• Water securitySnow science in support of U.S. water supply

    More than one-sixth of the world’s population relies on seasonal snow for water. In the western U.S., nearly three-quarters of the annual streamflow that provides the water supply arrives as spring and summer melt from the mountain snow packs. Right now, predictions of streamflow can vary widely due to limited ground measurement sites. This is one of the reasons scientists and resource managers are interested in a comprehensive view from space of what they call snow-water equivalent — the amount of liquid water contained in snow cover. Scientists use snow-water equivalent to estimate the amount of water that will melt into mountain streams, rivers and reservoirs.

  • Water securityGenetic tool improves arsenic studies

    Arsenic-contaminated drinking water impacts millions of people worldwide. Groundwater contamination is primarily caused by microbes that convert one form of arsenic into another form that can infiltrate groundwater. Researchers developed a genetic tool that makes it easier to identify which microbial species have the arsenic-converting genes.

  • Water securityStorms filled 37 percent of California snow-water deficit

    The “atmospheric river” weather patterns that pummeled California with storms from late December to late January may have recouped 37 percent of the state’s five-year snow-water deficit. Researchers estimate that two powerful recent storms deposited roughly 17.5-million acre feet (21.6 cubic kilometers) of water on California’s Sierra Nevada range in January. Compared to averages from the pre-drought satellite record, that amount represents more than 120 percent of the typical annual snow accumulation for this range.

  • Water security“Solar vapor” device purifies dirty drinking water

    A new way to make nasty or salty water drinkable features carbon-dipped paper. It could be a cheap and efficient option for addressing global drinking water shortages, particularly in developing areas and regions affected by natural disasters.

  • Water securityIsrael recycles 90% of its wastewater, four times more than any other country

    Almost 90 percent of Israeli wastewater is purified and used in irrigation, making it an undisputed world leader in this field. Spain, the second-place country, recycles 20 percent of its wastewater, compared to Israel’s 87 percent. Israel is also a pioneer in desalination, operating Sorek — the world’s largest seawater desalination plant — which employs advanced technologies, allowing it to produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 U.S. cents.

  • Water securityDetailed look at decentralized water systems

    The “decentralized” water system at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which treats all non-potable water on site, contributes to the net-zero building’s recognition as one of the greenest buildings in the world. However, research into the efficacy of these systems versus traditional treatment is practically non-existent in the literature. Thanks to a collaboration between Phipps and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, researchers now have a greater understanding of the life cycle of water reuse systems designed for living buildings, from construction through day-to-day use.

  • Food securityStopping human-made droughts and floods before they start

    Alberta’s rivers are a main source of water for irrigated agriculture in Canada’s Prairie provinces. But climate change and increased human interference mean that the flow of these headwaters is under threat. This could have major implications for Canadian gross domestic product, and even global food security.

  • Water securityWhat caused the Flint water crisis

    Flint, Michigan, continues to grapple with the public health crisis that unfolded as lead levels in its tap water spiked to alarming levels. Now the scientists who helped uncover the crisis have tested galvanized iron pipes extracted from the “ground zero” house. They confirm that the lead that had accumulated on the interior surface of the pipes was the most likely source of the lead contamination.

  • Water securitySalt on the earth

    When ice and snow melt away into streams and groundwater, road salt goes with it. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is mindful of its salt use: It applies nearly 27,500 tons of salt every year to 779 miles of Erie County roads, including highways. Researchers have developed a map that shows elevated concentrations of salt along Trout Run, which flows into Fourmile Creek, which empties into Lake Erie, the primary source of drinking water for the 280,000 residents of Erie County.

  • Water securityAffordable water in the U.S.: A looming crisis

    If water rates continue rising at projected amounts, the number of U.S. households unable to afford water could triple in five years, to nearly 36 percent, a new study finds. A variety of factors, ranging from aging infrastructure to climate change to population decline in urban areas, are making residents’ ability to afford water and wastewater services a burgeoning crisis.

  • Water securityChanging rainfall patterns linked to water security in India

    Changing rainfall is the key factor driving changes in groundwater storage in India, according to a new study. The study shows that changing monsoon patterns—which are tied to higher temperatures in the Indian Ocean—are an even greater driver of change in groundwater storage than the pumping of groundwater for agriculture.

  • Water securityGroundwater resources around the world could be depleted by 2050s

    Human consumption could deplete groundwater in parts of India, southern Europe, and the United States in the coming decades, according to new research presented at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. New modeling of the world’s groundwater levels finds aquifers — the soil or porous rocks that hold groundwater — in the Upper Ganges Basin area of India, southern Spain, and Italy could be depleted between 2040 and 2060.

  • Water securityHow much water do we use? New interactive maps tells us

    Wash. Rinse. Repeat. With every shampoo or load of laundry you may wonder, how much water did I just use? Now multiply that thought across the nation and add other types of ways to use water, from irrigating crops to sustaining thermoelectric power generation. The USGS National Water-Use Science project has documented sixty years of water-use from 1950 to 2010 in an interactive map. You may choose a year and pick a category to see how much water your state uses.

  • Water securitySyrian crisis altered region’s land and water resources

    The Syrian civil war and subsequent refugee migration caused sudden changes in the area’s land use and freshwater resources. Using satellite imagery processed in Google Earth Engine, researchers determined the conflict in Syria caused agricultural irrigation and reservoir storage to decrease by nearly 50 percent compared to prewar conditions.

  • Water securityNew wastewater system design guidelines help protect aquatic life

    New wastewater system design guidelines can help municipal governments better protect aquatic life and save millions of dollars a year. Engineers developed guidelines that can tailor the design of specialized filters, called fluidized bed reactors, to local conditions and help prevent phosphorous deposits from forming in wastewater systems.