How the UN’s latest initiative could end the water crisis in 15 years

Read the full story from Reuters.

“Among the many things I learned as a President,” Nelson Mandela once said, “was the centrality of water in the social, political and economic affairs of the country, the continent and the world.” It is right therefore that water is at the heart of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework discussed last week by finance and development ministers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Water is pivotal to the economic development of many countries like China, India and Brazil, to the security of many water-stressed nations, and accounts for a significant proportion of the $5-7 trillion the UN says should be invested in infrastructure annually.

The troubling state of the world’s water security has come into clear focus over the last decade, and the challenge is urgent. Scientists forecast some 1.8 billion people will live with water scarcity by 2025. Pakistan for example has just one thousand cubic metres of water available per person this summer, a fifth of the amount at independence in 1949. This is not only the result of climate change and reduced rainfall. No significant reservoirs have been built in the country for more than forty years, during which its population has swelled by some 90 million people.

There are growing imbalances between supply and demand elsewhere, especially in fast-growing mega-cities like São Paolo, Lagos, New Delhi and Beijing. This disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable people, but there are also mounting problems in wealthy countries. Earlier this year, California was forced to mandate a 25 percent reduction in urban water consumption for the first time. Again, this was not only due to drought. Extraction from private groundwater wells is in some parts depleting reserves faster than the replacement rate. Other intensively farmed areas, such as the Indus Valley and the North China Plain, face similar difficulties.

Sustainable Development Goal number 6 aims to bring together public, voluntary and private sector expertise and capital around the world to address these challenges. The aim is simple and ambitious: to secure universal access to water and sanitation in the next 15 years, and to manage these sustainably. Having its own specific goal reflects increased status for water since Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, launched the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in 2000. Today improvements in water are seen to deliver numerous other social and economic benefits.


Solar farm construction begins on UI campus

Read the full story in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette.

After several years of design and delay, construction has finally begun on a new “solar farm” at the University of Illinois.


Mimicking Butterfly Wings Can Improve Efficiency of Solar Energy Systems

Via Yale’s e360 Digest.

Solar-concentrating photovoltaic systems can produce nearly 50 percent more power by mimicking the V-shaped wing formation certain butterflies exhibit before take-off, say researchers at the University of Exeter. The cabbage white butterfly warms its muscles before flight by placing its wings in the shape of a “V” to maximize the concentration of solar energy onto its thorax. This behavior, known as reflectance basking, increases the butterfly’s thorax temperature by roughly 13 degrees F compared to flat wings, the researchers found. When reflective panels are arranged around a concentrating photovoltaic system in the same way, this wing-like configuration increases the power-to-weight ratio of the solar energy system by 17-fold, making it vastly more efficient, the researchers explain in the journal Scientific Reports. The team showed that replicating the single layer of highly reflective scale cells found in the butterfly wings could also improve power-to-weight ratios of solar concentrators.

Job announcements: Two EPA internships available

GIS Analyses of Wetlands and Streams–Research Participation Program (Post-MS internship)

A postgraduate participant project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), Region 4 office in Atlanta, GA. The research participant will serve in the Ocean, Wetlands and Streams Protection Branch (OWSPB) of the Water Protection Division.

The OWSPB manages and conducts key wetlands, coastal, and ocean activities under the Clean Water Act Section 404, the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) Sections 102 and 103 and the Ocean Dumping Program, the Section 403 Ocean Discharge Program and the Section 312 Marine Sanitation Device Program. The OWSPB provides regional expertise in stream and wetland restoration and mitigation, manages and implements marine and wetlands regulatory and restoration related issues and grants associated with numerous interagency/stakeholder workgroups, committees, and task forces.

This project will provide the participant with training and experience in: GIS analyses of wetlands and streams based on landscape position, ecosystem processes, ecological significance, wetness, soils, and physical disturbance; development of a searchable index of the Wetland Program Development Grants database that improves the ability of EPA programs to locate grant products; perform specific geospatial analysis for certain locations where ground-truth data exists for validation; and complete field work to obtain ground truth data.

Water Quality Standards Uses, Antidegradation and Variances Research  Participation Program, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Post-Bachelor’s internship)


A postgraduate internship project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water in Washington, DC. The internship will be served with the Office   of Science and Technology (OST) in the Standards & Health Protection Division.

The Standards and Health Protection Division directs the national water programs for water quality standards and advisories for safe fishing and swimming.  The intern will be trained in the Division’s National Branch (NB), one of the two branches that work on water quality standards.

This project will involve science, policy, and analysis on water quality standards program issues that have national implications, particularly those pertaining to uses for surface waters, antidegradation and Water Quality Standard (WQS) variances. This would include research and development of pertinent technical and policy materials.

Four things to know about global warming

Read the full story at CNN.

On Monday the Obama administration will make its first public pitch for an elaborate long-range plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s coal-burning power plants. The Clean Power Plan is the final version of regulations outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency. The President called the initiative “the biggest most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change,” in a Facebook video announcing the program over the weekend.

Learn more about the plan that has long been a stated goal of the administration.

Webinar: Life Cycle Assessment as a Green Chemistry Tool

Tue, Sep 1, 2015 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CDT
Register at

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), is a complex tool that is becoming increasingly common in regulations, standards, and within sustainability programs. Although LCA is a robust and credible way to assess environmental impact, care must be taken when conducting an LCA to ensure that its results are accurate and actionable. This presentation will provide a brief overview on LCA and discuss how it can be utilized successfully as a sustainability tool, especially in regards to green chemistry.

‘Human Resources,’ Season 2 (or How TerraCycle Hopes to Pave the Way for ‘Green’ on Reality TV)

Read the full story at Sustainable Brands.

“Human Resources” brings viewers behind the scenes and into the fast-moving environment of the TerraCycle office, following our efforts to develop new recycling models, create new products out of waste, and roll out new programs across the country. We realized that a precious balance would have to be maintained to keep the show fun and entertaining, yet valuable enough that our underlying message wasn’t lost in translation. The result is a fun, dynamic look into TerraCycle’s corporate culture, following various TerraCycle employees and the struggles and successes they encounter at a young, mission-driven company from Trenton, NJ.


Ghost Town Emerges As Drought Makes Nevada’s Lake Mead Disappear

Read the full story in the Huffington Post.

Lest anyone forget, the drought in California and across the Southwest is still raging on. And one of the places where its effects can be observed most clearly is Nevada’s Lake Mead.

The nation’s largest reservoir has hit a series of troubling milestones over the past year, sinking to a record low in late June. Now, in the latest benchmark for the new Lake Mead, a town that flooded shortly after the completion of the Hoover Dam in 1938 has literally risen from the depths.

Young Conservatives Press G.O.P. Presidential Debaters to Wise Up on Energy

Read the full story at DotEarth.

A few hundred yards from the Cleveland arena where Fox News has invited the top-ranked Republican presidential candidates to debate tonight, several hundred young conservatives will gather for an unusual party — “an epic Republican evening” celebrating and promoting energy policy reforms that are anathema to most of those who’ll be onstage.

These include ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, boosting energy efficiency, advancing renewable sources like wind and solar power and moving away from the idea that “drill baby, drill” is a solution.

Designing for a world without water

Read the full story at Medium.

Nature knows more than we do about extreme constraints. What can we learn from it?