Stories tagged blog action day 2010

Oct
15
2010

Water issues are complex and interrelated, so it can be difficult to solve them. But because water is essential to our way of life, we gotta get to work!

Here's an example of how convoluted things can get:

A study at the University of California in Irvine found that freshwater runoff (from precipitation and ice sheet melting) into the oceans has increased significantly--18% more water flowed into the oceans in 2006 compared to 1994. The main problem with this is that the freshwater then becomes saltwater, and we have to wait for it to evaporate and rain onto the ground for it to become drinkable/cookable/agriculturable again. But with global warming, precipitation patterns have changed so that the areas that need water aren't getting as much as they used to.

Speaking of global warming, CO2 in the atmosphere does more than heat things up--it dissolves into the ocean, which makes the water more acidic. This change in pH, though subtle, could become sufficient to kill delicate creatures such as krill in the Southern Ocean within 100 years. Considering that many of the fish we like to eat dine on krill, this could pose a big problem in the future.

But it gets more complicated. The runoff from agricultural fields contains nitogren-based fertilizers, and rivers release tons of it into the ocean each year. The nitrogen fuels an overgrowth of algae, which die when the nitrogen is gone and fall to the seafloor. There, they are consumed by bacteria that thrive and gobble up all the oxygen, creating a "dead zone" where plants and animals cannot live. While human activities add double the natural amount of nitrogen into soils, about 60% of that fertilizer is never used by the plant and ends up in the ocean. Some of it also ends up in the atmosphere, where it becomes N2O--a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. This adds to global warming, bringing us back to increased freshwater runoff.

In short, more water is running into the ocean and that water is full of ick that kills stuff and makes more water run into the ocean. Ick.

Oct
15
2010

How much water is is needed to make ___?

Water footprint: Water used to produce items
Water footprint: Water used to produce itemsCourtesy lorigami
This awesome graphic shows how many gallons of water it takes to produce some common foods. Producing a pound of meat can require thousands of gallons of water. So when you pledge to use less water you need to consider how much water was required to make some of the things you use.

What is your "water footprint"?

A good place to start in learning about water consumption is WaterFootPrint.org.
One page calculated water used per person per year for various nations.

  • United States ----- 2 1/2 million Kgs
  • China --------------- 7/10 million Kgm
  • World average ---- 1 1/4 Kgm

There is a Water Footprint Calculator for anyone wishing to compare their personal water usage with others. Everything is metric, though.

Raise you water usage awareness

TreeHugger has water footprint explained using pounds and gallons.
Browse through some of this information and tell us what you learned in the comments.

Oct
15
2010

I'm watching you...: No, not you, JGordon. Get over yourself.
I'm watching you...: No, not you, JGordon. Get over yourself.Courtesy NOAA Photo Library
I always assumed that I was under near-constant supervision by government satellites. I figured that because satellites can’t really see me inside stores (where I do all my shoplifting), they’d be making up for lost time by watching me put stolen clothing on the dog (in the yard) and having my bubble baths (near a window).

At first it was creepy … but then it was sort of comforting. Like a nightlight. A nightlight that’s always looking at you.

Well, it turns out that my privacy may actually be pretty low on NASA’s list of priorities.

See, a new online system was just launched in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, which should allow scientists and concerned organizations access to images from NASA satellites. Cool, I thought. I’ll get a fancy new hat. But, no, it just so happens that the images aren’t of me relaxing on the roof, or of me washing my car in carwash-appropriate clothing—they’re images of the Himalayas, and the massive glaciers they hold.

I wouldn’t say that I’m “devastated,” exactly. But I am crushed. I thought we—NASA and I—had something. I mean, yes, those images are recorded and distributed to track the effects of climate change on Himalayan glaciers, and, yes, the glaciers appear to be shrinking at an alarming rate, and, yes, more than a billion people depend on the water released by those glaciers, but … what about my feelings?

Hopefully, the data provided by the satellites will help the people in vast regions of Asia to prepare for floods and, perhaps eventually, severe shortages of fresh water.

In the meantime… I guess I’ll just hide some nanny-cams around the house. To feel looked after, you know?

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Oct
15
2010

Tasty fish & tomatoes
Tasty fish & tomatoesCourtesy Robert and Mihaela Vicol
Fish and tomatoes compete for resources.

Yep, they do, and that resource is water.

The authors of a new report out in this week's issue of the journal Science are reminding folks of that fact.

John Sabo, a biologist at Arizona State University and lead author of the report told NSF News that "Humans may need to make hard decisions about how to allocate water so that we grow the right food, but still leave enough in rivers to sustain fish populations."

His comments stem from the report's findings that human actions--agricultural irrigation, dam construction, and the collective activities that lead to climate change--alter the natural variability of river flows and in the process shorten river food chains, particularly eliminating top predators like many large-bodied fish.
A now dry Colorado River delta branches into the Baja/Sonoran Desert near the Sea of Cortez
A now dry Colorado River delta branches into the Baja/Sonoran Desert near the Sea of CortezCourtesy Pete McBride

"Floods and droughts shorten the food chain, but they do it in different ways," Sabo explained. "Floods simplify the food web by taking out some of the intermediate players so the big fish begin to eat lower on the chain," Sabo said. "With droughts, it's completely different: droughts eliminate the top predator altogether because many fish can't tolerate the low oxygen and high temperatures that result when a stream starts drying out."

Sabo and co-authors--Jacques Finlay, from the University of Minnesota, Theodore Kennedy from the U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Biological Science Center, and David Post from Yale University--suggest that the fate of large-bodied fishes should be more carefully factored into the management of water use, especially as growing human populations and climate change affect water availability.

According to Sabo, "The question becomes: can you have fish and tomatoes on the same table?"

The Role of Discharge Variation in Scaling of Drainage Area and Food Chain Length in Rivers
John L. Sabo, Jacques. C. Finlay, Theodore Kennedy, and David M. Post (14 October 2010)
Science [DOI: 10.1126/science.1196005]

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Bottled Water Obsession: screen capture by Art Oglesby from fora.tv
Bottled Water Obsession: screen capture by Art Oglesby from fora.tvCourtesy ARTiFactor
Listen to Peter H. Gleick explain the connections between water and human health, the human right to water, the hydrologic impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization and international conflicts over water resources.
Here is a link to his concluding statements about The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water (3min)
Here is a link to the whole presentation (52min)

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Oct
15
2010

California water wars
California water warsCourtesy Los Angeles
Every year, my friends in California give me a Mono Lake calendar. I will be there next week to see for myself how the Lake is doing. Mono Lake is recovering after the California Water Wars.

California water wars started 100+ yrs ago

Water diversion, speculation, and fighting has been going on in California for more than 100 years. About 110 years ago some of the visionary leaders in Los Angeles decided to dig canals all the way across the state to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and divert and carry its water to their growing city.

Battle in courts to save Mono Lake

Because the waters were diverted, the water level in Mono Lake started to fall, and the Mono Lake ecosystem became severely impacted.

In 1978, the Mono Lake Committee was formed to protect Mono Lake. The Committee (and the National Audubon Society) sued LADWP in 1979, arguing that the diversions violated the public trust doctrine, which states that navigable bodies of water must be managed for the benefit of all people. The litigation reached the California Supreme Court by 1983, which ruled in favor of the Committee. Further litigation was initiated in 1984, which claimed that LADWP did not comply with the state fishery protection laws.

"In 1994, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) established significant public trust protection and eco-system restoration standards, and LADWP was required to release water into Mono Lake to raise the lake level 20 feet. As of 2003, the water level in Mono Lake has risen 9 feet of the required 20 feet. Los Angeles made up for the lost water through state-funded conservation and recycling projects." Wikipedia

Water scarcity will cause more wars

I read recently that a UN Development Program report predicted that Scarcity of water, over the next 25 years, will possibly be the leading reason for major conflicts in Africa, not oil.’

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Water in two states
Water in two statesCourtesy Mark Ryan
In keeping with both this week's celebration of Earth Science, and this year's Blog Action Day 2010 theme of all things watery, here's an educational web page titled Water Science for Schools created by the United States Geological Survey. The site covers topics like water basics, the water cycle, and water quality. It also has links to an ocean of water-related information.

Oct
15
2010

Burdened by water
Burdened by waterCourtesy One Laptop per Child

Thirsty?

When you are thirsty, how long does it take for you to get a drink of water? Drinking water, like breathing air, is necessary to stay alive. So to stay alive, you do what you have to to get some water.

Would you walk three hours for water?

In Africa alone, people, usually women and children, spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Once, when I ran out gas I tried carrying 5 gallons of gas to my car. My arm sockets ached so bad after a quarter mile that I considered pouring half of it out. Five gallons of water weighs 40 pounds. No way I would carry it on my head (an old neck injury would really flare up). I know that carrying that water is causing neck, back, and arm pain.

Wishing for a well

Some charitable organizations are hoping contributions can be used to provide relief to those needing easier and safer sources of water.

With safe water nearby, women are free to pursue new opportunities and improve their families’ lives. Kids can earn their education and build the future of their communities.

They figure that "every $1 invested in improved water access and sanitation yields an average of $12 in economic returns, depending on the project." charitywater.org.

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Oct
15
2010

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Blog Action Day 2010

Water is a global issue, deserving a global conversation. Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15. The idea is for everyone to talk about the same topic on the same day to increase world awareness about that topic. This year the topic is WATER.

Water ideas to blog about

You can go here blogaction page at change.org for blogging ideas about water.

Please say something about World Water

I am going to spend 5 or 6 hours today blogging about water. I will put links to my posts in the comments below. If you have time, please use our comments area to talk about World Water.