World’s river systems: Stressed OUT

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI) many, if not most of the world’s rivers are stressed. Determining a systems water stress is based upon measuring the ratio of total water withdrawals to the available renewable supplies within the catchment area. Rivers are an indispensible resource for our communities and ecosystems and we are hugely dependent upon them for agriculture, industry and our natural systems. A stressed river system can severely threaten regional water security and economic growth, and potentially contribute to political instability—especially in the absence of an adequate water-management plan.

Fix-a-Leak Week

According to WaterSense, an Environmental Protection Agency Partnership Program, household leaks waste more than a trillion gallons of water annually. Our urgency to conserve often depends upon what part of the country we live. But officials predict that at least 36 states that will experience some sort of water shortage.

Rooftop considerations amidst climate change

As the realities of climate change set in, so too are realizations that building technologies impact both internal and external environments. The percentage increase of asphalt and blacktopped roofs create urban heat islands. Resultantly cities have become earth's newest desserts exhibiting high temperatures and arid conditions with little vegetation. Urban expansion as a stand-alone factor (omitting greenhouse gas-induced climate change considerations) is expected to raise temperatures by roughly six degrees. Because of this, scientists are now exploring new technologies to cope with the new reality.

Sustainable urban lawns

Concern for the homogenization of America's urban landscape prompted a recent research study into the care and maintenance of residential landscapes. The study demonstrated fewer similarities than expected but the concern, according to researchers is that "Lawns not only cover a larger extent [of land] than any other irrigated 'crop' in the U.S., but are expected to expand in coming decades. The researchers go on to point out that the potential homogenization of residential lawn care has emerged as a major concern for carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and water flows."

Calculating your water footprint

Water scarcity affects 2.7 billion people worldwide for at least a month each year and in the same way that each of us has a carbon footprint, Professor Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands posits that every person also has a "water footprint". Our water footprint is calculated by counting the amount of fresh water that we each use daily and the amount of water required to produce the goods and services that we consume. Due in large part to our monthly water bill, we recognize our daily fresh water use more than we do the amount of water that it takes to produce other foods and products that we consume. We more commonly think about water consumption in terms daily showers dishwasher and sprinkler usage or dripping spigots.

Flood insurance hike temporarily suspended

As a follow on to last week's article about the agreement by the Senate to initiate debate to delay increases mandated by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, the Senate recently passed (67-32) the Menendez-Isakson Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act which will delay the Biggert-Waters Act until such time as FEMA can complete an affordability study, provide solutions to mitigate their effect and scientifically certify accuracy of the maps used to determine insurance rates on specific properties. According to FEMA, key provisions of the Biggert-Waters act required "the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders." These rate increases were to begin at the end of last year. The law was developed as a result of the inundation of insurance claims posted after Hurricane Katrina, which put the NFIP on the verge of bankruptcy. Further stress was added following Hurricane Sandy.

Solar Energy is cash and sunshine in your pocket

Is there money to be made on your roof? With the never-ending availability of sunshine and the evolution of solar technology many are recognizing the benefits of solar. The decision making process though is not for the faint of heart. Recognizing the difficulty in breaking through the process a company called Generaytor out of Tel Aviv has developed a free web-based app to show how much money can be saved and made with rooftop solar panels.

U.S. Coast Guard Polar Star to the Rescue!

Maritime drama in the Southern Ocean continues! Maritime rescue teams have been getting a great deal of practice lately; this time the U.S. Coast Guard is attempting the rescue of the Russian research ship, Akademik Shokalskiy and now the Chinese icebreaker, Xue Long aka Snow Dragon in Chinese.

Tracking tracks yields old story

Scientists in the UK have dated a set of footprints found in 1961 in the Chihuahuan desert in northeastern Mexico helping us understand the climate conditions in this area more than 7,000 years ago. The footprints were excavated while workman were building a road and placed in the Museo del Desierto in Saltillo, Coahuila. The age of the footprints piqued the interest of researchers at the John Moores University in Liverpool. In 2006 their curiosity yielded a second set of prints in a Cuatro Ciénegas quarry.

Stink Bugs: Friend or Foe

Stink bugs are fierce prehistoric looking bugs. Some are indeed quite fierce and others stink more than they bite! In many parts of the world including their native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is considered an agricultural pest. Yet other genera of stink bugs, specifically the Podisus nigrispinus (Dallas), are considered an important biological control agent for other insect pests in the cotton, soybean, tomato, corn, and kale fields.