Friday, January 15, 2010
Fifteen years ago, if you asked Asit Biswas if he believed there was a global water crisis, he would have answered “Yes.” Now, however, the Stockholm Prize winning water researcher says he believes the water crisis is indeed a myth. Biswas made his statement in a lecture at the 2009 Nobel Conference held at Gustavus Adolphus College last October.
While there are notable books on the subject of global water scarcity, including those authored by fellow speaker Peter Gleick, Asit pointed out that he doesn’t see a world water crisis caused by physical water scarcity, but by water management – or rather, a lack of water management.
See full posting here >>
Monday, January 04, 2010
By Sharon Nunes, VP, Big Green Innovations, IBM
Recently, my company conducted a survey of more than 100 public and private sector executives. Their responses concerning water challenges showed some surprising and, in some cases, alarming concerns.
For example, while the cost of treating and delivering water will continue to increase over the next 10 years, many companies do not know how to adapt. About 77 percent of those surveyed felt that water management was extremely critical to their business, yet 51 percent said they lacked formal guidelines for implementing it and an additional 63 percent of executives said they lacked access to integrated water management systems.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
...retrofitted the roof with 54 solar panels and fully insulated the house, which he also equipped with Low-E windows, a tank-less water heater and energy-efficient furnaces. The pool is solar-heated and its pump boasts a high-efficiency motor.While possibly not quite a brush with fame, it's close enough for us.
In the yard, low-water rotor sprinkler heads and a WeatherTrak irrigation system that schedules watering by satellite based on local weather conditions, contributes to the overall effectiveness of the green upgrades.
We got you babe.
The guidelines for achieving certification are available online, and of course include the use of smart irrigation controllers. This is just one more reason for landscape architects, developers and corporations to seriously consider WeatherTRAK as the cornerstone of their smart water management plans."Green" seals of approval are slapped on dishwashers, heat pumps, light bulbs and entire buildings. So why not the outdoors?
As of Thursday, even open-air spaces — from parks and parking lots to corporate and college campuses — will have their own environmental rating system.
"The recognition of the need to address climate change and sustainability is going up and up," says Nancy Somerville, CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects, who worked with the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas-Austin to create the first national rating system for sustainable landscapes.
Use smart irrigation controllers. Modern irrigation controllers can save thousands of gallons a year by adapting to soil and weather conditions and not overwatering. Many cities offer rebates to homeowners associations and individuals for converting to smart irrigation controllers and also for converting green areas to desert landscaping.Truer words were never spoken :-) Thanks Jim!
"You can program a timer the first of January and not have to worry about it for the rest of the year unless something happens," said Jim Potts of Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management in Gilbert. "The controllers check temperatures, humidity, it does it all itself. Use that technology. The initial investment is pretty high, but the return on that investment is quick. Not to mention all the water it saves."
Monumental plans to overhaul California’s water system — decades in the dreaming and months in the works — finally emerged from an exhausted Legislature early Wednesday, defying regional squabbles to become the signature accomplishment in a year mostly lamented for budget cuts.One of the provisions, requiring residents to cut back on water use 20% by 2020, sounds challenging but really, isn't that difficult at all. For many, that goal is achievable with a single household upgrade.
The overwhelmingly bipartisan reforms — which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signaled he would approve — firmly nudge the state into changing the way it uses and manages its precious water supplies.
“This is the best investment in the future of California anyone can make,” Schwarzenegger said Wednesday. The state Senate gave final approval to the last in a series of five bills just before 6 a.m.
Water use statewide will be reduced, with agencies required to draw up plans for city residents to cut back 20 percent by 2020. Groundwater supplies will be measured all across the state — ending California’s status as the lone Western state that does not regulate groundwater.And more than $11 billion in bond money would be set aside for new dams, regional water projects, groundwater cleanup and land preservation — if, that is, voters approve the hefty bond sale next year. That may not be a given, with the state’s chronic deficits and warnings from the state treasurer that paying the debt on those bonds could detract from spending for already-strapped social programs.
Overall, this is great news for the entire state, and a significant accomplishment by the legislature. Kudos to them on finding a way to get this done!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Although declining streamflows and half-full reservoirs have gotten most of the attention in water conflicts around the United States, some of the worst battles of the next century may be over groundwater, experts say — a critical resource often taken for granted until it begins to run out.Lest anyone think that this is a future issue, the article provides several examples of how impacts are being felt now:
Aquifers are being depleted much faster than they are being replenished in many places, wells are drying up, massive lawsuits are already erupting and the problems have barely begun. Aquifers that took thousands of years to fill are being drained in decades, placing both agricultural and urban uses in peril. Groundwater that supplies drinking water for half the world’s population is now in jeopardy.
So, while California's legislature dawdles, held hostage to local interests with short term views, the long term viability of the state's single largest reservoir of freshwater is being put at risk. And with it, the state's future as an agricultural powerhouse and a driver of industrial innovation and economic growth.
"In the northern half of Oregon from Pendleton to the Willamette Valley, an aquifer that took 20,000 years to fill is going down fast," Jarvis said. "Some places near Hermiston have seen water levels drop as much as 500 feet in the past 50-60 years, one of the largest and fastest declines in the world.
"I know of a well in Utah that lost its original capacity after a couple years," he said. "In Idaho people drawing groundwater are being ordered to work with other holders of stream water rights as the streams begin to dwindle. Mississippi has filed a $1-billion lawsuit against the City of Memphis because of declining groundwater. You're seeing land subsiding from Houston to the Imperial Valley of California. This issue is real and getting worse."
In the process, Jarvis said, underground aquifers can be irrevocably damaged (emphasis mine) -- not unlike what happened to oil reservoirs when that industry pumped them too rapidly. Tiny fractures in rock that can store water sometimes collapse when it's rapidly withdrawn, and then even if the aquifer had water to recharge it, there's no place for it to go.
The California Legislature appeared to be heading toward an historic breakthrough on water reform last night before an impasse over mandatory groundwater monitoring arose and threatened to crush a package of policy and financing bills.Bottom line: They were making great progress until they attempted to pass a bill that would align California with the other49 states and ensure monitoring of groundwater use at the state, rather than local, level.
Early in a long night of roll-call votes, signs were pointing to the state Senate delivering key portions of a comprehensive water package to the Assembly. The Senate passed a negotiated water policy bill, 29-4, before easily securing the two-thirds threshold required to move a controversial $9.99 billion water bond, 28-8.
Then groundwater monitoring reappeared and slowed momentum in the chamber. A bill that would require statewide monitoring of water pumped from the ground — as opposed to more relaxed local control — was defeated under pressure from agribusiness groups and water districts, just as it was rejected earlier this fall.The Senate then recessed floor action and later called it quits for the night.
The irony of NOT monitoring groundwater use is huge when you consider that groundwater supplies are being depleted so quickly that land subsidence is becoming an issue even in states that monitor it, much less California. And once depleted, groundwater becomes more saline, often accelerating the degradation of agricultural land due to salt intrusion. The USGS estimates that 400,000 - 700,000 acres of arable land in California will be lost to agriculture due to this issue alone by the end of 2010.
And so the quest for common sense in Sacramento continues...
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Lawmakers have been chewing over water legislation for weeks, unable to seal a final deal despite threats from the governor, weekend negotiating sessions and their own deep desire to disprove the widespread perception that they can't get anything done.Unusually for California's legislature, the sticking points aren't all falling along partisan lines so much as aligning with regional interests.
Some Bay Area Democrats, who could be expected to back a leadership proposal, have withheld support over delta provisions they fear could ultimately cost local districts water.At this point, it's impossible to predict what form the eventual solution will take. Or even if any major changes will be approved. In the end it just proves the old adage that all politics are local, and none more so in California than water rights.
Republicans, fiercely fighting some of the fine-print details, rolled out their own version of the bill Tuesday, frustrating Democrats who say they've already compromised enough.
The endorsement of some of the biggest players in delta and water politics has not even assured passage.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
One state is leading the way on dealing with this issue and will hopefully serve as an example for others to follow:
Energy experts across the country are starting to look at just how the nation’s water supply systems affect electricity consumption, the strain they put on grids and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the treatment and transporting of water. It was one of the topics at the 2009 Water Smart Innovations conference held in Las Vegas this month.
About 25 percent of America’s electricity goes to moving and treating water, according to a 2005 California Energy Commission report.
California passed a law three years ago that is aimed, in part, at the electricity burned to move and treat water. The legislation requires greenhouse gas reduction for water utilities, which have been instructed to make their operations more energy efficient and to incorporate renewable energy. With population growth, demand for water and water treatment are expected to grow. At the same time water treatment standards are expected to become stricter. That all adds up to a prediction that the energy demand for water will continue to grow significantly.With climate change legislation looming on the horizon, southwestern states in particular will need to address this issue in the near future. Las Vegas could benefit greatly considering that the "amount of electricity used to move and treat water in Southern Nevada annually is enough to power the entire valley several times over."
Fortunately, managers of the area's water utilities are aware of the issue and working towards moving to more sustainable energy sources.
Henderson plans to have the first local wastewater treatment facility using renewable power. The city recently got federal funding to build a 4-megawatt solar installation to help power its wastewater treatment facilities and to install turbines in some of its downhill-sloping water pipes to generate electricity emission-free from the flowing water.
They've also acknowledged that new, mulit-billion dollar infrastructure projects aren't the only component of the solution and are encouraging residents to get on board and implement common sense water conservation measures. After all, less water used translates directly into reduced costs, reduced electrical use and generation, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Or as they put it:
Those changes could do a lot more good — in many more ways — than most people realize.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The amount of water in a river basin or watershed is fixed. It goes up and down with natural variability, and it may change over time due to climate changes, but water is a renewable resources and our use of it does not affect the amount we get next year.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
First up is a story out of Chicago, where groundwater resources are being stretched thin:
The Chicago region faces a long-term water shortage that could hit some outlying suburbs by 2015, much sooner than previously anticipated, according to recently updated studies.CircleofBlue.org reports on water issues facing the nation as a whole:
Projections by the University of Illinois’ Illinois Water Survey show that water supplies that lie under Aurora, the state’s second-largest city, and Joliet soon won’t be able to keep up with population growth.
The deep aquifers are “not going to go dry, but it will become cost-inefficient to pump water from them,” said Josh Ellis, a water policy expert at the Metropolitan Planning Council, a Chicago-based regional policy think tank. “2015 is the tipping point.”
Better planning and conservation measures — starting now, before water shortages become a crisis — could postpone that scenario, according to land use and environmental activists.
And the issues go beyond scarcity, touching on everything from agricultural productivity to the safety of our drinking water:
Americans have good reason to be concerned about the future of the nation’s supply of clean fresh water, according to state and federal research and resource agencies.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly online report produced by the Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, notes in its latest assessment that one-third of the continental United States is suffering abnormally dry or drought conditions.
Drought conditions grip more than half of the West, with little change from the same time last year. The hardest-hit areas include California, in its third year of a statewide drought, and Arizona, which has been experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions since August .
Groundwater resources, which provide half of the country’s drinking water as well as irrigation for crops and water for industrial use, also are diminishing, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Groundwater Resources Program. The Ogallala Aquifer, the massive groundwater network that lies under the Great Plains and feeds water to more than a quarter of the region’s irrigated land, continues to be a significant concern.
“Basically the groundwater is being depleted of its resource,” said Kevin Dennehy, the USGS project coordinator. “It’s been happening for quite some time and it’s going to continue to happen. The removal of water from the aquifer is at a greater rate than water is being re-charged in the aquifer naturally.”
...as Circle of Blue reported last year, increased competition for water in the United States poses a growing threat to the American way of life. Scientists and resource specialists warned that freshwater scarcity was hurting farm productivity, limiting some regional economic growth, increasing business expenses and draining local treasuries.Without 360 degree sustainable resource management, we could eventually end up in as much trouble as countries like India, where over drawing of the aquifer that supplies most of one region's agricultural irrigation is endangering that nation's food supply.
The deteriorating condition of the Ogallala is a case in point. According to a June USGS report water from the aquifer is generally acceptable for drinking, irrigation, and livestock. But irrigation and leakage of nutrients down inactive irrigation wells is increasing concentrations of contaminants including nitrates deep in the aquifer, posing long-term risks to its safety as a source of drinking water.
… Even if an agreement is reached, they’d still have to sell it to rank-and-file lawmakers, who will be lobbied hard by regional water districts and environmentalists — all of whom have different needs.Unsurprisingly, there are some sticking points mentioned, though they seem to be over areas that (somewhat unusually for the CA legislature) are backed by common sense. For example, Democrats want to mandate conservation. Seeing as California is an arid state that gets hit periodically by drought and is facing an uncertain water future thanks to climate change, how is this controversial? Particularly in light of the successes individual cities like Long Beach have recently had, conserving 1.6 billion gallons of water this year, compared to last.
Outstanding issues appear to include policy proposals favored by Democrats to mandate conservation, set new rules for groundwater monitoring and crack down on illegal diversions of water.
Environmentalists, backed by Democrats, say the plans will “break the cycle of conflict and environmental damage that have plagued California’s water management system for decades,” according to a letter sent to leaders by a key coalition of environmentalists.
But Republicans, farm groups and some industrial water users oppose the plans as written, saying they would create a “vast new government bureaucracy.”
They also favor regulating groundwater use at the state level. Considering that:
California is the only state that does not regulate or even monitor groundwater use. Those with a well can pump all they they want, whenever they want, without regard for how it affects a neighbor -- even if the neighbor happens to be an entire city that depends on groundwater.It would seem like managing underground aquifers, which are just as critical to California's future as its extensive system of surface reservoirs, also falls into the realm of common sense.
Last of all, they want to crack down on illegal diversion of water. Somebody please explain to me how that's controversial, because I would have thought that one a no-brainer.
Let's face it, if California is to remain an economic powerhouse, it needs to get smarter about water management. With population growth projected at around 20 million between now and 2050, water scarcity will only grow as a day to day issue, for residents and businesses alike. Unless we get a lot smarter, a lot faster.
The legislature is on the right track at the moment. Let's hope they're able to pull it off in a way that benefits all of us, without losing sight of the critical nature of the issue.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Speaking earlier this week at the Nobel Conference H20 Uncertain Resource, Dr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute presented a grim picture of our water supply, but went on to say, “I actually am optimistic about the future of water, if we do the things that we’re starting to do more aggressively, more carefully, and in a more widespread fashion.”
He outlined a “soft path” to a sustainable water system for the planet and its inhabitants through Smart Water Management. (The hard path involves expensive infrastructure upgrades.)
Steps along Gleick’s soft path include:
- Better define the water supply. That means thinking about wastewater as an asset. It means using rainwater harvesting to recharge depleted aquifers.
- Rather than looking for more water, use less. By Gleick’s calculations the U.S. is already using less water than it did for everything 30 years ago. It used to take 30 gallons of water to make a square inch of semi-conductor; now it takes 3-4 gallons.
- Consider distributing different water of different quality. Gleick’s prime example: It makes no sense to be flushing our toilets with high-quality drinking water.
- Price water properly: it's a human right, but it also has economic value and should be priced with both of those factors in mind.
- Protect our ecosystems, satisfying human needs as well as the needs of nature.
- Link energy management to water management: it takes a lot of energy to get the water we want, and it takes a lot of water to create energy. The two are inextricably linked.
- Address growth in a responsible way, with a focus on sustainability.
Thanks to Dr. Craig Bowron, whose article for MinnPost.com was referenced in developing this post.
Thanks to Dr. Craig Bowron, whose article for MinnPost.com was referenced in developing this post.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
This is just neat.
Scientists feared ancient phreatoicids (pronounced "free-at-o-ik-ids") were extinct after they went missing from the scientific record for 60 years.
But a painstaking search has revealed all nine known species - and four new species - were living unnoticed in South Island pools, swamps and drains.
The 2-cm creatures play a major role in cleansing Canterbury's groundwater and keeping Christchurch's drinking water naturally pure.
Read more from The New Zealand Herald >>
Thursday, October 01, 2009
The water level of the Colorado River, which supplies most of the region's water, has already dropped by 15%.
With water infrastructure uncomfortably stressed in the Southwest and elsewhere, we face tough questions: How long can the system support current demand, let alone development? How will our supplies be allocated? Clearly, we must focus on conserving the supply we have with water-efficient practices and technologies.
For more about this study, visit ABC News >>
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
In a follow up story published yesterday, The Guardian is reporting that the dire predictions of last summer are, unfortunately, coming to pass:
Australia's epic drought is tightening its grip as a deepening ecological crisis unfolds in the south of the country. After seven years of the Big Dry, water levels in lakes at the mouth of the mighty Murray river have fallen by up to 50cm below sea level and environmental damage is spreading on a massive scale, according to conservationists.
At Bottle Bend Lagoon, drought and over-use of water by farmers for irrigation has left swaths of riverbed exposed, producing a toxic chemical reaction that is spreading. The banks are lined with poisonous aluminium and manganese salts and the water is dun-coloured, smells like rotten eggs and is as corrosive as battery acid. Fish have died in their thousands and red gum trees and plants are also dying.
The crisis has come about because Australia is in the grip of the worst drought in a century. Years of scant rainfall have left vast areas parched and last month it was predicted that up to a million people could face a shortage of drinking water if the drought continues. The report from government officials warned that there could be problems supplying drinking water from the Murray Darling in 2008-2009 unless there is significant rainfall soon.
As the story make plain however, this is not exclusively an Australian problem:
The water in Australia's biggest river is running so low and is so salty that the nation's fifth-largest city, Adelaide, is at risk of having to ship water in to its residents, politicians have warned.
Adelaide's water crisis follows similar problems in cities around the world, as the combination of growing population, increasing agricultural use and global warming stretches resources to the limit. Experts are warning of permanent drought in many regions.
Salinity levels in some stretches of the Murray river already exceed the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendations for safe drinking, and South Australia's water authority and 11 rural townships east of Adelaide have been told to prepare for the worst.
"There's simply too many people pulling water out of the river," said Roger Strother, Coorong council mayor. "We've been saying that one day it would catch up, and this summer is when it is going to happen. It could be next week."
With the impacts of climate change only just beginning to be felt, and the added issues of growing human populations and increasing urbanization, reports like this will become commonplace. The report concludes with this short list of cities around the world that are dealing with these impacts right now:
Adelaide is one of many cities around the world facing acute water shortages as populations grow, long-term droughts continue and ground water is not replenished. The Chinese water minister, Chen Lei, today told engineers at a water conference that two-thirds of Chinese cities now face serious shortages due to rapid industrialisation and climate change.
"Compared to 1956-79, the average rainfall has dropped 6% in three major river basins," Lei said. "Most parts in the north of China are now facing water shortages problems, especially because of the increasing influence of climate change and the faster speed of industrialisation and urbanisation."
According to a new UN environment programme report, perennial drought conditions are developing in south-eastern Australia and south-western North America. "Projections suggest that persistent water scarcity will increase in a number of regions in coming years, including southern and northern Africa, the Mediterranean, much of the Middle East, a broad band in central Asia and the Indian subcontinent," the report said.
It's time we all recognized that water is now a critical resource, in increasingly short supply worldwide. Smart water management needs to be on everyone's radar as a critical issue to be addressed at every level, from governments to corporations to individuals. There's no escaping our need for water and the longer we wait to apply corrective actions the harder and more expensive they will be.
Beijing: Most of Beijing's water comes from the Miyun reservoir, but a decade of drought and huge population increase has left extreme shortages. Water diversion projects are helping, but this is depleting resources from other regions. The city must spend $3.5bn (£2.2bn) in the next five years to cope with a population expected to rise to 17 million.
Nairobi: The city has imposed water rationing, following an acute drought that has affected all Kenya's water catchment areas. River and reservoirs are at historically low levels. Flower farms and export-oriented agriculture are also reducing supplies available to people.
Mexico City: 2009 has been the driest year recorded in the city of 19 million people. Water is rationed and many areas have no piped water for days at a time. The government has imposed fines of up to $1,200 for hosing down cars and sidewalks or watering lawns during daytime hours. Signs warn that the city could run out of water next spring unless residents switch to low-flow showers and toilets, and plug leaks.
Gaza: Water fit for human use will run out in the Gaza strip within 10 years, the Gaza Coastal Municipal Water Utility and UN agencies said this month. Tap water is already salty, and only 5-10% of groundwater is drinkable. Gaza's population is expected to increase to 3 million by 2025.
Kathmandu: Erratic rainfall and drier winters have left Nepal's capital very short of water. The water company can provide only 160m litres a day but the demand is well over 200m litres. Many households are drilling their own boreholes to extract groundwater with electric pumps, but the water table is sinking approximately 2.5 metres a year and this is not sustainable in the medium term.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
…I guess we can say Jack’s no longer all wet! The American Society of Irrigation Consultants recognizes San Francisco-based HydroPoint Data Systems. Why? The Bay Area firm collaborated with Jack in the Box’s corporate staff to upgrade the irrigation system in Kearny Mesa to significantly reduce water use. The result? Jack is now saving a million gallons of water a year…Way to go Jack! I can't help but wonder what a million gallons of water translates to in dollars saved for Jack in the Box. Regardless, it's another real life demonstration of corporate sustainability translating directly into improvements in the bottom line. Conserving water and cash, not a bad combination during a drought and a recession...
Monday, September 21, 2009
With an end to the drought in doubt, and water restrictions and rate hikes thus likely to continue, the economic and environmental benefits of Smart Water Management have never been clearer. Whether you represent a business with multiple properties, an HOA or an individual residence, WeatherTRAK products are the solution for surviving the drought and the recession without killing your landscape or your finances.
Long-range forecasters are less and less bullish about El Niño, a global atmospheric condition that could bring extra precipitation to San Diego County.
Most of them say the odds still slightly favor a wetter-than-normal rainfall season in California, which could use a drenching after three straight years of drought. But the fledgling El Niño is showing signs of losing steam.
“If I were buying up water futures, I would not be reaching deep into my wallet at this point,” said Jan Null, a former forecaster for the National Weather Service who now runs a meteorological company.
California's water managers are taking a similar stance: They're not relying on El Niño to fill the state's depleted reservoirs. The shrinking supply has forced many water providers — including virtually all of the ones in San Diego County — to implement voluntary or mandatory restrictions on usage.
“We're planning for a dry 2010,” said Elissa Lynn, senior meteorologist for the California Department of Water Resources.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Scientists suspect that parts of the San Joaquin Valley have started to sink again after years of stability, a troubling development that geologists say can be traced to increased pumping of groundwater.One more example of why water management needs to be approached in a holistic, all encompassing way in order to capture all the threats and opportunities for any given scenario. Just think, if that philosophy had been applied here, this threat to a major component of Southern California's water supply could have been identified, mitigated and possibly entirely avoided.
State water managers are worried that falling land surfaces could damage the California Aqueduct, which carries water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the valley and Southern California.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Organizations that embed sustainability into their strategic plans differentiate themselves from competitors, reduce costs and improve employee morale.
Learn just how Valley Forge Fabrics achieved company-wide adoption of sustainability practices while it significantly reduced costs and GHG emissions.
You'll come away from this webcast with a clear path toward scoring fast and lasting sustainability wins for your organization.
Friday, October 16, 2009
11 am PT / 2 pm ET
Duration: 40 minutes (including Q&A)
Register online: HydroPoint.com/webcasts
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
This summer the city of Sacramento moved to conserve water with new rules that extended a watering ban earlier in the morning on watering days.
The heart of the water-use ordinance, which uses an odd/even day schedule, is a ban on watering lawns and gardens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. That's two hours longer than the previous limit of noon to 6 p.m.
But a look at what's behind the extended hours found that water conservation, even during the third consecutive year of drought, was just one of the ordinance's goals – and not the most important, ranking behind things like saving on electricity it takes to pump water.
The review also found that the new watering hours do not conserve as much water as possible considering the city's weather conditions.
That's because the ordinance's ban includes hours when the evaporation rate during watering is actually lower than during some of the hours Sacramentans are now allowed to irrigate.
An analysis by The Bee found that the city could conserve more water, especially during summer, if it would instead ban watering between 6 and 8 p.m. when temperatures and the Delta breeze are still robust.
Calculations show that during the summer – June, July and August – an evening watering ban from 6 to 8 p.m. would conserve 3.9 percent to 5.3 percent more water than the existing morning ban of 10 a.m. to noon.
That's a savings of as much as 16 gallons for a typical system that runs 20 minutes once a week over 1,000 square feet of lawn.
Should it really take research by the Bee to point these things out, or should we expect water managers to factor these things into the equation without the expert assistance of journalists?
The Bee also pointed out the easiest, and best, way to make sure your landscape irrigation accounts for both evaporation and transpiration:
Now if only I knew where to get one of these smart controllers...
Some of the newer "smart" watering controllers can sense weather conditions such as temperature and if it's raining, and adjust the amount of water used.
"If it's raining, it won't water. And if it cools down, it will water less," Ingels said. "You set your program, and it will take over."
Thursday, September 03, 2009
When your neighbors are in trouble, chances are you’re in trouble too. Look around southwest and mountain west America. Everywhere you’ll find major cities from Los Angeles to Denver, and Las Vegas to Phoenix worried sick about their water supply – as well they should be.The article continues, highlighting the danger to New Mexico if, as a holder of junior water rights to the Colorado, demand from California, Arizona and Nevada continues to increase. But that danger isn't limited to New Mexico, it's shared with, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Four U.S. states that could quite literally not have enough water to meet demand in the foreseeable future. Add to that the continued issues of groundwater depletion and contamination in 3 of the 4 states due to natural gas extraction, and the continued push from energy companies to begin exploiting oil shale (another water intensive process) in Colorado and Utah and you've got a recipe for disaster for millions of residents.
If the Colorado river continues to dry up and western drought becomes a perpetual hazard as current predictions have it, Las Vegas, Nevada will be facing a Katrina-like catastrophe, only this time it won’t be about flooding, but about running dry. Some 90 percent of Las Vegas’s water comes from the diminishing Colorado River.
Phoenix, Tucson, Denver and Los Angeles are in different boats, but their ponds are shrinking too.
And New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming — the “upper basin” states in the Colorado Compact of 1922 — have “junior” water rights to California, Arizona, and Nevada, the states that comprise the “lower basin.” And that means in a crisis, upper basin states won’t get their water until lower basin states have their’s.
We need to get smarter, faster.
Friday, August 28, 2009
|Water rate hike passes|
By Doug Rainey Newark City Council members approved a hefty 35 percent water rate increase for both residents and non-residents. That is on top of a rate ..
| Nassau communities pay highest water rates, face hike|
Pennsylvania-based Aqua is proposing a 27 percent rate hike for the fire districts it serves. The legislators urged their constituents to attend a meeting ...
| PUC to probe water rate hike request|
The Commission voted 5-0 to investigate the proposed $281927 (68.9 percent) increase for water revenues and the proposed $318297 (45.5 percent) increase for ...
| Customers Protest Water Rates Amid Conflicting Reports|
Bell Gardens Sun
By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer Some customers are balking at the latest water rate hikes from the Central Basin Municipal Water District and ...
| Residents facing a utilities rate hike|
Tampa Bay Newspapers
29 Pinellas County Commissioners will meet to decide how much more they will charge the cities for water and sewer services. The new rate hike becomes ...
The nation's second-largest city cut water use by an overall 17 percent in July compared to a year earlier, officials said Wednesday.The story goes on to talk about another, mostly hidden, advantage of cutting water use:
The Department of Water and Power, which has 680,000 water customers and 1.4 million electric customers, said single-family homes cut water use nearly 21 percent, multifamily properties cut use more than 8 percent, businesses cut usage nearly 22 percent and government properties reduced usage more than 34 percent.
LA isn't alone in its success, as San Diego is seeing similar decreases in water use:
Huge reductions in electricity usage were also reported.
The DWP saved a record 318 gigawatt-hours for the fiscal year ending June 30, an amount that equals removal of 53,000 households from the grid and avoids 178,700 metric tons of greenhouses gases.
In June and July, water consumption countywide plunged 21 percent and 16 percent, respectively, compared with the same months last year.So, while the water crisis continues to grow, some areas are taking it in stride and really making a difference. Hopefully they will provide an example for other cities and regions to follow.
Of the 24 water agencies in the region, 19 recorded savings of 10 percent or more in the past four months, compared with the same period in 2008. The top five performers were Camp Pendleton, Poway, Lakeside, Vallecitos and Ramona.
I wonder if anyone in Sacramento is paying attention...
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
In the United States, we constantly fret about running out of oil. But we should be paying more attention to another limited natural resource: water. A water crisis is threatening many parts of the country -- not just the arid West.But with most of our rivers already damned, most of our groundwater sources already tapped, aging infrastructure leaking billions of gallons of water a day and climate change affecting the distribution of rainfall, how can we continue to meet the need for water? We're just going to have to get smarter about how we use the resource. A lot smarter in fact.
In Florida, excessive groundwater pumping has dried up scores of lakes. In South Carolina, a paper company recently furloughed hundreds of workers because low river flows prevented the company from discharging its wastewater. That state's battle with North Carolina over the Catawba River has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Water has become so contentious nationwide that more than 30 states are fighting with their neighbors over water.
Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, is too shallow to float fully loaded freighters, dramatically increasing shipping costs. North of Boston, the Ipswich River has gone dry in five of the past eight years. In 2007, the hamlet of Orme, Tenn., ran out of water entirely, forcing it to truck in supplies from Alabama.Droughts make matters worse, but the real problem isn't shrinking water levels. It's population growth. Since California's last major drought ended in 1992, the state's population has surged by a staggering 7 million people. Some 100,000 people move to the Atlanta area every year. Over the next four decades, the country will add 120 million people, the equivalent of one person every 11 seconds.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The amount of water pollution contributed by homes may have been underestimated by up to 50 percent, according to researchers who presented their findings during the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held here through August 20.
According to an ACS August 19 press release, the study of eight residential areas in California’s Sacramento and Orange counties found that runoff from rainfall and lawn-watering ends up in municipal storm drains. It washes fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants into storm drains, and they end up in rivers, lakes and other bodies of water.
“Results from our sampling and monitoring study revealed high detection frequencies of pollutants such as pesticides and pathogen indicators at all sites,” researcher Lorence Oki said of the study. Darren Haver and colleagues joined Oki in the study.
Scientific American's coverage noted that:
Great stories by both publications, though honestly, it's not really news to us here at Hydropoint. After all, our controllers have been proven in CalEPA studies to reduce runoff pollution by 71%. So what's the bottom line here? Home landscapes contribute 50% more runoff pollution than previously thought, in some cases irrigation is responsible for more pollution than rainfall, and you can reduce your contribution to this problem by nearly 3/4 by installing a WeatherTRAK controller. Big problem, simple solution.
Water that runs off from these green acres typically picks up a load of fertilizers, pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals, and washes them—via sewers or directly—into lakes, rivers, streams and even the ocean. Once there, joined by similar runoff from agriculture, the chemicals can drive a host of environmental problems, ranging from dead zones to contaminated fish.
Previous estimates of how much water pollution derived from the suburbs was based simply on rainfall. But horticulturalist Lorence Oki of the University of California, Davis, and his colleagues found that sprinklers and other irrigation techniques also led to significant runoff that, in some cases, carried more pollution with it from the eight neighborhoods studied in Sacramento and Orange counties than runoff after a rain storm.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
- Overall, groundwater levels are declining in the southern, Tulare Basin portion of the San Joaquin Valley as more water is pumped out than recharges naturally. But the southern valley also shows the most promise for large-scale artificial groundwater recharge, particularly along the eastern side with its coarse-grained soils from river and alluvial-fan sediments.
- By contrast, groundwater levels in the Sacramento Valley and the northern portion of the San Joaquin Valley are generally stable.
- As the state faces its third year of below-average precipitation, groundwater supplies are under increasing pressure, according to data gathered since 2003. Landowners are drilling more and deeper wells, and underground water levels are starting to drop once again – as they did during previous droughts in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
But unlike above ground reservoirs, once drawn down it takes more than single good winter's worth of precipitation to refill it. This story is being repeated all over the globe. If we don't get smarter about water management soon, we could end up in a situation that makes today look like the good old days of abundant water.
The Central Valley is more than 400 miles long, comprised of the water-rich Sacramento Valley in the north and the drier San Joaquin Valley in the south. One of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions, the Central Valley has the largest groundwater system in the state. The groundwater basin, or aquifer, contains one-fifth of all groundwater pumped in the nation.
It is, in effect, California’s largest reservoir.
While the increase is moderate for the average family, local businesses and organizations appear to be bearing the brunt of the increase:
Despite objections from coin-operated laundries and residents, Escondido officials will hike water rates by 8 percent on Sept. 1 and increase sewer rates by 5 percent on Jan. 1.
The higher rates, which city officials blamed on the California drought and infrastructure problems at Escondido's sewer treatment plant, will increase the monthly bill for a typical family by $3.28.But excessive users could face much larger increases because of penalties under a conservation policy implemented in February, city officials said.
Vivian Doering from the Escondido Woman's Club said being classified as a restaurant has spiked monthly bills at the club from $61 to $235 in just three months.Escondido isn't alone; there are stories in the news today about water rate increases in OK, NE, NJ, LA, and OR.
Of course, they can all offset these rate increases by reducing their water use. And it's easy.
The city of Sacramento offers residents a free class Aug. 29 to learn how to use water wisely and comply with new watering rules.I guess it's a start, though offering just one class seems like a guarantee that at most, a few hundred might participate. Talk about a drop in the bucket. If they sent a few city employees to the class though, it might just have some long term benefits, considering their recent track record of water waste. Of course they could just let technology take care of things, and save even more water without all the labor...
The Saturday class runs from 10 a.m. to noon at the city's Water Conservation Office, 2260 Glen Ellen Circle. Participants will learn about new watering rules that took effect June 12, which restrict landscape irrigation to alternate days and certain hours on those days, among other things.
They'll also learn how to maintain a beautiful yard while reducing water consumption.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Norway's wealth fund, the biggest owner of European stocks, believes that environmental factors may sooner or later hit earnings and profitability of the companies it owns and sees its green ambitions as part its wider push for long-term profits.While this in itself isn't news (the fund has been pro-sustainability for some time), the latest addition to their list of environmental concerns corporations need to address is:
It's nice to see that European financial markets are recognizing the growing importance of sustainable water use. Will American investors follow suit? Just think of the advances we could make if major investors like CalPERS took similar steps... Of course, some forward looking U.S. companies are already responding to the issue. Let's hope more get on board soon.
Another new priority for the fund is dealing with water management, said Kvam, because continued availability of water resources will have a "huge impact" on how the Norwegian fund will develop in the decades to come.
Kvam said water was an important input or production factor for about 1,100 companies in the fund's current portfolio, whose combined market value is some $43 billion."The shortage of water and increased demand is going to create risks for huge amounts of companies going forward and we as investors need to know that the companies are managing these risks," she said in an interview.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Water agencies from California to South Carolina recommend smart controllers like the WeatherTRAK system because these devices simplify compliance with watering rules and ensure plants receive the water they need, and not a drop more.
A new report Tuesday argues that California has enough water supply right now to avoid drought-like conditions, if it were properly managed.It's all about smart water management. Not only will it solve the issues of water scarcity, the side effects benefit us as well, as today's company press release highlights:
“California has already developed enough water supplies to satisfy our needs into the foreseeable future by utilizing existing infrastructure and existing cost effective technologies,” says the report by a group calling itself the Environmental Water Caucus.
“Water efficient technologies and approaches … can save or reduce water consumption in urban areas by as much as 5 million acre feet a year by 2030 compared with current trends – enough water to support a population growth of 29,000,000 people,” the report says. That would be more than current population projections for the next 40 years.
HydroPoint Data Systems, Inc., provider of the WeatherTRAK® Smart Water Management solution, reveals that its subscribers reduce peak water and energy demand by eliminating outdoor water waste. During the summer months, water and energy consumption typically skyrocket as commercial and residential users react to higher temperatures by applying more water to landscapes and powering up cooling systems.You can read the whole thing here.
Water and energy are intrinsically related; energy is needed to transport and deliver water, while generating power requires massive quantities of water. The U.S. EPA links water and energy savings, equating 1 gallon of water to approximately 4 watt hours of power. Nearly 20 percent of California’s electricity consumption is attributable to water-related energy use, according to the California Energy Commission. In the interest of national security, the Department of Energy launched the Water-Energy Nexus program to encourage the development and use of clean technologies that reduce water-related energy demand.
In Wyoming's Powder River Basin, an area rich in natural gas, the extraction of that resource also depletes, and in some cases pollutes another resource; the local groundwater supply that farmers and ranchers rely on for their livelihood. A recent research report:
...said that between 1987 and 2006, BLM collected data from 111 monitoring wells in Wyoming’s portion of the basin using a deep network designed to evaluate potential leakage between the coalbed methane water-producing coal deposits and adjacent sandstone beds, and to measure the drawdown in the producing zones.In Delaware, increasing development in formerly agricultural areas is raising questions of the impact to groundwater, the major source for human consumption:
During that period, CBM production in the Wyoming PRB withdrew 4.1 billion bbl of groundwater at total pumping rates up to 77.3 million gallons daily, the report said. Based on BLM’s deep monitoring well data, water levels in some of the monitored CBM wells have declined up to 625 feet within the CBM production areas of the Wyoming PRB’s CBM production areas, it indicated.
In Michigan, years of illegal dumping of waste products from fruit processing is contaminating streams and groundwater. No one knows how long it will take the environment to recover:
Groundwater is both the source of drinking water and the method of disposing of wastewater, said Scott Andres, hydrogeologist with the Delaware Geological Society. There is plenty of water to be had, he said, but the challenge is protecting public and environmental health.
As nutrient-pollution limits increase the cost of septic, land-based disposal systems are becoming more economically appealing, said Andres.
Different methods of disposal add different amounts of water to the groundwater system. They also add contaminants, including nutrients, household chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Andres said there is no data yet on the human health effects of those pollutants....Land use adds pollutants to groundwater, and, when the flow of water changes, so do rates of natural filtration, said Ator. Less natural filtration could mean fewer contaminants are pulled out of the water.
These issues aren't limited to any particular state or country. NASA's GRACE satellite mission recently confirmed that India is depleting it's groundwater faster than it's being replenished. In an area where groundwater is responsible for supplying much of the water used to irrigate crops, as well as provide drinking water to 600 million Indians, this has disaster written all over it:
In Michigan's prized fruit and vegetable industry, processors have contaminated groundwater with metals and arsenic by spraying wastewater on fields -- a 40-year-old practice that has led to polluted wells.But in some cases, they also have dumped or spilled their waste into streams, marshes and wetlands, damaging them for years to come.
Farming is a thirsty business on the Indian subcontinent. But how thirsty, exactly? For the first time, satellite remote sensing of a 2000-kilometer swath running from eastern Pakistan across northern India and into Bangladesh has put a solid number on how quickly the region is depleting its groundwater. The number "is big," says hydrologist James Famiglietti of the University of California, Irvine--big as in 54 cubic kilometers of groundwater lost per year from the world's most intensively irrigated region hosting 600 million people. "I don't think anybody knew how quickly it was being depleted over that large an area."With climate change threatening to change the distribution of rainfall across the globe, it seems like now would be a good time to start addressing these issues. An ounce of prevention and all that...
Monday, August 10, 2009
With a new mayor and a city council that's making the right noises on this issue, maybe Sacramento will be able to change its ways. Maybe. But proposals to require retrofitting houses with water wise appliances upon sale won't accomplish as much as simply requiring retrofit of dumb irrigation controllers with smart ones. Think about it, 60% or more of household water use is directed to our landscapes. If you want to have the biggest possible impact on water use, you need to start with the biggest user of water. It's common sense folks, go for the low hanging fruit first.
In a workshop on water conservation, a majority of the Sacramento City Council said aggressive new policies are needed to save water. This may include stronger enforcement of water waste, new landscaping rules, accelerated water-meter installation – perhaps even requiring a retrofit of homes with low-impact appliances before they're resold.
"I think it's absolutely critical for this city and this region to be at the forefront … of responsible water use," said Councilman Rob Fong.
The council directed staff to draft proposed ordinances. These could be enacted as early as June to prepare for a hot summer in the third year of a drought gripping the state.
It marks a dramatic shift from the past, when the city actively opposed basic water conservation programs now common throughout California.
For instance, Sacramento fought – and ultimately failed – to avoid state policies requiring water meter installation. And it has also fallen far behind on a number of conservation promises made in 2000.
By last June, Sacramento had achieved none of 16 conservation goals it promised to meet by 2006 as a member of the Sacramento Water Forum.
It's year three of the drought, and when this one ends, there will be another around the corner. There always is. Meanwhile the effects of climate change, while unpredictable, are unlikely to favor California's water situation. Add to that an ever growing population and sooner or later we're all going to have to pitch in. If Marin County can average 100 gallons a day per person, why can't Sacramento?