Water shortages worsened by reservoir effects

Giuliano Di Baldassarre, Niko Wanders, Amir AghaKouchak, Linda Kuil, Sally Rangecroft, Ted I. E. Veldkamp, Margaret Garcia, Pieter R. van Oel, Korbinian Breinl & Anne F. Van Loon (2018). “Water shortages worsened by reservoir effects.” Nature Sustainability 1, 617–622. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0159-0

Abstract: The expansion of reservoirs to cope with droughts and water shortages is hotly debated in many places around the world. We argue that there are two counterintuitive dynamics that should be considered in this debate: supply–demand cycles and reservoir effects. Supply–demand cycles describe instances where increasing water supply enables higher water demand, which can quickly offset the initial benefits of reservoirs. Reservoir effects refer to cases where over-reliance on reservoirs increases vulnerability, and therefore increases the potential damage caused by droughts. Here we illustrate these counterintuitive dynamics with global and local examples, and discuss policy and research implications.

Optimization and mechanism studies on cell disruption and phosphorus recovery from microalgae with magnesium modified hydrochar in assisted hydrothermal system

Yaxin Deng, Tao Zhang, Brajendra K. Sharma, Haiyu Nie (2019). “Optimization and mechanism studies on cell disruption and phosphorus recovery from microalgae with magnesium modified hydrochar in assisted hydrothermal system.” Science of The Total Environment 646, 1140-1154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.369.

Abstract: Considering the phosphorus (P) reserve state and its value, recovery of P from microalgae has become a popular topic. In this study, an integrated system of a hydrothermal process for microalgae cell disruption to release P and magnesium modified hydrochar adsorption to capture P was set up. Emission scanning electron microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and Three-Dimensional Excitation Emission matrix spectroscopy with parallel factor analysis were applied to evaluate the P release process from microalgae and found the optimal breaking-wall condition (P release 90.5%, hydrothermal digestion mixture of H2O2 and NaOH at 348 K). Parallel factor analysis showed there was a close relationship between P and humic-like substance. Hydrochar loaded with magnesium exhibited a strong affinity for P, with maximum capacity 89.61 mg/g at 318 K. The P adsorption fitted pseudo-second-order kinetic and Langmuir models. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy were applied to reveal the mechanism of hydrochar modification and adsorption. It showed that Mg is loaded on the surface of hydrochar by electrostatic attraction and electron transfer with the carboxylic acid. P absorption was reached through anion exchange.
Keywords: Microalgae; Phosphorus; Cell disruption; Parallel factor analysis; Hydrochar adsorption

How congressional oversight can help address climate change

Read the full story at the Climate Law Blog.

Most people think of Congress as a legislative body. That’s of course understandable. But our experience has taught us that oversight can be as important as legislation. Simply by holding hearings, asking questions, and releasing information, Congress can have a major impact on national policy. In fact, oversight can be particularly influential in periods of divided government. When the new Congress convenes in January, oversight may be one of the best ways for a more progressive House of Representatives to advance its agenda – including advancing environmental and public health protections and taking action on climate change.

Better sustainability assessment of green buildings with high-frequency data

Yueming Qiu & Matthew E. Kahn (2018). “Better sustainability assessment of green buildings with high-frequency data.” Nature Sustainability 1, 642–649. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0169-y

Abstract: Reducing electricity consumption through green building certification is one key strategy for achieving environmental sustainability. Traditional assessments of the environmental benefits of green buildings rely on electricity consumption data at an aggregated level (such as monthly). Using such data can bias assessment results because marginal emissions factors vary throughout the day. We use panel data on hourly energy usage at the individual-building level from 2013–2016 in Arizona to provide a more accurate sustainability assessment for green buildings. For both Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings, our estimated savings suggest that the majority of electricity savings in summer happen during electric load system peak hours. The estimated hourly savings and hourly marginal emissions damages reveal additional environmental gains in green-certified buildings. We show that traditional methods that ignore the intra-day timing of savings can underestimate the environmental benefit of green commercial buildings by 95%. We also demonstrate that our findings can be generalized to a broader geographical context.

Turning marginal farmlands into a win for farmers and ecosystems

Read the full story at Phys.org.

Many farms have areas where the ground either floods or does not retain enough water or fertilizer for crops to thrive. Such marginal lands could become useful and potentially profitable if they are planted with perennial bioenergy crops such as shrub willow and switchgrass, report researchers this week at the annual meeting of The Geological Society of America in Indianapolis.

Circular water and the digital transformation

Watch the video at GreenBiz.

Today, water scarcity is so prevalent that many of our desired economic, social, and environmental goals are out of reach. If we continue to treat water as a disposable, consumable resource, a global crisis is imminent. But if we seize the circular economy opportunity – and leverage technology that already exists to drive better water management and stewardship – we can not only protect our single most important shared resource, we can ensure that businesses can grow to meet the increasing demands of the world for years to come.


Taxonomy, the science of naming things, is under threat

Read the full story at The Conversation.

Museums are cathedrals of science, but they are under threat worldwide as part of a malaise of undervaluing museum collections and the field of taxonomy, the science of naming biodiversity.

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the latest example. Te Papa confirmed a restructure in July, following leaked reports. Facing sustained backlash and disquiet in the science community, the museum announced an international review of its collections and has since scaled back its restructure plans.

But jobs remain on the line even though the review panel found the museum didn’t have enough staff to look after all of its collections.

Condensing vs. non-condensing boilers: What’s your opinion?

When working with customers, SEDAC frequently recommends purchasing a high-efficiency condensing boiler that modulates. These boilers can be over 20% more efficient than existing systems. Their Boilers Tech Note makes a strong case for replacing an antiquated boiler with a modern condensing unit.

However, they’ve noticed that not everyone is a fan of condensing boilers. They want to understand why some of you prefer condensing boilers while others do not.

Will you help them? Take this anonymous short survey about boiler preference. They will use what we learn to offer more helpful advice to our customers. They want to hear from building operators and facilities personnel.

A data toolbox for studying heatwaves

Read the full story in Nature.

A database that provides insights into current and past heatwaves – The Global Heatwave and Warm-spell Record (GHWR) – is published online this week in Scientific Data. The GHWR, which is available to researchers, will facilitate the study of heatwaves and their impact on humans and the environment.

Your Children’s Yellowstone Will Be Radically Different

Read the full story from the New York Times.

Over the next few decades of climate change, the country’s first national park will quite likely see increased fire, less forest, expanding grasslands, shallower, warmer waterways, and more invasive plants — all of which may alter how, and how many, animals move through the landscape. Ecosystems are always in flux, but climate change is transforming habitats so quickly that many plants and animals may not be able to adapt well or at all.