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World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times.

Water and sand are mixed and pumped into a well during a fracking simulation at the Marcellus Shale formation in Camptown, Pennsylvania. | BLOOMBERG

Crisis brewing across most of globe: U.N.

World energy use threatens water

REUTERS

OSLO – Rising demand for energy, from biofuels to shale gas, is a threat to freshwater supplies, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The report urged energy companies to do more to limit their use of water in everything from cooling coal-fired power plants to irrigation for crops grown to produce biofuels.

“Demand for energy and freshwater will increase significantly in the coming decades,” U.N. agencies said in the World Water Development Report. “This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions.”

By 2030, the world will need 40 percent more water and 50 percent more energy than now, the report said. Water is under pressure from factors such as a rising population, pollution and droughts, floods and heat waves linked to global warming.

Around the world, about 770 million of the world’s 7 billion people now lack access to safe drinking water, it said. And the energy sector accounts for about 15 percent of water withdrawals from sources such as rivers, lakes and aquifers.

“This interdependence calls for vastly improved cooperation” between water and energy, said UNESCO head Irina Bokova.

The report lamented the water sector’s lack of influence compared to what it called the “great political clout” of energy. March 22 is World Water Day in the U.N. calendar.

All energy production uses water, often as a coolant, it said. The least amount of water is used in wind and solar power, while heavy users include hydraulic fracking to produce shale gas or the extraction of oil from tar sands.

The report said that hydropower dams are sometimes built with little thought for other water users, and it urged caution about biofuels, partly because of water use required for irrigation.

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times.

Water and sand are mixed and pumped into a well during a fracking simulation at the Marcellus Shale formation in Camptown, Pennsylvania. | BLOOMBERG

Crisis brewing across most of globe: U.N.

World energy use threatens water

REUTERS

OSLO – Rising demand for energy, from biofuels to shale gas, is a threat to freshwater supplies, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The report urged energy companies to do more to limit their use of water in everything from cooling coal-fired power plants to irrigation for crops grown to produce biofuels.

“Demand for energy and freshwater will increase significantly in the coming decades,” U.N. agencies said in the World Water Development Report. “This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions.”

By 2030, the world will need 40 percent more water and 50 percent more energy than now, the report said. Water is under pressure from factors such as a rising population, pollution and droughts, floods and heat waves linked to global warming.

Around the world, about 770 million of the world’s 7 billion people now lack access to safe drinking water, it said. And the energy sector accounts for about 15 percent of water withdrawals from sources such as rivers, lakes and aquifers.

“This interdependence calls for vastly improved cooperation” between water and energy, said UNESCO head Irina Bokova.

The report lamented the water sector’s lack of influence compared to what it called the “great political clout” of energy. March 22 is World Water Day in the U.N. calendar.

All energy production uses water, often as a coolant, it said. The least amount of water is used in wind and solar power, while heavy users include hydraulic fracking to produce shale gas or the extraction of oil from tar sands.

The report said that hydropower dams are sometimes built with little thought for other water users, and it urged caution about biofuels, partly because of water use required for irrigation.

World faces 'water-energy' crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

The Radio Ecoshock Show: California Drought: Is this the big one?

The Radio Ecoshock Show: California Drought: Is this the big one?.

RADIO ECOSHOCK SPECIAL ON CALIFORNIA DROUGHT Despite recent rains, California’s reservoirs are near empty, snow-pack light, and groundwater depleted. Four experts on a drought that really started in 2006, impacts on economy, food, farming, and nature. Guests: Dr. Peter Gleick, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, David Schroeder, Dr. Reagan Waskom

http://tinyurl.com/lrqaxqe

THE CALIFORNIA DROUGHT IS NOT OVER!

Rainstorms finally arrived in California, after a 14 month drought with no significant rain. But the big reservoirs are still pitifully low, and snow pack is less than a quarter of normal. Hundreds of thousands of acres will not be planted, and food bills will likely go up in North America, and possibly around the world.

This is the Radio Ecoshock special on the California drought, as a case study of what we can expect in many parts of the Earth. I’ve lined up 4 experts all with something new for you.

Dr. Peter Gleick is a climate and water specialist who has been warning this could happen for years.

Dr. Reagan Waskom is another water and agriculture expert from Colorado.

We connect with boots-on-the ground water conservation specialist David Schroeder in Montclair, right on the edge of thirsty Los Angeles.

Finally, we get back to the big picture, as Professor Jay Famiglietti at University of California Irvine warns of depletion of the ground water under one of the world’s biggest food producing areas. That’s a trend all over the world, as we race toward peak water.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

PETER GLEICK: Is the drought climate change?

Our first guest is Dr. Peter Gleick. He’s president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, one of the world’s leading independent think tanks on water issues. Peter is also a scientist known around the world.

Peter introduced the term “Bellwether Drought” for this event. We know climate change threatens the water cycle. Scientists believe the wet areas (like the UK!) will get wetter, and the dry areas like California, will get dryer. So the dice are loaded for more droughts to occur in this major food producing area.

Dr. Gleick points out we could say this drought started in at least 2006. There have been several drier-than-normal years since then. Scientists have found records showing California has experienced droughts lasting more than a hundred years in the past, in the 1100’s for example.

So we may be asking if human-induced climate change has triggered this drought cycle. The causes of regional weather events are complex. We have ocean currents, natural cycles like El Nino and El Nina, and changes to the Jet Stream. All of those, especially the Jet Stream (as shown by the work of Jennifer Francis et al at Rutgers) can be influenced by climate change.

It’s a Bellwether event because whether or not we can nail down direct causation by climate disruption – it’s a sure test of what is likely during the coming decades. As in Australia, it is possible Euro-humans arrived in California during a cyclical wet spell that was bound to end. But have we hastened that process?

I also talk with Peter about desalination, it’s promises and obstacles. A new desalination plant has been build to feed the San Diego water system. But really, it’s so energy intensive and expensive that desalination cannot save the whole California agricultural system.

Peter Gleick is an influential scientist in many places. He talks about the global work his institute is involved in, and it’s heavy-duty stuff. It’s cool he Tweeted this program link out to his 11,000 plus followers.

You can download or listen to this 18 minute interview with Dr. Peter Gleick inCD Quality or Lo-Fi.

DR. JAY FAMIGLIETTI: Looking at the drought from space.

When the rains don’t fall in California, every one checks their wallet for rising food prices. But rain or not, cities and farmers are pumping out California groundwater at an alarming rate. Thanks to new satellite science, now we know how much of that unseen wealth has been depleted. It’s a problem for farmers and all humans all over the world, as we grab water stored over the ages, to keep us alive right now. At some point, the water runs out.

Dr. Jay Famiglietti is a Professor of Earth System Science, and Director of the Center for Hydrologic Modeling at the University of California, Irvine. He’s an expert’s expert.

When the federal government, and state agencies cut off water supplies, as they did just this past month, farmers don’t just roll over and die. All those who can start pumping up groundwater furiously. They’ve been doing that for decades, always at an increasing level. You may think ground water gets replenished with rains, but some of it was captured and contained over millions of years. When I have a glass of water in my village, that water is 100,000 years old.

So just like oil, ground water is a limited resource. When you run out, that’s it.

Amazing to tell, scientists can measure the rate of groundwater depletion in California from space. The twin GRACE satellites have shown the loss of mass in Greenland as the glaciers melt. Now scientists at the University of California Irvine report that California is setting new records for groundwater loss. The state is literally getting lighter.

Find out about the GRACE satellites here. Oh, and by the way, one of their top stories is the discovery that climate change is causing the Earth’s poles to migrate. Don’t believe that? Read about it here.

One result is the land starts to sink, once the water below is removed. That’s serious in the Sacramento delta, where so much of North America’s fruits and vegetables are grown. Once it goes too low, a rush of salt water, say from a storm surge, can take thousands and thousands of prime acres out of production.

Jay Familietti describes what we know. He says the average of prediction of when California will run out of groundwater at current rates is 60 years from now. After that, the glory days of big populations and big cities may be done. Some experts say it will come sooner than that.

That same story is being repeated, even worse, in countries like China and India. India is pumping out the water tables at an alarming rate. In both countries, as thousands of wells go dry, they drill deeper, and burn even more energy with bigger pumps, just to keep up. Some places are already out of water, and out of production.

Keep this story in mind as you build the big picture: peak groundwater. It’s coming.

By the way, I ask Dr. Famiglietti what happens to all the water we pump out for our fields and cities. Some of it goes into the ocean, to become salt water. The warmer atmosphere can hold 4% more water vapor already, since 1970, and that’s a huge amount. Other water ends up falling in those places that are already wet.

Don’t miss this 12 minute interview with Jay Famiglietti. It’s short but powerful. Listen or download in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Read a key article by Dr. Famiglietti “Epic California Drought and Groundwater: Where Do We Go From Here?“. And check out his LA Times Op-Ed from 2013, “California’s water house of cards“.

DR. REAGAN WASKOM – Feeding the western food supply

I was referred to Dr. Waskom by Michael Cohen of the Pacific Institute. Even though Waskom is the University of Colorado in Fort Collins, he’s one of the country’s wisemen when it comes to water supplies and our food system.

Reagan Waskom is the Director of the Colorado Water Institute, and Chair of the Colorado State University Water Center.

It turns out Colorado supplies much of the water to Southern California. We are not talking about the big food production areas, but more the heavy populations in places like Los Anglees. So what happens in Colorado matters a lot to California.

The good news is there is a heavy snow pack this year in Colorado. How useful that is depends on how fast the snow melt is, among other factors.

I ask Dr. Waskom what happens if California really is in a long-term drought. Could we replace all that food with farming somewhere else in the country?

Dr. Waskom has also been studying the big use of water by the fracking industry. We touch on that.

My final question is more personal: “You’ve taught a lot of students, and graduate students. Do you think young people are more disconnected from natural reality than when you were growing up?”

I learned a lot just talking with the man. You probably will too. Download this 17 minute interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

DAVID SCHROEDER on the ground outside of LA

I wanted to get you some reporting from right on the ground in southern California. Acting on a tip from a Radio Ecoshock listener, we’ve reached David Schroeder. He’s a Water Conservation Specialist with the Chino Basin Water District. That’s based in Montclair California, right on the edge of one of America’s biggest cities, Los Angeles.

We talk about where water for southern California comes from, and what to do when it doesn’t. Dave specializes in getting the public involved in tearing up grass to install natural vegetation, to use less water in the home, and so on. There isn’t much farming left in the south of the state. Now the challenge is huge cities and endless suburbs.

Dave lives in the mountains that used to be white with snow in winter, when I lived in L.A. many moons ago. No snow there this year he reports. That’s not good news for the coming fire season, for anything.

Download/listen to this 10 minute interview with David Schroeder in CD Quality

WRAP UP

That wraps up my Radio Ecoshock special on the California drought, 2014. I hope you learned, as I did, about where our water comes from, where it’s going, and the dangerous tightrope we walk trying to feed a growing world population during climate disruption.

Radio Ecoshock is provided free to more than 75 non-profit radio stations. I depend on your financial help to keep going. Find ways to support this program in this blog, and at the show archive and web site, ecoshock.org

I’m Alex Smith. As always, thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

Posted by at 5:37 PM

Millennium Ark: Hot News| How to avoid the coming food shortages…

Millennium Ark: Hot News.

50% of America’s fruits and veggies are grown in California and the Feds
are destroying their crops. What this means for you.

 

PREFACE: Only a small space is required to grow most fruits and veggies for a family. So Stan and I will scamper over to our local garden center this week and for additional organic compost to augment our Super Soil and get those growies growing! By the end of Summer our own compost piles should be ready to sustain the gardens hereafter. It just takes a little while to get there.Sunday, we planned out this year’s garden – including more than usual. Definitely making time for canning this year. Had the equipment, not the time. Since warmth – and dry (drat!) – are coming early this year to the West, Southwest and Southeast, it’s important to get our garden ready in February and seedlings sprouted and sunk in the ground by late March instead of late April – a full month ahead of normal. The most time-consuming aspect will getting the Super Soil pre-warmed as described in Garden Gold, which will only require a couple hours, so plants get a head start and beat this Summer’s killing heat.

These NOAA maps show the probability of temperatures exceeding the norm, so roughly 1/3 of the Country can get their veggies and fruits in early. Unfortunately, as 2014 progresses, a bunch of us will be sweating bullets living in tank tops and shorts.

Click on the different NOAA 3-month outlooks (under More POE Outlooks) on the left to see how temps are revving up hotter and earlier this year. It’s weird that after this blisteringly bitter cold winter, we have to think in terms of excessive heat, but that’s what extreme climate change is about and something Stan and I have warned would descend since 1995. Now that it’s here, everyone must act with fore-thought and planning. With what’s coming, every day counts. —Holly




February 24, 2014
Holly Deyo

TAN DROUGHT KILLING THE GOLDEN STATE

Government has lost its mind. It is no more evident than their decision last week to cut off water to America’s food basket. Squeezed by the worst-ever drought in the state’s history, California is dying of thirst. Crushing news was delivered to farmer’s that no water would be coming from the Federal government. This dreaded decision was compounded by the Sierra Mountains getting just 25% of normal snowpack. There is no water to replenish already dangerously low reservoirs, so no water for farmers.

Photo: Government shut off water in 2009 to California farms in a controversial effort to help threatened species. (NOAA) Now they shut off water to farmers because of low snowpack and rainfall. They can’t win.

Despite recent storms, it’s done nothing to alleviate the staggering dryness. California needs snow. Desperately. Down bursts can’t soak into parched, concrete-like soil so it rolls off, unused, into sewers and drainage ditches. Snowpack melts slowly and is easily funneled into reservoirs and sinks into land and eventually groundwater basins.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency 5 weeks ago and conditions have worsened since.

Farmers who thought this might be coming delayed planting crops. Some have given up altogether. Even late harvests, where possible, would be better than wasting the cost of fuel to run equipment, paying farm workers to work dying fields, paying for seeds that likely won’t survive summer – and have it all come to nothing. Over half a million acres won’t even be planted.

Not that anyone wants a business penalized, but golf courses will be allowed to waste water in the most extravagant method possible. What would you rather have: food on the table or 225,000 acres of lush golf links? The amount of water required to keep them verdant is staggering. Residential customers are already being warned to conserve and some cities have passed mandatory water restrictions. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that 17 communities are at risk of running dry.

Image: It’s clear from the image below that regions of California worst hit and in danger of running out of water are the prime food growing areas.
DROUGHT = SLOW DEATH

We saw this same scenario play out in Beulah, Colorado in 2002 – the year after Stan warned the Pine Drive Water District they needed vastly more water storage. They didn’t listen. The very next year when residents turned on their faucets, literally not a drop dripped. So dire was the situation, it made national news. It was a shock to have literally no water available.

Huge white plastic water storage tanks were hastily set up in front yards and water was trucked in weekly from Pueblo. Wells went completely dry and livestock were reluctantly sold off. It was either that or watch them die.

The next Spring when Stan and I drove around Beulah, the wildlife took your breath. Most telling were larger animals. Baby deer that survived were unbelievably scrawny. Their mothers’ ribs stuck out of their backs and sides from patchy coats like awkward jagged tree branches. Their faces were unhealthily gaunt, lit by haunted eyes. It was heartbreaking.

That was one small mountain community. Now we’re talking about an entire state facing extreme conditions. Heaven help them in the 2014 fire season, which for Californians, began January.
PROMISES, PROMISES

Last week Pres. Obama promised $100 million in livestock-disaster aid, but that doesn’t make water fall from the sky. This is less than a pittance when livestock and poultry alone gross nearly $10 billion in California.1 Instead farmers, like Beulah residents, will be forced to sell their animals. This is a calamity. We’re not talking about a few hundred head. On average, when drought conditions hammer down, like those in Texas a couple years ago, it takes at least 3 years to rebuild herds. This means further rising beef prices that we Americans are already experiencing. Just wait, it will get worse. I warned in 2010 what the Texas drought would do to beef prices in the next few coming years, and this story bears it out: Ground Beef Prices Have Skyrocketed, Here’s Why. The article warns to expect steak to double.

Three weeks ago news agencies reported that beef herds are the smallest since 1951 – and this didn’t factor in what will surely be a massive cattle sell-off in the Golden State.

Other crops feel it too. “Retail prices for tomatoes rose 10% in the 12 months through Jan. 31, and U.S. retail prices for beef, bacon, lettuce and broccoli have also risen at least 10% last year.”2 This hike came before farmers found out they won’t be getting water for crops and 8 million California farmland acres depend on federal and state irrigation.

MEGA-DROUGHT, MEGA-DISASTER

In a stunning report from Time Magazine, Bryan Walsh writes that scientists fear California’s dryness “could get much, much worse” bringing back the horrible era of mega-droughts. “These mega-droughts aren’t predictions. They’re history, albeit from a time well before California was the land of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And the thought that California and the rest of the modern West might have developed during what could turn out to be an unusually wet period is sobering. In 1930, a year before construction began on the Hoover Dam, just 5.6 million people lived in California. Today more than 38.2 million live in the largest state in the U.S., all of whom need water. California’s 80,500 farms and ranches produced crops and livestock worth $44.7 billion in 2012, but dry farming districts like the Central and Imperial Valleys would wither without irrigation.”3

Image: According to the Drought Monitor, 91% of California is in Severe to Exceptional Drought. For comparison, the rest of CONUS looks much better except Nevada and they don’t grow much of anything.

SQUEEZE PLAY

As one Millennium-Ark reader pointed out in an email last week, after the jump in beef prices, people will look to chicken, pork, fish and turkey. Chicken is already up though not as much as beef.  This will, in turn, drive up their costs and affect availability of these other meats. Keep in mind that California also produces all of these proteins plus lamb. Then consider this: Ag Specialists Warn of Higher Wheat Prices Due to Drought. It’s not just beef, weather is clobbering food from all angles. Rising Threat to Crops from Climate underscores it.

Not to be totally depressing, but remember to factor in possible health issues from the Corexit ridden fish and seafood in the Gulf courtesy of BP’s Deepwater Horizon debacle. Then there’s Fukushima Daiichi’s radiation affecting fish all up and down the West Coast.

Food production is not a national only issue. We export food around the world. In the grain arena, so does Argentina, Australia, Canada, the EU with India, Pakistan, Thailand, the U.S. and Viet Nam contributing to world rice production. Every – single – country is being hit with flood, heatwaves or drought.

Friends, serious climate issues are clobbering beef, grain, fruit and veggies – nearly all food – with unpleasant trickle-down repercussions coming. At this point, it doesn’t matter if it’s caused by geo-engineering, climate change (aka global warming), natural cycles or Sun-driven events. We must deal with the fallout and it’s coming fast.

If you think the beef and grain scenario is bad, check what’s happening in the fruit and veggie department.
CALIFORNIA’S GOLDEN BREAD BASKET

California grows half, HALF of America’s produce. Another 13% is exported4 around the world. California’s yearly produce is valued at more than $45 billion5. In the list below, out of some 400 different foods it grows for our Nation, California leads production for 79 of them. Out of these 79, California grows ALL of 14 crops (in bold). Keep in mind, this list is only 79 out of some 400 foods including sugar beets, mushrooms, oats, potatoes, cucumbers and many more.

Now scroll down to one very important item in the 4th column – Greenhouse Vegetables. These are the nicely potted vegetable, fruit and herb seedlings people purchase every year at building materials centers and nurseries around the Country. These are now at risk.

 

Crop and Livestock Commodities in Which California Leads the Nation6
Almonds
Apricots
Artichokes
Asparagus
Avocados
Beans, Dry Lima
Beans, Fresh Market Snap
Bedding/Garden Plants
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage, Chinese
Cabbage, Fresh Market
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chicory
Cotton, American Pima
Daikon
Dates
Eggplant
Escarole/Endive
Figs
Flowers, Bulbs
Flowers, Cut
Flowers, Potted Plants
Garlic
Grapes, Raisins
Grapes, Table
Grapes, Wine
Greens, Mustard
Hay, Alfalfa
Herbs
Kale
Kiwifruit
Kumquats
Lemons
Lettuce, Head
Lettuce, Leaf
Lettuce, Romaine
Limes
Mandarins & Mandarin Hybrids
Melons, Cantaloupe
Melons, Honeydew
Milk
Milk Goats
Nectarines
Nursery, Bedding Plants
Nursery Crops
Olives
Onions, Dry
Onions, Green
Parsley
Peaches, Clingstone
Peaches, Freestone
Pears, Bartlett
Peppers, Chile
Peppers, Bell
Persimmons
Pigeons and Squabs
Pistachios
Plums
Plums, Dried
Pluots
Pomegranates
Raspberries
Rice, Sweet
Safflower
Seed, Alfalfa
Seed, Bermuda Grass
Seed, Ladino Clover
Seed, Vegetable and Flower
Spinach
Strawberries
Tomatoes, Fresh Market
Tomatoes, Processing
Vegetables, Greenhouse **
Vegetables, Oriental
Walnuts
Wild Rice
California is the sole producer (99% or more) of foods and commodities in bold

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR SEEDS!

People who have never grown their garden plants from seed think it’s hard and jet down to retailers to buy what they want to grow. There’s nothing wrong with this; we’ve done it too. However, it is so much more economical – and fun – and easy – to start your own plants from seed.

For those who are interested in starting their seedlings this year, here are some practical reasons.

1) Most retailers don’t offer non-hybrid, non-GMO, open-pollinated and heirloom plants.

2) It saves a bunch of money in the long run.

3) Allows a head start on the growing season. Retailers normally have their veggies and fruits for sale on a predictable timetable not taking into account yearly climatic differences. It’s possible to lose weeks in the growing season.

4) Get what you want. Last spring, some plants we wanted, like romaine, NuMex chilies and red lettuce, sold out early. Due to the economy, some veggies were completely unavailable as they only stocked the most popular. Additionally, we noticed that Lowe’s and Home Depot didn’t carry as extensive a variety as they normally do.

5) Avoid greenhouse-borne diseases.

6) This is a fun project for kids and grandkids – a good educational tool so they see how plants make food from seed to table.


Assuming you see the need to get busy, this is the set-up we use.

Photo: From top left, clockwise: seed tray bottom, lights set into the plastic dome cover, seed tray, heating mat.

Seeds don’t need sunlight to sprout, but do need warmth around the clock. We set the Seedling Heat Mat on a 1″ piece of styrofoam. The foam both protects the tabletop and keeps the warmth from escaping out the bottom. The heat mat keeps the soil temperature consistent and 10-20 degrees warmer over room temperature air. They’re relatively inexpensive and really improve germination and seedling growth.

The bottom tray goes on top of the mat with the little seedling plastic pots set inside. Depending on how many seedlings are needed, it’s more economical to do these plastic pots in a sheet than peat pots. It’s cleanable and reusable. If you’re only going to start 20 or so plants, then peat pots save washing it out.

The Seedling Heat Mat  (9” x 19-1/2”) and lights are extra. Mats are about $20 and grow lights are about $21 each, but vary widely in price depending on retailer.

Then the clear plastic greenhouse dome cover sits on top with its edges resting on the sides of the bottom tray. Stan puts aluminum foil between the dome and the metal so it doesn’t turn the plastic an ugly yellow-brown. The yellowing problem we found out the hard way and ruined one dome. No place mentions this tip – and others – except in Garden Gold.

It’s important to get a greenhouse that has a high enough dome cover. Some kits’ covers are only about 2″ or 3″ tall. We use the Mondi 7″ dome (7-1/2” H x 11” W x 21-1/4” L) that sells for $4.60 and fits the 1020 tray. As the seedlings grow, if the lights become too close, they can burn tender leaves and suck the life out of tiny plants. Stan has even put in a set of 2″ or 3″ risers at each end between the dome and the bottom tray if the seedlings grew too tall. Risers can be made out of anything that’s not too heavy, just strong enough to support the dome and not break the bottom tray’s lip. The 1020 Tray runs $1.40 and the 72-cell propagation tray that fits perfectly inside is $9 for 10.

Photo: This is how it looks assembled – all ready for 72 seedlings waiting fill your food needs!

Some seed starter kits come without the plastic tops, but you need the dome to both hold the lights and keep moisture in. On top are two circles for moisture control. They can be opened or closed as needed.

Simply setting planted seeds in a window won’t provide enough light once the seedlings sprout. Plus, windows can get transmit cold, which can either delay or stop germination altogether and defeats the purpose of the heat mat.

Stan cut holes in the ends toward the top of the greenhouse dome and inserted 4 grow lights that are 2 feet long. We use Sun Blaster F24T5 24W HO lights. If you’re looking on-line for the best price, they are normally listed as “Sun Blaster T5 HO”. Gave a cursory look and the best price so far was at GroswersHouse.com:growershouse.com/sun-blaster-t5-ho-fluorescent-strip-light-2.

GETTING SEEDY

NOW is the time to purchase open pollinated, organic, non-genetically engineered seeds. When we ordered onion sets last week, I noticed there were already a few products on Seeds of Change that had sold out or were temporarily sold out. People are getting on the stick early this year!

You’ll get further savings from companies that offer seed in bulk. This is a smart purchase for the foods you love. We did this several years ago and now have our own seed bank.

Here are 4 great resources – ones we use – for open pollinated, heirloom seeds:


If they don’t have what you want, Garden Gold lists over 350 suppliers with their contact information and websites. You’ll spend less time hunting for open-pollinated seeds and supplies, which leaves you more time to get your plants going.

NO COLORADO DOPE, JUST THE STRAIGHT SKINNY

I’m no mystic, but do see what’s coming down. It will be hurtful – possibly signaling prophetic bells to remind of us of Revelation’s 3rd Seal. ALL of our food is being squeezed one way or another. Just after I placed that short note Sunday on our website about getting the garden going, within 15 minutes a dozen people wrote saying they feel that same pressing urgency.

For many fruits and veggies, you can greatly lessen the pain at the grocery store simply by starting (or continuing) your home gardens. While community gardens and farmer’s markets are preferable to depending on the grocery stores and getting ‘robbed’ at check out, it’s best to have fruits and veggies right in your own yard. As they say with precious metals, if it’s not in your hand you don’t own it. You can harvest so much in such little space by using the ancient Chinese technique of bio-intensive growing described in Garden Gold. You will have produce running out your ears. There will be enough to can or sell depending on your family size. Whatever method of gardening you choose, get your beds ready soon.

Now for the beef and other proteins dilemma, if you have a spare freezer, it would behoove you to stock up now before prices shoot up further. You would easily be money ahead to purchase a freezer and stock that baby till it’s ready to burst. Alternately, look at some freeze-dried meats. The last time we checked, the food price bump had not yet hit this industry. Why? Because they literally buy tons of meats at a time and process same until they nearly run out. Then they take the hit on food prices and pass it onto customers. However, we the grocery store consumer, feel every bump and tickle along the way. There is a window of opportunity here…

We caution you to buy from only reputable, long-established retailers. It’s questionable for some smaller outfits where they got their foods, especially if they are a new name. One company is selling food that was around at least since 1998 and has been repackaged to look new. This is a smaller, lesser-known company so stay with the power names for best freshness: Mountain House, Alpine Aire, Thrive (Shelf Reliance). Read What They Don’t Tell You About Storable Foods for more insight. Also check these reviews: Mountain HouseProvident Pantry / Emergency EssentialsShelf Reliance / ThriveWiseEFoods Direct.

Don’t miss my next article coming shortly: How to Start Your Own Seed Bank.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Holly Drennan Deyo is the author of three books: bestseller Dare To Prepare (4th ed.)Prudent Places USA (3rd ed.) and Garden Gold (2nd ed.) Please visit she and her husband’s website: standeyo.com and their FREE Preparedness site: DareToPrepare.com.

 


Sources:
1 A Look at California Agriculture, November 2012, agclassroom.org/kids/stats/california.pdf
California Farm Drought Crisis Deepens, By Andria Cheng, MarketWatch, Feb. 22, 2014; marketwatch.com/story/california-farm-drought-crisis-deepens-2014-02-22-16103424
3 California Drought: Water Supply Could Tighten in Mega Droughts, By Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine, Jan. 23, 2014; http://science.time.com/2014/01/23/hundred-years-of-dry-how-californias-drought-could-get-much-much-worse/
California Agricultural Exports, University of California Agricultural Issues Center, cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/PDFs/2013/Export.pdf
5 California Agricultural Statistics, http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/
6 California Agricultural Statistics 2012 Crop Year, USDA, pg. 1, nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/California_Ag_Statistics/Reports/2012cas-all.pdf

http://standeyo.com/NEWS/14_Food_Water/140223.CA.drought-food.impact.html

Thirst for water and energy: Challenge for regional cooperation

Thirst for water and energy: Challenge for regional cooperation.

Mushfiqur Rahman

AS the world’s population continues to grow, so does its thirst for water and energy. Unfortunately, not every nation is able to get an equitable share of the precious water and energy resources. If we look into the history of the prolonged Middle Eastern conflicts, we will see that many of them are related to access to water and energy. Patricia Wouters, professor of international water law at the University of Dundee in UK, considers that water scarcity is on the global agenda. She opined: “There is so much happening in the Middle East that a conflict over water could push everything over the edge.”
Demand for water in the emerging economies, including China and India, is expected to exceed supplies in less than 20 years. Although China, the most populous nation, possesses the fourth largest freshwater reserves in the world, it has the second lowest per capita water holdings. Experts feel that the rapidly developing China (the second largest economy of the world) is potentially facing the problem of water scarcity, which may challenge its economic growth. Water resource demand in India is expected to double and exceed 1.4 trillion cubic meters by 2050, while Pakistan faces the greatest water crunch with only around 1,000 cubic meters available per head per year.
Published statistics suggest that 40% of the global population and 145 states fall within 263 international river basins that account for 60% of global river flow. The World Bank says that global energy consumption will increase by 35% while water use for energy will go up 85% by 2035. For the first time last year, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook included a section on water, and warned that water constraints “can challenge the reliability of existing operations and the viability of proposed projects.”
It is interesting to note that there are alternative forms of energy, but there is no substitute for water. And, as the indispensible ingredient for life, it naturally becomes a source of power. According to InterAction Council (IAC) approximately 3,800 cubic kilometers of fresh water are drawn from lakes, rivers and wells globally every year. In 2025, world population is expected to reach about one billion, and to feed it agriculture will require another 1,000 cubic kilometers of water per year, equivalent to the annual flow of 20 Nile Rivers.
World Bank sources suggest that 70% of the world’s fresh water is currently used for agriculture purposes. As populations and economies grow, more water will be required for energy, industries and for urban systems. Prominent world leaders, including former US President Bill Clinton and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, warned that the looming water crisis threatens political stability and economic development in a number of developing nations, which has implications for global peace and stability. However, optimists tend to believe that conflicts over water right should stimulate cooperation among the countries.
South Asian countries are linked by trans-boundary rivers, many of which are bound by treaties. India and Pakistan share the Indus; India and Bangladesh share the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers; Nepal and India share Kosi, Mahakali and several others. Pakistan and Afghanistan share nine important rivers, including the Kabul River. Iran has more than 40 tributaries and rivers crossing into Iraq, while Turkey exerts tight control over the Tigris-Euphrates basin. Nine of the ten major rivers in South Asia emerge from Tibet. Almost all sources of energy, including many renewable ones, require large amounts of water to produce. India wants to expand its grid to the third of the rural population that has no access to power. The existing power production facilities in India are often criticised for their poor water management efficiency. A year ago, the state of Maharashtra had to shut down all six units of a 1,130 MW thermal power plant as the water in the dams fell to critically low levels.
And it is not only fossil fuel plants that need water for their cooling processes. Of the renewable sources, only wind power and photovoltaics use negligible amounts of water. Solar energy generation plants require large amount of water to keep the mirrors clean. The Guardian published a report on February 6 suggesting that lower water supply threatens electric energy generation in many countries in the world. The World Bank’s senior economist, Diego Rodriguez of the institute’s water unit, says: “In the US, several power plants have had to rein-in production due to low water flows or water temperatures too high to cool plant. France is periodically forced to cut back nuclear power production, and hydropower production in Sri Lanka, China and Brazil has been compromised by lower water levels caused by drought.”
Regional cooperation is essential if countries are to adapt to the growing need for resources, and to harness maximum benefits of the natural resources like energy and water for the people of the region. And for attaining the sustained cooperation and mutual sharing of benefits there is no other way but to understand each other’s concerns with water and energy resources, and share and work jointly to address them.

The writer is a mining engineer.

Published: 12:00 am Monday, February 24, 2014

Feds Withhold Water To California Farmers For First Time In 54 Years | Zero Hedge

Feds Withhold Water To California Farmers For First Time In 54 Years | Zero Hedge.

The US Bureau of Reclamation released its first outlook of the year and finds insufficient stock is available in California to release irrigation water for farmers. This is the first time in the 54 year history of the State Water Project. “If it’s not there, it’s just not there,” notes a Water Authority director adding that it’s going to be tough to find enough water, but farmers are hit hardest as “they’re all on pins and needles trying to figure out how they’re going to get through this.” Fields will go unplanted (supply lower mean food prices higher), or farmers will pay top dollar for water that’s on the market (and those costs can only be passed on via higher food prices).

 

Via AP,

Federal officials announced Friday that many California farmers caught in the state’s drought can expect to receive no irrigation water this year from a vast system of rivers, canals and reservoirs interlacing the state.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its first outlook of the year, saying that the agency will continue to monitor rain and snow fall, but the grim levels so far prove that the state is in the throes of one of its driest periods in recorded history.

Unless the year turns wet, many farmers can expect to receive no water from the federally run Central Valley Project.

… the state’s snowpack is at 29 percent of average for this time of year.

California officials who manage the State Water Project, the state’s other major water system, have already said they won’t be releasing any water for farmers, marking a first in its 54-year history.

“They’re all on pins and needles trying to figure out how they’re going to get through this,” Holman said, adding that Westland’s 700 farmers will choose to leave fields unplanted, draw water from wells or pay top dollar for water that’s on the market.

Farmers are hit hardest, but they’re not alone. Contractors that provide cities with water can expect to receive half of their usual amount, the Bureau said, and wildlife refuges that need water flows in rivers to protect endangered fish will receive 40 percent of their contracted supply.

Contractors that provide farmers with water and hold historic agreements giving them senior rights will receive 40 percent of their normal supplies. Some contracts date back over a century andguarantee that farmers will receive at least 75 percent of their water.

One of those is the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority in Los Banos that provides irrigation for 240,000 acres of farmland.

The Water Authority’s executive director Steve Chedester said farmers he serves understand that the reality of California’s drought means it’s going to be tough to find enough water for them. “They’re taking a very practical approach,” he said. “If it’s not there, it’s just not there.”

 

The Drought In Brazil Has Gotten So Bad That 142 Cities Are Now Rationing Water

The Drought In Brazil Has Gotten So Bad That 142 Cities Are Now Rationing Water.

 By Michael Snyder, on February 18th, 2014 

Drought - Photo by Bert KaufmannDid you know that the drought in Brazil is so bad that some neighborhoods are only being allowed to get water once every three days?  At this point, 142 Brazilian cities are rationing water and there does not appear to be much hope that this crippling drought is going to end any time soon.  Unfortunately, most Americans seem to be absolutely clueless about all of this.  In response to my recent article about how the unprecedented drought that is plaguing California right now could affect our food supply, one individual left a comment stating “if Califirnia can’t supply South America will. We got NAFTA.”  Apart from the fact that this person could not even spell “California” correctly, we also see a complete ignorance of what is going on in the rest of the planet.  The truth is that the largest country in South America (Brazil) is also experiencing an absolutely devastating drought at the moment.  They are going to have a very hard time just taking care of their own people for the foreseeable future.

And this horrendous drought in Brazil could potentially have a huge impact on the total global food supply.  As a recent RT article detailed, Brazil is the leading exporter in the world in a number of very important food categories…

Over 140 Brazilian cities have been pushed to ration water during the worst drought on record, according to a survey conducted by the country’s leading newspaper. Some neighborhoods only receive water once every three days.

Water is being rationed to nearly 6 million people living in a total of 142 cities across 11 states in Brazil, the world’s leading exporter of soybeans, coffee, orange juice, sugar and beef. Water supply companies told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that the country’s reservoirs, rivers and streams are the driest they have been in 20 years. A record heat wave could raise energy prices and damage crops.

Some neighborhoods in the city of Itu in Sao Paulo state (which accounts for one-quarter of Brazil’s population and one-third of its GDP), only receive water once every three days, for a total of 13 hours.

Are you starting to see what I mean?

This is serious.

The drought in North America also continues to get even worse.  According to an expert interviewed by National Geographic, this drought in the state of California “could last for 200 years or more”…

B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California at Berkeley, thinks that California needs to brace itself for a megadrought—one that could last for 200 years or more.

As a paleoclimatologist, Ingram takes the long view, examining tree rings and microorganisms in ocean sediment to identify temperatures and dry periods of the past millennium. Her work suggests that droughts are nothing new to California.

A drought of even 10 years would absolutely cripple this nation.  Already, the size of the total U.S. cattle herd is the smallest that it has been in 63 years and California farmers are going to let half a million acres sit idle this year because of the extremely dry conditions.  If this drought persists for several more years we will have an unprecedented crisis on our hands.

Unfortunately, there are signs that this current drought in California may be part of a larger trend.  I had never heard of “the Pacific Decadal Oscillation” before this week, but apparently it is a phenomenon that can cause droughts that last “for decades“…

Ingram and other paleoclimatologists have correlated several historic megadroughts with a shift in the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean that occurs every 20 to 30 years—something called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The PDO is similar to an El Nino event except it lasts for decades—as its name implies—whereas an El Nino event lasts 6 to 18 months. Cool phases of the PDO result in less precipitation because cooler sea temperatures bump the jet stream north, which in turn pushes off storms that would otherwise provide rain and snow to California. Ingram says entire lakes dried up in California following a cool phase of the PDO several thousand years ago.

And of course it isn’t just the western half of the country that is struggling with water supply problems.  In the Southeast, water has been a major political issue for quite some time

The drought-parched states of Georgia, Alabama and Florida are back at it — fighting for a slice of water rights in a decades-long water war that’s left all three thirsty for more.

The 24-year dispute is emblematic of an increasingly common economic problem facing cities and states across the country – the demand for water quickly outpacing the supply as spikes in population soak up resources.

Most of us that live in the United States are accustomed to having seemingly inexhaustible supplies of fresh water.  We use more fresh water per capita than anyone else on the planet, and most of us never even think twice about it.

Unfortunately, things are changing.  We are on the precipice of a great water crisis, and many Americans are going to be in for a very rude awakening.

And the frightening thing is that the U.S. is actually in much better shape than most of the rest of the world is when it comes to supplies of fresh water.  In some areas of the globe, a “water crisis” is already a daily reality.

We have heard that someday water is going to become the “new oil”, and we are starting to get to that point.  Life is simply not possible without water, and as global supplies of clean, fresh water dwindle it is inevitable that it is going to cause global tensions to rise.

So what do you think the solutions to these problems are?

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater by Roger Real Drouin: Yale Environment 360

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater by Roger Real Drouin: Yale Environment 360.

With hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas continuing to proliferate across the U.S., scientists and environmental activists are raising questions about whether millions of gallons of contaminated drilling fluids could be threatening water supplies and human health.

by roger real drouin

An hour south of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania’s Washington County, millions of gallons of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing wells are stored in large impoundment ponds and so-called “closed container” tanks. The wastewater is then piped to treatment plants, where it is cleaned up and discharged into streams; trucked to Ohio and pumped deep down injection wells; or reused in other fracking operations.

But tracking where the fracking wastewater from Washington County and sites across the United States ends up — and how much pollution it causes — is exceedingly difficult. In a study conducted last year, researchers from the environmental consulting firm, Downstream Strategies, attempted to trace fracking water — from water withdrawal to wastewater disposal — at

wastewater recycling facility

Roger Drouin
This mobile water recycling facility treats wastewater so it can be reused in other wells.

several wells in the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“We just couldn’t do it,” said Downstream Strategies staff scientist Meghan Betcher, citing a lack of good data and the wide range of disposal methods used by the industry. What the study did find was that gas companies use up to 4.3 million gallons of clean water to frack a single well in Pennsylvania, and that more than half of the wastewater is treated and discharged into surface waters such as rivers and streams.

Increasingly, the fracking boom in the Marcellus Shale and across the United States is leaving behind some big water worries — concerns that are only growing as shale gas development continues to expand. Pennsylvania, which has experienced a frenzied half-dozen years of hydraulic fracturing, is now the U.S.’s third-largest producer of natural gas. The Downstream Strategies report noted that from 2005 to 2012, Pennsylvania and West Virginia issued permits for nearly 9,000 natural gas wells that use hydraulic fracturing technology, which pumps a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals, and sand deep into shale formations to extract natural gas.

The vast volume of water needed to extract that natural gas, and the large amounts of wastewater generated during the process, is causing increasing concern among geochemists, biologists, engineers, and toxicologists.

Initially, worries about fracking and water pollution focused largely on leaks of drilling fluids and other contaminants from well casings, which could potentially pollute groundwater supplies. But with engineering improvements that have reinforced well casings and reduced pollution from that source, experts now say fracking’s real pollution danger comes from wastewater.

“I am more worried about wastewater management — handling, storing it, driving across the countryside with it,” said Monika Freyman, a senior manager of the water program at Ceres, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster sustainable practices in business and industry. Freyman spent months studying the effect of the industry on water resources. “It’s complicated,” she said. “There are a lot of different pathways wastewater can go.”

A Duke University study conducted last year showed that some of the Marcellus Shale wastewater, tainted by high levels of radioactivity, flows

The oil and gas industry’s ‘social license’ to use groundwater without limit may no longer be a given.

downstream into water sources for Pittsburgh and other cities, with uncertain health consequences.

The huge amount of fresh water used by the industry is also a concern. The Downstream Strategies report, funded by theRobert & Patricia Switzer Foundation, said that more than 80 percent of the water used in hydraulic fracturing in West Virginia is pulled directly from rivers and streams. Ninety-two percent of that water and drilling fluids remains deep underground, “completely removed from the hydraulic cycle,” the report said.

Only 8 percent of those fluids are recaptured, and Betcher’s research team found that because of inadequate state reporting requirements, the fate of 62 percent of that fracking waste is unknown.

Betcher and others note that Pennsylvania and West Virginia are water-rich states, but that in the arid western U.S. some of the nation’s most intense fracking activity is sucking up huge amounts of groundwater for oil and gas operations. In Texas, most of that groundwater is trucked to injection wells, where it is pumped deep underground and thus lost from the already-depleted water supply. Water shortages in Texas could well push companies to recycle more wastewater.

Freyman said that the oil and gas industry’s “social license” to use groundwater without limit in Texas is no longer a given, adding, “When there are restrictions put on homeowners, there is a bit more resentment at the industry’s use of groundwater.”

In California, the current drought will shape some of the upcoming debate over planned fracking. “There is a ton of interest because water is already a big issue in California,” said Dustin Mulvaney, an assistant professor of environmental studies at San Jose State University.

According to Betcher, millions of gallons of wastewater used in fracking comes back to the surface in three different forms: flowback fluid returns to the surface for up to a month after the mix of water, sand, and chemicals is forced into porous shale rock; brine continues to come back up after 30 days; and throughout the process drilling debris and fluids are mixed in with the wastewater.

Raina Rippel, director of the nonprofit Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project in Washington County — which has thesecond highest number of shale gas wells in Pennsylvania — worries most about the wastewater and potential health impacts from fracking compounds such as arsenic and chloride, as well as naturally-occurring

‘It is highly likely that more water is withdrawn and more waste generated than is known,’ says a report.

radioactive elements, such as radium, loosened during the fracking process.

Rippel points to instances where homes are sited downhill from impoundment ponds. “In some cases, the [Pennsylvania] DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] has been made aware of contamination,” Ripple said. “There are certainly more cases we don’t know of.” Ripple is also worried about the ability of newer, closed-container systems to securely store millions of gallons of wastewater. “It’s inevitable that a closed system can only hold so much,” she said.

Scott Perry, a deputy secretary of the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management, acknowledged that impoundment spills “have happened on some rare occasions,” especially at older impoundments called open “pits.”

The industry in Pennsylvania is making a shift to closed systems for holding wastewater before it is treated or shipped out of state. The companies still use large impoundment ponds to store wastewater, but the newer ponds meet stricter requirements enacted in 2012 mandating double-lined walls and spill detection, Perry said.

Wastewater storage, treatment and disposal, however, remains one of the Pennsylvania DEP’s “more significant environmental concerns” when it comes to fracking, Perry said. For that reason, regulators and inspectors have been “pushing the industry as far as anyone has” to improve its handling of wastewater and prevent spills, according to Perry. Industry officials say that rapidly improving treatment and storage technologies mean that the overwhelming majority of drilling operations do not discharge untreated or poorly treated wastewater.

While states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, working with industry, have improved reporting and data collection on fracking wastewater, the Downstream Strategies report said that “critical gaps persist,” adding, “It is highly likely that much more water is being withdrawn and more waste is being generated than is known.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has little oversight over fracking fluids and wastewater because a 2005 law exempts the industryfrom the Safe Drinking Water Act.

David Brown, a toxicologist at the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, said the close proximity of some wastewater sites to homes

New technology includes mobile filtration plants to filter the flowback of fracking fluids.

and schools is cause for concern, especially given the presence of radium and other pollutants in fracking wastewater. According to Brown, more than 50 families have called the center, or were referred by doctors, after experiencing rashes, gastrointestinal conditions, or other health concerns. After ruling out pre-existing conditions or symptoms triggered by other causes, Brown said, the center’s medical staff concluded that 17of the 50 cases may have been caused by exposure to pollutants.

According to Thomas Murphy, co-director of Pennsylvania State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, the “technology is improving” for wastewater storage and treatment. In addition, state regulations are changing and becoming more effective, Murphy said.

New industry technology includes mobile filtration plants designed to filter the flowback of fracking fluids. That’s becoming an industry “best practice,” said Joe Massaro, a field director with Energy In Depth, a group sponsored by the Independent Petroleum Association of America. For instance, a mobile wastewater treatment facility that Cabot Oil & Gas uses in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, treats wastewater in the field so it can be reused in nearby wells.

Massaro acknowledged some initial problems during the fracking rush, but says most companies drilling natural gas are focused on operating cleanly. “Dumping stuff down the [storm] drain, those guys should get the book thrown at them,” Massaro said, referring to an Ohio company charged with improper dumping last February. “That is not the case for the whole industry.”

A new wastewater treatment facility run by Eureka Resources in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, holds perhaps the most promise for cleaning tainted wastewater. The plant uses a more effective filtering process of distillation to burn off wastewater contaminants, according to Duke University biologist Robert B. Jackson. The newer distillation plants, however, have proven more energy intensive, and thus more expensive, and the Williamsport plant remains the only one of its kind operating in Pennsylvania. The EPA has cited the Eureka facility for air quality violations.

Industry officials say that as much as 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s fracking wastewater is either reused or treated before it is released back into

Levels of radium 200 times higher than normal were found in sediment downstream.

streams or other water sources. But while there have been improvements in storage and treatment technology, there hasn’t been “an overall industry solution for flowback in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” said Anthony Ingraffea, an engineering professor at Cornell University. “In Pennsylvania, disposal of wastewater has been and will remain a chronic problem because they produce it in very large quantities,” Ingraffea said.

Violations issued in Washington County, show the scale of the problem. In the last 12 months, Pennsylvania DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management found 27 violations in the county, of which 10 involved improper treatment or storage of fracking wastewater.

During testing from 2010 to 2012, Jackson and fellow Duke scientists made an alarming discovery at the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility, a disposal site on Blacklick Creek, which feeds into water sources for Pittsburgh and other cities. The researchers found that the facility did a poor job of filtering chloride and that levels of radium 200 times higher than normal were present in the sediment downstream, Jackson said. The plant had contributed about four-fifths of the downstream chloride content, and bromide was also found downstream, posing a possible health risk for drinking water, Jackson said.

The dangerous releases at the Josephine plant have ended. In May, 2013,Fluid Recovery Services, the facility’s operator, signed an agreement to stop accepting or discharging wastewater from Marcellus Shale wells until it installs technology to remove toxic and radioactive compounds.

But Freyman predicts that municipalities will begin legislating to keep fracking a safe distance from population centers and their water supplies, as Dallas, Texas has done. “There needs to be more discussion and more transparency before we as a society decide what the tradeoffs are and how to mitigate the risks,” she said.

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