Archive for the 'water technology' Category

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Spreading the Nexus and Finding it Everywhere

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Spreading the Nexus and Finding it Everywhere

by Miles Ten Brinke

Miles, Peak Water columnist and avowed Hydrophilic energy-head, has found his way to Britain where he’s lost his California perma-tan and is studying an Energy Policy MSc at the University of Exeter on a Fulbright.

Applying for PhDs is an intimidating prospect. So too is trying to make a real, valuable contribution to a burgeoning field. As is navigating the current job market. Fair readers, you find me now striving through all three.

Once you start its hard to shut off, colouring your perspective on everything else. You might even start seeing the world through it. In the midst of this now I can attest to the surreality of spreading the word and finding it everywhere you look.

On some level applying for a PhD is an exercise in arrogance, assuming that not only is there a gap in the knowledge that you, you lowly peon you, have accurately identified but that its something to which you can bring a unique constructive addition.  You’ve got to find the right niche though, or it all can fall apart. Though I’m not sure yet what the next step for me will be after my MSc I’m knee-deep now in the process of finding such a niche myself. I’ve several materials put together now, spent a particular amount of time developing an energy-water policy nexus research proposal.

Effectively, I’m trying to take the approach here at Exeter’s energy policy group and combine it with the Transitions literature (basically about the interplay between the society and economy with technology over time- i.e. transitioning to decarbonisation in energy) to study energy-water nexus case studies from the American Southwest, the United Kingdom and desert lands around the world. All this is towards helping to develop a water equivalent to the global energy system transition. I spent a lot of time on my literature review trying to throw together a whole slew of different perspectives and areas, and went through several revisions with the help of my Tremough mentors.  Hopefully I got in a decent stab at balancing the practicality (both in terms of execution and impact) and uniqueness (both intellectually and to creative problem-solving). As the comic here shows, this terrifying balance dominates the first stages in every doctoral studentship.  Wish me luck. The experience has crystallised my thinking on energy-water issues, I see it everywhere now.

I’m already dedicating one module (on environmental and sustainability policy) to exploring the nexus in California and the UK, had an incredible seminar on energy and the built environment (including water-in-energy infrastructure) and spent an afternoon recently watching the live Guardian debate on the energy-water-food nexus discussing its contours on Twitter. Right now I’m in the depths of a one-week intensive module on international energy issues, its a lot of time spent being bombarded with incredible and deeply complex material. The water-energy nexus has been a constant theme from India’s bilateral water resource treaties with Pakistan and Tibet to Big Hydro in China and Middle Eastern solar desalinisation. We’ll continue through Friday afternoon, providing a plethora of new areas and datasets for study. I doubt this project will end any time soon.

Though I’ve many other interests in energy and specialisms I hope to develop I’m working right now to find a placement further exploring the nexus, might even end up combining such an experience with my PhD research proposal to develop my dissertation over the summer. Whether I find a job or start a PhD, after I finish at Exeter there’s a very good chance this work will go on well into the near future. I’ll continue chasing the nexus.

Its a big thing to be a part of.

~ Miles on Water

The California Public Goods Charge- A Tantalising First Glimpse of Policy Success?

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The California Public Goods Charge- A Tantalising First Glimpse of Policy Success?

by Miles Ten Brinke

Miles, Peak Water columnist and avowed Hydrophilic energy-head, has found his way to Britain where he’s lost his California perma-tan and is studying an Energy Policy

Today, I’ll be writing about a fascinating Nexus case-study I’ve recently come across in my research. That is, of the California policy programme around a Public Goods Charge (PGC). Basically this is a charge added to consumer utility bills which both potentially serves as a price signal for conservation and provides funding for public interest projects related to that utility (there’s a more technical and perhaps more accurate definition but that’s the main gist of it).

Currently there is no PGC in California, but there was one previously and the potential for one specifically built around the Water-Energy Nexus. From about 1996-2011, California had a PGC on electricity but the state legislature failed to renew it and so the policy ended 1st January 2012. There are however efforts to reinstate the kWh PGC, and perhaps even more interestingly to implement a new water PGC.

In this entry I’m going to lay out the basics- how the CA PGC regime came about and what it entails. Later on I’ll cover who’s involved and what’s been done (some details on the policy mechanisms). After that, a longer-form entry making an initial policy analysis.

The original PGC was born out of an era in California policymaking history I’m not all that keen for but which has shaped the very face of its contemporary development- deregulation and market liberalisation during the mid 90s into the early 2000s. A PGC is indelibly a market mechanism, an approach which over the past 40 years has come to dominate policy thinking around the world (to my estimation, especially in the US and UK). Much has been written about the market liberalisation of western economies since the 70s, of the Thatcherite years in the UK and US Reagonomics among  many other examples. California, especially its energy sector, was heavily shaped over this period of largely neoliberal governance.

In my early, and yes I very well may not only revise but entirely reverse my position as I learn more, estimation however the 1996-2011 PGC is actually a successful mixed command-and-control/market mechanism instrument (and the same is probably true of those proposed PGCs). For better or worse, its been described as a green tax, with consumers bearing the cost. In a subsequent entry I’ll delve more into the political economics, but it seems thus far that it was not (and likely will not be) an undue burden with public benefit far outweighing costs. This is arguably so even for the consumers paying it. So far as I’ve read through the grey literature (fun catchall term for governmental, regulatory, policy analysis and media coverage of policies) I’m liking what I see.

An energy and/or water PGC increases the cost of consumption and can provide funding for nexus public interest programs. When the kWh one was still around it brought money to the state’s energy efficiency, renewables generation, renewables R&D and low-income assistance efforts with a prioritisation of energy efficiency and low-income assistance. It was relatively low-cost. A water PGC would most likely help to fund Integrated Regional Water Management Plans (IRWMPs) primarily for water conservation and efficiency. The great potential utility of linking this into IRWMPs is the principles of subsidiarity and localism- that you should govern at the most effective scale for the issue and that in the case of water resource management this is at the regional and local levels.

Really this all comes back to down to climate change, and California’s mitigation legislation AB 32 and the Air Resources Board’s Scoping Plan. That is, to achieve a reduction by 2050 of 80% 1990 level emissions and by 2020 of 30% 1990 level emissions. One of the state’s primary strategies towards achieving this is energy and water efficiency, of explicitly thinking about the Nexus.  From desalinisation to water treatment and simply pumping the resource from place to place water is very energy intensive.  At the same time, from petrol to power stations the energy system too consumes a lot of water. The destructive impacts not only can be minimised but must be, for the general socio-natural welfare and not just emissions targets. The PGC regime has the potential to play a very important and dynamic role in ensuring the coalition of actors engaged in this endeavour come through successfully.

More to come on this fascinating subject, stay tuned!

~ Miles on Water

Plying the Water-Energy Nexus

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Plying the Water-Energy Nexus

by Miles Ten Brinke

Miles, Peak Water columnist and avowed Hydrophilic energy-head, has found his way to Britain where he’s lost his California perma-tan and is studying an Energy Policy MSc at the University of Exeter on a Fulbright.

Growing up the in the American Southwest is an education in the triumph of human ingenuity and the creeping hazards of its peril. From Palm Springs to Las Vegas we’ve made the desert bloom- a green oasis of shopping malls, suburban lawns and sprawling golf courses. It is a socio technical system built on a foundation of innovative engineering large and small, from the proliferation of air conditioning to the California aqueduct and the Hoover Dam. Even amidst the bust of the Great Recession and its aftermath, the boom of these places is so resonant* it’s easy to forget just how fragile and contingent the whole enterprise truly is. Climate change looms ahead, and the water’s running out. Even amidst all the changes ahead, the world’s driest places will see their rains dwindle. They’ll only get drier. In the Southwest, the Colorado no longer feeds into the sea. In California in particular, the vast majority of the water (and other resources) is consumed in the South yet it’s sourced in the North. This system defined by overconsumption is no longer tenable; the region’s decision makers need search out viable alternatives. Much as the global energy system needs a transition to a more equitable, secure, efficient and decarbonized alternative so too must our water socio-technical systems change. I’ve personally come to be defined by that reality.

Though I’ve lived now around the world, for the vast majority of my life my family and I lived in the Southwest, split mostly between Las Vegas and the Inland Empire of Southern California. We lived in Vegas for most my primary and secondary education, my folks moving us to California when I started high school. It’s where I started my post-secondary education, at Mount San Jacinto College. These spaces, Nevada and California, have shaped me and the course my life’s taken. Resource management is a priority for any public policy, but it’s vital in the desert. For all the clever development, water shortages are an ever-present and deepening concern in these places. The efficient consumption of water and other resources is both a necessity and a central source of contention. People get used to their cars, to their lawns, their shopping malls, housing developments and rapid economic growth. We forged an oasis and struggle to maintain it. This dynamic, this dilemma is one I’ve grappled with from the onset of my career in energy over five years ago. I got my start in Socal as a student participant in a K-12 energy efficiency education program which provided the training, tools and support to conduct an energy audit of one’s campus and even implement changes. The lesson, amidst the greatest recession we’d known since the 30s, was the value maximal throughput at minimal expense. Our resources are finite, precious. How we choose to consume defines not only our economic activity, but shapes our culture and socio-natural landscapes all around us.

This has resonated with my experiences ever since. Through further jobs and voluntary work I came to an understanding of everyday energy use efficiency beyond simply the kWh; demand management in energy policy is as much about the careful management of our water for the future and the planet as innovations in energy conservation and technologic efficiency. Energy and water are inextricably linked, whether the connection between the energy inputs to the mass agricultural sector of California and its behemoth thirst or suburban sprawl with its house-as-castle populism and everything in-between. These parallels and intersections are deep, and many.

After completing a B.S. in Society & Environment at UC Berkeley focusing on Global Environmental Politics I’m now on a Fulbright-University of Exeter Postgraduate Student Award pursuing an Energy Policy MSc at the Exeter Cornwall campus. I’m in my second term now, developing another energy specialism-in water policy as it relates to energy. From this entry on, Peak Water readers you can join me on this new path as I explore the energy-water nexus. I’m as a much a student on this journey as you, let’s pursue it with an unquenchable curiosity and a humble openness to learn. Maybe in the process we can even start to shape a new vision of the global water transition, of its interconnections with energy and its realization.

Best of luck to us along the way, it should prove an interesting ride.

~ Miles on Water


Congo-Kinshasa: UNEP Launches Pioneering Water Initiative in DRC to Protect the Supply of Safe Water to Kinshasa

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“UNEP has initiated a water scheme in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that aims to protect the Lukaya river basin that supplies almost 380,000 Kinshasa residents with safe drinking water.

The project builds on the recommendations of UNEP’s Post Conflict Environmental Assessment (PCEA) of the DRC – the full version of which was made available online in November 2012 – that identified 13 major “hot spots” of environmental degradation in and around urban centers in the country. Much of the environmental pressure is due to rapid population growth and unplanned development in urban areas that are also extremely poor and have inadequate basic infrastructure and local services.

The innovation of the pilot project – that will implement a practice called Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) – lies in the fact that it is the communities themselves who will lead the dialogue and coordination process, assess and reconcile water needs and set the priorities for effective water management accordingly. State and local authorities will also be engaged to help build capacity and disseminate the experience in other parts of the country.”

Read more: All Africa


NYT: Laos Presses Ahead With Mekong Dam Project

Retrieved From: International Rivers

BANGKOK — Ignoring criticism that a huge hydroelectric dam could irreparably damage the ecology of the Mekong River, the government of Laos said on Tuesday that it was pushing ahead with the multibillion-dollar project, the first dam to be built on the lower portion of the iconic river.

“I would say I’m 100 percent sure it’s going ahead,” Daovong Phonekeo, deputy director general of the Laotian Department of Electricity, said by telephone on Tuesday.

Laotian government officials and executives of a Thai construction company that is to build the dam are to officially inaugurate the project at a ceremony on Wednesday in Xayaburi, the remote province in northwestern Laos where the dam is to be situated.

The electricity from the project will be sold to Thailand and will provide billions of dollars of revenue to Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia. But the project has been criticized by scientists who are concerned that the dam may disturb spawning patterns and lead to the extinction of many species of fish that have for centuries been the main source of protein for millions of people along the river’s banks.

Read More: New York Times


Beyond Big Dams: Turning to Grass Roots Solutions on Water

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“Cheap pumps and new ways of powering them are transforming farming and boosting income all over Africa and Asia,” says Meredith Giordano, lead author of a three-year research project looking at how smallholder farmers are turning their backs on governments and finding their own solutions to water problems.

“We were amazed at the scale of what is going on,” Giordano says. Indian farmers have an estimated 20 million pumps at work watering their fields. As many as 200 million Africans benefit from the crops they water. And in addition to pumps, she notes, “simple tools for drilling wells and capturing rainwater have enabled many farmers to produce more crops in the dry season, hugely boosting their incomes.”

Read more: Yale Environment 360

Water Knows No Border Between Angola and Namibia

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“The Kunene Transboundary Water Supply Project — is a good model of trans-boundary cooperation in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). The KTWSP will improve the water supply for around 700,000 residents of southern Angola and northern Namibia, providing for domestic consumption, irrigation, and industry.

The project includes the rehabilitation of the Calueqe Dam in southern Angola, which suffered extensive damage during the country’s 27 years of civil war. So far, some 35 million dollars have been invested in the project, which is being funded by the Namibian and Angola governments and contributions from the UK, the German Development Bank and Australia.

Dr Kuiri Tjipangandjara, an engineer at the Namibia Water Corporation (NamWater) and co-Chair of the KTWSP, told IPS that construction of a new pipeline between the southern Angola towns of Xangongo and Ondjiva has already begun. This link will supply treated water to various towns and villages along its route, such as Namacunde, Santa-Clara and Chiedi.”

Read more: IPS

Ancient River Valley Reclaimed: Saudi’s Sweet Success Story

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“For hundreds of years, Saudi’s Wadi Hanifah River carved out a scenic valley extending from sand dunes and agricultural land pocked with date plantations into the heart of Riyadh before it seeped underground. But the city’s expansion into a thumping metropolis of 7 million people brought the 4500 sq km catchment area close to extinction as sewage and construction waste was dumped in the river.

As a result, the Arriyadh Development Authority commissioned the Canadian architecture and planning firm Moriyama & Teshima and Buro Happold – a UK engineering firm – to submit a Master Plan and Restoration Program to restore the area’s ecological health. One decade later and the Wadi is once again a thriving desert oasis.

This massive reclamation project involved various stages. First it was necessary to clean up the river waste, which involved removing 1.5 million cubic meters of debris ranging from construction waste to dead animals.

The riverbed hand to be cleared and a nearby tannery that was releasing toxic chemicals into the river was shut down.”

Read more: Green Prophet

Eole Uses Wind Power to Make Water From Desert Air

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“A  revolutionary way to condense water from the desert air, powered by – and housed within – a wind turbine has been tested in the UAE  since October of 2011, by French innovation startup Eole Water.

The ground-mounted version has proven that it can condense up to 800 litres a day from air with just the 15-20% humidity typical of the region, and the company believes that a tower top turbine will produce levels well over 1,000 litres (264 gallons) a day.

Water marketing director Thibault Janin told ReCharge News: “The prototype is not yet on a mast because we wanted to check that it could operate in difficult desert conditions first — and so far the results have been very good. And would be even better, of course, if it was placed in coastal or offshore areas where there is higher humidity and more wind.”

Now that the ground test worked, the next step will be to erect the wind turbine-cum-air-condensation system.

Since the test suggests that in desert conditions, the turbine on a tower can produce 1,000 litres of drinking water, the company believes that in coastal regions or islands, with typically higher humidity, it could produce twice that amount.

The turbine needs at least seven-metre-per-second winds to generate 30 kW of electricity to move the water to the storage tanks and to power its purification system.”

Read more: Green Prophet


11 Rivers Forced Underground

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Rivers are the lifeblood of many plant, animal, and human communities. Yet many of the world’s rivers have been dammed, degraded, polluted, and overdrawn at alarming rates.

Some of the world’s great rivers, from the Colorado to the Indus, don’t always reach their ends because people have diverted so much water for agriculture, industry, and municipal uses. Other rivers have been completely covered over by development, as people attempted to “tame” nature by ending flooding and maximizing usable land area.

But what happens to once-thriving freshwater ecosystems when the rivers they depend on are entombed in sewer pipes beneath layers of concrete and soil? Few species can make the transition to subterranean living. Ironically, it was often rivers and streams that attracted people in the first place, but those very sources of life can fall victim to the expanding concrete jungle.”

Read more: National Geographic