Monday, September 7, 2020

Episode 541 (9-7-20): Water Issues Awaiting after the 2020 U.S. National Elections

Click to listen to episode (4:51)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-4-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 7, 2020.

MUSIC - ~11 sec – instrumental

This week, we feature a Blacksburg, Va., musician’s song that sets the stage for thinking about significant water resources issues.  Have a listen for about 45 more seconds.

MUSIC - ~48 sec – Lyrics:

Whatcha gonna do when the river runs dry?
When there’s no more water in your well?
You won’t know when to give it that one last try;
You won’t be warned before the final bell.
[I'm] takin’ it on the way, takin’ it on the way.
Whatcha gonna do when the river runs dry?”

You’ve been listening to part of “River Runs Dry,” by Kat Mills, accompanied by Rachel Handman, on the 2003 album “Long Time.”  As noted in a previous Virginia Water Radio episode featuring this music, the river in the song symbolizes the inspirations and sources of creativity on which Ms. Mills depends in her life and work.  But the song’s questions about what to do if the river or well goes dry provide inspiration for considering the challenges of actual water.  For example, water is a factor in three of the top worldwide risks over the next ten years cited in the non-partisan World Economic Forum’s “Global Risks Report” for 2020.  Those three are a water-availability crisis, climate change, and extreme weather.

With U.S. national elections fast approaching, this Labor Day week offers a good time to consider some national and global water resources challenges awaiting the next president, Congress, and other federal officials.  If Virginia Water Radio could interview the presidential candidates, here are eight questions we’d ask, generated from various sources.

1. What water bodies should be regulated as part of the Waters of the United States under the federal Clean Water Act?

2. What are your plans for addressing the nation’s water-related infrastructure needs?

3. What should the federal government do regarding groundwater quantity and quality issues around the country?

4. What’s needed for all citizens to have access to adequate, safe drinking water?

5. What are your positions on climate change?

And 6. What international water issues concern you?

We end this episode with a question for you listeners: how, if at all, does water factor into your voting decisions this fall?

Thanks to Kat Mills for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 25 more seconds of “River Runs Dry.”

MUSIC - ~26 sec – Lyrics:

“Whatcha gonna do when the river runs dry?
I guess I'll have to pack up and leave my home.”


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“River Runs Dry,” by Kat Mills, accompanied by Rachel Handman, is from the 2003 album “Long Time,” from Sweetcut Music; used with permission.  More information about Kat Mills is available online at and at  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 200 (2-10-14) and Episode 291 (11-23-15).

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Following are photos of three of the many rivers that Virginians hope won’t run dry in 2020 or any other year.

Tye River, as viewed from from Route 56 in Nelson County, Va., March 3, 2013.

Staunton (Roanoke) River as viewed from from the Long Island Park trail in Campbell County, Va., June 15, 2017.

South Fork Holston River along Teas Road near Sugar Grove in Smyth County, Va., June 11, 2018.


Used for Audio

American Society of Civil Engineers, “2017 Infrastructure Report Card/Water,” online at

Kathy G. Beckett, “Waters of the United States Litigation: Practical Considerations for the Regulated Community,” National Law Review, June 8, 2020, online at

Daniel Bush, “Where President Trump stands on the issues in 2020,” PBS NewsHour, 6/19/19, online at

On the Issues, “2020 Presidential Candidates/Joe Biden,” online at; and “2020 Presidential Candidates/Donald Trump,” online at

United States Geological Survey, “Groundwater Decline and Depletion,” online at

WGBH-Boston, “H2O: The Molecule that Made Us,” available online via PBS (Public Broadcasting System) at

Kathryn A. Wolfe, “2020DEMS/Issues/Clean Water,” Politico, November 8, 2019, online at

World Economic Forum, online at sites used were the following: *Carl Ganter, “Water crises are a top global risk,” January 16, 2015, online at;
*“The Global Risks Report 2020,” online (as a PDF) at;
*Max Hall, “Burning Planet: Climate Fires and Political Flame Wars Rage,” World Economic Forum news release, January 15, 2020, online at (this is the source for information in the audio on the World Economic Forum’s list of top global risks; for their list, see the “Annex” section in this news release).

For More Information about U.S. and Global Water Issues

Oregon State University/College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, “Program in Water Management Conflict and Transformation, online at

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)/Global Water Forum, “International Water Politics,” online at

Terje Tvedt, Graham Chapman, and Roar Hagen, eds., A History of Water Series II/Volume 3: Water, Geopolitics and the New World Order, I.B. Tauris, London/New York, 2010.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Overall Importance of Water” subject category.

Following are links to three other episodes on water resources issues and challenges.

Episode 200, 2-10-14 – also using Kat Mills’ “River Runs Dry,” to look at water imagery and challenges.
Episode 340, 11-2-16 – a look at water-resources issues prior to the 2016 U.S. national elections.
Episode 505, 12-30-19 – on various water topics expected to be in the news in 2020.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 English SOLs

8.5, 9.4, 10.4, 11.4 – symbols, imagery, figurative language, and other literary devices.

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, and cost/benefit assessments).

Life Science Course
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia, with reference to the hydrologic cycle.
ES.10 – ocean processes, interactions, and policies affecting coastal zones, including Chesapeake Bay.
ES.11 – origin, evolution, and dynamics of the atmosphere, including human influences on climate.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
3.8 – understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course
USII.9 – domestic and international issues during the second half of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.4 – types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.
WG.18 – cooperation among political jurisdictions to solve problems and settle disputes.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.14 – political and social conditions in the 21st Century.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT. 12 – role of the United States in a changing world, including responsibilities of the national government for foreign policy and national security.
GOVT.15 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.