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Upgraded Water Systems Can Put Millions to Work and Reduce Pollution

Upgraded Water Systems Can Put Millions to Work and Reduce Pollution

Green For All

Want to create nearly 1.9 million American jobs and add $265 billion to the economy? Upgrade our water and wastewater infrastructure. That's the message of a new report released Oct. 4 by Green For All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute. The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided funding for the project.

Every year, sewage overflows dump 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our water systems—enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep. But investment in our nation's infrastructure to handle stormwater and wastewater has lagged, falling by one-third since its 1975 peak.

The report—Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment—looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure—the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. That investment would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.

Further, the report notes that this is the best moment to make the investment. With the recession creating a shortfall of 11.1 million jobs that would be needed to keep pace with the population and 9.1 percent unemployment, these jobs are critically needed. Moreover, the cost of financing these essential upgrades is at historic lows, and the still-struggling economy means much cheaper construction costs. Investing in green infrastructure approaches that more closely mimic natural systems is part of the solution, and further provides the additional benefits of reducing pollution of creeks and other waterways, saving energy and increasing green space in urban areas.

"Cleaning our environment and putting people to work has always been the value proposition of the green economy," said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All. "This report demonstrates that there's a massive opportunity to ensure clean water, improve the economy and put people—particularly low-income workers—back to work."

"Our nation's water and wastewater systems are deteriorating, with impacts on human and environmental health," said Eli Moore, co-director of the Pacific Institute Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice Program. "Investing in these systems can promote the long-term sustainability of our precious water resources."

"America's failing infrastructure has a direct impact on clean water, river health and communities," said Gary Belan of American Rivers. "By investing in smarter, more cost-effective water infrastructure that works with nature, not against it, we can improve the health of rivers and communities, and put people back to work in the process."

"The time for investment is now. Every day we wait adds additional cost to the economy and harm to the health and well-being of American families," said John Irons, research and policy director of Economic Policy Institute.

The full report is available here. Report authors are available to answer questions or provide additional information. To contact an author, please call Mary Creasman at (510) 663-6500 ext. 336.

For more information, click here.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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