Monday, August 18, 2014

Returning to Natural Gas?

In July I went to North California to see some family and I literally saw the effects of the water drought that’s occurring.  It not only causing unusable farmland, dead livestock and wildfire but it’s also causing higher electricity prices and rising greenhouse-gas emission.
98% of California is facing a drought and 10% is in a state of suffering in “exceptional drought!” The state has been in an official drought emergency since mid-January.
California relies heavily on the electricity generated from hydroelectric dams; hydro-power can provide anywhere from one-tenth to one-quarter of the electricity generated in the state.  But with the drought becoming even worst the entire effect of the dam system is becoming useless and expensive for everyone. 
Since the situation is getting to the point of no return, California is turning towards the Northwest to aide in their situation.  States like Washington, Oregon and Idaho are giving some of their hydroelectric power to California.  But unfortunately, this will not last for long because the precipitation is about half the normal level in these states.  This means that California is using more natural gas to aide in this drought society.
The question now, is the return back to natural gas inevitable or should there be stronger measures taken to make this situation more sustainable?  And can California provide us with an example to help change this natural disaster that is spreading throughout the world?

To read more references at:

Saving Water Beyond the Home

When we talk about saving water, a lot of our focus is on how much water we use directly in our homes, showering, doing laundry, or keeping our lawns green. But if we look at actual water consumption as a society, our personal water use is just a drop in the bucket -- less than 10% of national water consumption is for domestic and public use. Agriculture is the big culprit, going through about 80 billion gallons a day (total U.S. consumption is just under 110 billion gallons). But energy is gaining ground. While the agricultural sector as a whole is predicted to use less water in 2030, the energy sector looks to double its consumption. 

Image adapted from High Country News

So unless you run a power plant, it might seem like you can't do much to help with water scarcity. But in fact you can. Remember that previous blog post about virtual water? When you turn off the lights or opt for the energy efficient refrigerator, you are not only saving energy, you are saving the water it would have taken to create that energy. Similarly with the food products you bring home the less you throw away, the less virtual water your tossing out as well.

You can also take your understanding of virtual water a step further. Wind energy doesn't require water at all, while hydro-fracking for natural gas... well the clue's in the name. If you have options for your energy sources, choose ones that require less water for the same amount of energy. Here's a handy table to help. Get to know where your food comes from, and what water-saving practices the farmers use. Just like with many other environmental aspects, becoming a conscious consumer is a huge first step to truly creating a sustainable society.

Conserving Water in the Backyard: Simple Watering Tips

How do I Know When to, How to, and How Much?

     One struggle that us home gardeners often run into is knowing when to water the plants. Here are a few tips on when to garden to make watering most affective. Watering in the morning and the evening are the two best times of the day to water your plants. This is because, in most cases, the temperature is not at its peak and the plants have a chance to drink up the water. Obviously morning is the best because it is the coolest but the evening will work. During the higher temperature of the day, much of the water will evaporate before your plants get a chance to soak it up. It is also important to water near the roots at the base of the plant. Watering the leaves is wasteful because water cannot be soaked up through the leaves and will just evaporate quickly. It may also affect transpiration, the process in which plants draw water up their stems. How much do you water then? The best choice is to soak the plants, about a foot deep, once a week rather than a little every day. This encourages the roots to dig in deeper to find water, reducing susceptibility to water stress and week invasion. You can tell when your plants are suffering from water stress because they may seem droopy, the leaves may turn brownish, and/or the leaves and/or fruit may be shrunken.

Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed these four posts. My goal was to inspire people letting them know that simple changes can go a long way and it doesn't take much time, money, or effort. I'll leave you with one last article on general water conservation tips from a website I found very helpful.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How much does it cost to save?

We’ve talked a lot about saving water and how to save water but it might be interesting to know how much these products cost and how much they are really saving you.

Shower heads
Showering accounts for about 30% of a home’s total water consumption.  Changing your shower head is a great way to reduces this percentage.  You can get shower heads that flow rates start at 1.25 gallons per minute (the average amount is 5 GPM).  For a typical 10 minute shower you can use from 25 to 50 gallons of water!! Places like Home Depot or Lowes can at least provide you with something that makes 3 GPM.  The price ranges from $10.00 to $200.00.  So everyone can make this change!!

Lawn and Garden
Keeping your front yard watered is necessary for some neighborhoods.  There are plenty of ways to make sure that you're not wasting too much water.  You can use a soil moisture meter to determine the moisture level.  They run for about $15.00 to $150.00.  Also, there is another smart tool called the rainfall gauge that helps save water as well.  It measures the rainfall and helps you to adjust your watering practices so you don’t over water.  A great tool to save money!

Beginner Kits
You can also buy a basic water saving kit that informs you and your kids about the importance of saving water.  These kits come with simple effective products to reduce your annual utility bill to $118 (Electric Water Heater) and $85 (Gas Water Heater).  These kits can run from $20.00 to about $500.00.  It’s a great start to your water saving journey and find them on Amazon.

Water Conservation in a Rural Community India

Water Conservation has reached the attention of mainstream society of late. However, in some rural communities around the globe, water conservation has been a long standing practice. One such rural community happens to be in India,Kikruma a village nestled in a rain-shadowed area of Phek district of Nagaland. According to IndaWaterPortal, A century ago this community devised a unique and successful way to conserve this natural resource. According to the website the village centuries ago developed a process called ”Zabo” which translates to water impoundment. This technique uses catchments that capture the rain runoff from the mountains surrounding the village. The water then is transferred to ponds through a series of channels, which is allowed to pass through cattle yards where the flow picks up nutrients needed for soil development.  The water then flows to patty fields where is used to irrigate the village crops. The patty fields are also use to cultivate fish, which serve as additional sustenance and income for the village. Surprisingly according to the article this successful system has not been reproduced elsewhere and is attributed only to the village of Kikruma. For more information and additional stories please visit the article here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

7 Surprising Simple Ways to Conserve Water Everyday

Water conservation is becoming a hot topic of late. From a slew of new water conservation items such as low flush toilets, low flow shower heads, faucet aerators, among others. There also have been a slew of articles related to water conservation as well. As there should be, states that though the earth is 70 percent water, o
nly 1 to 2 percent of that water is currently available for drinking. Here is list of 7 surprising ways that an individual can do in their daily lives to help conserve this precious non-renewable resource.

1. When ordering in a restaurant only ask for water if you are going to drink it

2. If you use a dehumidifier reuse the water for plants and your lawn.

3. Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl instead of under a faucet.

4. Make sure outdoor hoses and faucets are without leaks and make sure sprinklers are watering your yard and not the street.

5.Throughout the day reuse your water drinking glass instead of washing right away.

6. Reuse your cooking water; for example as a stock for vegetable stews, or once it
cools water some indoors plants.

7. Learn the water footprint of your food, foods such as mangoes and beef uses more from farm to plate than chicken and nectarines, a little research can lead to better decisions at the grocery store.

some additional information:
Water Conservation Techniques That Make Every Drop Count
How to Go Green: Water
Did You Know Saving Water = Saving Electricity?
How You Can Save 60 Gallons of Water Today!
Set Your Green Home Priorities for Water Conservation

Brittany App and Where There Was Once Water

    Lake San Antonio : January, 2014 all rights belong to Brittany App Photography 
 As you may have heard through various news outlets California is in one of its deepest droughts in recorded history. That being said, there can be something lost through a news story. Information is gained and the public is made aware, yet what is the lasting effect of that awareness?  For someone that lets us say does not live in California, that individual may feel separated and unaffected by the trials that California is going through at this time. Or rather the issue can be placed in the back of the mind as you, I, or anyone for that matter goes about their daily lives.  When caring for family, jobs, and all the other facets of our modern lives sometimes water conservation be the last of our worries.
    Then there are those individuals who bring us closer to the issue at hand. Those individuals who allow us to see that challenges are present, in such a way which is both insightful and creates a call to action. California has one of these individuals in Brittany Anzel App. Ms. App is a gifted photographer based in California and has taken the cause of water conservation as her own. Through projects such as Cycle For Water, in which she cycled from coast to coast to raise money for the organization Water Aide, to her latest project: Where There Once Was Water, In which she uses photography to stunningly document the current crises in California. It is through the efforts of those such as Ms. App that provide the inspiration for positive change in all of us

Conserving Water in the Backyard: Drip Irrigation

What is Drip Irrigation?

If you have never used drip irrigation or have never heard of it, you should probably do some research and start using this technique! Studies show that good drip irrigation systems use 30%-50% less water than traditional watering methods. Not only will you be saving precious, fresh, clean water, you will be saving money and time.  A drip irrigation system delivers the water right to the base of the plant where the soil soaks up the water drip by drip. This way, water gets to the roots quickly and not much is wasted to evaporation off the leaves. Other than conserving water, drip irrigation doesn't flood the soil with water washing nutrients away and also gives less water to weeds as the system is build right around the plants you are targeting. Combine drip irrigation with mulch and you have one great system!

How do I set up a Drip Irrigation System

There are many different options for drip irrigation; one of the simplest is probably soaker hoses. Soaker hoses hook right up to your other hoses and drip water throughout its length. Simply run the hose along the plants you want to water and turn on your water. If you just have a little vegetable garden, where plants are all in rows, soaker hoses are a perfect option for you. If you have a large garden or want to water all the plants in your backyard, a more sophisticated system might fit your needs a little better. These systems involve tubing, a filter, a pump, and many faucets that dispense water at chosen locations. You can find starter kits to get you going. There are many things you should look out for when designing a drip irrigation system. Doing a little research before setting one up is recommended. Here is a good article from This Old House.

Stay Tuned

Don't have the money or time to set up a drip irrigation system? Our next article will include simple watering tips to help your plants avoid water stress all while conserving that precious resource.

The Price of Water

In March of this year, Detroit, MI sent water shut-off notices to 46,000 homes within the city limits. The notices come as a result of failure to pay water fees, which city officials say people can afford but are choosing to avoid. In response, the UN stated that the massive shutoffs were an "affront to human rights." But this begs the question, is access to water a human right, and if so, who pays the costs?

And the costs are rising. In May, Circle of Blue released a study showing that the water fees across 30 U.S. cities increased an average of 33% since 2010. Detroit is actually one of those cities where costs haven't skyrocketed (although they have increased). The fees that are forcing the shutoffs are downright affordable when compared to places like Atlanta, San Francisco, or Seattle. Is it really reasonable to expect poorer residents of these cities to pay $150 a month for water? Especially when much of the cost is being driven by excessive water consumption by the affluent (think posh hotels with water statuary or huge swimming pools)? In the calculus of water rights, how do we decide who gets what, and who goes without?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nestle and Disputes over a Natural Resource

You may know Nestle from the delicious homemade cookies that you may or may not have made as a child.  For me making Nestle Toll House Cookies are some of my fondest memories that I have as a child. Yet there is something else that Nestle is known for and that is water. Nestle is the owner of such brands as Perrier, Poland Springs, Arrowhead, and Nestles’ own brand Nestle Pure Life. As of late Nestle has been in the spotlight concerning its bottled water operations. Of most note is the story concerning Nestles’ chairman and former CEO Peter Brabeck Letmathe purported statement that water is not a basic human right during a documentary in 2005, a statement which he claims has been taken out of context. Mr. Letmathe claims his statement was to address over-consumption by some while others suffered from lack of water and further that his remarks were taken out of context by the documentary. That being said this was not the last time that Nestles‘ water operations have reached the headlines. In a dispute that began in 2012 and continues today, according to various news sources such as Aljazeera America Nestle has come under fire during a battle for water rights in Fryeburg Maine. This dispute has claimed the positions of several public servants serving in Fryeburg. As well as disputes in drought stricken California where under the well-known bottled water company Arrowhead Nestles’ practices are coming under fire as a parched California is looking for ways to provide for its ever growing populations. No matter what your feelings about Nestle as a company, these stories are a signal, a signal that water is becoming a scarcer and scarcer resource, a resource that now more than ever is garnishing the attention of major news sources. We as a society need to pay attention.