn, now 76, had plans to build a mobile home park on his land in Washington County but didn’t have a central water source to offer residents. At the time, Koehn and others in the area drank from their personal shallow well, usually filled with brown, iron-laden water.
So the farmer went home-by-home to see who’d want to pay for a new water service. He took out some loans, found local volunteers to form a board, and by 1991 had the Black Bayou Water Association up and running, serving about 350 homes.
“It started as a community service and it turned into a career,” Koehn said.
Last month, an Ohio court certified a class action lawsuit brought by lawyer Rob Bilott that would cover 7 million people – and at some point possibly everyone living in the United States – who have been exposed to certain hazardous “forever chemicals” known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.
The chemicals have been linked to cancer, birth defects, kidney disease and a range of other human health problems. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, persisting indefinitely in the environment.
Two types of PFAS – PFOA and PFOS – have been found to be so harmful that they are being phased out of use. In addition to US multi-national company 3M, the class action lawsuit names 10 other companies that produce PFAS, which are used to make cookware, food packaging, water-resistant fabrics, firefighting foam and other products. The Biden administration last year pledged to undertake a massive PFAS mitigation strategy at a cost of more than $10bn.
The unprecedented water restrictions imposed on parts of Southern California this week have put a spotlight on how rapidly the state’s water supply is being reduced by drought and climate change.
An order to limit outdoor watering to only one day a week will take effect June 1 in areas that depend on water from the drought-ravaged State Water Project. The plan was adopted Tuesday by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and will affect 6 million people.
“These areas rely on extremely limited supplies from Northern California, and there is not enough supply available to meet the normal demands in these areas for the remainder of the year,” said Adel Hagekhalil, the district’s general manager.
PHOENIX — You can’t see it, but how we live impacts it and plays a vital role in almost everything that happens in Arizona. Groundwater is located deep beneath the surface and stored in aquifers, which are porous rock that contain or transport water.
About 40% of the state’s water supply is underground, with that number likely to increase due to reductions in available water from the Colorado River. Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, said the reliance on the resource stems from Arizona’s geography.
“A lot of Arizona does not have a convenient surface water supply, but we did have water in the ground,” Porter said.
An ongoing concern is what would happen if the valuable resource got contaminated. Thankfully, according to Porter, much of Arizona is regulated to catch dangerous chemicals and pollutants before reaching the water we drink.
Dr. Rebecca Muenich, associate professor of environmental engineering at ASU, points out a different dilemma. Those same standards don’t apply to private wells. “This is, in turn, a problem because about a third of those wells exceed human health based standards for one or more pollutants,” Muenich said.
Water bottles. Shopping bags. Computers. Medical equipment. Food containers. And on and on and on.
Plastics. They never go away. And even if we can’t see them — they’re everywhere.
“They are carried in the atmosphere, they are raining down on us. They’ve been found in the Himalayan mountains,” Erica Cirino says. “So right now we are immersed in a microplastics and nanoplastics soup.”
But are those microplastics inside of us?
“About five years ago was when scientists first began questioning, Are there plastics inside our bodies? And indeed there are,” Cirino adds.
For the first time, microplastics have been found in living humans — their lungs and blood.