Tag Archives: Water

Updates from ITU

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint
By Elizabeth Taylor – The phrase “fail to prepare or prepare to fail” comes to mind as we enter an era in which governments and communities must band together to mitigate climate change. Part of what makes our next steps so uncertain is knowing we must work together in ways that we have – so far – failed to do. We either stall, or offer up “too little, too late” strategies.

These strategies include cap-and-trade economic incentive programs, like the Kyoto Protocol and other international treaties. Insightful leaders have drawn attention to the issue, but lukewarm political will means that they are only able to defer greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets in the future. A global crisis demands global commitment. How can we work together to face a universal threat? What of the complex challenges that demand unified monitoring and responses?

One principal impediment is the lack of coherent technical infrastructure.

Currently, our arsenal for facilitating collective action is understocked. Our policies are unable to invoke tide-turning change because they lack a cohesive infrastructure. In the absence of satisfactory tools to make them happen, our policies and pledges become feelgood initiatives rather than reaching full effectiveness.

What tools might lead us to act collectively against climate change? It’s easy to focus on the enormous scale of global cooperation needed, or the up-front investments it will take to mitigate the crisis. But as the writer E.L. Doctorow reminded us, we can’t be intimidated by the process: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night,” he said. “You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

We don’t have to possess all the answers as we set out to save our communities. We don’t have to know exactly what we will meet along the way. At a minimum, we must only understand how to use our headlights to see the first few feet ahead of us.

So what is the first step on our path?

It is the substance that underpins our industry, health and survival. It remains a central source of conflict around the world, yet it also creates partnerships. Our first step is water.

Water challenges us with issues of scarcity, quality and distribution. It may seem to be a local issue, but combined with local tensions and a globalized economy, water governance is set to become one of our greatest tests of diplomatic finesse and technological synergy.

If we can properly align local and global water governance and management, we can prepare the tools, the organizational blueprint and the political momentum needed to solve climate change. more>

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When the monsoon goes away

By Sunil Amrith – More than 70 per cent of total rainfall in South Asia occurs during just three months each year, between June and September. Within that period, rainfall is not consistent: it is compressed into a total of just 100 hours of torrential rain, spread across the summer months. Despite advances in irrigation, 60 per cent of Indian agriculture remains rain-fed, and agriculture employs around 60 per cent of India’s population. No comparable number of human beings anywhere in the world depend on such seasonal rainfall.

Both before and after independence, the imperious power of the monsoon troubled India’s rulers. In the first decade of the 20th century, the finance minister in the imperial government declared that ‘every budget is a gamble on the rains’ – a statement that is still quoted regularly in the Indian media.

In the late 1960s, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi said: ‘For us in India, scarcity is only a missed monsoon away.’ The foreboding remains.

The scale of the monsoon system exists far beyond human intervention. If technology could intervene, it was on the landscape, in the form of infrastructure. By the early 20th century, engineers around the world were confident that they could neutralize the risk of climatic variability by constructing dams that would fuse water storage, flood control, irrigation and power generation. India was no exception. more>

The World’s Doomsday Water Cycle

By Carl Pope – California is not unique in experiencing a destructive feedback loop in which declining water resources are devoted to energy production, and energy is required to transport water where it is increasingly scarce.

Throughout much of the U.S. and the world, we manage water and energy as if they were unrelated. In reality, they are Siamese twins. The energy-water feedback loop is even worse in emerging economies, where energy production siphons more water, and water delivery requires more power.

The cycle of waste can be arrested in much of the world, however. Wind and solar energy not only reduce carbon emissions, they reduce the amount of water devoted to energy production. more> http://tinyurl.com/n5lnw24

How to bet on the price of water

BOOK REVIEW

Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food, Author: Frederick Kaufman.

By Rob Curran – Since it opened in late March, 1.6 million Australian dollars in forward contracts representing about 16.5 billion liters of water have changed hands on Waterfind’s online market. That’s a drop in the ocean of global reserves, but it’s a significant symbolic step in the gradual “commodification” of water.

A 1994 Australian regulation separated land and water rights, much like what had happened during the settlement of the American West. This allowed landowners to sell access to water on their land more easily and opened the way for the growth of water markets. more> http://tinyurl.com/nee88b4

Study shows how water dissolves stone, molecule by molecule

By Jade Boyd – Boundary layers are ubiquitous in nature; they occur when raindrops fall on stone, water seeps through soil and the ocean meets the sea floor. Scientists and engineers have long been interested in accurately explaining how crystalline materials, including many minerals and stones, interact with and are dissolved by water. Calculations about the rate of these dissolution processes are critical in many fields of science and engineering.

At the boundary layer where quartz and water meet, multiple chemical reactions occur. Some of these happen simultaneously and others take place in succession.

The research could have wide-ranging impacts in diverse areas, including water quality and planning, environmental sustainability, corrosion resistance and cement construction. more> http://tinyurl.com/oj4wr2x

Team developing new monitoring tools for hydropower generation

Queens Museum of Art | The Relief Map of the N...

Queens Museum of Art | The Relief Map of the New York City Water Supply System
(Photo credit: Chris Devers)

R&D – Instead of creating large amounts of power in one place—from large dams or even small turbines in water treatment plants—there’s value now in making tiny amounts of electricity anywhere there is a water source, from streams to water faucets.

Carnegie Mellon Univ.’s Diana Marculescu is leading a multidisciplinary team of industry and academic researchers to develop novel monitoring tools for placement and control of hydrokinetic generators throughout river systems nationwide. more> http://tinyurl.com/oc53cry

Water-shedding surfaces can be made to last

By David L. Chandler – Steam condensation is key to the worldwide production of electricity and clean water: It is part of the power cycle that drives 85% of all electricity-generating plants and about half of all desalination plants globally, according to the United Nations and International Energy Agency. So anything that improves the efficiency of this process could have enormous impact on global energy use.

It has been known for years that making steam-condenser surfaces hydrophobic could improve the efficiency of condensation by causing the water to quickly form droplets. But most hydrophobic materials have limited durability, especially in steamy industrial settings. The new approach to coating condenser surfaces should overcome that problem, the MIT researchers say. more> http://tinyurl.com/kltjnua

How to get fresh water out of thin air

By David L. Chandler – Fog harvesting, as the technique is known, is not a new idea: Systems to make use of this airborne potable water already exist in at least 17 nations. But the new research shows that their efficiency in a mild fog condition can be improved by at least fivefold, making them far more feasible and practical than existing versions.

Fog-harvesting systems generally consist of a vertical mesh, sort of like an oversized tennis net. Key to efficient harvesting of the tiny airborne droplets of fog are three basic parameters, the researchers found: the size of the filaments in those nets, the size of the holes between those filaments and the coating applied to the filaments. more> http://tinyurl.com/kzupur2

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Updates from National Science Foundation

Lab in a Can — Science Nation
NSF – Monitoring water quality is vital to make sure dangerous bacteria doesn’t creep into our drinking water or overcome sewage treatment plants. With support from NSF, engineers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have developed the Environment Sample Processor (ESP), a “DNA lab in a can.” The size of a trash can, it can be placed in the open ocean or at water treatment facilities to identify potentially harmful bacteria, algae, larvae and other microscopic organisms in the surrounding waters. It can monitor and send results back to the lab in real time to monitor water quality. Now, the engineers are modifying the ESP so it can go mobile, working from an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). more> http://tinyurl.com/n8u85uo

Quantum model helps solve mysteries of water

R&D – A research team from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the Univ. of Edinburgh and IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center reveals a major breakthrough in the modeling of water that could shed light on its mysterious properties.

Many models exist that can reproduce certain aspects of these properties but there is no ‘ultimate model’ that can reproduce them all.

The new approach could potentially be used for other substances and offers a new framework for simulation of materials at the atomic and molecular scale. more> http://tinyurl.com/l3tpds9