Let me introduce myself. I am a student at the University of Washington. I study soils, particularly the organic component of soils and am especially interested in biosolids. Yes, biosolids. I’m also eagerly awaiting my first child and occasionally my soils research takes the back burner as I try to weigh the benefits of disposable vs. cloth diapers. For this reason I thought I’d embrace parenting a little early and start the poop talk now, filling my first post with puns on soiled diapers and a sprinkling of evidence supporting water savings from cloth diapering.
But for now, I will spare you. After attending BioCycle’s West Coast Conference in San Diego, CA April 9-11, 2013, I thought we might all be better served if instead I reviewed some of the water quality and savings benefits of compost.
As Carol Collier mentioned in her recent blog post, virtual water is a hot topic these days—and so it was at BioCycle. In her keynote speech about food waste in America, Dana Gunders, of the Natural Resource Defense Council, highlighted the water savings that could be achieved from reducing our food waste.
Alarmingly, 40% of edible food in America is disposed of. This means 25% of all freshwater used to grow these crops is also wasted. On a more personal level, a thrown away hamburger equates to a 90-minute shower. You can get more details about food waste in Gunder’s full report: “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.” In the meantime, finish that burger.
But if you can’t manage the last bite, thankfully spoiled leftovers in the form of compost can help farmers save water too. In her presentation, “Monetizing Increased Resilience to Climate Stressors via Soil Amendments,” Dr. Sally Brown quantified the benefits of compost to crop production. While improved yields were an obvious first place to look, water savings from the use of compost, particularly in drier climates are astronomical. Compost added to topsoil improves soil porosity and reduces bulk density thus increasing infiltration. Once the water is in the soil, organic matter graces the farmer with the extra benefit of holding onto water allowing plants to access the water for longer periods of time.
Dr. Brown reported that in a literature review, www.recycledorganics.org found water savings of 30-50% in orchards where compost is surface applied as mulch. In another study considering compost application in a Washington State cherry orchards, water savings were calculated at 0.8 acre ft of water per acre. If this were extended to all 35,000 acres of cherry orchards in Washington State, the savings would be enough water to supply the City of Seattle.
But compost isn’t just good at saving water; it can also improve water quality. From composting blankets along highways to rain garden soil mixes that maximize the removal of metals and breakdown of organic chemicals, compost and water quality are intimately connected. For example, preliminary results from research I presented at the conference demonstrates that a bioswale soil mix of 40% compost to 60% sand can improve removal of Cu and Zn from stormwater. Removal efficiencies for soil columns leached with 1ppm Cu and Zn removed 85-92% of Cu and 50-63% Zn depending on treatment. When water treatment residuals were added to mixes to prevent phosphorus leaching, efficiencies were as high as 98% and 75% respectively.
While it is easy to recognize the benefits of compost to water conservation and quality, production is a limiting factor in achieving the full benefits of our organic resources. As reported in Dr. Brown’s presentation, currently, there is only enough compost produced from biosolids and food/yard waste to amend 0.3% of arable land in the U.S. Yet the EPA reports only 3% of food waste in the U.S. was composted in 2010. With such important benefits, why are we throwing any of it away?
Katrina Mendrey is a student at the University of Washington studying soils, particularly the organic component of soils and is especially interested in biosolids.
April 12, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
Leave a Comment
Unpleasant weekend for many in the USA and some overseas – USA Federal income taxes must be submitted electronically or postmarked by 11:59 PM, 15 April.
Nice phone call from Cynthia Barnett today. Always enjoy our chats.
Our inaugural (9 April) IWRM Webinar went well; next one is 26 April.
Enjoy this week’s water news summary!
“Democracy is mob rule with income taxes.” – Gloria Steinem
April 11, 2013 | Posted by cmccrehin
Carol Collier, AWRA President
Happy Spring! While Spring is usually a wetter time of year, it is good time to start thinking about how we can conserve water during the hotter, drier summer months. So much of our increased water consumption is tied to outdoor water use – agriculture irrigation, lawns and gardens, filling pools, etc. How many times have you seen sprinkler systems on timers that are pushing out streams of water even when it’s raining! There is a lot we can do to reduce our summertime usage.
Aspects of water conservation go way beyond good irrigation and lawn watering practices. Can we increase incentives for the use of low flow shower heads and low flush toilets? New York City has had a strong conservation plan in place for many years.
Does your water purveyor provide an easy to read account of the water used during a billing period? My water company provides a bar chart showing the amount of water my husband and I used each month. This not only is a good way to see the changes in use during different seasons, but just seeing the numbers so clearly displayed provides us with a challenge to use less the next month. Water purveyors also can significantly reduce water loss due to leaking pipes. Based on a program developed by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), many cities and states are encouraging or requiring water loss audits. My organization, DRBC, has such a requirement in place for large water users in the basin.
There is another aspect of water use that is getting more attention – virtual water. How much water is used in the growing or manufacturing of products that you use? While there are a number of websites that discuss this, I recently saw a poster developed by Lochness Water Gardens and Creative Commons entitled “So You want to Save Water?” which lists a number items and the amount of water used in their development. They then give options to reduce your impact. For instance switching from coffee to tea can save 10,950 gallons a year. Totally switching from eating beef to vegetables can save 95,193 gallons/year. Here’s one you might like – switching from milk to beer can save 15,582 gallons /year! I’m not advocating you make these changes, (I don’t think I can ever give up coffee!), but the numbers do make you stop and think.
AWRA is one organization that does not look at water conservation in a vacuum, but as one tool in the tool box for water resources management. We need to look holistically at the supply and demand sides of the equation, as well as the whole groundwater/surface water system. This is especially true in light of changing precipitation and temperature patterns.
During the week of June 24, we will be addressing two important topics: Environmental Flows and Healthy Forests= Healthy Waters. These are hot topics in water resources management. Check out the details at www.AWRA.org. There is a discounted registration rate until May 1, 2013. Don’t miss out on the special field trip on Wednesday.
Hope to see you there!
April 5, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
Leave a Comment
Play ball! Major league baseball started this past week in the USA.
Join the club, guys!
From left to right: Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, and Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees.
Click here for the summary. Enjoy!
“The really frightening thing about middle age is the knowledge that you’ll grow out of it.” – Doris Day
McDaniel et al. conduct a flume study to quantify the effect and understand the transport of E. coli from directly deposited cattle manure.
Poppenga et al. look at LIDAR for updating mapped hydrography.
Bronner et al. assess U.S. stream compensatory mitigation policy.
Rosenquist et al. characterize river metabolism with several alternative methods developed with 120-day, long-term biochemical oxygen demand.
Meador assesses relationships between nutrient concentrations and fish nutrient tolerance relative to established nutrient criteria.
Hester et al. examine temperature surges for urban sources in a retention pond.
Qiao et al. employ the newly available Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) water storage data and water table data from well logs to reduce parameter uncertainty in SWAT calibration.
Podolak employs an ensemble of rule-based models to assess possible future braided river planform configurations for the Toklat River in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
Xie et al. examine the processes controlling the salinization of groundwater within the Datong Basin, China.
Mathon et al. evaluate the effectiveness of a generalized regression neural network (GRNN) to predict biological integrity using physical stream-reach assessment data.
Waite tests the application of an agricultural intensity index (AG-Index) and compares it among various invertebrate and algal metrics.
DISCUSSION: Water management under climate change uncertainty.
April 1, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
Leave a Comment
From the JAWRA blog:
Recent information indicates the natural flow in the Colorado River is much higher than USGS streamgages indicate. The discrepancy began when United Nations agents broke into a USGS field crew’s Blackhawk helicopter while it was parked outside a McDonald’s in Needles, California and copied one of USGS’s high-security gagehouse keys. Using replicas of the key, suicide squads of extraterrestials have been regularly breaking into gage houses at night to hold down the floats and manipulate the stage readings. You can see the unusual flow pattern in the accompanying figure.
Where does the “extra” water go? Indications are it is now moving through a 180-mile long tunnel, drilled in secret to Area 51 in Nevada. The tunnel replaces a previous system that placed water jugs on the backs of “wild” horses in a continuous pack train across the BLM lands. Repeated calls to somebody in charge could not confirm why the water is needed. Best guess is it is being stored in a massive underground reservoir, to be suddenly “found” when Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is implemented. This will cause IWRM appear to be an ideal solution for the region’s water woes, forcing us all into the servitude of cooperation. A dastardly plot indeed!
March 29, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
Leave a Comment
To my Christian and Jewish friends – best wishes for Easter and Passover, respectively.
Click here and enjoy!
“The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others.” – Unknown
March 27, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
Leave a Comment
On March 14, as I worked on a lecture for the final class of the Winter term, I did what I try to do: listen to NPR’s Morning Edition with Steve Inskeep. As usual, I was doing a bad job at each task: listening and writing. Then I heard Inskeep start talking about a woman who had been shot dead in Karachi – big surprise, right:
Gunmen killed a woman in Pakistan yesterday. The news stories about thiswere formulaic for Pakistan, she was killed in a customary manner by assassins on motorcycles who rolled away with impunity. What’s remarkable is the way she lived. Parveen Rehman came from Karachi, one of the world’s largest cities. She helped thousands of poor people obtain basic services.
The name ‘Parveen Rehman’ barely rang a bell. But as the story progressed, the bell became louder:
When I first met her in 2008, she told me she studied to become an architect, but doubted the value of the upscale buildings she learned to design. [Note: Inskeep had written about her in his recent book, Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi.]
PARVEEN REHMAN: So when I graduated, I was very confused. So I worked with a famous architect and I ran from the office without taking my case.
INSKEEP: You really had a job and you just walked out the office one day?
INSKEEP: What kind of work were you doing?
REHMAN: Designing a hotel and I didn’t understand what I was doing. And I said that since I don’t need such a lot of money, so do designing and waste my time on this, when I know that who was this serving.
INSKEEP: Rehman went to work instead for the Orangi Pilot Project, named after a zone where more than a million people live; mostly poor, mostly in illegally built houses, mostly beyond the reach of government services. [Note: she headed the OPP at the time of her murder.]
She became a protege of the organization’s founder, a man who encouraged poor people to help themselves – for example, by digging their own sewers or supporting schools.
‘Digging their own sewers” did it for me. I had met and spoken with Parveen Rehman at the Stockholm World Water Week meeting – 2005, I believe – where she gave a stirring talk about how she had flummoxed the Karachi powers-that-be and mobilized the poor people of Orangi to build sewers. I don’t think there was anyone in that auditorium who was not amazed and inspired by what this woman had accomplished. She took many questions.
When asked whether there were problems dealing with the strong anti-female culture (especially women in the professions) in Pakistan, she replied with a smile, “I didn’t have a problem.”
She mentioned one amusing incident. As an architect she was skilled at drafting and drawing. But she had little or no training in engineering, especially designing pipe systems. So she initiated a self-study program. After a while she felt confident and went to see the city office responsible for sewers. She was quickly dismissed as a ‘little girl’ but managed to see some engineers and explain her plan to bring sewers to Orangi. They were highly skeptical and about to blow her off when she pulled out her detailed plans for the sewer system, specifications and all. Their attitude promptly changed, and they realized with whom they were dealing. No more ‘little girl’ stuff!
I recall stopping her right after her talk and, among other things, asking her if she ever thought she might be in the USA where I could come up with the funds to get her to New Mexico to address the University and the community. She smiled and said she’d like that, but that she had so much work yet to do in Oranji. But she promised to think about it. We swapped a few emails after that, but we never ran across each other again. But I still would occasionally think about her and her work. I still wonder at all she and her ‘poor people’ accomplished.
Her killers? Likely assassins from one of the many groups that were threatened by her and all she accomplished. I’ll be surprised if her killers are caught, but this story has a lot of international interest so the police may actually investigate aggressively.
I thought today’s quote apropos. Parveen Rehman didn’t change the world, but did she ever create many ripples; tidal waves are more like it. And she enlisted many in her efforts. Will she be missed!
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa
March 24, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
Leave a Comment
Among the many new things I encountered at the recent Canadian Water Network’s conference, Connecting Water Resources 2013 was the World Economic Forum’s report,Global Risks 2013. Our banquet speaker, Erwann O. Michel-Kerjan, brought it to our attention. His group contributed to it.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report is developed from an annual survey of more than 1,000 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society who were asked to review a landscape of 50 global risks.
The global risk that respondents rated most likely to manifest over the next 10 years is severe income disparity, while the risk rated as having the highest impact if it were to manifest is major systemic financial failure. There are also two risks appearing in the top five of both impact and likelihood –chronic fiscal imbalances and water supply crisis (see Figure 4).
Unforeseen consequences of life science technologies was the biggest mover among global risks when assessing likelihood, while unforeseen negative consequences of regulation moved the most on the impact scale when comparing the result with last year’s (see Figure 5).
The report introduces three risk cases, based on an analysis of survey results, consultation with experts and further research. Each case represents an interesting constellation of global risks and explores their impact at the global and national levels. The three risk cases are: 1) Testing Economic and Environmental Resilience; 2) Digital Wildfires in an Interconnnected World; and 3) The Dangers of Hubris on Human Health.
Read the rest of the Executive Summary.
There is also a special report: Building National Resilience to Global Risks
How does this relate to water? Well, water crises are in there as a global risk, and as Michel-Kerjan emphasized, think ‘interdependencies’.
Oh, yeah – check out the ‘X-Factors‘.
Sweet dreams tonight!
“Water is not an entitlement; it’s a hard-earned right.” – Don Lowry, CEO, EPCOR
March 22, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
Leave a Comment
You’ll note I have a separate category devoted to the conference, and have included the Twitter hashtag #CWR2013. When you click on that link, you’ll be taken to a Twitter ‘bin’ that contains all Tweets – mine and others – pertaining to the conference.
It was an excellent meeting. Always enjoy heading north of the border.
Enjoy this week’s water news summary!
Happy World Water Day!
‘Courage to lead is a very rare commodity.’ – Don Lowry, CEO,EPCOR
“Take off, hoser!’ – Bob and Doug McKenzie