Daily

A Fracking Fiasco

A Fracking Fiasco

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Fracking, a fossil-fuel extraction technique in which drilling companies inject high-pressure liquids (frackwater) into the ground to break open rock formations containing oil or gas, is known to have detrimental effects on the environment. Frackwater can contain a myriad of chemicals including benzene and xylene as well as potentially dangerous  … Read More

Unprecedented Charges in Flint

Unprecedented Charges in Flint

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While I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to do my job well and report information accurately in my role as editor, when I mess up or fail to act, a comma is misplaced or a person’s name misspelled. It’s unfortunate, but nobody dies.

The charges recently brought against five Michigan  … Read More

Crops on Drugs

Crops on Drugs

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I learned recently that approximately 40% of the world’s food is cultivated in irrigated areas and that 10% of the world’s population consumes food irrigated with wastewater.

This realization made me wonder: how safe is it to irrigate crops with wastewater? And, after a bit of research, it appears that there  … Read More

Equipment Rental: Is Borrowing Best? – Part 1

Equipment Rental: Is Borrowing Best? – Part 1

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Since 1993, the equipment rental industry has more than doubled in size—from $11.2 billion to $22 billion. Just 10 years before that, equipment rental was a $1.1-billion industry.

Industry experts say that a combination of factors is responsible for this sizable boost, most notably the construction booms of the late 1980s  … Read More

Fueled by Flowers

Fueled by Flowers

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A field of golden sunflowers stretches along the Neuse River Greenway in Raleigh, North Carolina. Their faces shift, following the sun’s path overhead.  

“Right now it looks like a sea of gold,” Tim Woody, superintendent of the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility, told North Carolina Public Radio.

The flowers—one of several  … Read More

A Gradual Atlantis

A Gradual Atlantis

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Among researchers who study the potential effects of rising sea levels, and among the city planners in coastal areas who are actively trying to come up with viable plans for their communities, the idea of retreat is catching on. The alternative is to build physical defenses—costly sea walls, levees, or  … Read More

The Gift of Clean Water

The Gift of Clean Water

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It’s the season of giving and during the holidays, many of us celebrate by sharing gifts. A few years ago, I became interested in microlending while searching for a way to, in some small way, do a little global good. I thought I would share my personal experience here as a  … Read More

Duking It Out in Public

Duking It Out in Public

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Where do you stand on climate change? Is the issue settled? Do you think there are still some uncertainties to be cleared up?

Last week I wrote about a recent report on the science behind sea level rise; the authors of that report explain the models and data they’re using to  … Read More

Domino Effect: Diablo Canyon’s Decommissioning

Domino Effect: Diablo Canyon’s Decommissioning

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Nuclear generation makes up about 20% of the United States’ energy supply. While nuclear plants are in-line with current carbon-free environmental goals, positive attributes, such as grid stability and consistent base load are often overlooked. As a result, today, they are struggling to compete.

In May, at a US Department of  … Read More

When Will the Sun Set on Solar Subsidies?

When Will the Sun Set on Solar Subsidies?

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For the past several years, the solar industry has been on a tear. The aggressive tax incentive is set to step down  from 30% to 10% in 2016 before it goes away completely at the end of 2017. Some solar CEOs are lobbying for another extension of the Solar Investment Tax  … Read More

It’s Manslaughter

It’s Manslaughter

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Last week, as you’ve probably heard, five people in Michigan were charged with involuntary manslaughter for circumstances related to the Flint water crisis—specifically for their failure to sound the alert about increases in the number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease. It’s believed that pipes corroded by the city’s new source  … Read More

We’re at War and Most of Us Don’t Seem to Care

We’re at War and Most of Us Don’t Seem to Care

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Last Sunday’s New York Times article, “It’s No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car ‘Crashes’ Instead,” hit the nail on the head by suggesting that people, not some intergalactic demonic force, are responsible for all but 6% of the 38,000 roadway fatalities in 2015. What’s behind the 6% not  … Read More

Struggling to Serve a Thirsty Public

Struggling to Serve a Thirsty Public

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As utilities across America struggle to afford the repair of aging water infrastructure and climate change impacts water scarcity, the nation’s poor are simultaneously challenged to pay rising water bills. And this ever-expanding economic gap promises to present grave problems within the next decade.

Water rates across the nation are increasing.  … Read More

The Very Last Straw

The Very Last Straw

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Many cities and some states have banned single-use plastic shopping bags. The next item on the list? It could be the plastic drinking straw.

Cities and states that have banned plastic bags have done so for several reasons—they’re not biodegradable; they contribute to landfill waste—but one of the most-cited has been  … Read More

Efficient Effluent: Blending Wastewater for Ag Reuse

Efficient Effluent: Blending Wastewater for Ag Reuse

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It’s estimated that 70% of freshwater withdrawals worldwide are for agricultural use. Although some see recycled wastewater as a potential solution component to global water scarcity issues, the costs of treating wastewater—to remove contaminants, reduce crop-damaging salts, and to meet health standards for reuse—often present financial limitations.

A new economic model  … Read More

Some Random Facts About Water Harvesting

Some Random Facts About Water Harvesting

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In May 2016, the governor of Colorado signed a bill legalizing rain barrels. Before then, the capture and use of rainwater, even on so small a scale, was illegal in Colorado. It wasn’t the first time such a bill had been proposed—a similar effort failed last year—and the decision, hailed  … Read More

Brains, Brawn, and Bill Gates

Brains, Brawn, and Bill Gates

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“The current reality of smart cities is that there aren’t any,” asserts a recent Scientific American article. And it’s true. While there are a number of cities with “smart” elements, such as networked cameras and traffic signals or daylight-sensing streetlights, most of today’s smart cities are made up of smart  … Read More

Turning a Blind Eye: Sea Rise and the Air Force’s Billion-Dollar Project

Turning a Blind Eye: Sea Rise and the Air Force’s Billion-Dollar Project

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The Space Fence, a sophisticated surveillance system designed to improve the way the US Air Force identifies and tracks objects in space, is under construction and scheduled for operation by 2018. The radar installation addresses the growing problem of space debris, an issue that became reality in 2009 when a  … Read More

Trump Navigates Ambiguous Waters

Trump Navigates Ambiguous Waters

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What exactly does “navigable” mean? Vague definitions of which bodies of water are protected by federal agencies have confounded policy makers for decades. In 1972, the Clean Water Act gave federal authorities the power to regulate pollution in “navigable waters.” The job of determining which of those waters the policy  … Read More

The Battery Apocalypse

The Battery Apocalypse

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In the near-distant future, spent batteries could clutter the landscape. A primary focus of energy storage tech developers has been on engineering more power-dense and lighter weight lithium-ion batteries to power devices like laptops, cell phones, and electric vehicles. But it seems that little planning has gone into the product’s  … Read More

Sharks in the Sewer

Sharks in the Sewer

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Global sea levels are rising at an astonishing rate—a pace that increases with each climbing degree of warmth that our planet experiences. The inevitability of saltwater influx means that in the future, humans will have to rethink, rebuild, and relocate infrastructural systems, potable water sources, and in some cases entire  … Read More

How Much Regulation Is Too Much?

How Much Regulation Is Too Much?

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As many new presidential administrations do, Donald Trump’s is promising to take action on improving the country’s infrastructure. How fast it can move ahead might depend on which environmental and other regulations stay and which ones go.

This recent article from the Wall Street Journal titled “Speed Limits Await Infrastructure Spree” looks  … Read More

“It’s Not What a Leader Does, It’s What He Is”

“It’s Not What a Leader Does, It’s What He Is”

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For our March/April 2013 issue’s Editor’s Comments I wrote a piece on leadership that received not only the highest number of responses of any in all the magazine’s history, but was also picked up by other publications for reprinting. I regard why this was so as one of those mysteries  … Read More

Dick Townley—The Passing of Another GRCDA/SWANA Icon

Dick Townley—The Passing of Another GRCDA/SWANA Icon

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I, along with many of you, was saddened to learn of Dick Townley’s passing this past weekend. I know that he was a Californian and an expert at many things, a list that included laughing a lot, at the same time taking his longstanding role in waste management matters seriously. I  … Read More

Conversion and Recycling: Friends or Foes?

Conversion and Recycling: Friends or Foes?

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This is a question many have asked, particularly over the past decade as the concern for energy resources again reared its ugly head. Given the opposition to WTE by those claiming to speak on behalf of the “environmental community,” those favoring the development of alternative practices to accompany recycling efforts  … Read More

A Groundwater Glass Half-Full

A Groundwater Glass Half-Full

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Satellite radar measurements provided by interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR, can detect subtle, millimeter-scale changes in ground elevation as areas gain or lose groundwater. Researchers have recently utilized the technology to quantify the effects of California’s drought. And in an unexpected twist, they also detected shifts due to policy  … Read More

Flooding Fields for Aquifer Recharge

Flooding Fields for Aquifer Recharge

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During the recent drought, California farmers pumped so much groundwater that the water table dropped by 10 to 20 feet in some places, and up to 100 feet in others. Aquifers were depleted. Wells ran dry. And then, as if by some miracle, it rained.

This winter, storms have delivered rainfall  … Read More

Potential Threat: Antimicrobials

Potential Threat: Antimicrobials

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For the most part, antibiotics play a positive role in the modern world. They help combat infection and keep us healthy. However, antibiotics often find their way into water streams and wastewater treatment plants while still biologically active. And that’s a problem for a variety of reasons.  … Read More

Fukushima’s Decontamination Dilemma

Fukushima’s Decontamination Dilemma

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When a tsunami inundated Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant on March 11, 2011, it damaged the cooling systems of three reactors, causing a catastrophic nuclear disaster. Ever since the meltdown, authorities have wrestled with a monumental decision: what to do with more than 750,000 tons of water contaminated with a  … Read More

Energy in Every Droplet

Energy in Every Droplet

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The intersection of water and energy is an interface that in the water industry we often explore in terms of operational efficiencies, conservation policies, and cost perspectives. But on a micro scale, the water-energy nexus is encapsulated within a single molecule. And the research surrounding the separation of this molecule’s  … Read More

Tankless Water Heaters Are Here to Stay

Tankless Water Heaters Are Here to Stay

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When it’s time to replace a water heater—or put one into a newly constructed building—facility managers can choose between the traditional storage tank heater or a tankless water heater.

Tankless water heaters, also known as demand-type water heaters, can provide endless hot water only as it is needed and used, points  … Read More

How to Measure a Monster

How to Measure a Monster

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Children’s toys, broken electronics, fragments of plastic, and abandoned fishing nets. It sounds like a line from poet Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Things. But instead, it’s an account of the debris swirling between Hawaii and California in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) as observed by oceanographer Laurent Lebreton and  … Read More

Embracing Invasive Species

Embracing Invasive Species

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We’ve talked a lot on this website and in Erosion Control magazine about invasive species, from kudzu to the salt cedar beetle. Sometimes non-native species are introduced into an ecosystem deliberately: as ornamental plants, or vegetation used to shore up eroding hillsides, or animals and insects used as biological controls  … Read More

Groundwater for Google

Groundwater for Google

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Data centers use water for cooling hot servers and electrical equipment—an Olympic-sized swimming pool every two days, in fact, according to Data Center Dynamics.  

Air exiting electrical equipment is cooled by passing though an air/liquid heat exchanger. The liquid coolant picks up heat from the exchanger on its way to  … Read More

Landfill Economics: Getting Down to Business – Part 2

Landfill Economics: Getting Down to Business – Part 2

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Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the July/August 2005 issue of MSW Management. This series of three articles examines the costs involved in each stage of a generic landfill’s lifetime, shows how to do pro forma statements for profit and loss, and analyzes the tax and financial aspects  … Read More

Avoiding Overdraft

Avoiding Overdraft

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Many agricultural areas of the American West are reliant on groundwater withdrawals—and even more so in the face of drought. But many aquifers have become depleted or overdrafted over the years. And as temperatures rise with climate change and as droughts become more extreme, overdrafts are likely to increase.  To  … Read More

There Will Be Major Repercussions

There Will Be Major Repercussions

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China recently filed with the World Trade Organization its intent to ban the import of a number of scrap categories by the end of the year. We’re talking about mostly mixed paper and plastics along with scalings and other waste from the manufacturing of iron and steel. The filing states  … Read More

Foretelling a Post-Water Future

Foretelling a Post-Water Future

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It seems like a passage from Latin American fiction—a surreal scenario in which citizens awaken to find their country dry, and a mustached general rationing their water. But for citizens of La Paz, Bolivia, this is not a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel—it is their reality.

For eleven years, scientists like Edson  … Read More

“Unlawful Government Takings”

“Unlawful Government Takings”

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Among the many, many flooded homes in Houston after Hurricane Harvey are some for which the owners say the government is responsible. A group of homeowners is suing both the Army Corps of Engineers and the San Jacinto River Authority for releasing water from a reservoir—water, they say, that damaged  … Read More

Finger Pointing in Florida

Finger Pointing in Florida

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As gloppy, green cyanobacteria overtake southern Florida’s waterways, a debate has erupted over whom is to blame for the state’s algae bloom emergency.

It’s a perfect storm, really, and the sort of environmental nightmare that happens precisely when water management issues and inadequate infrastructure funding collide.  … Read More

NASA Earth’s City Lights: A World Lit by More Than Fire

NASA Earth’s City Lights: A World Lit by More Than Fire

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I was drawn to NASA’s wonderful Earth’s city lights mosaic more than two decades ago by the sheer beauty of the familiar, yet haunting, pattern showing the purposeful hand of human effort. As my computer’s wallpaper it has become a talisman of sorts, in much the same way I’ve come  … Read More

How to Clean a Cannon

How to Clean a Cannon

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The aquatic choreography of the Bellagio Hotel’s fountains is awe-inspiring. Water is sculpted into graceful formations and launched to unfathomable heights to produce a dynamic work of art.  Behind these elegant bursts of water is an elaborate masterpiece of hydraulic engineering—a system of high-tech pumps, piping, vessels, and compressors.

The  … Read More

The Flood Insurance Dilemma

The Flood Insurance Dilemma

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Here’s a quick quiz: which of the 50 states has the highest hidden flood risk? (Scroll down for the answer.)

You might guess Florida—I did—but that low-lying coastal state, in fact, comes in second. And although Florida does have the greatest overall flood risk, hidden risk is something different: it  … Read More

An Acre of Algae

An Acre of Algae

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It’s not quite as serious as the toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that cut off Toledo’s water supply a few years back, but it’s pretty dramatic nonetheless: A pond in Maine has an acre-sized blob of algae beneath its surface, and some local officials are calling the situation an  … Read More

CTs: Why, Where, What, and When (Number 1)

CTs: Why, Where, What, and When (Number 1)

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Last week’s 2016 Southern California Conversion Technology Conference (SCCTC) put on by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (LACDPW) focused on the need for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to rescind its exclusion from full diversion credit of thermochemical CTs for treating MSW feedstocks.  … Read More

Do We Really Care Where Our Stuff Goes?

Do We Really Care Where Our Stuff Goes?

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I do, so a question I’ve asked over the years is, “Why don’t municipalities make accurate accounting a contractual requirement?” To date, I’ve yet to receive an answer, which makes me wonder whether the public really give a darn. Perhaps the real question is whether I’m out of my proper  … Read More

A Serpentine Path: Tracing a River’s Regulation

A Serpentine Path: Tracing a River’s Regulation

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A GIS map of America’s rivers captivated me this week, offering the sort of arresting omniscience that puts entire systems in perspective. I gazed at the map’s colorful capillaries with wonder. To visualize a nation in terms of its interconnected waterways is illuminating.

Photo courtesy of Imgur  … Read More

140 Tons of Fat

140 Tons of Fat

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A colossal beast has overtaken the city of London, threatening its infrastructure and horrifying inhabitants. It’s a sinister, smelly beast of a sewer blockage lurking beneath city streets.

The Whitechapel fatburg, as the clog is called, is a concrete-like formation of fat, intermingled with disposable wipes, diapers, condoms, and feminine  … Read More