The Food-Energy-Water Nexus Conference: 16th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment

January 19-12, 2016
Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Washington DC National AirportFor more information:

Addressing the interconnected systems involving food, water and energy is critical to achieving solutions to one of the most pressing issues facing our planet. The conference will address how to provide food, energy and water for a population of 9 billion by mid-century without overwhelming our environment. Join over 1,000 leaders in science, technology, government, business, civil society, and education to create strategies and initiatives that move policy into practice and transform ideas into action.

EDF’s Kate Zerrenner on the Energy-Water Nexus

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center has an interview with the EDF’s Kate Zerrenner about the relationship between energy, water, and climate change. Zerrenner will be a speaker at the upcoming Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards Ceremony in Chicago.

Toolset Helps Identify Key Water-Conservation Options

Read the full post from the Agricultural Research Service.

A free downloadable toolset geared towards helping conservation planners, landowners and researchers better manage runoff, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, while also supporting agricultural production is available. The new software toolset was developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)—USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.

Excess nutrients from watershed runoff, from sources that include farming, affect the ecological quality of aquatic environments. These excess nutrients can promote algal blooms in surface waters, and later the water’s oxygen may be consumed as bacteria feed on the algae. When oxygen depletion reaches levels where water no longer supports aquatic animals, the condition is called “hypoxia.”

The computer-based toolset, which was organized and led by ARS soil scientist Mark D. Tomer, is described in two papers that appear in the May-June 2015 issue of Journal of Environmental Quality. Tomer is with the ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa.

EPA sets limit for toxic pollutants released into waterways

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday imposed new standards for mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants that are discharged into the nation’s rivers and streams from steam electric power plants.

Adding More Plastic to Our Oceans Could Clean Them Up

Read the full story in Wired.

Chemist Abby Knight has created plastic microbeads that grab onto toxic metal in contaminated groundwater. She douses the balls in a dye to see how much metal they’ve absorbed.

Environmental engineer awarded MacArthur Genius Grant

Kartik Chandran is an environmental engineer integrating microbial ecology, molecular biology, and engineering to transform wastewater from a troublesome pollutant to a valuable resource. Traditional facilities for biologically treating wastewater remove pathogens, organic carbon, and nutrients (where necessary) through decades-old technology that requires vast amounts of energy and resources, releases harmful gases into the atmosphere, and leaves behind material that must be discarded. Chandran approaches wastewater treatment with the goal of producing useful resources such as fertilizers, chemicals, and energy sources, in addition to clean water, in a way that takes into account the climate, energy, and nutrient challenges we face today.

The key insight of Chandran’s research and applications thereof is that certain combinations of mixed microbial communities, similar to those that occur naturally, can be used to mitigate the harmful environmental impacts of wastewater and extract useful products. For example, Chandran has determined an optimal combination of microbes (and associated wastewater treatment technologies) to remove nitrogen from waste while minimizing the release of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. This approach also involves reduced chemical and energy inputs relative to traditional treatments and has the added benefit of preventing algal blooms downstream by maximizing nitrogen removal. More recently, using ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, Chandran has enabled the transformation of bio-generated methane gas into methanol, a chemical that is both easily transported and widely useful in industry (including the wastewater industry).

Chandran imaginatively tailors his solutions to be locally appropriate. In rural Ghana, in conjunction with his Engineers without Borders students, he has re-engineered source-separation toilets to both provide sanitation and recover nutrients for use in agriculture. In Kumasi, Ghana, he is testing the large-scale conversion of sludge into biofuel while also providing new training opportunities for local engineers and managers. Through his groundbreaking research and its practical applications, Chandran is demonstrating the hidden value of wastewater, conserving vital resources, and protecting public health.

Kartik Chandran received a B.S. (1995) from the Indian Institute of Technology at Roorkee (formerly, University of Roorkee) and a Ph.D. (1999) from the University of Connecticut. He was a senior technical specialist (2001–2004) with the private engineering firm Metcalf and Eddy of New York, Inc., before returning to academia as a research associate (2004–2005) at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Currently an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineeringat Columbia University, his work has been demonstrated in New York City and Ghana and has been published in such journals as PLoS ONE, Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Science & Technology, and Biotechnology and Bioengineering, among others.

Where water leaves the farm

Read the full story at CountryGuide.

In the chase for higher yields and improved production, farmers have tapped into everything from precision ag systems to a return to cover crops. Now comes a concept that might not only boost yields and enhance soil health, it might also alleviate some of the pressure on farmers that starts with surface run-off heading into the Great Lakes.