Topic: Water


A Red Dirt Town: An Enduring Legacy <br />Of Toxic Pollution in Southern Waters

An E360 Video Contest Award Winner

A Red Dirt Town: An Enduring Legacy
Of Toxic Pollution in Southern Waters

The second-place winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest examines the legacy of pollution in Anniston, Alabama, the former home of a Monsanto chemical factory. Produced by Spenser Gabin, the video tells the story of how PCBs from the Monsanto plant contaminated the town’s waterways and continue to taint the fish that are popular with local anglers.
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Mideast Water Wars: In Iraq, <br />A Battle for Control of Water

Analysis

Mideast Water Wars: In Iraq,
A Battle for Control of Water

by fred pearce
Conflicts over water have long haunted the Middle East. Yet in the current fighting in Iraq, the major dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are seen not just as strategic targets but as powerful weapons of war.
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As Small Hydropower Expands, <br />So Does Caution on Its Impacts

Report

As Small Hydropower Expands,
So Does Caution on Its Impacts

by dave levitan
Small hydropower projects have the potential to bring electricity to millions of people now living off the grid. But experts warn that planners must carefully consider the cumulative effects of constructing too many small dams in a single watershed.
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Why Restoring Wetlands <br />Is More Critical Than Ever

Report

Why Restoring Wetlands
Is More Critical Than Ever

by bruce stutz
Along the Delaware River estuary, efforts are underway to restore wetlands lost due to centuries of human activity. With sea levels rising, coastal communities there and and elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe are realizing the value of wetlands as important buffers against flooding and tidal surges.
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Loss of Snowpack and Glaciers<br /> In Rockies Poses Water Threat

Report

Loss of Snowpack and Glaciers
In Rockies Poses Water Threat

by ed struzik
From the Columbia River basin in the U.S. to the Prairie Provinces of Canada, scientists and policy makers are confronting a future in which the loss of snow and ice in the Rocky Mountains could imperil water supplies for agriculture, cities and towns, and hydropower production.
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Life on the Mississippi: <br />Tale of the Lost River Shrimp

Dispatch

Life on the Mississippi:
Tale of the Lost River Shrimp

by paul greenberg
The 20th-century re-engineering of the Mississippi River wreaked havoc on natural systems and devastated once-abundant populations of native river shrimp. Biologist Paul Hartfield has focused his work on studying these creatures, which were known for making one of the world’s great migrations.
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Can Waterless Dyeing Processes <br />Clean Up the Clothing Industry?

Report

Can Waterless Dyeing Processes
Clean Up the Clothing Industry?

by lydia heida
One of the world’s most polluting industries is the textile-dyeing sector, which in China and other Asian nations releases trillions of liters of chemically tainted wastewater. But new waterless dyeing technologies, if adopted on a large scale, could sharply cut pollution from the clothing industry.
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New Desalination Technologies <br />Spur Growth in Recyling Water

Report

New Desalination Technologies
Spur Growth in Recyling Water

by cheryl katz
Desalination has long been associated with one process — turning seawater into drinking water. But a host of new technologies are being developed that not only are improving traditional desalination but opening up new frontiers in reusing everything from agricultural water to industrial effluent.
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As Dairy Farms Grow Bigger, <br />New Concerns About Pollution

Report

As Dairy Farms Grow Bigger,
New Concerns About Pollution

by elizabeth grossman
Dairy operations in the U.S. are consolidating, with ever-larger numbers of cows concentrated on single farms. In states like Wisconsin, opposition to some large operations is growing after manure spills and improper handling of waste have contaminated waterways and aquifers.
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Mimicking Nature, New Designs <br />Ease Fish Passage Around Dams

Report

Mimicking Nature, New Designs
Ease Fish Passage Around Dams

by rebecca kessler
Originating in Europe, "nature-like" fishways are now being constructed on some U.S. rivers where removing dams is not an option. Unlike traditional fish ladders, these passages use a natural approach aimed at significantly increasing once-abundant runs of migratory fish.
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Mining Showdown in Andes <br />Over Unique Páramo Lands

Report

Mining Showdown in Andes
Over Unique Páramo Lands

by chris kraul
High-altitude neotropical ecosystems known as páramos are increasingly at risk in Colombia and elsewhere in South America as major mining companies seek to exploit rich deposits of gold and other minerals. Such projects, scientists warn, could have serious impacts on critical water supplies.
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New Satellite Boosts Research <br />On Global Rainfall and Climate

Analysis

New Satellite Boosts Research
On Global Rainfall and Climate

by nicola jones
Although it may seem simple, measuring rainfall worldwide has proven to be a difficult job for scientists. But a recently launched satellite is set to change that, providing data that could help in understanding whether global rainfall really is increasing as the planet warms.
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Scientists Focus on Polar Waters <br />As Threat of Acidification Grows

Report

Scientists Focus on Polar Waters
As Threat of Acidification Grows

by jo chandler
A sophisticated and challenging experiment in Antarctica is the latest effort to study ocean acidification in the polar regions, where frigid waters are expected to feel most acutely the ecological impacts of acidic conditions not seen in millions of years.
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On Ravaged Tar Sands Lands, <br />Big Challenges for Reclamation

Report

On Ravaged Tar Sands Lands,
Big Challenges for Reclamation

by ed struzik
The mining of Canada’s tar sands has destroyed large areas of sensitive wetlands in Alberta. Oil sands companies have vowed to reclaim this land, but little restoration has occurred so far and many scientists say it is virtually impossible to rebuild these complex ecosystems.
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UN Climate Report Is Cautious <br />On Making Specific Predictions

Analysis

UN Climate Report Is Cautious
On Making Specific Predictions

by fred pearce
The draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world faces serious risks from warming and that the poor are especially vulnerable. But it avoids the kinds of specific forecasts that have sparked controversy in the past.
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Life on Mekong Faces Threats <br />As Major Dams Begin to Rise

Report

Life on Mekong Faces Threats
As Major Dams Begin to Rise

by joshua zaffos
With a massive dam under construction in Laos and other dams on the way, the Mekong River is facing a wave of hydroelectric projects that could profoundly alter the river’s ecology and disrupt the food supplies of millions of people in Southeast Asia.
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As Fracking Booms, Growing <br />Concerns About Wastewater

Report

As Fracking Booms, Growing
Concerns About Wastewater

by roger real drouin
With hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas continuing to proliferate across the U.S., scientists and environmental activists are raising questions about whether millions of gallons of contaminated drilling fluids could be threatening water supplies and human health.
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In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an <br />Architect Makes Water His Ally

Photo Essay

In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an
Architect Makes Water His Ally

As these photographs and illustrations show, architect David Waggonner has decided that the best way to protect low-lying New Orleans is to think about water in an entirely different way.
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A Successful Push to Restore <br />Europe’s Long-Abused Rivers

Analysis

A Successful Push to Restore
Europe’s Long-Abused Rivers

by fred pearce
From Britain to the Czech Republic, European nations have been restoring rivers to their natural state — taking down dams, removing levees, and reviving floodplains. For a continent that long viewed rivers as little more than shipping canals and sewers, it is a striking change.
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China at Crossroads: Balancing <br />The Economy and Environment

Analysis

China at Crossroads: Balancing
The Economy and Environment

by r. edward grumbine
After three decades of unbridled economic growth and mounting ecological problems, China and its new leadership face a key challenge: cleaning up the dirty air, polluted water, and tainted food supplies that are fueling widespread discontent among the country’s burgeoning middle class.
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Canada’s Great Inland Delta: <br />A Precarious Future Looms

Report

Canada’s Great Inland Delta:
A Precarious Future Looms

by ed struzik
The Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas, is facing major change as rising temperatures, a prolonged drought, and water withdrawals for Alberta’s tar sands industry threaten to increasingly dry out this vast expanse of waterways and wetlands.
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China’s Great Dam Boom: <br />A Major Assault on Its Rivers

Analysis

China’s Great Dam Boom:
A Major Assault on Its Rivers

by charlton lewis
China is engaged in a push to build hydroelectric dams on a scale unprecedented in human history. While being touted for producing lower-emission electricity, these massive dam projects are wreaking havoc on river systems across China and Southeast Asia.
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A Key Mangrove Forest Faces <br />Major Threat from a Coal Plant

The Future of Coal: An e360 Report

A Key Mangrove Forest Faces
Major Threat from a Coal Plant

by jeremy hance
As Bangladesh makes a controversial turn to coal to produce electricity, the construction of a large coal-fired power plant is threatening the fragile ecosystem of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
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Focusing a Lens on China's Environmental Challenges

Photo Essay

Focusing a Lens on China's Environmental Challenges

by sean gallagher
Traveling throughout China, from the Tibetan Plateau to the lush subtropical forests in the south, a photojournalist documents the vast scope of the country's environmental challenges.
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The Ambitious Restoration of <br />An Undammed Western River

Report

The Ambitious Restoration of
An Undammed Western River

by caroline fraser
With the dismantling of two dams on Washington state’s Elwha River, the world’s largest dam removal project is almost complete. Now, in one of the most extensive U.S. ecological restorations ever attempted, efforts are underway to revive one of the Pacific Northwest’s great salmon rivers.
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How High Tech is Helping <br /> Bring Clean Water to India

Interview

How High Tech is Helping
Bring Clean Water to India

by todd woody
Anand Shah runs a company that is using solar-powered “water ATMs” to bring clean water to remote villages in India. In an e360 interview, Shah talks about how his company is using a high-tech approach to address one of India’s most intractable public health issues.
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In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom<br /> Has Steep Environmental Cost

Report

In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom
Has Steep Environmental Cost

by mike ives
Vietnam has become one of the world’s leading rice producers, thanks to the construction of an elaborate network of dikes and irrigation canals. But these extensive infrastructure projects in the storied Mekong Delta have come at a high ecological price.
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Megadrought in U.S. Southwest:<br /> A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

Analysis

Megadrought in U.S. Southwest:
A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

by caroline fraser
Scientists studying a prolonged and severe drought in the southwestern U.S. say that extensive damage done to trees in that region portends what lies in store as other forests worldwide face rising temperatures, diminished rainfall, and devastating fires.
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Will Huge New Hydro Projects<br /> Bring Power to Africa’s People?

Analysis

Will Huge New Hydro Projects
Bring Power to Africa’s People?

by fred pearce
A giant new hydro project on the Congo River is only the latest in a rush of massive dams being built across Africa. Critics contend small-scale renewable energy projects would be a far more effective way of bringing power to the hundreds of millions of Africans still without electricity.
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What’s Damaging Marshes on<br /> U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

Interview

What’s Damaging Marshes on
U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

by kevin dennehy
A nine-year study led by researcher Linda Deegan points to the damage that human-caused nutrients inflict on salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she describes what these findings mean for an ecosystem that provides critical services, from nourishing marine life to buffering the coast from storms like Sandy.
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A Global Treaty on Rivers:<br /> Key to True Water Security

Analysis

A Global Treaty on Rivers:
Key to True Water Security

by fred pearce
No broad-based international agreement on sharing rivers currently exists, even though much of the world depends on water from rivers that flow through more than one nation. But that may be about to change, as two separate global river treaties are close to being approved.
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Beyond Big Dams: Turning to<br /> Grass Roots Solutions on Water

Report

Beyond Big Dams: Turning to
Grass Roots Solutions on Water

by fred pearce
Mega-dams and massive government-run irrigation projects are not the key to meeting world’s water needs, a growing number of experts now say. For developing nations, the answer may lie in small-scale measures such as inexpensive water pumps and other readily available equipment.
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Melting Glaciers May Worsen<br/> Northwest China’s Water Woes

Report

Melting Glaciers May Worsen
Northwest China’s Water Woes

by mike ives
In China’s sprawling Xinjiang region, where the population is growing and cotton farming is booming, a key river has been running dry in summer. Now a team of international scientists is grappling with a problem facing the Tarim River basin and other mountainous regions — how to secure water supplies as demands increase and glaciers melt.
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The Dead Sea is Dying: Can<br /> A Controversial Plan Save It?

Report

The Dead Sea is Dying: Can
A Controversial Plan Save It?

by dave levitan
The Dead Sea — the lowest terrestrial point on the planet — is dropping at an alarming rate, falling more than 1 meter a year. A $10 billion proposal to pipe water from the Red Sea is being opposed by conservationists, who point to alternatives that could help save one of the world’s great natural places.
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On Safe Drinking Water,<br /> Skepticism Over UN Claims

Analysis

On Safe Drinking Water,
Skepticism Over UN Claims

by fred pearce
With great fanfare, the United Nations announced in March that the world had reduced by half the proportion of people drinking unsafe water, meeting a critical development goal five years ahead of schedule. But a closer look reveals that the facts simply do not support this claim.
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The Clean Water Act at 40:<br /> There’s Still Much Left to Do

Opinion

The Clean Water Act at 40:
There’s Still Much Left to Do

by paul greenberg
The Clean Water Act of 1972, one of the boldest environmental laws ever enacted, turns 40 this year, with an impressive record of cleaning up America's waterways. But from New York Harbor to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, key challenges remain.
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A Kenyan Woman Stands Up<br /> Against Massive Dam Project

Interview

A Kenyan Woman Stands Up
Against Massive Dam Project

by christina m. russo
Ikal Angelei is helping lead a campaign to stop construction of a major dam in Ethiopia that threatens the water supply and way of life of tens of thousands of indigenous people. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains what she believes is at stake in the fight against the Gibe III dam.
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Colorado River: Running Near Empty

e360 Video

Colorado River: Running Near Empty

Photographer Pete McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in the Rockies to its historic mouth at the Sea of Cortez. In a Yale Environment 360 video, he documents how increasing water demands have transformed the river that is the lifeblood for an arid Southwest.
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On Lake Taihu, China Moves <br />To Battle Massive Algae Blooms

Report

On Lake Taihu, China Moves
To Battle Massive Algae Blooms

by richard stone
For two decades, the once-scenic Lake Taihu in eastern China has been choked with devastating algae blooms that have threatened drinking water for millions. Now, in a move that could provide lessons for other huge lakes worldwide, China is taking steps to restore Taihu’s ecological balance.
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Africa’s Flourishing Niger Delta<br /> Threatened by Libya Water Plan

Report

Africa’s Flourishing Niger Delta
Threatened by Libya Water Plan

by fred pearce
The inland Niger delta of Mali is a unique wetland ecosystem that supports a million farmers, fishermen, and herders and a rich diversity of wildlife. But now, the country’s president and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi have begun a major agricultural project that will divert much of the river’s water and put the delta’s future at risk.
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In China, a New Transparency<br /> On Government Pollution Data

Report

In China, a New Transparency
On Government Pollution Data

by christina larson
The Chinese government has begun to make environmental records available to the public, empowering green groups and citizens as they try to force factories — and the Western companies they supply — to comply with the law.
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When The Water Ends:<br /> Africa’s Climate Conflicts

e360 Video

When The Water Ends:
Africa’s Climate Conflicts

As temperatures rise and water supplies dry up, semi-nomadic tribes along the Kenyan-Ethiopian border increasingly are coming into conflict with each other. A Yale Environment 360 video report from East Africa focuses on a phenomenon that climate scientists say will be more and more common in the 21st century: how worsening drought will pit groups — and nations — against one another
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On China’s Beleaguered Yangtze,<br /> A Push to Save Surviving Species

Report

On China’s Beleaguered Yangtze,
A Push to Save Surviving Species

by richard stone
The Yangtze has been carved up by dams, used as an open sewer, and subjected to decades of overfishing. Now, Chinese scientists — alarmed by the disappearance of the Yangtze river dolphin and other creatures — are calling for a 10-year moratorium on fishing in the world’s third-longest river.
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Growing Shortages of Water<br /> Threaten China’s Development

Report

Growing Shortages of Water
Threaten China’s Development

by christina larson
With 20 percent of the world’s population but just 7 percent of its available freshwater, China faces serious water shortages as its economy booms and urbanization increases. The government is planning massive water diversion projects, but environmentalists say conservation — especially in the wasteful agricultural sector — is the key.
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Does Egypt Own The Nile?<br /> A Battle Over Precious Water

Report

Does Egypt Own The Nile?
A Battle Over Precious Water

by fred pearce
A dispute between Egypt and upstream African nations has brought to the fore a long-standing controversy over who has rights to the waters of the Nile. The outcome could have profound consequences for the ecological health of the river and for one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands.
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Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy<br /> of Mountaintop Removal Mining

e360 Video

Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy
of Mountaintop Removal Mining

During the last two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has destroyed or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams. Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining, a video report produced by Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm, focuses on the environmental and social impacts of this practice and examines the long-term effects on the region’s forests and waterways.

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Korea’s Four Rivers Project:<br /> Economic Boost or Boondoggle?

Report

Korea’s Four Rivers Project:
Economic Boost or Boondoggle?

by james card
The natural landscape of South Korea has been largely re-engineered, with nearly every river damned or forced into concrete channels. Now the government is reviving plans for a mammoth water project that would dredge and develop hundreds more miles of waterways and put added stress on the country's remaining wildlife.
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The Damming of the Mekong:<br /> Major Blow to an Epic River

Report

The Damming of the Mekong:
Major Blow to an Epic River

by fred pearce
The Mekong has long flowed freely, supporting one of the world’s great inland fisheries. But China is now building a series of dams on the 2,800-mile river that will restrict its natural flow and threaten the sustenance of tens of millions of Southeast Asians.
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Report

Warming Takes Center Stage
as Australian Drought Worsens

by keith schneider
With record-setting heat waves, bush fires and drought, Australians are increasingly convinced they are facing the early impacts of global warming. Their growing concern about climate change has led to a consensus that the nation must now act boldly to stave off the crisis.
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Report

On Chinese Water Project,
A Struggle Over Sound Science

by christina larson
Geologist Yong Yang has serious concerns about plans for a massive Yangtze River diversion project. When he went public with them, he found out how difficult it can be to challenge a government decision in China. The third in a series on Chinese environmentalists.
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Report

Will the Jordan River Keep on Flowing?

by gidon bromberg
Massive withdrawals for irrigation, rapid population growth, and a paralyzing regional conflict have drained nearly all the water from this fabled river. A leading Israeli conservationist describes a multinational effort to save the Jordan River.
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Alaska’s Pebble Mine:<br /> Fish Versus Gold

Report

Alaska’s Pebble Mine:
Fish Versus Gold

by bill sherwonit
With the support of Gov. Sarah Palin, mining interests have defeated an Alaska ballot measure that could have blocked a huge proposed mining project. Now, plans are moving forward to exploit the massive gold and copper deposit at Bristol Bay, home of one of the world’s greatest salmon runs.
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Report

China’s New Environmental Advocates

by christina larson
Until recently, the idea of environmental advocacy was largely unheard of in China. But that’s changing rapidly. At a legal aid center based in Beijing, Xu Kezhu and her colleagues are helping pollution victims stand up for their rights. The second in a series on Chinese environmentalists.
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Analysis

Water Scarcity: The Real Food Crisis

by fred pearce
In the discussion of the global food emergency, one underlying factor is barely mentioned: The world is running out of water. A British science writer, who authored a major book on water resources, here explores the nexus between water overconsumption and current food shortages.
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China’s Emerging <br />Environmental Movement

Report

China’s Emerging
Environmental Movement

by christina larson
Quietly and somewhat surprisingly, green groups are cropping up throughout China and are starting to have an impact. In the first in a series on Chinese environmentalists, journalist Christina Larson visits with Zhao Zhong, who is leading the fight to save the Yellow River.
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Russia’s Lake Baikal: Preserving a Natural Treasure

Report

Russia’s Lake Baikal: Preserving a Natural Treasure

by peter thomson
The world's greatest lake, holding 20 percent of the planet's surface fresh water, has long remained one of the most pristine places on earth. Now, as Russia's economy booms and its climate warms, the Siberian lake faces new threats.
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e360 digest

RELATED e360 DIGEST ITEMS


21 Oct 2014: Desert and Mediterranean Plants
More Resistant to Drought than Expected

Desert and Mediterranean ecosystems may be more resistant to climate change, particularly long-term
Mediterranean ecosystem
Plants in a Mediterranean ecosystem in Chile.
drought, than previously thought, a new study published in Nature Communications shows. Over the course of a nine-year experiment, researchers subjected plants in four different climatic zones to rainfall conditions predicted under future climate change scenarios. The ecosystems typically received 3.5 to 30.7 inches of precipitation annually, and researchers cut that total by roughly 30-percent to simulate drought conditions. Surprisingly, the researchers found no measurable changes in plant biomass, density, or species composition and richness in any of the four ecosystems over the course of nine generations of plants. The ecosystems already receive highly variable amounts of rainfall and the 30-percent drop likely falls within the plants’ natural "comfort zone," the researchers say, which could explain the unexpected resilience to drought.
PERMALINK

 

26 Sep 2014: Aral Sea Basin Dry for First
Time in Modern History, Images Show

For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has gone completely dry, as this

Enlarge

Drying of Aral Sea
NASA satellite image captured in late August shows. The Aral Sea is an inland body of water lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in central Asia. It was once one of the four largest lakes in the world, but it has been shrinking markedly and dividing into smaller lobes since the 1960s, after the government of the former Soviet Union diverted the region's two major rivers to irrigate farmland. One Aral Sea researcher suggested that it has likely been at least 600 years since the eastern basin entirely disappeared. Decreasing precipitation and snowpack in its watershed led to the drying this year, and huge withdrawals for irrigation exacerbated the problem. Water levels are expected to continue to show major year-to-year variations depending on precipitation and snowpack levels, the researcher said.
PERMALINK

 

23 Sep 2014: Food Security Issues Often
Neglected After Extreme Weather Events

Extreme weather events — the sort likely to arise with increasing frequency as the planet warms — took a heavy toll on Russia and East Africa in 2010 and 2011, in large part because governments and authorities were ill-equipped to address resulting food shortages and other fallout, according to researchers at the University of Oxford. Russia experienced a heat wave that led to food hoarding and price-fixing of staple crops by speculators, according to the report, which was commissioned by Oxfam. A drought in East Africa in 2010 through 2011 was tied to an uptick in armed conflicts in the region, which interrupted international and domestic aid for six months. Crop prices reached record levels in several markets, including wheat in Ethiopia, maize in Kenya, and red sorghum grain in Somalia, the report notes. Investing in additional health facilities, establishing pre-positioned food supplies, and other tactics aimed at mitigating the effects of future heat waves, droughts, and floods, could help to blunt the effects of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable populations, the researchers say.
PERMALINK

 

03 Sep 2014: Mobile Phone Networks Can
Help Monitor Global Rainfall, Study Says

New research shows that mobile phone networks, which cover 90 percent of the world's population, can help track rainfall events — a task that has proven difficult for both advanced satellite systems and ground-level observation networks. By compiling data on signal disruptions from mobile phone networks in Burkina Faso in West Africa, a team of researchers was able to calculate with 95 percent accuracy both the location and volume of rain that fell, even during short-lived storms, according to a report in Geophysical Research Letters. Mobile phone companies maintain detailed records on signal disruptions, which can occur when water droplets block and deflect signals between antennae, to determine whether their networks are functioning properly. By tapping into those records, researchers could distill data on rainfall events at extremely fine spatial and temporal scales. As mobile phone networks expand across the globe, such data could be used to create highly accurate rainfall maps, researchers say, although gaining access to records could prove difficult.
PERMALINK

 

02 Sep 2014: Six Strategies Could End
Global Water Stress by 2050, Scientists Say

Global water stress could be alleviated by the year 2050 if countries work to implement six key strategies

Click to Enlarge

Strategies for reducing water stress vary by area.
ranging from building more reservoirs to controlling population growth, according to research from Canada and the Netherlands. Water stress is defined as occurring when more than 40 percent of the water from a region's rivers is unavailable because it is already being used — a situation that currently affects roughly one-third of the global population. Writing in Nature Geoscience, the scientists propose six steps they believe can help reduce water stress: planting crops that use water and nutrients more efficiently; using more efficient irrigation methods; improving the efficiency of water use in homes, industry, and municipalities; limiting the rate of population growth so global population stays below 8.5 billion by 2050; increasing reservoir water storage capacity; and intensifying water desalination operations by 50-fold.
PERMALINK

 

29 Aug 2014: New Database Tracks Ecological
Health Impacts of Dams on World's Rivers

A newly launched online database illustrates the impacts of nearly 6,000 dams on the world's 50 major

Click to Enlarge

Dams in the Yangtze basin
river basins, ranking their ecological health according to indicators of river fragmentation, water quality, and biodiversity. The "State of the World's Rivers" project was developed by the advocacy organization International Rivers and created using Google Earth. Users can compare the health of individual river basins, see the locations of existing and planned dams, and explore 10 of the most significant river basins in more depth. The 6,000 dams represented in the database are a small percentage of the more than 50,000 large dams that impact the world's rivers, the organization notes.
PERMALINK

 

26 Aug 2014: Meat Production, Especially
Beef, Strains Land and Water, Study Says

Global meat production has expanded more than four-fold over the last 50 years — and 25-fold since

Beef cattle graze in Colombia
1800 — due to growing purchasing power, urbanization, and changing diets, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute. Consumers in industrial countries still eat much larger quantities of meat (75.9 kilograms per person) than those in developing nations (33.7 kilograms), though that gap is beginning to close, the report says. Nearly 70 percent of the planet's agricultural land and freshwater is used for livestock, with additional land and water used to grow grains for livestock feed. Beef production alone uses about three-fifths of global farmland and yields less than 5 percent of the world's protein, according to the report. Sustainable agricultural practices such as feeding livestock with grasses instead of grains and using natural fertilizers could reduce these impacts, the report notes, but alternative dietary choices hold the most immediate promise for reducing the environmental footprint of meat production.
PERMALINK

 

22 Aug 2014: Drought in Western U.S.
Has Caused Land to Rise, Researchers Say

The western U.S. has lost so much water during the ongoing severe drought that the land has sprung up by

GPS station in California's Inyo Mountains
as much as 15 millimeters (0.6 inches), according to a study in the journal Science. Water at the surface of the earth typically weighs down the land, but the region has lost enough water that the tectonic plate underlying the western U.S. has undergone rapid uplift, much like an uncoiling spring, researchers explain. California's water deficit over the past 18 months has caused some of its mountain ranges to rise by more than half an inch, and the West overall has risen by 0.15 inches, according to the study. Using ground positioning data from GPS stations throughout the region, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, estimate the water loss to be 240 gigatons (63 trillion gallons) — equivalent to a nearly four-inch layer of water spread out over the entire western U.S.
PERMALINK

 

14 Aug 2014: Some Chemicals in Fracking
Fluids Raise Red Flags, Researchers Say

Of the more than 200 compounds used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, eight are toxic to mammals and the

A Marcellus Shale fracking operation
health risks of roughly one-third are unknown, according to researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a drilling technique that releases natural gas and oil by injecting fluids with chemical additives deep into rock formations. The research team tracked down substances commonly used as fracking additives and found they include gelling agents to thicken the fluids, biocides to inhibit microbial growth, and compounds to prevent pipe corrosion. The industry claims the additives are non-toxic and food-grade, and while that is true in some cases, the researchers note, most fracking compounds require treatment before they can be safely released into the environment. Moreover, a number of chemicals that could pose health risks, such as corrosion inhibitors and biocides, are used in reasonably high concentrations in fracking fluids, the researchers note.
PERMALINK

 

06 Aug 2014: Western U.S. In Its Quietest
Fire Season In A Decade, Officials Report

The western U.S. is in the midst of its quietest wildfire season in a decade, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). With 1.7 million acres burned through August 4, the 2014 fire season has destroyed well below the average of 4.4 million acres for the previous nine years through the same date. Fire season still has a few months left, however, and the year's good fortune may not last: Above normal fire potential is expected to continue over most of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, according to the NIFC. Average temperatures have been 2 to 4 degrees above normal for most of the West; portions of the western Great Basin, northern California, and Pacific Northwest were 6 to 8 degrees warmer than normal; and exceptional drought conditions continue in California, western Nevada, and the Texas Panhandle, the center says.
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04 Aug 2014: California Takes Steps to
Curb Lawn Watering During Severe Drought

In the midst of a severe, long-term drought, California is taking unprecedented steps to discourage watering of

A drought-resistant yard
residential lawns, with some areas offering residents substantial cash incentives for installing water-saving landscaping, AFP reports. The "Cash in Your Lawn" program in Los Angeles offers residents up to $6,000 ($3 per square foot) for replacing their lawns with drought-tolerant plants, rocks, and pebbles. Throughout the state, Governor Jerry Brown recently prohibited lawn watering more than two times per week and banned fines for brown lawns, which homeowner associations sometimes impose with the intent of improving a neighborhood's appearance. The drought, currently in its third year, threatens the water supply of California's 38 million residents. Agricultural regions have already seen severe water reductions, placing extra pressure on the state's groundwater reserves.
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25 Jul 2014: Southwestern U.S. Aquifers
Are Extremely Low, NASA Data Show

Groundwater reserves in the U.S. Southwest are severely low and prospects for their long-term viability are bleak as persistent drought continues to parch the

Click to Enlarge
Groundwater aquifer levels

U.S. groundwater stores
land and prevent recharging, according to an assessment from NASA. As shown in this map, many underground aquifers in the Southwest are extremely dry compared to average conditions over the past 60 years. Deep red areas on the map, such as in southern California and Nevada, depict aquifers that are so dry there's less than a 2 percent chance they could have experienced such levels of drought-related depletion since 1948. Although the Pacific Northwest is experiencing drought-related wildfires, its aquifers appear to be well-stocked, according to the map. The discrepancy is likely due to the long lag between dry conditions at the surface and depletion of groundwater reserves, researchers say.
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15 Jul 2014: California Agriculture Relying
Too Heavily on Groundwater in Drought

California's agriculture industry is relying too heavily on groundwater to irrigate drought-stricken farmlands — a trend that will not be sustainable long-term, according

Central Valley orchard
to a study by the University of California, Davis. The drought, which is the third most severe on record, is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture, with river water for Central Valley farms reduced by roughly one-third, the study found. Groundwater pumping will likely replace most river water losses, and some areas have more than doubled their pumping rate over the previous year. If the drought continues for two more years, the report says, groundwater reserves will continue to be depleted to replace surface water losses and pumping ability will slowly decrease, which could affect crop production. So far in the current drought, 428,000 acres of cropland — roughly 5 percent — has been made fallow across the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Southern California.
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14 Jul 2014: Human Activity Has Caused
Long-term Australian Drought, Model Shows

A new high-resolution climate model shows that southwestern Australia's long-term decline in fall and winter rainfall, which began around 1970 and has increased over the last four decades, is caused by

Click to Enlarge
Projected drying in Australia

Projected rainfall trends in Australia
increases in man-made greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion, according to research published in Nature Geoscience. Simulating both natural and man-made climate effects, scientists showed that the decline in rainfall is primarily driven by human activity. Rises in greenhouse gas emissions and thinning of the ozone hole have led to changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation, including a poleward movement of the westerly winds and increasing atmospheric surface pressure over parts of southern Australia. This has led to decreased rainfall, the study said. The drying is most severe over southwest Australia, where the model forecasts a 40 percent decline in average rainfall by the late 21st century, with significant implications for regional water resources.
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12 Jun 2014: U.S. Breweries Cut Water
Use Amid Widespread Drought Conditions

Major breweries in the U.S. are cutting back on the amount of water they use to brew beer as drought threatens their water supplies, the Associated Press reports. MillerCoors, headquartered in Chicago, has reduced its water use by 9.2 percent since 2012, a company sustainability report said. Earlier this month St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, the largest U.S. brewer, reported that it has cut water use by 32 percent in the last five years. Employing strategies such as fueling boilers with wastewater, recycling water used to clean bottles and cans, and installing sensors to fine-tune irrigation in hop and barley fields, MillerCoors has cut water use to 3.48 barrels of water for each barrel of beer, the company says. The company is also giving $700,000 to landowners in the watershed of its Fort Worth brewery who make efforts to curb erosion and runoff by, for example, planting native grasses or rotating cattle grazing lands. Craft breweries typically use twice as much water as major breweries per barrel of beer, the AP notes, because they are smaller in scale and don't have access to the same technology.
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11 Jun 2014: Group Will Pay Farmers
To Create Temporary Migratory Bird Habitat

A program started by The Nature Conservancy aims to enlist California farmers in creating temporary habitats for migrating birds — a partnership that could become

Click to Enlarge
California migratory bird habitat

Migratory bird habitat needs in California
more important as the state's long-term drought continues and the birds' wetland habitats dwindle. Using crowdsourced data, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) tracks the paths of migratory birds on their annual journey from Canada to South America to determine where and when the birds will need suitable wetland habitat for stop-overs in California's Central Valley. Then, in a sort of reverse auction, TNC asks farmers how much they would charge to temporarily flood their land to accommodate the birds, and pays farmers with the lowest bids to do so for a few weeks or months. The Nature Conservancy says the year-old program has been a success, enabling the organization to rent habitat for roughly 0.5 to 1.5 percent of what permanent protection costs. The program's budget is $1 million to $3 million annually. Forty farmers flooded roughly 10,000 acres last year, and sightings of key migratory bird species were 30 times above average, according to TNC.
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21 May 2014: Trash-scooping Water Wheel
Cleans up Garbage From Baltimore Harbor

A new contraption in a Baltimore river is helping to clear trash and debris — up to 50,000 pounds of it each day — from the city's Inner Harbor. The 50-foot-long

Click to Enlarge
Trash-collecting water wheel in Baltimore

Baltimore's trash-scooping water wheel
"water wheel" gathers garbage floating in the Jones Falls River, which runs through the city to the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and deposits it in a large dumpster so the trash can be hauled away. Two large booms funnel debris toward a conveyor belt powered by the wheel, which itself is powered primarily by the flowing river. When the flow isn't strong enough to turn the wheel, water pumps, run by solar panels lining a canopy over the wheel, turn on and push water up to spin the wheel. The water wheel was designed to handle the heavy debris and larger pieces of trash that the river often carries, said its designer, Baltimore-based Clearwater Mills. It began operating earlier this month and cost $750,000, with $500,000 of that contributed by the Maryland Port Administration, Co.Exist reports.
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13 May 2014: Half of U.S. is Experiencing
Some Degree of Drought, Analysis Finds

Half of the United States is in the midst of a drought, a recent analysis from the U.S. National Drought Monitor found, with nearly 15 percent of the nation in extreme to

Click to Enlarge
“Drought

U.S. drought conditions
exceptional drought. Dry conditions are pushing north rapidly, along with warmer temperatures, and soil moisture and groundwater levels are low far in advance of the agricultural peak demand season, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. Much of the Southwest and Great Plains regions have been in a persistent drought for several years, and as this map prepared by federal agencies shows, an exceptional drought is currently plaguing parts of those regions. The entire state of California is experiencing some level of drought, much of it extreme to exceptional. Snowpack is at half its typical level in many parts of the West and much of the snow has completely melted before it normally would, researchers say. The map is based on measurements of climate, soil, and water conditions from more than 350 federal, state, and local observers around the country.
PERMALINK

 

02 May 2014: Fracking May Induce Quakes at
Greater Distance than Previously Thought

Hydraulic fracturing and underground wastewater disposal may trigger earthquakes at tens of kilometers from the wells in which water is injected — a greater range than previously thought, according to new research from seismologists. In one case, an earthquake
Fracking well
Fracking injection well in Louisiana
swarm in Oklahoma has been linked to a cluster of fracking injection wells up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) away, Cornell University researchers report. So-called "induced seismicity" — when human activity causes tremors in the earth's crust — is gaining attention as reports of earthquakes within the central and eastern U.S. have increased dramatically over the past few years. The rise coincides with increased hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, and the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in many locations, including Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), an average rate of 100 earthquakes per year above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000.
PERMALINK

 

22 Apr 2014: Run-of-River Hydropower Set
For Big Gains, Turbine Maker Predicts

A type of hydroelectric technology known as "run-of-river" hydropower is set to grow 10-fold over the next decade, potentially becoming a $1.4 billion industry,
Hugh Keenleyside Dam, a run-of-river hydropower station
Hugh Keenleyside Dam
according to Dutch turbine maker Tocardo International BV. Run-of-river hydropower stations redirect part of a waterway through a diversion to spin turbines and generate electricity. Run-of-river is considered a more benign type of hydropower than large dam projects because it is a smaller-scale technology that doesn't create large upstream reservoirs that flood ecosystems and disrupt a river's natural flow. Some conservation groups are concerned that problems with migratory fish passage and other environmental issues could outweigh the power-generating potential of run-of-river hydro projects. The company implemented its first project to harness tidal streams at Den Oever, Holland, and it has been operating for five years.
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