Environment

Out of Thin Air

A new device that can harvest water out of air with humidity as low as 20 percent, using only sunlight for energy, could revolutionize life in remote, arid regions.

The new invention uses an extremely porous material called a metal-organic framework that absorbs 20 percent of its weight in water from even low-humidity air.

Sunlight heats the substance, releasing water vapor that condenses into ample water per day for household use. Developers say the invention could be upscaled to also irrigate fields or greenhouses in areas otherwise too arid to grow crops.

Environment

Two billion people drinking contaminated water: WHO

Dramatic improvements are needed in ensuring access to clean water and sanitation worldwide, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday, warning that nearly two billion people currently use faecal-contaminated water. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year because they are forced to drink contaminated water.

“Today, almost two billion people use a source of drinking-water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio,” Maria Neira, who head’s WHO’s public health department, said in a statement.

“Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause more than 500 000 diarrhoeal deaths each year and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma,” she added.

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Environment

Oldest Water

Scientists from the University of Toronto say they have found the planet’s oldest water, which is about 2 billion years old, deep in a Canadian mine.

Researchers had earlier found water that was about 500 million years less ancient and not quite as deep in the same Ontario mine.

“It won’t kill you if you drink it, but it would taste absolutely disgusting,” said lead researcher Barbara Sherwood Lollar.

Global Warming

Global warming redistributes world’s water resources

Rising temperatures worldwide are changing not only weather systems, but — just as importantly — the distribution of water around the globe, thereby affecting the availability of potable water, says a new study.

“This study shows how climate change is altering the spatial patterns and amounts of precipitation — where it comes from and where it falls,” said study co-author Myron Mitchell, professor at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the US. “Such effects can drastically affect the availability of potable water and also contribute to the massive flooding we have seen in recent years,” Mitchell noted.

The researchers found that over a period of 40 years, there has been a dramatic increase, especially during the winter, of the amount of water that originated far to the north.

“In the later years, we saw more water derived from evaporation of the Arctic and the North Atlantic oceans,” lead author Tamir Puntsag from State University of New York said.

With 85 percent of the world’s population living in the driest half of the planet and 783 million people living without access to clean water, according to the UN, it is vital for scientists and policymakers to understand how a changing climate affects water resources.

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Environment

Humans Pumping Groundwater at Unsustainable Levels

New studies of the world’s groundwater reveal that human activity is using the precious resource at an unsustainable level despite uncertainty about just how much water remains underground.

About a third of the world’s largest subterranean basins are being depleted without anyone knowing when the water will run out, according to two reports by an international team of scientists published in the journal Water Resources Research.

The studies are the first to estimate groundwater losses by using data from NASA’s twin GRACE satellites.

Instruments aboard the orbiters detect the contours of Earth’s gravity, which can be shaped by the weight of water.

The Arabian Aquifer System, a key source for more than 60 million people in the Middle East, was found to be the most overstressed in the world.

The Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan came in second while North Africa’s Murzuk-Djado Basin was third.

The team urgently recommends that further research be conducted to determine just how much water is left.

“In a water-scarce society, we can no longer tolerate this level of uncertainty, especially since groundwater is disappearing so rapidly,” said researcher Alexandra Richey.

Saudi Arabia’s Anaam Agricultural Project in the northwest of the country pumps out vast amounts of water each year from the Arabian Aquifer System. In this astronaut photo from the International Space Station, each dot is an irrigated field, thousands of feet across.

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Environment

‘Fog Catchers’ to Provide Peruvians with Fresh Water

Residents of Peru’s arid landscape to the south of Lima might soon receive as much as 100,000 gallons of fresh water per day, thanks to a new network of “fog catchers.”

The devices will pick up condensation droplets from the prevailing fog that covers the Peruvian capital, especially during the winter months, and pipe it into reservoirs for people to use at home and to irrigate crops.

The privately funded project is focusing on the needs of the Villa Maria del Triunfo district in southern Lima.

“One hundred to 200 fog catchers will be placed in this community,” the president of Peruvians Without Water, Abel Cruz, told the news agency EFE.

“The final goal is to have 1,000 functioning with their reservoirs and tanks, which will allow us to be able to capture between 53,000 and 106,000 gallons of water per day.”

Drought

California Drought – Water Footprint

California is experiencing one of its worst droughts on record. Just two and a half years ago, Folsom Lake, a major reservoir outside Sacramento, was at 83 percent capacity. Today it’s down to 36 percent. In January, there was no measurable rain in downtown Los Angeles. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

With California producing nearly half of the fruit and vegetables grown in the United States, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and grapes.

Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons per ton of blue water; starchy roots, about 4,200 gallons per ton; and fruit, about 38,800 gallons per ton. By comparison, pork consumes 121,000 gallons of blue water per ton of meat produced; beef, about 145,000 gallons per ton; and butter, some 122,800 gallons per ton. There’s a reason other than the drought that Folsom Lake has dropped as precipitously as it has. Don’t look at kale as the culprit.

Unfortunately, it’s a plant that’s not generally cultivated for humans: alfalfa. Grown on over a million acres in California, alfalfa sucks up more water than any other crop in the state. And it has one primary destination: cattle. Increasingly popular grass-fed beef operations typically rely on alfalfa as a supplement to pasture grass. Alfalfa hay is also an integral feed source for factory-farmed cows, especially those involved in dairy production.

If Californians were eating all the beef they produced, one might write off alfalfa’s water footprint as the cost of nurturing local food systems. But that’s not what’s happening. Californians are sending their alfalfa, and thus their water, to Asia. The reason is simple. It’s more profitable to ship alfalfa hay from California to China than from the Imperial Valley to the Central Valley. Alfalfa growers are now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year from this drought-ridden region to the other side of the world in the form of alfalfa. All as more Asians are embracing the American-style, meat-hungry diet.

Climate – El Niño

After a bout of La Niña and three years of drought, Chilean agriculture is anxiously awaiting a spell of El Niño to arrive. The industry hopes it could bring beneficial rains with it to help refill reservoirs, groundwater and reduce the country’s water deficit.

 

Climate Change

Dozens of streams and springs dry up in the Kullu region in northern India. The flow of major rivers has also dropped dramatically, placing pressure on available drinking water resources. Insufficient and declining snowfalls are being blamed for this phenomenon.

Floods and Drought

Floods in the Dominican Republic lead to the evacuation of at least 11 000 people from their homes.

Drought hit southern England now suffers floods as heavy rainstorms bring much needed relief.

Extra low water levels in the Colorado River in the USA due to drought and exceptionally light snowfall.