Monday, October 6, 2014

Angry Irish

The Emerald Isle, with its damp climate, extensive greenery and abundant water supply has truly never experienced a true water shortage, and has many local thriving fish and wildlife habitats.  But currently, people of the town of Boyle, in County Roscommon in the western part of Ireland are having to boil their tap water due to the fact that it is practically toxic to drink.  The water supply has been contaminated by a new bacteria that the town’s out-of-date water treatment plants cannot purify.  The consequence to drinking the water, “You’re going to be violently sick for 24 hours-it’s as simple as that.  It happened to me twice.  But not a third time” Sean O’Dowd was quoted saying as he and many others were photographed stalking up on bottled water supplies.  The contamination is caused by a severe downfall in the quality of local water infrastructures, due mostly to the lack of investment on part of the local government following the 2010 economic collapse of Ireland.  Irish Water, the company chosen to take over the once locally operated water system plans on spending over 2 billion Euros or 2.5 billion US dollars to bring the waterworks up to safe standards.  This project is going to be supported by issuing a never before seen water fee for all water usage.  Up until now water infrastructure and management was funded from central and local government taxes, now households will be responsible for paying for the water that they use in their homes and businesses, a procedure we have long become accustomed to in the U.S.  “We have a big problem in terms of our infrastructure-it’s not at a state that’s fit to meet the needs of a modern economy,” says Irish Water’s Elizabeth Arnett.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Colorado Basin Disappearing From Below

The Colorado River Basin is one of the most important sources of water for most of the Western United states.  It provides water to 40 million Americans and over 4 million acres of farmland in seven western states.  Quite alarmingly in the last few years, research has shown that groundwater is vanishing from the basin much quicker than ever expected.  In the last 9 years the basin has lost approximately 65 cubic kilometers of fresh water.  This quantity is nearly double the size of the nations largest reservoir, Lake Mead.  Many were stunned when NASA weather satellites showed such a drastic decline in such a seemingly short period of time.  More incredibly almost two thirds of the water lost, was groundwater.  The information gap arises because of the fact that surface water residing in the Colorado River Basin is closely regulated and monitored by the US Bureau of Reclamation, while there are no interstate regulations on how the states monitor and measure groundwater levels.  With consistent water table information from monitoring wells being readily unavailable, researchers are having a very hard time tracking the declines and identifying what in fact caused the sudden drop.  Clearly this supply issue has a potential of impacting most of the western united states, and could be developmentally crippling to their rapidly growing cities.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

California's Desperation

Extreme drought is an on-going problem throughout different areas of the United States, including many parts of the Midwest all the way to California.  Over the last decade, California has seen a huge shift from annual crops to nut trees, such as almonds, pistachios etc.  The delicious perennials are extremely lucrative but vast orchards that have been planted throughout the Central Valley require decades-long investments, year-round watering and a commitment from Mother Nature.  One farmer explained his situation, "It's a huge economic loss," said Baker, who looked on forlornly this past week as workers felled his beloved trees. "That's probably $10 million in revenue I lost right there, but with the price of water today, up to $2,500 per acre-foot, there is no way I could have found the water this year. A lot of guys are going to have to make that decision in the next couple of weeks."  California’s switch from annual crops to nuts has been highly profitable in the past bringing the State’s economy $7 billion in sales each year with almonds producing the highest amount at $4.35 billion.  Today there are more than 800,000 acres of almonds in California compared with the 418,000 acres in 1995.  Total production also doubled from 912 million pounds in 2006 to 1.88 billion pounds in 2013.  California alone produces 82% of the world’s almonds. 

            The Drought has also put an enormous strain on local farmers and ranchers.  Pete Craig who owns a large cattle ranch near Lake Berryessa said that the planting of almond orchards took thousands of acres of grazing ground and has put stress on the natural environment.  For decades, ranchers from surrounding states have brought their livestock to California, taking advantage of the mild winters and lush natural pastures which are prime conditions for fattening beef cattle.  With such extreme drought and vast water shortages, ranchers in the Golden State are actually moving their cattle out of the area, loading tens of thousands of heifers and steers onto trucks and hauling them eastward to Nevada, Texas, Nebraska and beyond.  “If there’s no water and no feed, you move the cows,” Gaylord Wright, 65, owner of California Fats and Feeders Inc.  “You move them or they die.”

Friday, February 28, 2014

Water And Energy Progress

The folks of the Sheridan 6 LEMA, were honored this week at the first annual Water and Energy Progress luncheon award ceremony that took place in Topeka on February 28th, 2014.   Governor Sam Brownback presented the awards to the recipients and spoke highly of the conservation efforts that had been displayed by these individuals and families.  Many thanks to the incredible staff of the Climate and Energy Project as well as all those involved in the Water and Energy Progress Steering Committee.  The picture below shows Roch Meir from Hoxie Kansas, receiving an award on behalf of the entire Sheridan 6 LEMA of Sheridan County Kansas.  His lovely wife Marilyn was also in attendance for this exciting event.  Congratulations to all award recipients and lets keep up the good work, what a privilege it is to work with you!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

They're Setting Up Hubs!

This week the Obama Administration announced that they would be engaging in the creation of "Climate hubs" which will provide information to rural communities that are currently facing extreme weather conditions such as drought and flooding.  The hubs will be sponsored through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will provide scientific information for farmers, ranchers etc to tap into when facing the risks associated with climate change...

"For generations, America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have innovated and adapted to challenges," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilasack said.  However, he said, rural communities face more complex challenges today because of climate change.  "USDA's Climate hubs are part of our board commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of changing climate," Vilsack said. 

The Hubs will be in Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico.  Additional "sub-hubs" will be set up in various other states, including Michigan and California.  I am curious as to the roles that these hubs will play, reports have indicated that they will be working with state and local governments before making their "suggested adaptions." Not sure about this one folks.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It's Freezing...Even in South Georgia

Polar Vortex: "Is a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near either of a planet's geographical poles.  On Earth, the polar vortices are located in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere.  They surround the polar highs and lie in the wake of the polar front.  These cold-core low-pressure areas strengthen in the winter and weaken in the summer due to their reliance upon the temperature differential between the equator and the poles.  They usually span less than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in which the air is circulating in a counter-clockwise fashion (in the northern hemisphere)."

Much of the United States has been experiencing extremely cold temperatures this past week and it has caused quite an alarming media response.  For a nation founded with covered wagons and pioneering survival tactics, we sure have lost our touch through the years when it comes to withstanding the cold.  This is an argument I have heard several times over the last few weeks but to be fair, these temperatures have also not been seen in decades if ever in history.  In the city of Chicago, a record low temperature of -11 Degrees F had existed until the bone chilling -16 Degrees F hit the metropolis with an added wind chill that took Chicago down to -34 Degrees F.  This Polar Vortex has forced even residents in south Georgia to learn what its like to have frozen pipes in their homes and businesses.  There also have been several instances where fire emergency systems have frozen over or have been broken due to pipes bursting, causing a security hazard for many large functioning agricultural and industrial facilities.  Between the current freeze, and the South Dakota blizzard in 2013, mother nature is sure reminding us how powerful frozen moisture can be.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Water Water Everywhere

Far above our heads, there are currently astronauts working away in attempt to repair the International Space System's cooling station .  Currently the space station in operating on only one cooling system which would leave the astronauts vulnerable to being left without a working system should the current cooling unit fail.  After a seemingly successful mission on Saturday, astronaut Rick Mastracchio discovered something interesting in his spacesuit, water had gathered in his suit's sublimator which is a device that's designed to dissipate excess heat.  Usually the suits have water based systems in them that remove moisture, and cool the astronauts.  But it is unusual for the water to accumulate.  The spacewalk on Saturday consisted of a 5 hour and 28 minute mission removing a faulty coolant pump module, this mission will continue tomorrow December 24th and no further issues are expected to arise.  This unfortunately is not the first time that water has been a problem is space.  In July an astronaut's suit malfunctioned causing him to nearly drown inside his suit.  NASA officials have declared that the two problems are not related and they believe the suits to now have a "clean bill of health" although they have added makeshift snorkels and absorbent pads to the suits as a precaution.  Water water everywhere, even up there.