The dwindling water levels at Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town's main source of water.

The dwindling water levels at Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town’s main source of water.

The U.S. South, too, could experience more hot, dry days: If current projections hold, Cape Town, South Africa, a city of four million, will run out of water on May 11 after three long years of severe drought. The coastal city is considering building an expensive, energy-intensive desalination facility, and in so doing is exposing a dire reality: Pockets of humanity around the world may have to rely on the sea to survive drought in the very near future, because it’s likely climate change is exacerbating this drought. Models show that for certain parts of the world, things are going to get really hot and really dry; the American South, for example, could see a tripling of 95-degree-plus days per year by 2050. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

SNAP overhaul could cost retailers billions: A controversial recommendation in the White House’s budget proposal released Feb. 12 to overhaul how benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, are delivered to recipients could cost food retailers billions and create a logistical nightmare for states, according to an industry trade group and analysts. READ MORE

WATER

Water fines on the horizon: Anyone caught wasting water in California may be fined as much as $500 under new rules being considered by the state water board, officials said Monday. The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to adopt regulation coming before the board on Feb. 20 that would make it a crime to commit any of seven wasteful water practices — from lawn over watering to street median irrigation. Those rules would take effect April 1. READ MORE

HUMANITARIAN CRISES

Venezuela’s ‘marked deterioration’: Venezuela’s democratic institutions and human rights situation have undergone “marked deterioration” over the past two years, a regional human rights body warned in a report documenting abuses under President Nicolas Maduro. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission said there were “serious obstacles” to political participation, increased repression and censorship, rising crime and insecurity and intensifying poverty. READ MORE

Yet the country pumps less oil: Venezuela’s oil output in January fell to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, not including a brief oil strike in 2003, according to S&P Global Platts. Production in January was down 20 percent from a year ago. The country has more crude oil than any other country in the world and heavily depends on the commodity to power its economy. Crude oil makes up about 95 percent of Venezuela’s exports, and the country has no other source of foreign income. Yet the government-owned oil company, PDVSA, has pumped less and less oil for the last few years because of corruption, crumbling infrastructure and a massive debt crisis. READ MORE

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

Is the Ring of Fire waking up? Strong tremors have struck near Guam, Japan and Alaska within the Pacific tectonic plate, raising fears about activity around the Ring of Fire, which circles the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. island territory of Guam, for example, was struck by four earthquakes in the early hours of Tuesday as magnitude 5.7, 5.6, 5.4 and 4.9 quakes shook the region. Earthquakes have also occurred recently off the coast of Alaska, causing tsunami warnings to be issued as far south as San Francisco. More than half of the world’s active volcanoes above sea level encircle the Pacific Ocean, and about 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur in this zone, according to the United States Geological Survey. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Can I use that medication, or not? The bottle of NyQuil always seems to be grimy, faded, and buried beneath layers of toiletries when you come down with a sudden cold. Tired and sniffling, you peer at the label. The medication expired six months ago. At that moment, it’s easy to question the number printed on the bottle: How solid is that expiration date, exactly? Well, that depends. READ MORE