Archive for the 'aquatic ecosystems' Category

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Arizona Enlists a Beetle in Its Campaign for Water

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“For miles along the banks of the Colorado River, hundreds of once hardy tamarisk trees — also known as salt cedars — are gray and withered. Their parched branches look like victims of fire or drought.

But this is not the story of beloved trees being ravaged by an invasive pest — quite the opposite. Farmers, ranchers and the water authorities here are eager to get rid of the tamarisk trees, which are not native to Arizona and which they say suck too much water.

They have welcomed the beetles, which have made their way from Colorado and Utah over the last decade, and have watched with delight as the centimeter-long workhorses have damaged the trees by eating their spindly leaves. The hope is that the beetles will now rid Arizona of the trees.

“We view the tamarisk as a pest,” said Joseph Sigg, the government relations director at the Arizona Farm Bureau. “Water is an expensive input, and to the extent that we can lower it, the beetle can help.”

But scientists say that nature is rarely a zero-sum game, and that removing the deep-rooted tamarisks — which the authorities have tried with bulldozers, chain saws and now beetles — will not produce more water. New tamarisks or other trees will replace the fallen ones, the scientists say, and the birds that live in the tamarisks, like the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher, will be harmed. Plus, once the beetles are done eating tamarisk leaves, they are likely to feed on other trees.”

Read more: The New York Times

AMERICA IS RUNNING OUT OF WATER

Photo retrieved from: www.vice.com

“Although most Americans believe water scarcity occurs only in countries where Angelina Jolie campaigns for peace, two of the world’s most overexerted rivers are right here in the United States. According to the World Resource Institute, both the Colorado and Rio Grande suffer from extremely high stress, meaning that we annually withdraw more than 80 percent of each river’s renewable water supply, and at least a third of the US exhibits medium to high water stress or greater.

Take Lake Mead. Located outside Las Vegas, the lake has experienced an alarming decline in elevation. The US Bureau of Reclamation commissioned the Hoover Dam in 1931 to protect the water needs of the area, but according to the Las Vegas Sun, experts predict that Lake Mead could run dry by 2050, with declining power generation possibly occurring in as little as a year. According to the Sun, the Colorado River “provides drinking water for 36 million Americans, supplies irrigation for 15 percent of the nation’s crops, and supports a $26 billion recreation economy that employs 250,000 people.” In other words, if Lake Mead dries out, we’re fucked.

What should we do to fix this and other water problems? Glen MacDonald, a UCLA distinguished professor, a UC presidential chair, and the director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, believes he has the answers. I emailed him to discuss America’s water problem, the issues in the Southwest, and what the government can do to save our water supply.”

Read more: Vice

 

A Push to Save Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“Every year, the lake yields about 300,000 tons of fish, making it one of the world’s most productive freshwater ecosystems. That and the floods that pulse through it in monsoon season, swelling it to as much as five times its dry-season size, have earned the lake the nickname “Cambodia’s beating heart.”

But the Tonle Sap is in trouble — from overfishing to feed a fast-growing population, from the cutting of mangrove forests that shelter young fish, from hydroelectric dams upstream, and from the dry seasons that are expected to grow hotter and longer with climate change.

Keo Mao, a 42-year-old fisherman from Akol, says he hopes his five children can find a way out of the life that has sustained his family for generations. “The lake now is not really so good,” he said. “There are too many people.”

Now an international team of researchers has joined local fishermen in an ambitious project to save the Tonle Sap. The scientists are building an intricate computer model that aims to track the vast array of connections between human activity and natural systems as they change over time. Begun in 2012, the model will take several years to complete, while threats to the Tonle Sap continue to mount.

But the hope is to peer into the lake’s future to predict how different developmental, economic and regulatory choices may ripple through this interconnected and fast-changing ecosystem, and to plan a sustainable way forward.

Charting a Changing Cambodia

Henri Mouhot, the 19th-century French explorer who crossed the Tonle Sap on his way to Angkor Wat, said the lake resembled a violin lying diagonally across Cambodia. At its neck, a tributary flows southeast to the Mekong River. On the laptop of Roel Boumans, an ecologist who helped develop the modeling project, the lake and its flood plain are divided into 16 watersheds that he fills with shades of green, yellow and brown, based on vegetation and land-use data from satellite images.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

 

California Gov. On Drought, Wildfires: ‘Humanity Is On A Collision Course With Nature’

Photo retrieved from: www.thinkprogress.org

“California Governor Jerry Brown linked his state’s severe drought and wildfires to climate change on Sunday, saying California was “on the front lines” of the warming problem.

Brown said on ABC’s This Week that though California’s wildfires are relatively under control right now, the state is “in a very serious fire season” — one that’s seen about twice as many fires this year as the average — and future control of the fires depends largely on the weather. He said that as the climate changes in California, the state will need thousands more firefighters and California residents will have to be more careful about where and how they build.

“As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing,” he said. “So, we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.”

Brown also lambasted those in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring or is caused by humans, saying in California, there’s no question climate is changing.

“It is true that there’s virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous,” he said. “There is no scientific question — there’s just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.”

Right now, the entire state of California is in the severest rankings of drought, conditions which, as Joe Romm points out, have created a soil moisture level reminiscent of the Dust Bowl. Last week, more than 20,000 residents were forced to flee their homes as heat and strong Santa Ana winds created conditions ripe for fires that spread through San Diego County.”

Read more: Climate Progress

 

China Rivers at the Brink of Collapse

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“China’s rulers have traditionally derived their legitimacy from controlling water. The country ranks only sixth in terms of annual river runoff, but counts half the planet’s large dams within its borders. A new report warns that dam building has brought China’s river ecosystems to the point of collapse.

Since the 1950s, China has dammed, straightened, diverted and polluted its rivers in a rapid quest for industrialization. Many of these projects had disastrous environmental, social and economic impacts. The Sanmenxia Dam on the Yellow River for example flooded 660 square kilometers of fertile land and displaced 410,000 people. Yet because it silted up rapidly, the project only generates power at one sixth of its projected capacity.

In the new millennium, the Chinese government realized that its ruthless dam building program threatened to undermine the country’s long-term prosperity and stability. In 2004, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao suspended dam construction on the Nu (Salween) and the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) rivers, including a project on the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge. The government created fisheries reserves and strengthened environmental guidelines. In 2011, it even acknowledged the “urgent environmental problems” of Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, the world’s largest hydropower project.”

Read more: Huffington Post

 

BP confirms oil spill into Lake Michigan from Whiting refinery

Photo retrieved from: www.nbcchicago.com

“It remains unclear how much oil spilled into the lake or how long the discharge continued. Workers at the refinery reported an oil sheen on the water about 4:30 p.m. Monday, and an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the leak was plugged by the time he arrived at 9 p.m.

Mike Beslow, the EPA’s emergency response coordinator, said there appeared to be no negative effects on Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and the suburbs. The 68th Street water intake crib is about eight miles northwest of the spill site, but there were no signs of oil drifting in that direction.

Initial reports suggest that strong winds pushed most of the oil toward a sandy cove on BP’s property between the refinery and an Arcelor Mittal steel mill. A flyover Tuesday afternoon revealed no visible oil beyond booms laid on the water to prevent the oil from spreading, Beslow said.

“There is no known impact to wildlife or human health at this time,” Beslow said.

Frigid temperatures caused some of the oil to harden into a waxy consistency that made it easier to collect, said Scott Dean, a BP spokesman. Crews used vacuum trucks to suck up any liquid oil that washed ashore.”

Read more: Chicago Tribune

 

 

Dahr Jamail | New Mexico: Where Polluting Groundwater Is Legal

Photo retrieved from: www.earthworksaction.org

“New Mexicans get 90 percent of their drinking water from groundwater. Yet the governor of this drought-plagued Southwestern state has given the copper industry carte blanche to pollute what is left of that essential resource.

New Mexico’s Republican governor is the industry-friendly Susanna Martinez, whose administration has been the bane of those concerned about the state’s environment and increasingly precious water resources from the moment she took power in January 2011.

“The Martinez administration behaves like a corporation focused on quarterly numbers,” northern New Mexico resident William deBuys, author of seven books, including A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, told Truthout. “Given the state’s long-term prospects under the warming and drying influence of climate change, New Mexico should be placing high priority on building its water resilience, including protection of its groundwater. Unfortunately, the Martinez gang doesn’t understand this, or doesn’t care. Susanna’s national aspirations and the hunger of her cronies for immediate profits trump everything.”

These are strong words, but deBuys is far from alone in his analysis.

William Olson is a hydrologist and geologist who worked 25 years for the state of New Mexico, including as the Environment Department’s chief of the Ground Water Quality Bureau as well as with the water quality control commission for 13 years.”

Read more: Truth Out

 

In Plan to Dump Contaminated Soil, Classic New Jersey Politics Emerge

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“Beyond this fence, a 125-acre expanse of yellow swamp reeds, vines and cottonwood trees extends north to the Rahway River. Decades ago, American Cyanamid ruined this wetlands expanse, once home to rich oyster beds, with cyanide-contaminated sludge, the chemical detritus of the past century.

Years ago, it was partially cleaned and covered with a few feet of topsoil. With the passing of the seasons, nature has commenced its repair work.

But the Christie administration has another idea for this land. It appears poised to let a company, Soil Safe, truck in millions of tons of petroleum-contaminated soils and dump it on this site, which lies directly west of Staten Island and the Arthur Kill.

When Soil Safe is finished, a mound 29 feet high would cover most of this acreage.

The scientific staff at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection examined this proposal, and a number of members came away appalled. They said a flood could erode the Rahway River bank and cause the mound to collapse into the water.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war

Photo retrieved from: www.newsecuritybeat.org

“Already a billion people, or one in seven people on the planet, lack access to safe drinking water. Britain, of course, is currently at the other extreme. Great swaths of the country are drowning in misery, after a series of Atlantic storms off the cough-western coast. But that too is part of the picture that has been coming into sharper focus over 12 years of the Grace satellite record. Countries at northern latitudes and in the tropics are getting wetter. But those countries at mid-latitude are running increasingly low on water.

“What we see is very much a picture of the wet areas of the Earth getting wetter,” Famiglietti said. “Those would be the high latitudes like the Arctic and the lower latitudes like the tropics. The middle latitudes in between, those are already the arid and semi-arid parts of the world and they are getting drier.”

On the satellite images the biggest losses were denoted by red hotspots, he said. And those red spots largely matched the locations of groundwater reserves.

“Almost all of those red hotspots correspond to major aquifers of the world. What Grace shows us is that groundwater depletion is happening at a very rapid rate in almost all of the major aquifers in the arid and semi-arid parts of the world.”

The Middle East, north Africa and south Asia are all projected to experience water shortages over the coming years because of decades of bad management and overuse.”

Read more: The Guardian

 

California Dries Up as Brown Pushes $15 Billion Tunnel

Photo retrieved from: www.bloomberg.com

California’s worsening drought is raising the stakes for a $15 billion plan endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown to build two 30-mile (48-kilometer) water tunnels under an ecologically sensitive river delta east of San Francisco Bay.

The tunnels, each as wide as a two-lane interstate highway, would ship water more reliably from northern California to thirsty farms and cities in the south. They would also bolster the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is on the verge of collapse from feeding water to 25 million people and 750,000 acres (304,000 hectares) of farmland.

The drought, which officials say could be one of the worst in California’s history, is forcing farmers in the fertile central valley region to fallow thousands of acres of fields and has left 17 rural towns so low on drinking water that the state may need to start trucking in supplies. The tunnels are the biggest part of a $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Reservoirs are at about 60 percent of average, according to state water data, and falling as rainfall remains at record low levels. Mountain snowpack is about 12 percent of normal for this time of year. Brown is urging the state’s 38 million residents to conserve and warning that mandatory restrictions are possible.”

Read more: Bloomberg