• Major food companies must adapt to growing global water risks

    Escalating water competition, combined with weak government regulations, increasing water pollution, and worsening climate change impacts, is creating unprecedented water security risks for the food industry. In California, an estimated half-million acres of farmland have already been fallowed by a prolonged drought, causing more than $1 billion of economic losses for the agriculture sector. Major U.S. food companies need to adopt far stronger practices to use limited global water resources more efficiently, according to a new report. The report ranks the U.S. thirty-seven largest food companies on how effectively they are managing precious freshwater supplies. While a relatively small number of firms are taking broad actions to manage water risks in their operations and supply chains — Unilever, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, General Mills, and Kellogg, among those — most have a long way to go in using water more sustainably, the report concludes.

  • São Paulo water crisis shows the failure of public-private partnerships

    By Steffen Böhm and Rafael Kruter Flores

    São Paulo’s ongoing water crisis has left many of the city’s twenty million or more residents without tap water for days on end. Brazil’s largest metropolis is into its third month of water rationing, and some citizens have even taken to drilling through their basements to reach groundwater. Most commentators agree that the crisis is to blame on multiple factors, but few have questioned the role of the water company in charge: Sabesp. Just like the “natural monopolies” enjoyed by water companies in the United Kingdom, Sabesp has a publicly guaranteed monopoly, yet its profits are part-privatized — earlier this year it paid out R$252 million (US$83 million) in dividends. As is the case with other private companies, when deciding whether to make the necessary investments to prepare for possible water shortages, Sabesp has had to choose whether to safeguard the public supply or increase the value of its shares. As a result, the most essential resource of all has now become a struggle in São Paulo. Responsibility for this crisis lies with Sabesp and two decades of running water supply as a for-profit service. It is a failure of public-private partnership. As climate change and other environmental factors make water crises more likely, we better rethink the way water is managed worldwide.

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  • Water agencies in Sacramento, Calif. area want state water restrictions rewritten to reflect climate

    Last month, Governor Jerry Brown ordered California’s water agencies to reduce potable urban water use by 25 percent on average over 2013 levels by 28 February 2016. Leaders of Sacramento-area water agencies are now calling for a rewrite of the proposed framework to reflect climate. They argue that the framework is unfair because inland communities require far more water to achieve the same water functions as coastal communities. They also say the region is being punished for its dry heat, while coastal communities are rewarded for their moderate climate.

  • App checks water for contamination

    Researchers have created a mobile app which can determine just how contaminated a sample of water might be. Using tiny pills containing contaminant-detecting enzymes, users can first determine whether their water is clean or not. If the water is clean, the pills will change the color of the water. If it is contaminated with pesticide, heavy metals, or bacteria such as E. coli, it will remain clear. The app complements the pills by analyzing a series of photos of the water to determine just how contaminated the water is.

  • Aquifer Storage and Recovery should be phased in to reverse Everglades decline

    The aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) is a key component in the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a joint state-federal effort to reverse the decline of the Everglades ecosystem. CERP aims to “get the water right” by improving the quantity, timing, and distribution of water flows. Over a century of canal drainage and water management has led to extensive losses of natural water storage, leaving the Everglades in critical need of new storage. Although uncertainties about ecological impacts are too great to justify near-term, large-scale implementation of the ASR in the Everglades, the ASR could be phased in to answer several important scientific questions and provide some early restoration benefits, says a report from the National Research Council (NRC).

  • California drought highlights the state’s economic divide

    As much of Southern California enters into the spring and warmer temperatures, the effects of California’s historic drought begin to manifest themselves in the daily lives of residents, highlighting the economic inequality in the ways people cope. Following Governor Jerry Brown’s (D) unprecedented water rationing regulations,wealthier Californians weigh on which day of the week no longer to water their grass, while those less fortunate are now choosing which days they skip a bath.

  • Water scarcity increase Middle East instability

    At least1.6 billion people worldwide face water scarcity because their countries lack the necessary infrastructure to move water from rivers and aquifers. In the Middle East, this lack of water infrastructure combines with the effects of global warming — including prolonged in droughts — to make the entire region politically and economically unstable. Food supplies are diminished as farmers find it difficult to find water for crops, and even basic sanitary requirements are not met due to poor access to clean water, thus increasing the spread of disease.

  • International experts analyze impacts of Ethiopian dam

    By David L. Chandler

    A new report addresses potential effects of huge construction project. According to present plans, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) — now under construction across the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia — will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, and one of the twelve largest in the world. But controversy has surrounded the project ever since it was announced in 2011 — especially concerning its possible effects on Sudan and Egypt, downstream nations that rely heavily on the waters of the Nile for agriculture, industry, and drinking water.

  • Changing human behavior key to tackling California drought: Expert

    California is experiencing a drought that has gone far beyond a “dry spell,” and the state has imposed the first water restriction in state history, aiming to cut back on water consumption by 25 percent. One expert says that strict water conservation measures are long overdue, and that “what is happening is a realization that you can’t simply transplant another ecosystem onto a California desert system or arid southwestern system. In a sense, California and much of the U.S. southwest are living beyond their ecological means. Certain lifestyles have been adopted and crops are being grown that are not endemic or sustainable for this particular bioregion.” He adds: “This is a moment for not just cutting off personal water use and turning the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth, as important as that is. This is a moment of reflection, invitation and, I hope, legislation that will cause people to think about water use in the industrial sector too. This is for the long-term prosperity of the state and sustainability of the ecosystem.”

  • Water shortage grows, and so does the need for technological solutions

    The value of freshwater is becoming more apparent, as more and more areas around the world are suffering from dwindling supply as a result of climate change. The World Bank estimates that water is $1 trillion privatized commodity. Last week, California imposed mandatory restrictions on water use for the first time in its history. California’s unprecedented move is just one example of the political and social issues which will accompany a growing water shortage moving forward.

  • California not the only state to face water shortage

    Over the past two weeks, California’s long drought — and Governor Jerry Brown’s mandatory water conservation rules — have captured the headlines. As the country keeps an eye on how Californians will adapt to the new reality of water conservation, other states must prepare to maintain the sustainability of their own water supplies. “As far as other states, if they haven’t seen it [water shortages] in the past, it’s something they will see in the future,” says a water policy analyst in Los Angeles.

  • Big data technology helps identify best river locations for hydro-power generation

    A new technology has the potential to revolutionize the sourcing of renewable energy from rivers. The software app automatically selects appropriate locations in U.K. rivers to site a large range of micro renewable hydro-power turbines in these rivers, and determines the environmental sensitivity of the location.

  • San Diego to build largest ocean desalination plant in Western Hemisphere

    San Diego County, California will soon become home to a $1 billion desalination plant which would supply drinking water to residents currently having to cut their water consumption by as much as 25 percent in response to the state’s current drought. Small ocean desalination plants already operate throughout the state, but the facility being built in San Diego will be the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere, producing roughly fifty million gallons of drinking water a day.

  • Californians mull life with less water

    Following Californian governor Jerry Brown’s decision to enforce mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history, Californians are planning for changes in their daily lives. Experts say, though, that California cannot resemble its drier neighbor, Arizona. “Without water, you can’t live in California,” Stanford University’s Bill Whalen. “It ties into the California psyche. They have plush lawns and nice gardens that require lots of water. They have the ocean and Lake Tahoe skiing. You have a nice car. You want it clean. You need water. You can’t have California agriculture without water. You lose the nation’s salad bowl.”

  • NASA putting satellite eyes on threat to U.S. fresh water

    Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie. NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms.