Desalination’s Time Has Come

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The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant on the California coast provides 50 million gallons of fresh water a day to San Diego. POSEIDON WATER

Thanks to Jim Robbins at Yale e360:

As Water Scarcity Increases, Desalination Plants Are on the Rise

After decades of slow progress, desalination is increasingly being used to provide drinking water around the globe. Costs for processing salt water for drinking water have dropped, but it remains an expensive option and one that creates environmental problems that must be addressed.

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Desalination has been growing steadily in the last decade. JONES ET AL, SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, 2019

Some 30 miles north of San Diego, along the Pacific Coast, sits the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest effort to turn salt water into fresh water in North America.

Each day 100 million gallons of seawater are pushed through semi-permeable membranes to create 50 million gallons of water that is piped to municipal users. Carlsbad, which became fully operational in 2015, creates about 10 percent of the fresh water the 3.1 million people in the region use, at about twice the cost of the other main source of water.

Expensive, yes, but vital for the fact that it is local and reliable. “Drought is a recurring condition here in California,” said Jeremy Crutchfield, water resources manager at the San Diego County Water Authority. “We just came out of a five-year drought in 2017. The plant has reduced our reliance on imported supplies, which is challenging at times here in California. So it’s a component for reliability.”

A second plant, similar to Carlsbad, is being built in Huntington, California with the same 50-million-gallon-a-day capability. Currently there are 11 desalination plants in California, and 10 more are proposed. Continue reading

Catch It To Drink It

The illustrative video above is on its own worth a couple minutes of your time. But the innovative approach to one of the world’s most pressing problems is the thing to take note of. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for bringing Evelyn Wang and Omar Yaghi’s work to our attention in this story:

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A prototype MOF-based water-collection device is set up for testing on the roof of a building on the MIT campus.
Courtesy Evelyn Yang, MIT

Researchers have come up with a new way to extract water from thin air. Literally.

This isn’t the first technology that can turn water vapor in the atmosphere into liquid water that people can drink, but researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, say their approach uses less power and works in drier environments. Continue reading

The Future Runs Through It

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After two decades of drought, Lake Mead in Nevada is just 40 percent full. TED WOOD

Thanks to Jim Robbins and Yale e360 for this second installment, and especially to Ted Wood for photography as visually compelling as the implication of the story:

CRISIS ON THE COLORADO: PART II

On the Water-Starved Colorado River, Drought Is the New Normal

With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water?

 

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Scientists at the University of Arizona are using tree rings to study centuries of drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin.

In the basement of the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, the fragrant smell of pine hangs in the air as researchers comb through the stacks of tree slabs to find a round, 2-inch-thick piece of Douglas fir.

They point out an anomaly in the slab — an unusually wide set of rings that represent the years 1905 to 1922. Those rings mean it was a pluvial period — precipitation was well above average — and so the trees grew far more than other years.

“In 1905, the gates opened and it was very wet and stayed very wet until the 1920s,” said David Meko, a hydrologist at the lab who studies past climate and stream flow based on tree rings. “It guided their planning and how much water they thought was available.”

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Mark Harris, a water manager in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The planning was that of the states that share the water of the Colorado River. Worried that a burgeoning California would take most of the water before it was fairly divvied up, representatives from the other Colorado River Basin states, presided over by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, came together in 1922 to develop an equitable apportionment. They looked at flow measurements and figured that the river contained an average of 15 million acre-feet. They divided the Colorado River states into two divisions – the upper basin and the lower basin, with the dividing line in northern Arizona near the Utah border. The upper basin states — Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico — agreed not to take more than a total of 7.5 million acre-feet and to allow the other half to flow south to the lower basin. The agreement they signed was called the 1922 Colorado River Compact, also known as the Law of the River. Continue reading

Colorado River’s Future

Thanks to Jim Robbins and Yale e360:

CRISIS ON THE COLORADO: PART I

The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?

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The headwaters of the Colorado River are in a marshy meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park.

As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off. First in a series.

The beginnings of the mighty Colorado River on the west slope of Rocky Mountain National Park are humble. A large marsh creates a small trickle of a stream at La Poudre Pass, and thus begins the long, labyrinthine 1,450-mile journey of one of America’s great waterways.

Several miles later, in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Kawuneeche Valley, the Colorado River Trail allows hikers to walk along its course and, during low water, even jump across it. This valley is where the nascent river falls prey to its first diversion — 30 percent of its water is taken before it reaches the stream to irrigate distant fields.

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The Colorado flows 1,450 from its source in Colorado to the southwest, ending just short of the Gulf of California. MAP BY DAVID LINDROTH

The Never Summer Mountains tower over the the valley to the west. Cut across the face of these glacier-etched peaks is the Grand Ditch, an incision visible just above the timber line. The ditch collects water as the snow melts and, because it is higher in elevation than La Poudre Pass, funnels it 14 miles back across the Continental Divide, where it empties it into the headwaters of the Cache La Poudre River, which flows on to alfalfa and row crop farmers in eastern Colorado. Hand dug in the late 19th century with shovels and picks by Japanese crews, it was the first trans-basin diversion of the Colorado. Continue reading

Being Ecological When Nature Is Perceived With Limits

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A book about ecology without information dumping, guilt inducing, or preaching to the choir.

This new book is mentioned in a description of coming to terms with a life without water, an essay written from the perspective of living in Cape Town, South Africa. The essay is moving in the way a dream can be, which fits the writer’s reference to what we all might come to know as “the water-anxiety dream.”

The essay was effective enough to get me to click through to find out more about the book to the left. Which leads to Timothy Morton, who has somehow avoided our notice until now. How had we missed an author of books with titles like Dark Ecology, and The Ecological Thought, as well as Ecology without Nature?

Nevermind how. My thanks to Rosa Lyster for this, among other gifts from her essay.

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For some residents of Cape Town, the memory of the drought is already fading. But, in an increasingly parched world, will the anxiety ever really end? Illustration by Owen Gent

A friend of mine got married in her parents’ garden last year, on a lavishly beautiful late-summer afternoon in Cape Town. Many of the guests were British, and they could not stop remarking on the fineness of the weather. It was a startling reminder that some people still relish hot days with no possibility of rain, that not everyone looks upon February in the Western Cape as something to be endured. After the ceremony, my date and I stood by the swimming pool, drinking sparkling wine and monitoring the canapés. My friend’s stepfather came by to say hello, carefully picking his way past the bride’s two young brothers, who were playing an ecstatic game of hide-and-seek on the lawn, getting grass stains on their tiny suits. After gracefully accepting our praise about how lovely everything had been, he told us that he’d been having torrid anxiety dreams. We nodded. Weddings are notoriously hard on the old nerves—guests to be tended to, speeches to be made, and the pool just lying there, waiting for any old idiot to accidentally fall in and cast an undignified pall over the happy day. He shook his head. His dream, he explained, was about the garden. Continue reading

Using Water Cleverly

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Hydrologists Zach Freed (The Nature Conservancy) and Hank Johnson (U.S. Geologic Survey) measure water chemistry of the spring from the inflow pipe to the old trough, which is filled with emergent aquatic vegetation. Photo © Allison Aldous / The Nature Conservancy

Thanks to Lisa Feldcamp at the Nature Conservancy for this story:

Sharing Water: How I Met the MacGyvers of Water Use

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Down the stream at Sand Spring you can see an elk wallow. Photo © Lisa Feldkamp / The Nature Conservancy

“It’s like leaving the kitchen faucet on all year for one glass of water,” says Zach Freed, a hydrologist for the Nature Conservancy in Oregon. That’s how people in Oregon and throughout the US West have traditionally used spring water.

When European homesteaders first came west, spring water must have seemed like an endless resource. Homesteaders could find a potable spring and turn on the tap to provide water for their families and livestock. As the generations came and went, old ranches failed, and new ones sprang up. Springs came in and out of use, but it often happened that nobody ever turned off the tap. Continue reading

Ask Whole Foods About Wonderful

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How wonderful is that?!? An organization that has been digging into the question of where all that fracking water is going in recent years. Thanks to Food & Water Watch, one of the most vigilant watchdogs helping the public become aware of fracking’s potential dangers, for asking questions that we all have reason to care about. And since the answers are not so wonderful, they are choosing perfect market-based locations to ask regular folks whether they are aware of the very cozy relationship between fracking waste water and the food we eat. Even some certified organic foods, it turns out. The image above is from their current press release:

PomWashington, D.C. — Are families around the country—and around the globe—eating California produce grown with toxic water from oil drilling? If they consume Halos Mandarins, POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, Wonderful pistachios, Sunview Raisins, Bee Sweet citrus or Sutter Home wine, they almonds_bottommay well be. Those companies grow some of their products in four water districts in California’s Central Valley that buy wastewater from Chevron and other oil companies’ drill sites. Now, Food & Water Watch is announcing a campaign to ban the practice, which threatens our food, farm workers and the environment, with a new documentary by noted filmmaker Jon Bowermaster and a campaign video capturing shocked reactions from people who previewed the video last week in front of Whole Foods’ headquarters in Austin, Texas. [continued below]

Thanks to WNYC for this half hour in which we learned about the study. For a decade-old but still profile of the wonderful couple who we hope will come clean on this, take a look here:

fiji_bottle_top…Lynda and her creative team immediately set to work promoting the water’s “untainted” origins. (Fiji Water comes from an aquifer on the island of Viti Levu.) The bottle’s label was retooled: the image of a waterfall (Lynda: “Surface water? Yuck!”) was replaced with a bright-pink tropical flower and palm fronds, and the company’s slogan was changed from the ho-hum “Taste of Paradise” to the more direct “Untouched by man. Until you drink it.” Since the makeover, sales have improved by three hundred per cent…

Rich, as the saying goes. Continue reading

Water Independence, A Trend Worth Watching In 2018

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At Opal Springs Water Company in Oregon, raw water is prepared for shipping to the company Live Water. Credit Leah Nash for The New York Times

Closing out 2017, a note on water. Nellie Bowles wrote this story, Unfiltered Fervor: The Rush to Get Off the Water Grid, for the Food section of the New York Times. It could just as well have been in either the Science or the Tech section.

One new technology allows anyone, in dry or humid climates, to produce and store their own drinking water. The story is in the Food section presumably because it is a luxury for the improvement of your drinking pleasure; but the implications for natural resource management are interesting. And what about the projects that societies have embarked upon, forever, to determine ever-better ways to distribute necessities like water?

SOURCE: a HydropanelTM that makes drinking water from sunlight and air

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A standard residential SOURCE array is made up of two panels: one primary panel and one additional panel with array sizes designed to meet your drinking water needs.

  • Daily Production

    A standard array averages 4-10 liters each day or 8-20 16.9oz standard water bottles, depending on sunshine and humidity.

  • Footprint

    Each panel is 4 feet x 8 feet (1.2m x 2.4m) and a standard array contains 2 panels.

  • Water Storage

    Each panel holds 30 liters in a reservoir where it is mineralized and kept clean for optimal taste and health. Standard arrays have 60 liters of water storage capacity.

  • Power

    SOURCE utilizes solar power and a small battery to enable water production when the sun shines and water delivery on cloudy days or at night.

The story includes several technologies that seem worth knowing about:

Continue reading

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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Thanks to Jessica Glenza and the Guardian for this update on the story of water in Michigan, a topic that seemed to come and go as quickly the political landscape shifted in the last year. Nestle, the Moriarti of so many stories, makes this one too easy to believe:

While Flint battles a water crisis, just two hours away the beverage giant pumps almost 100,000 times what an average Michigan resident uses into plastic bottles

Gina Luster bathed her child in lukewarm bottled water, emptied bottle by bottle into the tub, for months. It became a game for her seven-year-old daughter. Pop the top off a bottle, and pour it into the tub. It takes about 30 minutes for a child to fill a tub this way. Pop the top, pour it in; pop the top, pour it in. Maybe less if you can get gallon jugs.

Luster lives in Flint, Michigan, and here, residents believe tap water is good for one thing: to flush the toilet.

“I don’t even water my plants with it,” she said. Continue reading

Stanford Earth’s Rosemary Knight

Thanks to Stanford News for this short video on important innovation related to ensuring we all stay hydrated well into the future:

Mapping groundwater from the air

Stanford Earth’s Rosemary Knight recently spearheaded a project to map underground freshwater resources and forecast the intrusion of saltwater into aquifers beneath the California coastal town of Marina. The project, a collaboration between Stanford, the Marina Coastal Water District, and Aqua Geo Frameworks, involved a low-flying helicopter towing a giant, instrument-laden fiberglass hoop that generated ground-probing magnetic fields that penetrated 1,000 feet beneath the surface.

New Study on How Boobies Dive Safely

Replicas of gannet skulls from the collection at the Smithsonian Institution allowed researchers to measure the forces a bird’s skill experiences during a dive. (Photo by Sunny Jung/Virginia Tech via Smithsonian)

Replicas of gannet skulls from the collection at the Smithsonian Institution allowed researchers to measure the forces a bird’s skill experiences during a dive. (Photo by Sunny Jung/Virginia Tech)

The title may seem silly, but I can’t help that a whole family of birds are alternatingly called boobies or gannets – most of us have heard of the Blue-footed Booby, but there are several other species, all of which hunt for fish by diving, head first, at extremely high speeds from many meters above the water. For a human entering water at fifty miles an hour, a neck injury would be a certainty, and even organ damage could occur, but boobies/gannets accomplish the dives plenty of times during a day’s hunting, with no apparent problem. It seems that their physiology, as well as the way they contract their muscles during the plunge, save them from harm. From the Smithsonian Insider:

New research from Virginia Tech, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences helps explain how the birds manage these high-speed dives.

“We were interested in what happens when objects plunge into water, so we looked for examples in nature; the gannets are incredible,” said Sunny Jung, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics in the College of Engineering and an expert in fluid biomechanics; he has also studied dogs’ unusual drinking technique and how shrimp use microscopic bubbles to hunt.

Continue reading

Boca del Tule, Kayak & Surf

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The shore down below Villa del Faro is known as Boca del Tule, since the Tule arroyo –– a seasonal river in the desert –– runs into the ocean at that point (boca means mouth in Spanish). The beach is public but very few people are ever on it, partly because we’re an hour away from the closest city, San José del Cabo, via dirt road. Now and then you’ll see a couple fishermen, or if the waves are good, some surfers. Last week, Jocelyn and I tried surfing both here at Boca del Tule and also at a better-known surfing beach just twenty minutes south called Nine Palms.

Both spots offered fair surfing for either experienced or newbie surfers, since Continue reading

Out of Sight, Out of Water

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Source: National Geographic

As a person who’s had the privilege to live her entire life in areas that have access to potable municipal water, I view water as an environmental commodity that only involves the twist of a faucet knob to obtain it (as I think most people who have enjoyed the same privilege do). Even when the water supply was cut off for some unknown reason, getting usable water was as simple as going to the closest convenience store and purchasing a five gallon jug or waiting for the daily Costa Rican downpour in the rainy season to collect some rainwater in large bins.

I have read, studied, and heard of the diminishing freshwater reserves on our planet and it is always on the back of my mind whenever I turn on a faucet to wash dishes, take a shower, brush my teeth, etc. I am frugal with my water consumption, but that is not enough. The fact that it is so easily accessible leads to the classic conundrum of  ‘out of sight, out of mind.’   Continue reading

Drink Maple? Sure

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Courtesy of Drinkmaple

 Those of us who grew up in maple territory can easily relate to this, and even place palm on forehead and ask–why didn’t I think of that?–so thanks to the Salt over at National Public Radio (USA) for this:

From Tree To Tap: Maple Water Makes A Splash

Unlike syrup, which is boiled down into a thick, sticky liquid, maple water is made from unprocessed sap that is 98 percent water. Its growing popularity is a boon for local farmers. Continue reading

Environment, Rights & Responsibilities

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The singer Rebecca Martin helped keep Niagara, a water-bottling company, from tapping a reservoir near her adopted home, in upstate New York. “What’s more important than drinking water? Nothing,” she says. PHOTOGRAPH BY PAT KEPIC

Thanks to Alexis Okeowo for this note about actions our fellow citizens take, a reminder of our rights and responsibilities:

A JAZZ SINGER FIGHTS NIAGARA BOTTLING

By Alexis Okeowo

For years, Rebecca Martin was used to being transient, without a permanent home or commitments. As a jazz musician who performed both solo and with a band named Once Blue, Martin spent much of her time on the road touring and performing, while being loosely based in New York City. When she decided, almost fifteen years ago, to move to Kingston, ninety miles north of the city on the Hudson River, she felt a sense of relief. She had “really lost touch with the idea of community and responsibility to one another,” she said, and took the chance to grow her family and settle down. She started noticing ways that her new town could improve. There was a shop in her neighborhood that was selling large knives, big enough to be called swords, near two schools. Continue reading

TNC Building Beaver Dams

View of a series of existing beaver dams downstream of beaver dam analogue restoration reach. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Kristen Podolak)

Beavers can be highly destructive in the wrong environment, but are keystone species wherever they’ve been around for long enough to have designed their ecosystem. And in areas where for a number of reasons beaver populations have dwindled so much as to see deterioration in the habitat, The Nature Conservancy thinks that adding artificial dams can help restore the land by affecting sedimentation, creating floodplains, and storing water. Kristen Podolak, Rodd Kelsey, Sierra Harris, and Nathan Korb report:

The Nature Conservancy is working like a beaver (Castor canadensis) by mimicking beaver dam building to restore streams and floodplain habitat in Montana and California.

No kidding. Last year we built twelve instream structures that look and act like beaver dams on two streams in Montana and we plan to build six more in a small creek in Childs Meadow, California this fall.

Why try to act like beavers? Beavers are not a panacea and can be a nuisance when they block water diversions or chew down people’s favorite trees, which is why they have been persistently trapped and killed or relocated in many areas across North America.

Continue reading

Soaked Boots and River Squirms

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In the spirit of Earth Day, Xandari held a river clean-up last week along the Tacacorí River, which not only is the hotel’s primary supply for irrigation but also the local town’s. Similar to the community street clean-up we led last September and years prior, the purpose of this event was to remove any garbage along the river starting from the river spring and through the length of the property, which amounts to about 1km. Unlike the last clean-up, however, this one was of a smaller, and damper, scale. Continue reading

Traveling by Water

Many are the memories created on the banks of rivers, in the middle of the sea, and along ocean tides. PHOTO: Abrachan Pudussery

Many are the memories created on the banks of rivers, in the middle of the sea, and along ocean tides. PHOTO: Abrachan Pudussery

At Xandari Riverscapes, water is everything. Sharing the Kerala backwaters with all those who choose to travel with us has always been about sharing stories of the waters. Of the paddy fields that hug the river banks, canoes that transport groceries and construction material to the hinterlands, women and children fishing and splashing around near their waterfront homes, fishing boats, and more. And so this soulful piece on water’s incredible power to flow by memories resonates with us all through:

Water is great. We tune ourselves to it, to its murmured song of ebb and flow, of wave and ripple, in seas, rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, ponds, snows. We drink it, we bathe in it, we stare at dark clouds praying for their sudden moment of release of it. “Take me somewhere magical,” my favorite cousin once said. So I did, to sail the sea. By the third day our ship was completely out of sight of land, nothing but water curving with the horizon.

“Oh,” she said. “Oh. That’s exactly what I needed.”

Below us, the swells rolled, allowing us to dance with them until our very steps were full of the lift of waves. In our own small way, our steps lifting with the waves, we were tuning the ocean as we sailed—and it, in turn, was tuning us.

Continue reading

Sorry, Bolivia!

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NASA satellite images show Bolivia’s Lake Poopo filled with water in April 2013 (left), and almost dry in January 2016. PHOTO: NASA/AP

Drying rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Fancy a list? Here and here, you go. The world’s waters are rapidly running dry, threatening wild habitats and human civilization, exacerbating climate change. In turn, livelihoods, ecosystems, energy generation are all affected. Like in Bolivia, which just lost its second largest lake.

Continue reading

Rain Scents

Vivek Prakash/Reuters

Vivek Prakash/Reuters

Smell is one of the most evocative of the five senses, allowing us to relive memories that span our entire lives. Scents from the kitchen make our mouths water. Scents from nature make us long to be outdoors. Considering that on average our bodies consist of 60% water, it isn’t surprising that we’re so attuned to the range of smells associated with H2O.

Many of the RAXA Collective team long for the refreshing monsoon rains in Kerala, never imagining that exhilaration could be captured in a bottle.

Once again we thank The Guardian for this intoxicating story.

Every storm blows in on a scent, or leaves one behind. The metallic zing that can fill the air before a summer thunderstorm is from ozone, a molecule formed from the interaction of electrical discharges—in this case from lightning—with oxygen molecules. Likewise, the familiar, musty odor that rises from streets and storm ponds during a deluge comes from a compound called geosmin. A byproduct of bacteria, geosmin is what gives beets their earthy flavor. Rain also picks up odors from the molecules it meets. So its essence can come off as differently as all the flowers on all the continents—rose-obvious, barely there like a carnation, fleeting as a whiff of orange blossom as your car speeds past the grove. It depends on the type of storm, the part of the world where it falls, and the subjective memory of the nose behind the sniff… Continue reading