Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘groundwater’

Photo: Jorge Sierra/WWF Spain.
“Hundreds of freshwater basins across the world, including the dried-up Santa Olalla permanent freshwater lagoon in Spain’s Doñana National Park, are the most likely to experience social and ecological impacts due to freshwater use,” says Xander Huggins at the Conversation.

I’ve been trying to learn meditation. Doctor recommendation. It seems to be mostly about focusing on breathing — in, out, in, out. I am starting to appreciate what a miracle breathing is. Unless we have asthma or COPD, we are too likely to take that miracle for granted.

Same thing with water.

Xander Huggins, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Victoria, writes at the Conversation, “When people use freshwater beyond a physically sustainable rate, it sets off a cascade of impacts on ecosystems, people and the planet. These impacts include groundwater wells running dry, fish populations becoming stranded before they are able to spawn and protected wetland ecosystems turning into dry landscapes.

“Developments in computer models and satellites have fostered a new understanding of how freshwater is being redistributed around the planet and have made clear the central role that people play in this change. This human impact is so significant that organizations like the United States Geological Survey are redrawing their water cycle diagram to include the impacts of human actions.

“Equally important to understanding how people affect freshwater availability, is understanding how people and ecosystems will respond to amplified freshwater challenges including drought, water stress and groundwater depletion. While these challenges impact localized sites, their impacts are scattered across the world. To address this global water crisis, global action is urgently needed.

In our recent study, we identified the basins of the world that are most likely to be impacted by two central and interrelated aspects of water scarcity: freshwater stress, which occurs when the consumption of water surpasses renewable water supply, and freshwater storage loss, which is the depletion of freshwater in reservoirs or in groundwater bodies due to persistent overuse.

“We identified 168 basins across the world that are the most likely to experience social and ecological impacts due to insufficient freshwater availability. These hotspot basins are found on every continent — a clear indication of the widespread, global nature of these challenges.

“To identify these hotspot basins, we assessed patterns in freshwater stress and freshwater storage trends and compared these to patterns in societal ability to adapt to environmental hazards and freshwater-based ecological sensitivity indicators.

“The hotspot basins are most vulnerable largely because they are likely to experience social and ecological impacts at the same time. … Hotspot basins are vulnerable as they are likely to face impacts such as low streamflow that harms aquatic biodiversity, reduced food security as agriculture is heavily reliant on freshwater supply, wells running dry and higher potential for social unrest.

“Reducing vulnerability in intertwined societal and environmental systems requires improved policy and management integration across sectors. Integrated Water Resources Management considers and balances social, ecological and hydrological sustainability goals by co-ordinating management across water, land and other related resources. Its inclusion in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal framework highlights its importance. …

Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Somalia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yemen have hotspot basins yet low implementation levels of much-needed integrated management practices. …

“While we focus on the identified hotspot basins, this does not mean that impacts cannot occur in basins with lower vulnerabilities. For instance, only a number of Canadian basins — all located in the prairies — are identified with moderate vulnerability in our global study. Yet, dry streams on Vancouver Islandfalling groundwater levels in the Lower Mainlandcrop yields affected by drought throughout the prairies and potential for salt-water intrusion along the East Coast are all instances of freshwater security challenges being faced in Canada. …

“While global studies, such as ours, are helpful at systematically highlighting regions for prioritization, they do not — and should not — provide explicit solutions. Rather, in such intricate social and ecological environments, actions to reduce impacts need to be attuned to place-based social norms, cultural values, hydrological conditions and local knowledge systems.

“Our hotspot basins can help guide such community-driven local action to help conserve freshwater resources that are most under threat and mitigate the ripple effects of these threats on people and ecosystems.”

More at the Conversation, here. See also this Christian Science Monitor post about water drying out in Egypt and all around North Africa and the Middle East. Neither site has a firewall.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Akhila Ram.
High School student Akhila Ram won a 2022 ‘Most Innovative’ award for her invention to measure groundwater.

When I get discouraged about what we’re doing to the planet, I remind myself of all the young people coming along who like to solve problems.

Today’s post is about those who are addressing water scarcity. Akhila Ram, a high school student in Lexington, Massachusetts, won a science award for her groundwater-measuring gadget. And at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), there are young professors focused on reusing wastewater to save on potable water.

Collin Robisheaux writes at the Boston Globe, “Akhila Ram, a 12th-grader at Lexington High School, isn’t exactly like other high school students. In her free time she enjoys baking, painting – and inventing technologies to map out groundwater levels across the United States in order to monitor problems like water depletion.

“Ram’s invention is a computer model that uses machine learning to interpret data collected by NASA’s GRACE satellite in order to predict groundwater within a few feet of its actual level. While groundwater monitoring tools already exist, they can be expensive to install.

“Ram’s system could give farmers, well owners, and local officials a cost-effective method of monitoring groundwater. According to Ram, this model is the first to use a statistical approach on a large region to predict changes in groundwater levels. …

“The inspiration behind the invention is personal for Ram.

“ ‘My grandparents live in India, and their city faced a major drought,’ Ram said in an interview. ‘It was because of poor management. And I wanted to [do research on] solutions that could be used to properly manage water resources. … I’ve always been really passionate about climate change,’ Ram said. ‘That’s what led me here. I’ve always been trying to come up with ideas in this realm of sustainability and the environment.’ More at the Globe, here.

Meanwhile young college professors at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) are finding ways to make better use of wastewater.

David Staudacher reports at Rise magazine, “Water is our most precious resource, but climate change, pollution, and a growing human population has made this resource even more scarce. More than 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries. …

“To reduce this scarcity, two professors in civil, materials and environmental engineering are looking around in the world to find better ways to reclaim and reuse both fresh water and wastewater.

“To find best practices in water reuse, Associate Professor Sybil Derrible and his team have studied the work done in cities and countries around the world. In search of new water sources, many countries are turning to ocean water. …

“ ‘In places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, there are only a few ways to get water,’ Derrible said. ‘One is from the sea through desalination, and another is by reclaiming used water. Desalination requires a lot of electricity. Recycling used water can save energy and money.’

“Derrible and his team are developing a framework to analyze water circularity — which is the practice of not wasting or losing water and recovering the resources it contains as it is reused in multiple applications — by examining how cities collect, treat, and reuse water. In Singapore, for example, municipalities collect rainwater and recycle wastewater back to industries where it doesn’t need to be treated.

“Derrible wants to create a universal framework that takes into account ideas like this and that can be used anywhere in the world, including places where fresh water is not scarce.

“ ‘Many industries require extensive volumes of water, but the water does not need to be potable. Here, used water that was minimally treated can be sufficient,’ he said. Some places in the United States are already reusing wastewater. In warm climates like Las Vegas, wastewater is used to irrigate golf courses.

“ ‘It’s a big deal because the future of many cities includes reusing water and it is becoming more and more common for many cities in the world because water is a precious resource,’ he said.

“Also, in most countries, water distribution systems consist of large, highly pressurized pipe networks that require an excessive amount of energy and that are vulnerable to large-scale contamination if something goes wrong. However, in Hanoi, Vietnam, water is distributed at low pressures, and most buildings are equipped with a basement tank, a rooftop tank, and separate water treatment processes, resulting in a system that consumes less energy and that is more resilient. …

“Even a city like Chicago — with its vast freshwater resource in Lake Michigan — can benefit from reusing water. Professor Krishna Reddy is working with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC) and several UIC professors on an interdisciplinary project investigating ways to reuse treated wastewater from MWRDGC processing plants in the region and beyond.

“The district discharges some treated water into the Chicago River, where it makes its way into the Mississippi River and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. But ‘from a sustainability point of view, this is not a good reuse of a resource,’ Reddy said. ‘We suggest recycling the treated water where it can be reused for beneficial purpose without any further treatment.’ The researchers are gathering data to understand how much water MWRDGC produces, uses, and discharges, and are examining the quality of the water the plants both take in and discharge. One goal is to find new uses for wastewater.

“ ‘One interesting thing is that there are a large number of industries near the water reclamation plants, and they use a lot of water,’ Reddy said. ‘Maybe some of the industries nearby could use the treated water, or it could be used for other applications like agriculture or recreational parks irrigation, toilet flushing, landscaping, and golf courses.’ “

More at the UIC College of Engineering, here.

Photo: Jim Young
Sybil Derrible and his team are developing a framework to analyze “water circularity.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: