• Megadrought lasting three decades likely for Southwest U.S., Midwest

    The consequences of climate change paint a bleak picture for the Southwest and much of America’s breadbasket, the Great Plains. The role of climate change in causing extreme heat waves, drastic rainfall, negative impacts on human health, and threatened food security have received more attention recently than megadrought, but scientists view prolonged drought risk as yet another natural hazard that becomes more likely from human activity.

  • New technology pinpoints water contamination sources

    When the local water management agency closes your favorite beach due to unhealthy water quality, how reliable are the tests they base their decisions on? As it turns out, those tests, as well as the standards behind them, have not been updated in decades. Now scientists have developed a highly accurate, DNA-based method to detect and distinguish sources of microbial contamination in water.

  • Florida tightens public notification rules for pollution incidents

    Last week Governor Rick Scott instructed Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Jon Steverson to issue an emergency rule that establishes new requirements for public notification of pollution incidents. The rule is to take effect immediately. Scott issued the instruction following the sewage spill in Pinellas County and the sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales facility.

  • Massive 2014 West Virginia chemical spill was preventable: CSB

    The Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) final report into the massive 2014 release by Freedom Industries of chemicals into the primary source of drinking water of Charleston, West Virginia, concludes that Freedom Industries failed to inspect or repair corroding tanks, and that as hazardous chemicals flowed into the Elk River, the water company and local authorities were unable effectively to communicate the looming risks to hundreds of thousands of affected residents, who were left without clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

  • California's almond boom ramped up water use, consumed wetlands

    Converting land in California to grow water-hungry almonds between 2007 and 2014 has led to a 27 percent annual increase in irrigation demands — despite the state’s historic drought. The expansion of almonds has also consumed 16,000 acres of wetlands and will likely put additional pressure on already stressed honeybee populations.

  • Insights on Deepwater Horizon disaster

    The soon-to-be-released thriller “Deepwater Horizon,” which opens in theaters 30 September, promises moviegoers a chilling reenactment of one of history’s worst oil rig disasters. One scholar of societal collapse will enter the theater with a big-picture view of the perfect storm of factors that led to the explosion and oil spill that killed eleven people and sent more than 200 million gallons of crude oil spewing toward the nation’s southern coastline for eighty-seven days.

  • Abnormalities found in drinking water in Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region

    Chemists studying well water quality in the Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region found some abnormal chloride/bromide ratios, alongside evidence of dissolved gases and sporadic episodes of volatile organic compounds, all indicative of some contamination from industrial or agricultural activities in the area.

  • Radioactive wastewater enters Florida major aquifer after huge sinkhole opens up below fertilizer plant

    At least 980 million liters of highly contaminated water — including radioactive substances – has leaked into one of Florida’s largest sources of drinking water. The leak was caused by a huge sinkhole which opened up beneath a fertilizer plant near Tampa. The sinkhole caused highly contaminated waste water to pass into an aquifer which supplies much of the state. The waste water contained phosphogypsum, a by-product of fertilizer production, which contains naturally occurring uranium and radium. the Floridan aquifer aquifer underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, supplying groundwater to the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg.

  • Solar-powered Ring Garden combines desalination, agriculture for drought-stricken California

    With roughly 80 percent of California’s already-scarce water supply going to agriculture, it is crucial for the state to embrace new technologies that shrink the amount of water required to grow food. Alexandru Predonu has designed an elegant solution which uses solar energy to power a rotating desalination plant and farm that not only produces clean drinking water for the city of Santa Monica, but also food crops — including algae.

  • Solar-powered Pipe desalinizes 1.5 billion gallons of drinking water for California

    The infrastructure California needs to generate energy for electricity and clean water, which will be significant, need not blight the landscape. Designs like The Pipe demonstrate how the provision of public services like these can be knitted into every day life in a healthy, aesthetically pleasing way.

  • New cooling method for large data centers to save millions of gallons of water

    In different parts of the country, people discuss gray-water recycling and rainwater capture to minimize the millions of gallons of groundwater required to cool large data centers. But the simple answer in many climates is to use liquid refrigerant. A cooling system – if installed next year at Sandia National Laboratories computing center – is expected to save 4 million to 5 million gallons annually in New Mexico, and hundreds of millions of gallons nationally if the method is widely adopted.

  • Water pollution across three continents poses health risks to hundreds of millions

    Water pollution has risen across three continents, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases like cholera and typhoid. Pathogen and organic pollution rise in more than 50 percent of river stretches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Asia hit hardest by rise in severe pathogen pollution, with up to a half of all river stretches affected. Up to 323 million people on three continents at risk of infection from diseases caused by pathogens in water.

  • Combining high performance computing, public policy analysis for better water resource management

    With growing demand and a changing climate, the Colorado River Basin is under significant stress. The river supplies water to thirty million people in seven states, supports billions of dollars in economic activity each year, and irrigates 15 percent of all U.S. crops. It also provides water to twenty-two Native American tribes, four national recreation areas, and eleven national parks. Researchers have joined forces to combine high-performance computing with innovative public policy analysis to improve planning for particularly complex issues such as such as water resource management.

  • The lesson from the demise of the Maya civilization: Water shortage can destroy cultures

    Within a short period of time, the advanced Maya civilization in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing — the population dwindling rapidly and monumental stone structures, like the ones built at Yucatán, were no longer being constructed. Mathematical models analyzing the interplay between society and hydrological effects have found the explanation: the irrigation technology that served the Mayans well during periods of drought may have actually made their society more vulnerable to major catastrophes. These models provide insights into ancient cultures – as well as into our own future.

  • NSF announces $55 million toward national research priorities

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made eleven awards totaling $55 million aimed at building research capacity to address fundamental questions about the brain and develop new innovations at the intersection of food, energy, and water systems. These four-year awards support twenty-seven institutions in eighteen eligible jurisdictions.