• Water securityRunning out of water: Cape Town, the U.S., and drought

    The recent news that Cape Town, South Africa—a modern city of nearly 4 million residents (plus over 1.5 million tourists yearly)—was on the brink of running out of water, the taps about to run dry, put water back into the headlines. After years of drought in several American states, could this happen closer to home? “The current crisis in Cape Town will almost inevitably repeat itself elsewhere,” says an expert. “Because of geography, many cities in the United States and the world are highly or entirely reliant on local precipitation. In California, for example, most of the Central Coast, including Monterey and Santa Cruz, currently depend on local rainfall. Given climate change, moreover, droughts in the arid regions of the world are likely to become more frequent and more severe. Warmer temperatures, moreover, will raise evapotranspiration rates—increasing agricultural water needs and the amount of stored water lost to evaporation.”

  • Water securityCape Town water crisis highlights a worldwide problem

    The water supply is running dry in Cape Town, South Africa. The city’s reservoirs are shrinking as a three-year drought wears on. If it doesn’t rain soon, the drought could bring South Africa’s second most populous city to its knees. Cape Town residents are adapting as best they can. They are skipping showers and finding new ways to conserve and reuse their meager allowance of 50 liters (13 gallons) per person per day. That allowance may soon be cut in half, too. As soon as April or May, Cape Town could reach “Day Zero,” when the city will shut off the taps in homes and businesses. Residents will need to line up at collection stations to gather their water rations. Only hospitals, schools, and other essential services would still receive piped water. If things continue on in this way, Cape Town is in danger of becoming the world’s first major city to run entirely out of water. How can this happen in a city of four million residents? And what other cities may be at risk?

  • Water securityWith glaciers disappearing, will water become scarce?

    There are around 200,000 glaciers worldwide. They play a central role in the water cycle, particularly in the middle and low latitudes, by offsetting runoff fluctuations. Rivers are lifelines on which billions of people depend worldwide, either directly or indirectly. The world’s largest rivers begin in glaciated mountain regions. Climate change may cause many glaciers to disappear. Will water become scarce? Will the Alps, the Himalayas, the Rocky Mountains and the Andes continue to act as water towers? Climate change is a global problem with local consequences. If the international community succeeds in restricting the temperature rise to an acceptable level via contributions from each individual member, the effects may be mitigated. Many glaciers would still shrink significantly even with major climate protection efforts, but the consequences for water resources would be more moderate.

  • Water securityDesalination: global examples show how Cape Town could up its game

    By Werner van Zyl

    Day zero is looming for Cape Town and a dedicated and efficient long-term solution to South Africa’s water woes must be found. The weather can’t be controlled and drought patterns for the region are set to worsen. It’s time to stop relying solely on rainfall and dam levels for clean water as a critical resource. South Africa boasts a coastline of over 2500 kilometers so it should be considering the oceans as an abundant water supply. Converting seawater to clean drinking water can be achieved by desalination, a proven technology that’s been used around the world. Desalination plants have dramatically increased in number and sophistication around the world due to membrane technology breakthroughs and energy saving equipment. Three global examples in Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Israel show that South Africa could increase water output in a timely and cost effective way.

  • Water securityCan Israel help solve Cape Town’s water crisis?

    By Rebecca Stadlen Amir

    Within three months, South Africa’s capital city and biggest tourist destination may become the first major city in the world to run out of water. The four million residents of Cape Town will have their water supplies cut off unless the city manages to reduce daily consumption by 20 percent. The “Day Zero” shutdown is expected for mid-May 2018 and is recalculated every week based on current reservoir capacity and daily consumption. The crisis is mostly attributed to three years of unprecedented drought that has dried up the city’s six-dam reservoir system. If the dams fall below 13.5 percent capacity before the start of the rainy season in June, taps will be turned off and residents will have to line up at municipal points to collect their allotted 25 liters per day. As ‘Day Zero’ approaches, experts weigh in on how Israel may be able to help Cape Town and other water-scarce locations avoid future disasters.

  • Water securityCape Town water crisis should serve as a “wakeup call to all major U.S. cities”: Expert

    Cape Town, South Africa is hurtling towards a water apocalypse with “Day Zero” — when authorities will turn off the taps — pegged for the first half of April. The crisis, which has placed the city in peril, was caused by years of draught, insufficient and aging infrastructure, and population growth. To find out what this means for Cape Town residents and if a similar disaster could strike Phoenix, ASU Now turned to Dave White, a professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, a unit within ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions and director of Decision Center for a Desert City.

  • Water securityDiscrepancies between satellite and global model estimates of land water storage

    Researchers have found that calculations of water storage in many river basins from commonly used global computer models differ markedly from independent storage estimates from GRACE satellites. The findings raise questions about global models that have been used in recent years to help assess water resources and potentially influence management decisions.

  • Water securityRadioactivity from oil, gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

    More than seven years after Pennsylvania officials requested that the disposal of radium-laden fracking wastewater into surface waters be restricted, a new study finds. The contamination is coming from the disposal of conventional, or non-fracked, oil and gas wastewater, which, under current state regulations, can still be treated and discharged to local streams.

  • Water securityThe bonus effects of California's water saving

    Measures to cut water use by 25 percent across California were implemented in 2015, following a four-year drought in the state that caused the fallowing of 542,000 acres of land, total economic costs of $2.74 billion, and the loss of approximately 21,000 jobs. The UC Davis researchers found that, while the 25 percent target had not quite been reached over the one-year period — with 524,000 million gallons of water saved — the measures’ impact had positive knock-on effects for other environmental objectives, leading to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and electricity consumption in the state.

  • Water securityStudying climate effects on California water systems from headwaters to groundwater

    To address future climate change effects on water resources, scientists at five UC campuses, and Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories, will study California’s water systems, from the headwaters in the Sierra Nevada, through rivers, reservoirs and groundwater in the Central Valley. The project will allow scientists to examine hydrologic sensitivities of California headwaters and agricultural demand to changing climate and will consider plausible societal adaptations.

  • MegadroughtsThe odds of a megadrought in western, southwestern U.S.

    In the southwestern United States, water management is a top concern. If a megadrought occurs, large-scale water management decisions affecting millions of Americans must be made to protect agriculture, the ecosystem and potable water systems. Understanding the odds of a widespread megadrought becomes important for planning purposes. To help untangle fact from speculation, climate scientists have developed a “robust null hypothesis” to assess the odds of a megadrought – one that lasts more than thirty years – occurring in the western and southwestern United States.

  • Water securityRobot detects underground water leaks

    The United States faces a looming crisis over its deteriorating water infrastructure, and fixing it will be a monumental and expensive task. In Los Angeles alone, about two thirds of the city’s 7,000 miles of water pipes are more than 60 years old — and nearing the end of their useful lives. Water main breaks can cause flooding, leading to serious structural damage and soil erosion. Even small leaks can exacerbate water shortages and allow potentially harmful contaminants into our drinking water. But locating a leak within a vast network of underground pipes is almost impossible. Researchers are developing an autonomous robot that could quickly and inexpensively detect damage in water pipes — even those buried meters below the ground.

  • Water securityRethinking the value of water

    Research highlights the accelerating pressure on measuring, monitoring and managing water locally and globally. A new four-part framework is proposed to value water for sustainable development to guide better policy and practice.

  • Water securityMountain glaciers shrinking across the West

    A new, satellite-produced, high-resolution map of roughly 1,200 mountain glaciers in the lower 48 states shows steady, and worrisome, loss of snow and ice cover. Tracking the status of so many glaciers will allow scientists to further explore patterns in the changes of snow and ice coverage over time, which will help pinpoint the causes — from changes in temperature and precipitation to slope angle and elevation – and also help improve water management in areas dependent on meltwater.

  • Public healthAbout 2.1 million Americans using wells high in arsenic

    About 44 million people in the U.S. get their drinking water from private wells. A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 2.1 million of them may be getting their drinking water from private wells considered to have high concentrations of arsenic, presumed to be from natural sources.