Water

Parched California Pours Mega-Millions Into Desalination

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 17, 2014   View Article

Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state.

Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people.

Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water.

No water, no beer: brewers race to save the ales

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 3, 2013   View Article

As water becomes increasingly scarce on our ever more crowded and warming planet, brewers of beer are racing to secure a steady supply of their most prized ingredient by using less of it.

“Without water, there is no beer,” Kim Marotta, the sustainability director for MillerCoors, the Chicago-based joint venture of international brewing giants SABMiller and Molson Coors, told NBC News.

Like many in the brewing industry, MillerCoors understands that access to water of the quantity and quality it needs to grow barley and hops and brew beer is no longer a guarantee as population growth, water pollution and climate change threaten water resources.

Leaky Fukushima nuclear plant raises seafood poisoning concerns

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 20, 2013   View Article

The 300 tons of radioactive water leaked to date from a storage tank at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is raising new concerns about the safety of seafood from the region, according to scientists.

Highly contaminated water from the newly reported leak is seeping into the ground, officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company told reporters Tuesday. They do not believe the water has reached the ocean, given the distance of the tank from the harbor. Still, it is likely only a matter of time before it does, said William Burness, an oceanographer at Florida State University, who studies environmental radioactivity.

The concern is that the radioactive water leaking from the storage tanks will eventually end up in the ocean and contaminate the marine environment, in particular fish that people eat, Burnett told NBC News.

When it rains: Rising carbon emissions (finally) making world wetter, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 30, 2013   View Article

Keep the rain boots and slickers handy, suggests new research that indicates the world will get wetter as cities rein in air pollution from power plants, factories and cars.

Climate scientists thought global precipitation would rise in step with rising greenhouse gases that are warming the atmosphere, allowing it to hold more water. But that has not occurred, according to Peter Stott, a climate scientist with the Met Office Hadley Center in the United Kingdom.

Natural gas found in drinking water near fracked wells

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 24, 2013   View Article

Elevated levels of methane and other stray gases have been found in drinking water near natural gas wells in Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus shale region, according to new research. In the case of methane, concentrations were six times higher in some drinking water found within one kilometer of drilling operations.

“The bottom line is strong evidence for gas leaking into drinking water in some cases,” Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told NBC News. “We think the likeliest explanation is leaky wells,” he added.

Energy future may be swamped in fracking wastewater, scientists warn

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 16, 2013   View Article

The current boom in U.S. natural gas production from glassy shale rock formations is poised to usher in an era of energy independence and could bridge the gap between today’s fossil-fuel age and a clean-energy future. But that future may be swamped in a legacy of wastewater, a new study suggests.

Natural gas production is soaring thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that shoots several million gallons of water laced with chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart chunks of the glassy rock, freeing trapped gas to escape through cracks and fissures into wells.

An average of 10 percent of this water flows back to the surface within a few weeks of the frack job. The rest is absorbed by the surrounding rock and mixes with briny groundwater, explained Radisav Vidic, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh.

Whey cool: Dairy waste turned into electricity

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 15, 2013   View Article

Get a whiff of this: Milky rinse water flowing from Wisconsin cheese factories will soon be used to generate enough electricity for 3,000 homes, thanks to an innovative solution to a growing wastewater problem.

For years, the milky rinse water was spread on farmland as a low-grade fertilizer, but the practice was curtailed in the face of more stringent environmental regulations to limit runoff pollution, especially in the winter months when spraying on frozen ground was outlawed.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach