Archive for the 'groundwater' Category

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Fukushima Wash-Up Fears in U.S. Belie Radiation Risks: Energy

Photo retrieved from: www.bloomberg.com

“Seaborne radiation from Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant will wash up on the West Coast of the U.S. this year.

That’s raising concerns among some Americans including the residents of the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fairfax, which passed a resolution on Dec. 6 calling for more testing of coastal seafood.

At the same time, oceanographers and radiological scientists say such concerns are unwarranted given existing levels of radiation in the ocean.

The runoff from the Japanese plant will mingle with radiation released by other atomic stations, such as Diablo Canyon in California. Under normal operations, Diablo Canyon discharges more radiation into the sea, albeit of a less dangerous isotope, than the Fukushima station, which suffered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.”

Read more: Bloomberg

 

Moving Mountains

“When it comes to mining for copper and gold, prospectors will move mountains to make it happen. As in, physically dig up the rock, extract the precious metals and move the debris elsewhere.

In the chilly high altitudes of the Andes Mountains, however, what may look like part of a mountain can in fact be a huge, frozen block of rock fragments and ice. When some of that ice melts in the spring, these so-called “rock glaciers” become a valuable source of water for local populations.

Rock Glacier in the Argentinian Andes, retrieved from UDaily

A scientific team including researchers from the University of Delaware trekked to the Andes in Argentina this month to learn more about rock glacier dynamics. They are estimating how much ice is locked inside rock glaciers where several new mines are being developed and how far the formations move each year.

The effort will aid the mining industry and government officials in determining the potential environmental impacts of disrupting the geological features.

“Mining companies are very concerned about altering or damaging any natural icy landscapes because there is so little water coming out of the high, dry Andes,” said Michael O’Neal, associate professor of geological sciences in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

O’Neal and two graduate students, Renato Kane and Erika Schreiber, spent two weeks collecting field data in the San Juan Province, situated just east of the Chilean border at altitudes between 10,000 and 15,000 feet. Kane’s thesis work will evaluate year-to-year movements of rock glaciers, which measure roughly one-third of a square mile, using a terrestrial laser scanner.

Rock glaciers form gradually as mountains erode and pieces of rock crumble downwards. Snow blankets the rocks and then melts when temperatures rise, causing water to seep in between crevices before refreezing. Like regular glaciers, rock glaciers move slowly under their own weight and seasonal melt. The scientists will compare data from year to year to track that movement.

“If they truly are active and flowing, we’ll see it when we measure their position,” O’Neal said.

If not, the rock glaciers may be inactive relics of a glacial advance thousands of years ago and no longer contribute to annual water flow.”

Read more: University of Delaware’s UDaily

 

Nile Delta Disappearing Beneath the Sea

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“It only takes a light covering of seawater to render land infertile, so Mohamed Saeed keeps a close watch on the sea as it advances year after year towards his two-hectare plot of land. The young farmer, whose clover field lies just 400 metres from Egypt’s northern coast, reckons he has less than a decade before his field – and livelihood – submerges beneath the sea.

But even before that, his crops will wither and die as seawater infiltrates the local aquifer. The process has already begun, he says, clutching a handful of white-caked soil.

“The land has become sick,” says Saeed. “The soil is saline, the irrigation water is saline, and we have to use a lot of fertilisers to grow anything on it.”

Spread over 25,000 kilometres, the densely populated Nile Delta is the breadbasket of Egypt, accounting for two-thirds of the country’s agricultural production and home to 40 million people. Its northern flank, running 240 kilometres from Alexandria to Port Said, is one of the most vulnerable coastlines in the world, facing the triple threat of coastal erosion, saltwater infiltration, and rising sea levels.

According to Khaled Ouda, a geologist at Assiut University, a 30 centimetres rise in sea level would inundate 6,000 square kilometres of the Nile Delta. The flooding would create islands out of an additional 2,000 square kilometres of elevated land, isolating towns, roads, fields, and industrial facilities.”

Read more: IPS News

 

Are We Starting to Run Out of Fresh Water?

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

Peak water is here and unlike peak oil, there is no substitution for water. But like peak oil the low-hanging fruit of our fresh water supply has been picked and what is left requires costly environmental and financial impacts to extract. Peak water is about reaching physical, economic, and environmental limits on meeting human demands for water and the subsequent decline of water availability and use. There is a vast amount of water on the planet but sustainably managed water is becoming scarce.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States—and several other populous countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Mexico.”

Read more: Alternet

Water Bonds Shrivel as California Sees Driest Year

Photo retrieved from: www.bloomberg.com

“The driest year on record for Los Angeles and San Francisco is threatening water supplies to the world’s most productive agricultural region and almost doubling borrowing costs on some bonds issued by California water agencies.

Los Angeles, which normally gets almost 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain a year, got less than 4 inches in 2013, according to the National Weather Service. San Francisco, where 22 inches is typical, got 6. Severe or extreme drought grips 85 percent of California, a federal monitor reported Dec. 24.

The scarcity is depleting California’s reservoirs and jeopardizing the credit of at least 30 water agencies that had been considered safe bets because their debt is backed by user fees rather than general taxes. Concern grew in November when the California Water Resources Department, the state’s largest supplier, said it was filling just 5 percent of orders from local water agencies, the lowest in five years. Less supply means lower sales and revenue.”

Read more: Bloomberg

World Rivers Review – Dec. 2013: Focus on Arts and Activism

Protecting rivers and communities from the ravages of large dams tends to involve brainy pursuits: there’s often a heavy focus on policy and political issues, and on designing strategic campaigns to stop destructive river projects and promote better options. While these efforts play a very important role in countering the powerful forces that threaten our rivers, the global river protection movement is also working to change hearts as well as minds. Around the world, groups are using the arts to reach people’s hearts and to promote a vision of water and energy for everyone, and a respect for rivers and the life, livelihoods and traditions tied to them. As one artist told us, “Art is a megaphone to project our side of the story.”

In this issue we hear from a wide range of groups who are using creativity to educate and build community for healthy rivers. This special issue ofWorld Rivers Review includes interviews, art works and essays by artist-activists using art, music, poetry and film to create social change.

To Learn More and Download the December Issue Click Here: International Rivers

 

Water – Making It Personal: Communicating A Sustainable Future

“Throughout history, journalism and storytelling have defined civilization. Journalists are the first responders to global crises, the pointers to important trends and the translators between disciplines. Good journalists seek out knowledge, ask thoughtful questions, listen carefully and tell unforgettable stories. The art of the story, well-told, is a powerful force because it compels the resilience and connectedness of humanity.

In China, we have one of the richest, most complicated stories unfolding that the planet has ever seen. The country is the second largest economy after the US, and its economy tripled between 2000 and 2010. China’s GDP is expected to grow by more than 7% each year over the next 10 years.166

Yet our reporting found that the priceless energy beneath Wu Yun’s family grasslands may be trapped. China faces severe constraints to its GDP growth because it may not be able to continue to mine and process its coal at current rates. 167 Mines use copious amounts of water to extract and process coal, and as water supplies dwindle, production will slow.

Just as the account of Wu Yun’s life and choices framed the reporting that introduced the existence of water and energy stresses in Inner Mongolia and China, lives of people offer keen insight into the challenges and opportunities of sustainability, consumption and the dreams that drive them.”

Read More: Circle of Blue

Uprising Grows Against Fracking in a Surprising Part of Europe

“Do you think they’re about to have sex?”, one of the group whispers. I’m in Transylvania, crouched in the bushes with a bunch of activists in balaclavas, taking turns to speculate why a car has crept to a halt close to where we are hiding out. “No, it must be the cops, you can see the light from the mobile phone”, another one says. Time to move on.

It has been over an hour since the group started trashing equipment owned by the gas exploration company Prospectiuni, playing an edgy game of cat and mouse as we struggle to stay one step ahead of the security teams and police vehicles that are now sweeping the hilltops looking for us.

Another light tears round the bend on the road and the shout goes through the team to hide. I throw myself down, stretched out once again in the cool damp grass of a Transylvanian meadow. It’s going to be a long night.

In recent weeks the sleepy Saxon communities and protected forests of Sibiu county in Transylvania, have become an unlikely front for a new battleground, pitting gas exploration companies, the Romanian government and international investment firms, against a small band of environmental activists from across Romania, who are working side by side with local farmers to resist gas and oil exploration that they claim is taking place illegally on their land.

Read More: Alternet

 

You’re invited to Jenna Cavelle’s lecture “Environmental (In)Justice in Native America: The Case of the Owens Valley Paiute” Thursday, Nov 21st at UC Berkeley!

Environmental (In)Justice in Native America: The Case of the Owens Valley Paiute

Over the past 150-years the expropriation of land and water from aboriginal communities in the Owens Valley have had devastating impacts for both people and the environment. Impacts include but are not limited to; loss of land and water rights, increased air pollution, habitat destruction and water scarcity.  These effects have in turn led to erasure of cultural landscapes and caused enduring historical trauma. While non-Indian communities in the region have experienced similar Environmental Justice (EJ) issues, disproportionate exposures for the native community are due in large part to their exclusion from larger EJ discussions and narratives. This lecture will show how community-based projects can promote an EJ framework within tribes through inclusion, indigenous activism and participant media.

The lecture is from 12:30pm – 2pm at GPB 100 on UC Berkeley campus (across from Pat Brown’s). The lecture will begin with the 30-minute conclusion of the documentary film Mulholland’s Dream followed by a 50-minute talk with 10-minutes of Q&A. Following the lecture is the opening reception of Jenna Cavelle’s exhibition at the Bancroft Library titled Water & Culture: Recovering Owens Valley Paiute History. The reception will last from 2-4pm with Cavelle making remarks at 3pm.  For more information contact: jennacavelle@peakwater.org

Cavelle is a published environmental journalist and researcher with a degree in Conservation and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley and is an entering MFA Candidate in Film at the University of Southern California (Spring 2014). Using a Political Ecology approach, her research examines human-environment interactions throughout the Citarum River Basin in West Java, Indonesia. Here, she explores the ecological, cultural, political, and economic factors that underlie water scarcity, degradation, and conflict with an emphasis on how local systems intersect with global forces to produce changes in access among differing groups.

Currently, Cavelle works with members of the Paiute Indian community of Owens Valley, California on a project that combines education, outreach, and technology to restore cultural memory associated with their ancient irrigation systems. These waterworks are currently in danger of being lost in the Owens Valley landscape through weathering and neglect. In addition, knowledge of the waterworks is also fading from American memory through the loss of culturally transmitted traditional knowledge. Through community engagement, her project works with tribal members to document Paiute irrigation networks and their role in shaping Paiute culture using museum exhibits, cartography and documentary film. While this project has real bearing on tribal customs and interests, it also informs larger local and regional communities.

The L.A. Aqueduct at 100

A hundred years ago — Nov. 5, 1913 — 40,000 people gathered in Sylmar to watch the water arrive for the first time via the Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens Valley. It took 5,000 workers five years to complete the $23-million project, which was excavated with dynamite, hand shovels and mule power in rocky canyons and searing desert expanses.

We hope you enjoy this preview of what’s coming Monday, when The Times takes a look back at the aqueduct’s controversial history.

What to look forward to? More archival photos, film and front pages, plus modern photography and an aerial video tour at this page, beginning Monday.

Watch the Series: LA Times