Building the World

April 14, 2017
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Why is an Orange like a Light Bulb?

The water-energy-food nexus may influence the growing of oranges, in competition for lightbulbs and drinking water. Image: wikimedia commons.

Did you know that growing one orange requires 13.8 gallons of water? Next time you crunch into an almond, you’ll consume the result of one gallon. California grows both: a result, in part, of the Colorado River Compact. Edward Spang of the University of California Davis, as well as colleagues including David H. Marks of MIT, predict competition for water use will increase in the water-energy-food nexus. Spang developed a water consumption for energy production (WCEP) indicator, comparing the use of water for different forms of energy in over 150 countries. Fossil fuels and biofuels require the most water; wind is less thirsty. The United Nations cites the World Water Development Report: “If water, energy, and food security are to be simultaneously achieved, decision-makers, including those responsible for only a single sector, need to consider broader influences and cross-sectoral impacts. A nexus approach is needed.”

For more: Spang, Edward. “A Thirst for Power: A Global Analysis of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” GWF Discussion Paper 1246. Global Water Forum, Canberra, Australia. http://www.globalwaterforum.org/2012/10/23/a-thirst-for-power-a-global-analysis-of-water-consmption-for-energy-production/and also see: http://cwee.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10-25-2013-ThirstforPower_Final.pdf

“Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” E.S. Spang, W.R. Moomaw, K.S. Gallagher, P. H. Kirshen, and D.H. Marks. 8 October 2014. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, Number 10. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Ahuja, Satinder, Editor. Food, Energy, and Water. Elsevier 2015. https://www.elsevier.com/books/food-energy-and-water/ahuja/978-0-12-800211-7

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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June 26, 2015
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(Fore)casting upon the Waters

Lake Chad: Then and Now. Image: wikimedia commons.

The world’s 37 largest aquifers are shrinking. These waters of life support 2 billion people. Scientists and governments worry about overstress, a condition simply stated: more water goes out than comes in. Unlike aboveground water resources, such as Lake Mead or Lake Chad, whose shrinkage is more discernible, aquifers are difficult to measure. But a recent study by NASA confirms fears. According to Jerad Bales, chief scientist for water of US Geological Survey, issues of land ownership and water rights may be challenged by public need. Utrecht, Netherlands, is the location for the Rikswaterstaat, and also Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University where Marc Bierkens’ research indicates that 20% of the world’s population is sustained by crops irrigated by groundwater. What can and should we do now, to protect water resources (especially aquifers) for the future?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

For more:

“World’s aquifers draining rapidly,” by Felicity Barringer, June 26, 2015, New York Times. Suggested by Zoe G. Quinn with appreciation.

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June 3, 2015
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Water for the World

Water innovation may help solve the world’s water crisis: now, how to standardize and distribute Askwar Hilonga’s invention? Image: furman.edu.

World water is in crisis. For example, 70% of Tanzanian households lack clean drinking water: now Askwar Hilonga, of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, is about to change that. Growing up in rural Tanzania, the chemical engineer recalls family and friends suffering from water-borne illnesses, motivating an innovation combining one of the world’s oldest filters, sand, with one of the newest: nanotechnology. The Roman aqueducts were similarly resultant of a combination of both new and traditional technologies. Askwar Hilonga’s success may soon benefit the rest of the world: 1 in 9 people lack clean drinking water, globally. How can new technologies, supported by industry, governance and global agreements, improve water for the world?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32973591

http://environmentalgovernance.org/featured/2014/08/united-nations-watercourses-convention-enters-force/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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May 22, 2015
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Beyond a Drought: Scarcity and Rights

Drought: Scarcity and Rights. Image: wikimedia.

California is setting precedent. Facing drought of unprecedented severity, a group of farmers in the threatened Sacramento and San Joaquin River delta have offered to reduce their water usage by 25%, or leave 25% of their fields unplanted, in exchange for unrestricted rights to the rest of their allotment, even if water scarcity parches others in the future. What should Water Resources Control Board Director Tom Howard do? Might provisions in the Colorado River Compact, or earlier New River, provide inspiration? Decisions made in California may set precedent; will 2015 mark a change in the balance of rights, and scarcity, of water?

 http://nyti.ms/1JEpTwA

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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May 12, 2015
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Frackin’ Bakken

Photographer: Alfred T. Palmer. Image: Library of Congress.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” pierces land to access oil and gas in rock formations by injecting chemicals mixed with water, drawn from underground aquifers. To fracture rock, water must gush: a virtual firehose spitting harsh chemicals, propelled by as many as 10,000,000 gallons before the well is even operational. Aquifers are already challenged, in an increasingly thirsty world.  In North Dakota, Bakken may be the test case for what works (and doesn’t). Drinking and agricultural water have, in some locations, become contaminated, even radioactive.

Artists led by Yoko Ono successfully protested New York State’s possible participation, but, despite such victories, the war might heading in fracking’s favor. Proponents of the propellant technology claim shale energy is cleaner than coal, and large deposits, like Bakken, Marcellus or Eagle Ford, could make the United States energy independent for the next 100 years. But then what?

Michael McElroy and Xi Lu propose a strategy of natural gas as a transition to renewable energy (with CO2 emissions reduced 80% ) by 2050. What can we learn from water energy agreements, such as the Colorado River Compact or Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, regarding the future of fracking? Will 2015, culminating year of the United Nations Decade of Water, occasion progress?

For more:

Chester Dawson, “Leak of Oil-Well Wastewater Taints River in North Dakota.” The Wall Street Journal, Jan 22, 2015.http://www.wsj.com/articles/bakken-shale-oil-well-wastewater-leak-taints-river-in-north-dakota-1421977006

http://artistsagainstfracking.com/

Joseph Stromberg, “Radioactive Wastewater From Fracking Is Found in a Pennsylvania Stream.” Oct 2, 2013, Smithsonian.com.http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/radioactive-wastewater-from-fracking-is-found-in-a-pennsylvania-stream-351641/?no-ist

Michael McElroy and Xi Lu, “Fracking’s Future: Natural gas, the economy, and America’s energy prospects.” Harvard Magazine, Jan-Feb 2013.http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/frackings-future

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 1, 2015
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2015: Water for Life

 

Water. Image: wikimedia commons.

Will 2015, culmination of United Nations’ Water for Life, fulfill its mission? Global demand for potable water will increase two-thirds by 2025. Singapore began design of a new water system in 1960; today, 30% comes from desalination, recycling of wastewater, and rain collection. But success rates can change. Las Vegas had plenty of water before the Hoover Dam brought bright lights to what became a big city; now drought is a problem. Worldwide, potable water underground may be threatened by hydraulic fracturing. Will the “sleeping giant” of what may be the most ancient water on earth, perhaps 2.5 billion years old, recently discovered in Canada, yield hope? According to Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar, University of  Toronto, the source contains more water than all the world’s rivers, swamps, and lakes combined.

For more: http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/index.shtml

“The contribution of the Precambrian continental lithosphere to global H2 production,” Barbara Sherwood Lollar, T.C. Onstott, G. Lacrampe-Couloume, and C.J. Ballentine. Nature 516, 379-382 (18 December 2014) doi:10.1038/nature14017.

“Volume of world’s oldest water estimated,” Rebecca Morelle, BBC News, Science and Environment. December 17, 2014.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30527357

“Drought: A Creeping Disaster,” Alex Prud’homme. The New York Times, July 16, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/opinion/sunday/17drought.html?_r=0

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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October 20, 2014
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Water

 

A drop of water. Image: wikimedia commons.

 

Ancient Rome had more water per person than most of today’s cities. And there was enough for fountains, celebrated in Ottorino Respighi’s “Fontane di Roma.” Water is a limit to growth: Tiber threatened, Rome sent expeditions to the hills to find new sources, and built aqueducts to bring water to the city. Waters had brands: one spring was named “Aqua Virgo” after a little girl, with a particularly clear complexion (this was thought to be an indication of abundant clean water), who guided experts to a hidden spring. There is still a cafe, near the Vatican, where cappuccino is made with this special exilir. Water is recognized as a critical need for the world’s future. Actor Matt Damon‘s vision, and film “Running the Sahara,” may see Africa lead.

For more:

Hargreaves, Steve. “Greatest urban projects of all time,” Oct 7, 2014, CNN. http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2014/10/07/greatest-urban-projects/4.html

Running the Sahara: http://www.runningthesahara.com/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 

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August 14, 2014
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Summertime Blues: Lake Mead

Lake Mead Marina. Image: wikimedia commons.

Once a fabled boating mecca, the oasis formed by the Hoover Dam’s intervention in the Colorado River is drying up. Lake Mead‘s shoreline is changing; areas formerly underwater now battle dust. Drought that challenges California can be traced in part to Lake Mead’s shrinking. A similar problem exists in Africa due to changes in Lake Chad. How can lakes supplying water to an increasingly thirsty world be better preserved and protected?

For more: http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2014/08/12/southwest-braces-lake-mead-water-levels-drop/wnQ6rWqEYmDYMwuQsdoEFP/story.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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July 18, 2014
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Water, Power, and Art

Water, power, and art: Hoover Dam. Image: wikimedia.

Hoover Dam is not only an achievement of hydroelectric engineering but a work of art. After the dam was designed from an engineering standpoint, architect Gordon B. Kaufmann joined the project to rework the design to add an artistic dimension: a pattern of plain surfaces relieved by carefully placed shadows. In addition, Oskar W. Hansen was commissioned to create two large cast concrete panels depicting flood control, irrigation, power, and the history of the area. It was Hansen who set, in the dam’s floor, a star map comparing the Hoover Dam to the pyramids. Water is central to earth and civilization; the Romans built aqueducts – and fountains. Now, how might water’s future be honored, and perhaps protected, by art?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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August 24, 2013
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I Have A Dream

 

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. from Wikimedia Commons

On August 28, 1963, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. stirred the hearts and minds of many when he delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech to those gathered in Washington, DC. The 50th anniversary of this turning point in history is celebrated this week. Highlights of the 2013 gathering include a “Conference on Civil Rights: Marching Forward by Looking Back — March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom” (http://50thanniversarymarchonwashington.com/). The Hoover Dam is one of the most important achievements in United States history, because it was the first time in public construction history that the federal government mandated a policy of diversity. (Building the World, Volume 1, p. 432). As we look ahead to the next 50 years, what rights will be most important?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 

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