• Water 4.0—the next revolution in urban water systems

    In his 2014 book, Water 4.0, UC Berkeley environmental engineer David Sedlak identifies four “revolutions” in the development of urban water systems. Sedlak says that we need a fourth revolution now. Soaring urban populations and a changing climate create chronic water shortages in some cities and too much water in others. Some contaminants may pose hazards in extraordinarily small concentrations. And aging pipe networks threaten the health of entire communities, as seen this year in Flint, Michigan.

  • Raccoon brings down grid, cutting power to 40,000 Seattle homes

    A raccoon broke into a Seattle, Washington power substation on Wednesday morning and single-handedly (some suggest: single-pawedly) brought down the electrical grid, cutting power to more about 40,000 homes. The raccoon did not stay inside the substation for long, but still managed to cause thirteen separate system outages.

  • Building security into cyber-physical systems

    We are immersed in a cyber-physical world. Information technology is deeply embedded in traditionally non-IT systems, including automobiles, the electric grid and emergency response. But in many of these systems, security is largely incorporated as a last step, like a suit of armor over a vulnerable body. To help bake security into the very core, a new draft NIST publication recommends ways to incorporate time-tested security design principles and concepts into these systems at every step, from concept to implementation.

  • Growing demand for bioenergy threatens global food supply

    As countries around the world look for ways to reduce their use of fossil fuels, the growing demand for bioenergy runs the risk of threatening the global food supply. Researchers have developed a certification scheme for biomass resources designed to incorporate food security, to help ensure people in affected regions of the world can continue to put food on their tables.

  • Governor Brown issues order to continue water savings as drought persists

    Moving to bolster California’s climate and drought resilience, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. the other day issued an executive order that builds on temporary statewide emergency water restrictions to establish longer-term water conservation measures. The governor’s office says that Californians have responded to the call to conserve water during the drought by dialing back sprinklers, replacing lawns, fixing leaky faucets, and installing more efficient toilets and washing machines. Between June 2015 and March 2016, Californians reduced water use by 23.9 percent compared with the same months in 2013 — saving enough water to provide 6.5 million Californians with water for one year.

  • Floods, coastal erosion may expose contents of UK landfills

    The contents of historic coastal landfill sites in England and Wales could pose a significant environmental threat if they erode, according to a new study. The main risks to these landfills come from the effects of climate change, including erosion and flooding with salt water from storm surges and higher water levels.

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  • Mapping water use of America’s water resources

    Water is one of our nation’s most important natural resources, one that is long been considered inexhaustible. Yet changes in land use, climate, and population demographics are placing unprecedented demands on America’s water supplies. As droughts rage and aquifers dwindle, people may wonder: Is there enough water to meet all our needs?

  • Marine Corps, Sandia collaborate on microgrids and renewable energy planning

    The U.S. Marine Corps are the first boots on the ground in a crisis. On the front lines, they must be able to power up securely without plugging into utilities. They require nothing less than completely reliable and cost-effective energy independence. Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories are collaborating with the Marine Corps to increase their energy security and reduce fuel dependence through alternative technologies, including renewable energy and microgrids.

  • Protecting Texas electrical grid key to preserving national security

    Protecting America’s most vulnerable asset – our electric power grid – starts with Texas, according to a new study. “As Texas goes, so goes our national security,” says the study’s author. “Outside of California and the Beltway, Texas is arguably the most important state for defense readiness.” Hardening the state’s electric power grid should be top priority.

  • “Internet of Things” increases threat to infrastructure

    According to former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, a simple Web search can reveal information from thousands of unsecured devices. Even the casual browser can access camera data from Sweden, video game server activity in Eastern Europe, or the output of American wind turbines. He said this information is as easily accessible to terrorists and other criminals. And more will become available as the “Internet of things” — the collection of physical systems and devices connected to the Internet — grows in size.

  • Climate-driven water scarcity could reduce economic growth by up to 6%: World Bank

    Water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6 percent of their GDP, spur migration, and spark conflict, according to a new World Bank report released the other day. The report says the combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes, and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain.

  • Fixing NYC’s aging infrastructure one engineering problem at a time

    How do you make sure aging bridges which are vital links in New York City’s transportation network are safe or keep the city’s sewer system from breaking down? These are among the questions that occupy Columbia University researchers, who have installed sensors to analyze vibration on some of the city’s bridges and in landmark buildings and museums, and have focused on the functioning of the city’s water system.

  • More corrosion-resistant water pipes could preventing another Flint, Mich. health crisis

    Corrosion-related damage costs more than three percent of the United States’ Gross Domestic Product (about $503.1 billion, going by 2013 numbers). With documented public water problems in Flint, Michigan, and Hoosick Falls, New York, caused by corrosion, understanding how copper is affected at the atomic level is critical to avoiding problems in future pipes.

  • Turbulent mixing research makes advanced thermal reactors safer

    Researchers are working to make advanced thermal reactors safer by establishing trusted uncertainty guidelines regarding advanced reactor turbulent mixing processes. “The overall goal of this project is the efficient management of heat transfer and being able to predict what’s going to happen in accident scenarios from a thermal hydraulics standpoint,” one researcher said. “A lot of what I’m doing in this research is focused on establishing uncertainty in the predictive tools that we have for measuring those accident scenarios.”

  • Repairing earthquake-damaged bridge columns in days, not weeks

    In just thirty seconds, a devastating earthquake like the ones that struck Japan and Ecuador can render a city helpless. With roadways split and bridges severely damaged, residents and emergency personnel could be prevented from moving around to rebuild. Normally, it takes weeks to repair the cracking or spalling of columns on just one bridge damaged in an earthquake. Researchers have developed a new process of fixing columns that takes as little as a few days.