By Wolfgang Dick
Despite the lush, verdant nature that surrounds the German town of Ulrichstein, residents here — and in the region — suffer from acute water shortages.
Digging Deep From Drinking Water<p>Instead, a drilling company is set in the coming weeks to try to tap into the groundwater below the town. Water that the firm insists is there — despite criticism from geologists who say groundwater levels below Ulrichstein, the highest permanent settlement in the state at 614 meters (2,014 feet) above sea level, are insufficient for the town's needs.</p>
Many Reasons for Water Shortages<p>Schneider said the reason for his town's water shortages has to do with its geographical location. Due to the Rhine Weser watershed, he said, "water just keeps draining away, and winters have become quite mild in these parts."</p><p>This means groundwater is not being replenished during the winter months. The situation is complicated further because the nearby city of Frankfurt also taps into the local groundwater, sourcing one-third of its requirements — some 40 million cubic meters — from this region.</p><p>"I got quite angry when Frankfurt asked its residents to water the city's trees during one hot summer," the mayor admitted.</p><p>A €150,000 ($177,000) trial showed no groundwater the Ulrichstein could tap into at a depth of 120 meters. However, the drilling company found water at a depth of 200 meters. The well, which cost some €800,000 ($944,000) to drill, will only serve as an interim solution as there is not as much water as the officials hoped for, and no one knows how long before it dries up.</p><p>The municipal council is looking into alternatives to source drinking water. For this purpose, it has modernized two of its eight water treatment plants at a cost of €2 million ($2.4 million). Ulrichstein is also considering installing a 4.5-kilometer canal to the next town to source water. This endeavor, however, carries a €650,000 ($767,000) price tag.</p><p>Ultimately, the municipality decides to hire a logistics company to make six deliveries of 60,000 liters (15,850 gallons) of water each day by truck. Locals are also urged to use the precious resource sparingly by abstaining from watering their lawns or otherwise using water unnecessarily.</p>
High Cost of Water<p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/innovative-clean-water-technologies/a-45287950" target="_blank">Whatever option the town chooses</a>, residents will be facing higher water bills.</p><p>Local businessman Klaus Kraft is especially hard-hit by the water shortage. He has been running a laundromat for years. Each day, his business consumes about 12 cubic meters of water, less than half the 30 liters (8 gallons) it used to require. But, he said, he cannot hike up prices as this would hurt his business. Currently, sourcing and disposing of one cubic meter of drinking water costs about €10 ($12) — roughly three times what residents in other German cities pay.</p><p>A woman who has lived in the town for many years said she noticed the water shortages three years ago. "One day, the water pressure just dropped off," she said, adding that the town's calls for residents to use water sparingly are being ignored by many.</p><p>One of the more recent and visible culprits is private swimming pools appearing in many residents' backyards. According to Germany's Swimming Pool and Wellness Association, a growing number of Germans are deciding to install their own pools. One reason for this is that people who are <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/meet-the-germans-live-summer-and-vacations-in-germany/a-54081551" target="_blank">traveling less during this pandemic want to have a nice time relaxing at home</a>.</p>
Gloomy Predictions<p>Karsten Rinke, a biologist with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, says Germans will have to prepare for future water shortages. At least technological innovations and water conservation efforts have reduced the average daily water consumption in Germany from 147 to 123 liters (39 to 32 gallons) per person, says the researcher. But Germany's Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) reports that climate predictions paint a gloomy picture of the future. It warns that people in some parts of Germany could soon face problems sourcing drinking water.</p><p>German Environmental Minister Svenja Schulze has scheduled a "water summit" for spring 2021 to discuss this worrying situation with federal, state and local representatives. She wants to devise a comprehensive strategy to tackle the country's water shortage.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The state of Michigan has reached a settlement with the victims of the Flint water crisis. Michigan agreed to pay $600 million, which will primarily benefit the city's children since they were most affected by the lead-tainted water, The Washington Post reported.
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By Elliot Douglas
A glacier in New Zealand is believed to have lost so much ice over the last three years that it could provide drinking water for every resident of the country over the same period, a research institute announced Wednesday.
'The Path to Extinction'<p>Damage sustained by some glaciers between 2018 and 2019 may place them on the path to extinction, Lorrey explained.</p><p>Marine heatwaves and record temperatures impacted snow lines. Ash from the recent Australian bush fires also blanketed some of the ice, increasing the potential for more melting as the ash absorbs more solar radiation.</p><p>It could take 20 or 30 years of improvement in snow cover before scientists could "even start to consider whether the recent damage can be reversed to any degree," Lorrey said.</p>
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By Brett Walton
Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river's lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region's water supply in a drying and warming climate.
Raising Lake Mead<p>Just five years ago, in 2015, the three states were making use of their entire 7.5-million-acre-foot allotment. By statute and tradition, the basin is divided into a lower basin, where use is higher, and an upper basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The basins have different water allocation systems and rules governing its use.</p><p>In the lower basin, Arizona's annual allocation is 2.8 million acre-feet, but last year it used just 2.5 million. Nevada used 233,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet. The big savings were in California, which used only 3.8 million of its 4.4 million acre-feet. California hasn't used that little water from the Colorado since the 1950s, Fleck said.</p><p>The drop in California last year is due in large part to Metropolitan Water District, which consumed only 537,000 acre-feet. Five years ago, the district's tally was around 1 million acre-feet per year. Urban conservation and development of local water sources have played a large role in the decline, but the district's Colorado River water use is also influenced by snow levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When more water is available to be imported from the northern part of the state, as it was last year, the district leans less heavily on the Colorado River.</p>
Total Lower Colorado Basin Consumptive Use<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMTU1OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzM0NDYxM30.RVr3Rzi1jqZHweILfonMU8SWs_LGJBGqg9lMiQ-jrVY/img.png?width=980" id="d31ab" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="15ef390e64a1be66991bfd26b0f0fee5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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By Sonya Diehn
More than 2 billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded. For Desertification and Drought Day on June 17, DW spoke with Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump issued an executive order late Thursday that environmentalists warned will accelerate the corporate exploitation of oceans by relaxing regulations on and streamlining the construction of industrial offshore aquaculture facilities, which critics deride as "floating factory farms" that pump pollution and diseases into public waters.
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By Chiara Cecchini
Although it is difficult today to divert attention from the dramatic situation we live in, it is even more important to get closer to our primary needs. Recently, we celebrated World Water Day, and the timing couldn't have been more appropriate to give to all of us the chance to rethink priorities and draw some lessons.
What Can We Do About It?<p>Now that the whole world is experiencing the effects of a major disaster, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate some of our choices. COVID-19 has transformed everyday life so significantly that the effects are already visible from space, showing us that change is possible and results are tangible. COVID-19 is teaching us (among other things) that our eagerness for creation should not result in the destruction of our planet.</p><p>Here are five simple things we can all start doing to have a healthier relationship with water and our environment in the future.</p>
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- One of the most significant, yet ignored, impacts of climate change is its disruption of the water cycle.
- The youth-driven climate movement provides examples of how to incorporate water into the climate agenda by raising awareness, encouraging advocacy and promoting innovation.
- World Water Day 2020 is focused on the interconnectedness of water and climate change.
1. Raise Awareness<p>Not enough is understood and communicated about the devastating risk of climate change to the world's water resources. Currently, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/3674533?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents" target="_blank">50% of our drinking water comes from glaciers</a>, which are melting at an unprecedent speed. Higher air temperatures are causing increased flooding – <a href="https://www.zurich.com/en/knowledge/topics/flood-and-water-damage" target="_blank">which is affecting more people globally than any other natural hazard</a>. If no measures are taken, water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, is expected to cost some regions <a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water/publication/high-and-dry-climate-change-water-and-the-economy" target="_blank">up to 6% of their economic growth</a>.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg4ODQ1NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTIxODQ1MX0.qJ4_h03eH2s3D_6FnWaae2eoUC_2dU4EvoaADlwnha0/img.png?width=980" id="77940" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fcd44dcbca3778d12738b067737eaf05" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
2. Be an Advocate<p>Young people are organizing and uniting around the world to raise awareness through climate strikes – bridging political differences and linking separate sectors. Rather than confronting one environmental issue at a time, they are holistic in their advocacy, recognizing the strength in combining efforts.</p><p>During the 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos, Global Shapers engaged in climate work and discussions on the future of water. Their participation, enthusiasm and conviction to further incentivize young people to scale up water innovation, resulted in the stakeholder proposal to develop an award. Rather than being a one-off entrepreneurial activity, this prize aims to be a milestone in a long-term water advocacy agenda.</p><p>While having a Corporate Social Responsibility programme is common, more companies could push the cause. An example is Heineken's "<a href="https://www.theheinekencompany.com/newsroom/heineken-announces-every-drop-water-ambition-for-2030/" target="_blank">Every Drop</a>" campaign, dedicated to lowering water usage to combat water scarcity.</p><p>Choose to be a champion, mobilize for the climate-water cause and implement what you advocate!</p>
3. Seek Innovation<p>Since 2012, the rise in smart phones has been dramatic (to date, there are more people with a mobile phone than access to a flushable toilet). Today's youth is the generation most accustomed to technology from an early age. With the increase of artificial intelligence, smart sensoring and blockchain, the possibilities for tackling water issues have multiplied.</p><p>In the run-up to COP 21, youth representatives released a white paper with recommendations in four key areas on how to address climate change – all of which included water. This led to the creation of the <a href="https://youthwaterclimate.org/project/ahiafor-yahovi-amedzape-danyi-apeyeme-togo-tonfuturtonclimat-project-to-support-the-young-people-for-the-protection-of-environment-water-and-land-in-togo/" target="_blank">Youth for Water and Climate</a> (YWC) initiative. Similar to the World Economic Forum's <a href="https://www.weforum.org/uplink" target="_blank">UpLink</a>, the YWC is a platform connecting young, innovative solution providers with solution seekers that are able to offer technical and financial resources to help scale up the projects.</p><p>By providing the means and the mentoring, the chances for these projects to develop increase, while offering tangible solutions for companies in return. Companies such as AB InBev have launched <a href="https://www.ab-inbev.com/sustainability/100-accelerator.html" target="_blank">sustainability accelerators</a>, enabling start-ups to grow, while learning from their breakthrough water innovations. In line with stakeholder capitalism, more companies aim to be inclusive – and what better way to do that – than by getting insights into innovative solutions for water challenges and climate change.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
In 2015 an estimated 1.8 million migrants crossed into the European Union, fleeing countries gripped by violence, political upheaval and resource scarcity like Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Eritrea and Nigeria. Many made their trips in flimsy, overcrowded boats. Thousands drowned along the way. E.U. governments struggled to deal with the influx of new arrivals, and the confluence of humanitarian and political crises that resulted — including a surge in right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric.
A camp hosting Syrian refugees in Turkey. European Union 2016 / European Parliament / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>When it comes to determining where problems could erupt, water is a key part of the equation.</p><p>"We put in a number of water-risk variables on the assumption that no conflict is caused by water alone," Iceland said, "but water may be present as an exacerbating or contributing factor along with a lot of other features of society."</p><p>Most recently, drought was one of the <a href="https://www.wri.org/news/water-stress-helping-drive-conflict-and-migration" target="_blank">driving factors</a> in the unrest that led to Syria's civil war and increasing destabilization in Mali. It was also an underlying contributor to the deadly conflict in Darfur in 2003 and has bolstered the efforts of terrorist organizations like Boko Haram.</p><p>The link between water stress and other resource pressures, Iceland warms, is becoming more acute as global environmental crises worsen.</p><p>"When you look at the big picture, we're consuming a lot more resources now then are replenished by our natural systems," he said. "Just that alone is enough to cause a lot of problems. And then on top of that you've got a changing climate that's further exacerbating the situation."</p><p>The links between climate change and global security are fast becoming a top concern.</p><p>A new report released this week by U.S. national security, military and intelligence professionals at the <a href="https://climateandsecurity.org/" target="_blank">Center for Climate and Security</a> mapped future climate change scenarios and their effects on security. Not surprisingly, the findings are troubling. Competition for dwindling resources, they predict, will increase social tensions and could topple already-fragile states. Natural disasters, social unrest and shrinking economic opportunities will push people from their homes and heighten migration pressures.</p><p>The <a href="https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2020/02/a-security-threat-assessment-of-global-climate-change_nsmip_2020_2.pdf" target="_blank">report found</a> that "even at scenarios of low warming, each region of the world will face severe risks to national and global security in the next three decades … Higher levels of warming will pose catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks over the course of the 21st century."</p><p>Iceland hopes that the early warning tool could help play a role in averting some crises that could come from these and other scenarios that lead to violent conflict.</p>
Habiba Hossen collects water from a rehabilitated distribution point in Ethiopia during a drought in 2012. Pablo Tosco / Oxfam / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>But it's a complicated picture.</p><p>"It would be wonderful to have a perfect tool to predict something as inherently complex as violent conflict," said Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the <a href="https://pacinst.org/" target="_blank">Pacific Institute</a>, which along with Oregon State University and New America are also affiliated partners of the project. "We'll never have such a tool. But the more information we have about the many factors that contribute to violence the better, especially given the new, real and growing threat of climate disruption."</p><p>How successful the resource ultimately is also depends on how, and by whom, it's used. Simply knowing where trouble is brewing is only the first step. Iceland says the resource is geared for decision-makers like foreign-affairs ministries and intelligence departments, as well as development and disaster-relief experts at non-governmental organizations.</p><p>"A lot of these governments and non-government entities could use this information to try to figure out where the next problems can occur and get ready for it," he said. "Or the global community could approach those national leaders in developing countries [where problems are predicted] and say, 'We see that you're likely to have a water-related problem in the near future, what are some strategies that we could develop with you to try to address this problem?'"</p><p>The system isn't just available to diplomats and international NGOs, though — anyone can use it and download relevant data.</p><p>"You can look at a lot of other datasets on the website that might be used as contextual information," said Iceland. "Things like where are the roads and reservoirs with respect to predicted conflict. Or where the population is very dense in relation to these predicted conflict areas."</p><p>One area currently on the map as an emerging area of concern, he said, is Iran. The country has a dry environment with a rapidly growing population and is working toward being food self-sufficient.</p><p>"But they really don't have enough water to do that and so a lot of these lakes and rivers are drying up," said Iceland. That's forcing people to abandon farms to move to cities, and those who've remained in agricultural communities are beginning to protest the government's water allocations.</p><p>Other areas of concern include the eastern coast of South Africa and southern Iraq, he says, but it's too soon yet to show any on-the-ground results from the early warning tool there or elsewhere.</p><p>Even so, the resource has started to reveal things that could soon help mitigate future conflicts or allow communities to adapt to upcoming problems.</p><p>"This new effort has already given us insight into areas where more efforts at smart water policies, improved management and environmental diplomacy are needed," said Gleick.</p><p>And the more data we collect, the more we'll be able to learn.</p><p>"I hope and expect the tool to improve over time," he added.</p>
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
Millions of people rely on the Colorado River, but the climate crisis is causing the river to dry up, putting many at risk of "severe water shortages," according to new research, as The Guardian reported.
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By Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky
One year after the Flint Water Crisis I was invited to participate in a water rights session at a conference hosted by the US Human Rights Network in Austin, Texas in 2015. The reason I was at the conference was to promote efforts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to encourage scientists to shine a light on how science intersects with human rights, in the U.S. as well as in the context of international development. My plan was to sit at an information booth and share my stories about water quality projects I spearheaded in communities in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Philippines. I did not expect to be thrown into conversations that made me reexamine how scientists use their knowledge as a public good.
Understanding Public Views and Sentiments About Science and Scientists<p>According to a <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/" target="_blank">2015 study by the Pew Research Center</a>, a random sample of 2,002 adult Americans perceive science as having positive impacts on peoples' lives. Americans also believe that government funding of science is worth the payoff provided by scientific knowledge and technological applications. But unfortunately, the benefits of science are not always equally distributed to all communities.</p><p>Dr. Robert Bullard, one of the most prominent environmental justice scholars, points out in his book<em> <a href="https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/book/10.2105/9780875530079" target="_blank">Environmental Health and Racial Equity in the United States: Building Environmentally Just, Sustainable, and Livable</a> </em>that many scientific developments for reducing pollution and improving health care do not always make their way into areas affected by discriminatory practices or poverty. Populations that are disproportionately affected by environmental injustices are predominantly communities of color, tribal communities, and low-income communities.</p><p>Historically, the benefits of science and technology have not been shared equally as is discussed in the 2016 Nature article <a href="https://www.nature.com/news/is-science-only-for-the-rich-1.20650" target="_blank"><em>Is science only for the rich?</em></a> A 2018 The Atlantic article <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-trump-administration-finds-that-environmental-racism-is-real/554315/" target="_blank"><em>Trump's EPA Concludes Environmental Racism Is Real</em></a> discusses that at times science has been used against environmental justice communities. In addition, the "Belmont Report", produced by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, <a href="https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/sites/default/files/the-belmont-report-508c_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">documents a long history</a> of unequal benefits of medical research.</p>
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By Paul Brown
An international team of scientists has developed a cheap way to provide fresh water to thirsty communities by making seawater drinkable without using electricity.
Diagram illustrates the basic structure of the proposed desalination system. Sunlight passes through a transparent insulating layer at left, to heat up a black heat-absorbing material, which transfers the heat to a layer of wicking material (shown in blue), where it evaporates and then condenses on a surface (gray) and then drips off to be collected as fresh, potable water. Images courtesy of the researchers<p>A solar still uses flat panels to absorb heat which it then transfers to a layer of water, which begins to evaporate. The vapor condenses on the next panel and the water is collected, while the heat from the vapor condensation is passed to the layer above.</p><p>Whenever vapor condenses on a surface, it releases heat; in typical condenser systems, that heat is simply lost to the environment. But in this multi-layer version the released heat flows to the next evaporating layer, recycling the solar heat and boosting overall efficiency.</p><p>The efficiency comes from using each of the multiple stages to remove salt from the sea water, with the heat released by the previous stage harnessed instead of wasted. In this way, the team's demonstration device achieved an overall efficiency of 385 percent in converting the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/energy-news/">energy</a> of sunlight into evaporation.</p><p><a href="http://firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank">Evelyn Wang, a co-author</a>, said: "When you condense water, you release energy as heat. If you have more than one stage, you can take advantage of that heat."</p>
Cost Trade-Off<p>Although adding more layers increases the conversion efficiency of the system, each layer also adds cost and bulk. The team settled on a 10-stage system for their proof-of-concept device.</p><p>It delivered pure water that exceeded city drinking water standards, at a rate of 5.78 liters per square meter (about 1.52 gallons per 11 square feet) of solar collecting area. This is more than twice as much as the record amount previously produced by any such passive solar-powered desalination system, Professor Wang says.</p><p>And a big advantage of the system is that it has a self-flushing mechanism which will clean out the accumulation of salt each night and return it to the sea.</p><p>One possible way of using the system would be with floating panels on a body of saltwater. The panels could deliver constant fresh water through pipes to the shore so long as the sun was shining. Other systems could be designed to serve a single household, perhaps using a flat panel on a large shallow tank of seawater.</p><p>The team estimates that a system with a roughly one-square-meter solar collecting area could meet the daily drinking water needs of one person. In production, they think a system built to serve the needs of a family might be built for around $100.</p>
Cheaper Replacements<p>The most expensive component of the prototype is the layer of transparent <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/aerogels.html" target="_blank">aerogel</a> used as an insulator at the top of the stack, but the team suggests other less expensive insulators could be used instead. (The aerogel itself is made from very cheap silica but requires specialized drying equipment during its manufacture.)</p><p>"This new approach is very significant," says <a href="https://me.berkeley.edu/people/ravi-prasher/" target="_blank">Professor Ravi Prasher of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory</a> and the University of California at Berkeley, who was not involved in the research.</p><p>"One of the challenges in solar still-based desalination has been low efficiency due to the loss of significant energy in condensation.</p><p>"By efficiently harvesting the condensation energy, the overall solar to vapour efficiency is dramatically improved … This increased efficiency will have an overall impact on reducing the cost of produced water."</p>
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