• 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.

  • Water securityAdministration’s decision to rescind 2015 water rule based on flawed analysis: Experts

    New evidence suggests that the Trump administration’s proposal to rescind the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that would limit the scope of the Clean Water Act inappropriately overlooks wetlands-related values. The differences between the two analyses led to an almost 90 percent drop in quantified benefits from the 2015 to the 2017 analysis.

  • Water securityFilter removes fracking-related contaminants from water

    A new filter produced has proven able to remove more than 90 percent of hydrocarbons, bacteria and particulates from contaminated water produced by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations at shale oil and gas wells. The process turns a ceramic membrane with microscale pores into a superhydrophilic filter that “essentially eliminates” the common problem of fouling.

  • Water securityWater supply, quality in U.S. West affected by increased wildfire-caused erosion

    A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs. The area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities.

  • Water securityReplacing some old pipes does not resolve problem of lead-contaminated water

    Lead in drinking water is a decades-old problem and still poses serious public health risks today. In response, utilities are replacing segments of old lead pipes that are causing the contamination. Although partial line replacements can decrease lead levels in tap water, concentrations spike right after line replacement and can remain elevated for months afterward.

  • Water securityFlint water crisis: “Missing lead” in water pipes confirms cause of crisis

    A study of lead service lines in Flint’s damaged drinking water system reveals a Swiss cheese pattern in the pipes’ interior crust, with holes where the lead used to be. The findings support the generally accepted understanding that lead leached into the system because that water wasn’t treated to prevent corrosion. While previous studies had pointed to this mechanism, this is the first direct evidence. It contradicts a regulator’s claim earlier this year that corrosion control chemicals would not have prevented the water crisis.

  • Water securityClimate change-driven increase in precipitation bad news for water quality

    If climate change is not curbed, increased precipitation could substantially overload U.S. waterways with excess nitrogen. Rainfall and other precipitation washes nutrients from human activities like agriculture and fossil fuel combustion into rivers and lakes. Excess nutrient pollution increases the likelihood of events that severely impair water quality. The impacts will be especially strong in the Midwest and Northeast.

  • Energy securityClimate change threatens European electricity production

    The vulnerability of the European electricity sector to changes in water resources is set to worsen by 2030 as a consequence of climate change. Thermoelectric power stations—including coal, gas, and nuclear plants—use significant amounts of fresh water for cooling purposes. A large gas power station can use an Olympic-sized swimming pool of water per minute. If water is not available, or if it is too warm, power stations have to reduce electricity production, or cease production completely.

  • Water securityCurrent water use for food production is unsustainable

    About 40 percent of the water used for irrigation are unsustainable withdrawals that violate so-called environmental flows of rivers, a new study shows for the first time. If these volumes were to be re-allocated to the ecosystems, crop production would drop by at least 10 percent on half of all irrigated land, especially in Central and South Asia. Improvement of irrigation practices can sustainably compensate for such losses at global scale. More integrated strategies, including rainwater management could even achieve a 10 percent net gain of production.

  • Water securityTreated fracking wastewater may pollute Pennsylvania water sources for years

    Given Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources, it’s no surprise that the Commonwealth has become a mecca for hydraulic fracturing. Researchers, however, have recently discovered that releasing millions of gallons of treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater each year into area surface waters may have longer-lasting effects than originally thought.

  • Water warsIdentifying global hotspots for water conflict

    More than 1,400 new dams or water diversion projects are planned or already under construction and many of them are on rivers flowing through multiple nations, fueling the potential for increased water conflict between some countries. A new analysis uses a comprehensive combination of social, economic, political and environmental factors to identify areas around the world most at-risk for “hydro-political” strife.

  • Food securityClimate change to deplete some U.S. water basins, reduce irrigated crop yields

    By Jennifer Chu

    A new study by MIT climate scientists, economists, and agriculture experts finds that certain hotspots in the country will experience severe reductions in crop yields by 2050, due to climate change’s impact on irrigation. The most adversely affected region, according to the researchers, will be the Southwest. Already a water-stressed part of the country, this region is projected to experience reduced precipitation by midcentury. Less rainfall to the area will mean reduced runoff into water basins that feed irrigated fields.