• Innovative method filters seawater in minutes

    Researchers have unveiled a cost-effective desalination technology which can filter highly salty water in minutes. The technology is based on membranes containing cellulose acetate powder, produced in Egypt. The powder, in combination with other components, binds the salt particles as they pass through, making the technique useful for desalinating seawater.

  • 2015 drought costs for California agriculture: Loss of $1.84 billion, 10,100 jobs

    The drought is tightening its grip on California agriculture, squeezing about 30 percent more workers and cropland out of production than in 2014, according to the latest drought impact report. In 2015, the state’s agricultural economy will lose about $1.84 billion and 10,100 seasonal jobs because of the drought, the report estimated, with the Central Valley hardest hit. The heavy reliance on groundwater comes at ever-increasing energy costs as farmers pump deeper and drill more wells. Some of the heavy pumping is in basins already in severe overdraft — where groundwater use greatly exceeds replenishment of aquifers — inviting further land subsidence, water quality problems, and diminishing reserves needed for future droughts.

  • What would it take to end California’s drought?

    By Faith Kearns and Doug Parker

    The excitement about a potentially rain-bearing El Niño is building, and hopes for a swift end to California’s ongoing drought are multiplying. At the same time, many of us who have worked extensively on water issues in the state fear the momentum and progress made on much-needed water reforms will be lost. This will be unfortunate, because California’s current water situation offers an invitation to expand how we think about water and drought conditions. A more nuanced perspective about what drought means and our water needs can help continue the momentum on the shifts, such as conservation measures and groundwater management, needed to deal with what is certainly an uncertain future.

  • Past strategies for managing droughts are obsolete in a hotter, more densely populated world

    California’s current extreme drought must be a lesson for managing water in a warmer, more densely populated world, experts say. The Golden State has a long history of successfully managing droughts, but strategies from the past century are now obsolete, they assert. The current drought, which began in 2012, is a harbinger of what is to come. Engineering our way around periodic water shortages will no longer work in a hotter, drier world with ceaseless human demands on water supplies. Our ever-increasing thirst for water coupled with poor management, aging infrastructure and worsening climate change is a recipe not just for wells run dry, but for ravaged forests, extinct wildlife, and more droughts. Targeted research and public policies that move beyond a crisis response mentality are critically needed, the experts conclude.

  • Solving the mystery of arsenic-contaminated water

    Can water ever be too clean? If the intent is to store it underground, the answer, surprisingly, is yes. In a new study, scientists have shown that recycled water percolating into underground storage aquifers in Southern California picked up trace amounts of arsenic because the water was too pure. The research sheds light on a poorly understood aspect of groundwater recharge with purified recycled water, namely the potential mobilization of arsenic. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can cause organ failure and cancer in humans with prolonged exposure above established health thresholds. The findings pose a problem for Orange County, California, which differs from most communities in that it purifies treated wastewater instead of discharging it directly into rivers and oceans – but the problem goes beyond Orange County.

  • Experts urge negotiators to include water in climate agreement

    The impact of climate change is felt through water, with flooding, erratic rain patterns, prolonged droughts, and other extreme weather events. Water is also critical for successful climate change mitigation, as many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions depend on reliable access to water resources. World Water Week closed on Friday in Stockholm, with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) urging climate negotiators to ensure that water is integrated in the global 2015 climate agreement.

  • Civil engineering graduate students awarded scholarships for water research

    Three Texas A&M graduate engineering students were recently awarded scholarships to pursue water-related research. The first project will investigate and better define “green water,” which is generally perceived as the soil water available for plants to use, and its potential to alleviate the projected water shortage for Texas agriculture. The second project focuses on future water availability and allocations in the Rio Grande River. The third focuses on the joint effects of climate change, urbanization and flow regulation on water supply in a metropolitan area.

  • Toxic chemical found in fish-eating in birds outside of a Georgia’s Superfund site

    Researchers have found that a contaminated mixture called Aroclor 1268 has spread beyond a former chemical plant, now a Superfund site, near Brunswick, Georgia. Aroclor 1268 is composed of a suite of toxic chemical compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The chemical was used to produce insulation materials at the Linden Chemical Plant at the Turtle Estuary near Brunswick until 1994.

  • Two major U.S. aquifers contaminated with high levels of natural uranium

    Nearly two million people throughout the Great Plains and California live above aquifer sites contaminated with natural uranium which is mobilized by human-contributed nitrate. Data from roughly 275,000 groundwater samples in the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers show that many Americans live less than two-thirds of a mile from wells that often far exceed the uranium guideline set by the Environmental Protection Agency. A new study reports that 78 percent of the uranium-contaminated sites were linked to the presence of nitrate, a common groundwater contaminant that originates mainly from chemical fertilizers and animal waste.

  • Up to 30 percent less precipitation in the Central Andes in future

    Seasonal water shortages already occur in the Central Andes of Peru and Bolivia. By the end of the century, precipitation could fall by up to 30 percent according to an international team of researchers. Researchers show that precipitation in the rainy season could drop noticeably - and this could happen within the next twenty years.

  • Warming-driven substantial glacier ice loss in Central Asia imperils water supplies

    Central Asia is the outstanding case for human dependence on water seasonally delayed by glaciers. Nowhere the question about the glacier state is linked so closely to questions of water availability and, thus, food security. The glaciers in Central Asia, however, experience substantial losses in glacier mass and area. Along the Tien Shan, Central Asia’s largest mountain range, glaciers have lost 27 percent of their mass and 18 percent of their area during the last fifty years. Scientists estimate that almost 3,000 square kilometers of glaciers and an average of 5.4 gigatons of ice per year have been lost since the 1960s, saying that about half of Tien Shan’s glacier volume could be depleted by the 2050s.

  • Toxic blue-green algae a growing threat to nation’s drinking, recreational water

    A new report concludes that blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are a poorly monitored and underappreciated risk to recreational and drinking water quality in the United States, and may increasingly pose a global health threat. Several factors are contributing to the concern. Temperatures and carbon dioxide levels have risen, many rivers have been dammed worldwide, and wastewater nutrients or agricultural fertilizers in various situations can cause problems in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

  • Tackling urban water crises

    With drought conditions putting a strain on resources throughout South Florida, FIU researchers are investigating long-term solutions to water crises as part of a newly launched consortium. The Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN) comprises fourteen academic institutions and key partners across the United States. The UWIN researchers hope to create technological, institutional, and management solutions that will help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises.

  • Smart hand pumps to bring a reliable water service to rural Africa

    Worldwide 780 million people live without basic and reliable water supplies, with parts of rural Africa facing particular challenges achieving water security. Groundwater from hand pumps is a primary water supply for many communities — but up to one third of these pumps are out of action at any one time and can take weeks to be repaired. Researchers have created a device that generates data on hand pump usage and transmits this information over the mobile phone network. The smart hand pump, being trialed in rural Kenya, alerts the maintenance team if the hand pump is not functioning.

  • Israel shares its approach, solutions to drought with California

    Israel has developed expertise in coping with droughts, and a delegation from Israeli water companies recently visited California, meeting with state officials and corporations to propose solutions to the drought, now in its fourth year. It was the latest in a series of consultations and symposiums highlighting Israeli water expertise and its potential to help California.