Archive for the 'oceans' Category

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Connecticut-sized dead zone found in Gulf of Mexico

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“The dead zone is caused primarily by agricultural runoffs that “stimulate an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes and consumes most of the oxygen needed to support life.” Not much life without oxygen, hence dead zone.

“A near-record area was expected because of wet spring conditions in the Mississippi watershed and the resultant high river flows which deliver large amounts of nutrients,” said Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D. executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), who led the July 21-28 survey cruise. “But nature’s wind-mixing events and winds forcing the mass of low oxygen water towards the east resulted in a slightly above average bottom footprint.”

Last year, the severe drought shrunk the dead zone to 2,889 square miles, an area slightly larger than Delaware (the 4th smallest dead zone on record). The largest dead zone took place in 2002, at 8,481 square miles.”

Read more: Treehugger


Santa Cruz desal critics pick apart environmental eval

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“SANTA CRUZ — Desalination skeptics packed a Quaker Meetinghouse on Thursday to hear a critical evaluation of an environmental report for a $129 million facility that would serve 135,000 water ratepayers.

More than 100 people listened as Rick Longinotti, a founder of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, questioned a draft environmental impact report’s conclusions about water supply shortages, alternatives and the impact on growth and the environment. He argued the city has made a political decision to allow for water use to grow at UC Santa Cruz and within the city’s limits from 3.2 billion gallons in annual demand now to 3.8 billion by 2030, figures published in the report, rather than hold demand down.

The former electrician turned marriage counselor and anti-desal crusader said the city needs to wean golf courses off drinking water, share excess winter flow with neighboring districts, become more aggressive with conservation measures and better manage the Loch Lomond Reservoir rather than pursue a costly desalting facility. He called again for a formal water-neutral development policy similar to one in place within the city’s desalination partner, the Soquel Creek Water District, which requires developers to directly offset their new use through conservation rather than pay fees that may not all go toward conservation.”

Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel


Traces Of Anxiety Drugs May Make Fish Act Funny

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“The water is likely to be considerably cleaner upstream and downstream from the sewage plant where the Swedish perch were captured.

Adding more uncertainty in this case: Benzodiazepines have been used for decades in Sweden, so they have no doubt been in this aquatic ecosystem for many years.

“These fish may have adapted to that,” Schlenk says.

Scientists now realize that low levels of pharmaceuticals have spread through the environment. For instance, Schlenk has found a Valium-like drug in the hornyhead turbot, a fish that lives on the seafloor off the California coast. Other lab studies have shown that human drugs can affect the behavior of striped bass and other species.

These drug traces don’t pose an obvious threat to people, who might drink water from streams or eat the fish that live in them.

“The presence of pharmaceuticals in surface waters — or even the residues that accumulate in edible in fish and shellfish — are much lower than what you might need to gain a therapeutic dose,” says Bryan Brooks of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

But, he cautions, that isn’t necessarily the case in the developing world.”

“Some of the observations in India, for example, downstream of manufacturing facilities, are among the highest concentrations of pharmaceuticals reported in the environment,” he says. “So the developing world really deserves some additional attention.”

Read more: NPR

“Irresponsible” World Bank Says Red-Dead Canal Feasible

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“It was about a decade in the making: without much fanfare the World Bank has released a report stating that the Dead Sea – Red Sea Canal project (also called the Red Dead Conduit) will work. The basic idea is to take salty water from the Red Sea, pump it up to a channel, desalinate it and then run the excess saline water to the Dead Sea via the channel where it can replenish the super-salty water at the lowest  place on earth. Fresh drinking water will go to Jordanians as well as energy created by hydro-electric processes.

The Dead Sea is shrinking due to human overuse of water that should normally run to the Dead Sea, as well as mineral cultivation in the South end of the sea by the Dead Sea Works owned by Israel Corp (ILCO:Tel Aviv). While the World Bank report (which can be downloaded here in English, Hebrew and Arabic) says that the canal is feasible and contingent on about $10 billion in investments, it does point out some environmental considerations.

It is these very considerations, green organizations like Friends of the Earth Middle East state, which should stop the Red-Dead plan from ever materializing. In a statement issued after the publishing of the report, Friends of the Middle East write that the World Bank study is “irresponsible” and that their conclusions do not match the findings in the report.  In short: The ‘Red Dead Canal’ project idea has wasted a decade for the Dead Sea, says the NGO which is based in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.”

Read more: Green Prophet


Defense and Security Companies Are Planning to Cash in on Climate Change and Environmental Collapse

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“It is not just the coercive industries that are positioning themselves to profit from fears about the future. The commodities upon which life depends are being woven into new security narratives based on fears about scarcity, overpopulation and inequality. Increasing importance is attached to ‘food security’, ‘energy security’, ‘water security’ and so on, with little analysis of exactly what is being secured for whom, and at whose expense? But when perceived food insecurity in South Korea and Saudi Arabia is fuelling land grabs and exploitation in Africa, and rising food prices are causing widespread social unrest, alarm bells should be ringing.

The climate security discourse takes these outcomes for granted. It is predicated on winners and losers – the secure and the damned – and based on a vision of ‘security’ so warped by the ‘war on terror’ that it essentially envisages disposable people in place of the international solidarity so obviously required to face the future in a just and collaborative way.

To confront this ever creeping securitisation of our future, we must of course continue to fight to end our fossil fuel addiction as urgently as possible, joining movements like those fighting tar sands developments in North America and forming broad civic alliances that pressure towns, states and governments to transition their economies to a low-carbon footing. We can not stop climate change – it is already happening – but we can still prevent the worst effects.”

Read more: Alternet

Fukushima Operators Struggle to Contain ‘Outrageous Amount’ of Radioactive Water

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“The plant currently holds 200,000 tonnes of highly contaminated waste water, used to cool the broken reactors, but operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, continues to struggle to find ways to store the toxic substance. TEPCO has said they are running out of room to build more storage tanks and the volume of water will more than triple within three years.

“It’s a time-pressing issue because the storage of contaminated water has its limits, there is only limited storage space,” Okamura said.

After the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe of 2011, the plant’s broken reactors have needed constant cooling and maintenance, including the dumping of massive amounts of water into the melting reactors — the only way to avoid another complete meltdown.

Adding to the excessive amounts of cooling water is ground water, which continues to leak into the reactor facilities because of structural damage.”

Read more: Common Dreams


Pursuit of Desal Driving Santa Cruz Water Costs. Voters to Weigh In Nov. 6

Proposed Desalination Plant Sites and Pipeline Routes. Retrieved from:

“Santa Cruz – Overlooked by local newspapers and area media outlets, USA TODAY last month published a unique study of residential water rates over the past 12 years for water agencies nationwide with immediate implications for Santa Cruz .

The investigative report found that monthly costs at least doubled for nearly a third of the one hundred localities, including Santa Cruz where rates haven not yet peaked, largely because of the current estimated $300M cost to build a proposed regional desal plant and its infrastructure. In 2005, the City estimated the likely cost of the project at $30-$40M.

Among the ten California water agencies surveyed, Santa Cruz ranked third (113%) in increases, behind only the metropolitan San Francisco (211%) and San Diego (141%) water districts. Overall, average residential water rates nationally have risen 33% since 2000. The extensive USA TODAY survey was conducted by Raftelis Financial, the water management consulting arm of Black & Veatch.

During this same period, water consumption in Santa Cruz declined sharply by 30% amid conservation efforts coupled with reduced demand from a declining manufacturing sector. Paradoxically, the City has raised water rates four times and the trend toward higher bills continues — driven primarily by the City’s decision to pursue seawater desalination, which is strongly supported by the business and political establishment.

The City has encountered severe financial difficulties since 2006, requiring ongoing layoffs and furloughs in order to shave millions from the budget. Yet in 2008, Water Department head Bill Kocher received a 19% salary raise to $192,912. Kocher is a vocal advocate for building an expandable 2.5-4.5 million gallons per day desalination plant on the City’s west side near the growing UCSC campus.”

Read more: Indybay

Embracing the Urban-Nature Ethic

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“The EPA in July 2010 declared the LA River navigable, giving it the full protection of the Clean Water Act.

“This is a watershed as important as any other,” said the EPA’s Lisa Jackson, as she stood in front of Compton Creek, an almost destroyed tributary to the LA River. “So we are going to build a federal partnership to empower communities like yours … We want the LA River to demonstrate how urban waterways across the country can serve as assets in building stronger neighborhoods, attracting new businesses and creating new jobs.”

Now the entire 834-square-mile LA River watershed might be given the attention it deserves after nearly a century of neglect and abuse. While a place like Ballona Wetlands, which is one of the most intact wetlands in the area, has long been given the respect it rightly deserve — fending off development but not always coming out victorious — the LA River is primed for revival.


In 2004 voters in Los Angeles passed Proposition O, which authorized the City of LA to issue a series of general obligation bonds of up to $500 million for clean water projects in the city. The main goal of the measure was to help the City meet clean water requirements known as TMDLs (Trash Total Maximum Daily Load), which were set by originally passed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. As a result, there have been many numerous public works projects funded and more to come.”

Read more: Counter Punch


Desalination And You

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“This Nov. 6, Santa Cruzans will not only cast their votes for a new president or an incumbent one, but also for local city council candidates and ballot measures. Citizens may dedicate much of their political consternation to the presidential election, but there are important decisions to be made at home, too.

The implications run deep and the controversy runs high when it comes to one issue being raised in the local election, in particular: desalination. Because of a potentially dire water shortage in times of drought, the city is looking in the coming years to move forward with—or nix—the building of a $115 million desalination plant, says Bill Kocher, the city’s water director. The plant would be built in the City of Santa Cruz, and would hopefully be finished by 2016, says Mike Rotkin, former city councilmember and co-founder of the Sustainable Water Coalition, which advocates for conservation, water storage and water augmentation measures in Santa Cruz.

Which of the seven city council candidates secure the four available seats (Tony Madrigal and Ryan Coonerty are terming out, and councilmembers Don Lane and Katherine Beiers’ seats are up for grabs after four-year terms) could potentially have a huge impact on how the city chooses to move forward with desalination, how much money is spent, and on which conservation and augmentation projects it will be spent on. Candidates who are elected will most likely encounter the water shortage problem during their tenure, and their positions on the desalination project or alternatives may have a huge influence over how the public and the council address water issues.”

Read more: Santa Cruz Good Times


Vanishing Arctic Ice Is the Planet’s White Flag of Surrender

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“In 2007, a new record was set for the minimum summer sea ice cover in the Arctic had halved. This furious flag waving attracted attention. That year, the world’s scientists declared the end of any doubt that our addiction to burning fossil fuels was changing the face of the planet. Al Gore expounded his inconvenient truth and the world seemed set to act.

Today, that 2007 record is smashed and the shredded white flag is now flickering rathering than flashing. But the danger is greater than even, even if the alarm signal is frayed.

The last great global ice melt the planet witnessed came 10,000 years ago at the end of a deep ice age. As glaciers retreated, a benign and balmy climate emerged in which the human race has flourished. Our entire civilisation is built on the warm soils left as the ice sheets melted.

This new great melting heralds the polar opposite: the gravest of threats to civilisation. Removing the lid from the pole will release heat equivalent to fast-forwarding human-caused climate change by two decades, say scientists.”

Read more: Common Dreams