H2lOw Flow: Saving Water Via a Low-Flow Showerhead

With the drought affecting over 60% of the US this year, lots of people are paying attention to water scarcity issues. In a warming world, there will be higher levels of evaporation. That means some places will encounter more arid conditions that will lead to drought.

Since water is a greenhouse gas, more water in the atmosphere means more warming. This is called a positive feedback loop.

Since the water can’t stay in the atmosphere, it comes down in the form of precipitation, often times a deluge, and many places will encounter an increase in flooding. When water comes down too fast, as with a flood, it’s hard to hold on to. So places that encounter flooding can still have water scarcity issues along with the devastation floods bring. Drought and flood are twin sisters in a climate changing planet.

Living in the high desert, I find people are hyper-aware of water scarcity issues but we don’t always do all we can to decrease our water usage. By lowering your water footprint, you save yourself money and become better prepared for the changes that the future will bring.

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A standard shower head delivers 5 gallons per minute of water (gpm) or more. Today’s low-flow showerheads have flow rates of less than 2.5 gpm. That means switching to a low-flow showerhead will save you 25 gallons of water for each 10-minute shower. So, for a family of four, showering once a day, you can save 100 gallons of water per day just by installing a new showerhead. This also saves on your water heating as it uses more energy to refill the tank and re-heat rather than just keeping the water at a constant temperature.

The filter I chose was the Rainshow’r Bernoulli Polished Chrome Shower Head. Made in America, the Bernoulli Showerhead incorporates the scientifically recognized Bernoulli principle of pressure changes in fluids at increasing flow rates. So in using half the amount of water, the Bernoulli gives you a full stream spray. What I really like about the Bernoulli showerhead was that you can connect it to a shower filter. For me this was the Rainshow’r CQ-1000-NH Dechlorinating Shower Filter.  So, I have the advantages of water savings as well as chlorine filtration-win/win. Price was about $25 each. Now you don’t have to feel guilty about finishing that song in the shower-just make it a short one.


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World Ocean Day- Water is Life

English: A Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata) r...

English: A Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata) resting on hard Acropora coral. Lighthouse, Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 8th is the day we set aside to honor the world’s oceans, because as Jean-Michel Cousteau reminds us in the below video, “water is life”.

It’s helpful to be reminded, but it is also sad. Sad that humanity has evolved to the point that it needs to remember that the consumer society that we participate in is killing our life support systems.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the oceans. From warming ocean temperatures that are bleaching coral reefs, to the accumulation of carbon dioxide which leads to acidification, to overfishing and pollution- both garbage and chemical; the oceans and their inhabitants have taken a lot of abuse from man.

So on this day designed to honor our oceans, here are some ways you can show you care everyday.

1.) Don’t use fertilizers or pesticides in your yard. If you must, use organic pest control methods or try  compost. Use those leaves and grass clippings. Fertilizers and pesticides run into rivers and streams when it rains. Rivers lead to oceans. As a result, vast dead zones have been created in our oceans. This run-off kills ocean life -both microscopic and mammals like manatees. If you are reading this post you probably don’t need to be reminded that if it’s strong enough to kill a manatee, you probably shouldn’t be putting it on your lawn.

2.) Don’t litter. Well that one is obvious so how about expanding on it for #3…

3.) Pick up litter. It’s not enough that you don’t litter, you’ve got to pick up all the litter that other people have created. If you live in a coastal area, get a group together and clean up your beaches. If you live somewhere else, clean up a water way, your school, or your neighborhood. In this life, it’s not enough not to add to the problem, you also have to be part of the solution.

4.) Use environmentally friendly household cleaning products.

5.) Buy products with less packaging and less plastic. Use reusable bags.

6.) Find out what your community is doing to ban plastic bags. We know it’s great that you don’t use them, but you need to get them out of your community all together to make a greater impact. Check out here to see what other communities are doing.

7.) Join a group like the Surfrider Foundation or the Ocean Conservancy or Green Cross International.

8.) Get active. Instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity, grab onto the ones that are around you now and help out in the present. You will be rewarded by a feeling of purpose and numerous friends who share the same goal of adding to the good. This sounds like the perfect reason to begin today.

 

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You Are What You Eat and What You Toss Comes Back to You

What goes into the oceans, eventually ends up back in you. As the big brained-mammal at the top of the food chain, we can’t expect to kill off  the bottom of the chain and still survive ourselves.

Surfrider  has a campaign called Rise above Plastics created by Pollinate.  This PSA campaign lends a strong visual to the truth that nothing is truly disposable, it may change form, but returns to us in one way or another.

Surfrider Foundation wants you to the Plastics Pledge on their website. By doing that you are pledging to:

– Use reusable bottles for water and other drinks. By using just one reusable bottle, you will keep 167 single-use plastic bottles from entering the environment.

– Use cloth bags for groceries and other purchases. For each reusable bag, you will save approximately 400 plastics from being used.

– Recycle the plastic bags and bottles you already have. For every thirteen plastic bags you don’t use, you will save enough petroleum to drive a car one mile.

We can go beyond this by working together to institute plastic bag bans in our cities like those in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. When Ireland placed a hefty tax on plastic bags, within weeks plastic bag usage dropped by 94%.

It is encouraging to see so many communities taking this issue up. Check out the progress at http://plasticbagbanreport.com/category/bans/.

What is your community doing about plastic bags?

 

 

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Your Carbon Footprint At the End of Your Fork

This week my son and I visited the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. As part of an exhibit entitled “Degrees of Change”, visitors can select items from a menu and calculate the carbon footprint of their meal. Ian had a great time checking out the footprint of various food items. A carbon-intensive meal is one that puts out over 2,000 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere. An individual might be surprised to find out that their yummy beef filet alone puts out 4000 grams of CO2.

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Vegetarianism seems to be on the decline of what is en vogue these days-with true foodies opting for “sustainable” meat options like “grass-fed” or “locally-raised” beef. But are these more earth-friendly meat options really sustainable for a planet already home to 7 billion humans? After all, we careen closer and closer to the tipping point for survival of so many species, biodiversity, and preservation of civilization itself.

We should also consider the hefty water component of our carnivorous cravings. According to Hoekstra and Chapagain (www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Hoekstra_and_Chapagain_2006.pdf -2006) it takes 2400 litres (over 600 gallons) of water to produce one hamburger. Modern humans are observing the rapid melt of glaciers and increasing evaporation due to warming temperatures. In a world that has only a 3% supply of fresh water, where ground water aquifers are pumped at a faster rate than Mother Nature can replenish them, and the pollution of existing water supplies due to extreme energy extraction is happening at almost warp speed, intelligent people should question, “is how I eat really sustainable?”.

There is no question that industrial agriculture has an enormous footprint and the existence of CAFOs with their great lakes of residual manure, even with a modern bio-energy converter, are not sustainable for the planet. Small farmers raising their cattle or chickens in a more holistic way, like that exemplified by Joel Salatin of Polyface farms, are far better for the health of the planet. But can the earth really support 7 billion or more humans eating a locally raised organic meat-intensive diet? That answer is probably “no”.

While this post is not advocating you become a vegan or vegetarian, I suggest you check out some cool ways to decrease your meat intake like Meat Free Mondays or opting for only eating meat once a day, like Lance Armstrong. Armstrong says his mostly vegan diet has brought him increased energy where he saw a significant difference after the first month. That, my friend, sounds like it could be a good place to start and might just serve as a gateway drug to a truly more sustainable and more fulfilling life.

The Leaky Gyre at the Top of the World

Scientists are concerned that melting sea ice will increase the amount of fresh water in the Beaufort Gyre. If this happens, excess fresh water might spill into the North Atlantic Ocean and act as a barrier to the warmer Gulf Stream water releasing its heat into the atmosphere. If such a scenario were to occur, it could impact the entire climate of the Northern Hemisphere, bringing a chill on North America and Europe.

Resource for Teachers: The Case of the Leaky Gyre Lesson Plan Activity

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Water Facts for World Water Day

Clean drinking water...not self-evident for ev...

Image via Wikipedia

Today, March 22, is World Water Day . The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. In honor of World Water Day, I’ve compiled some water facts from  water.org and dropinthebucket.org.

Water

  • Approximately 1 in 8 people lack access to safe water supplies (884 million people)
  • 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease.
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.
  • Each flush of the toilet uses the same amount of water that one person in the developing world uses all day for washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking.

Sanitation

  • More people in the world have cell phones than access to a toilet.
  • Lack of sanitation is the world’s biggest cause of infection.

Children

  • Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
  • Diarrhea remains in the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. Nearly 1 in 5 child deaths, about 1.5 million each year, is due to diarrhea. It kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
  • 1000s of sixth graders will drop out of school this year because of water insecurity.

Women

  • In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs — collecting water for domestic use.
  • The average distance that a woman in Africa or Asia walks to collect water each day is 6 km (3.75 miles).

Disease

  • At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
  • 88% of cases of diarrhea worldwide are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene.
  • It is estimated that improved sanitation facilities could reduce diarrhea-related deaths in young children by more than one-third. If hygiene promotion is added, such as teaching proper hand washing, deaths could be reduced by two thirds.

Economics

  • Almost 2 in every 3 people who need safe drinking water survive on less than $2 a day and 1 in 3 on less than $1 a day.
  • Investment in safe drinking water and sanitation contributes to economic growth. For each $1 invested, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates returns of $3 – $34, depending on the region and technology.
  • Investment in drinking-water and sanitation would result in 272 million more school attendance days a year. The value of deaths averted, based on discounted future earnings, would amount to US$ 3.6 billion a year.

Environment

  • Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.
  • Approximately 77% of Americans could not accurately identify the source of their tap water.
  • Floods and droughts affect 1 in 3 people worldwide.
  • Climate change is expected to account for about 20% of the global increase in water scarcity this century.
  • More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas.
  • The UN estimates that by 2025, forty-eight nations, with combined population of 2.8 billion, will face freshwater “stress” or “scarcity”.
  • Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater by far: about 70% of all freshwater withdrawals go to irrigated agriculture.
  • Conserving water helps not only to preserve irreplaceable natural resources, but also to reduce the strain on urban wastewater management systems. Wastewater is costly to treat, and requires continuous investment to ensure that the water we return to our waterways is as clean as possible.

Access to clean drinking water is an issue that is fast-effecting the developed world as well. Last year, Broward County, Florida followed Miami-Dade County in enacting mandatory two-day irrigation restrictions. This comes after a succession of years of of driest winter months on record. Today, The South Florida Water Management District has officially declared a water shortage as the depth of Lake Okeechobee plummeted amid the record-breaking dry season. The water district covers sixteen counties in Florida and is home to 7.7 million residents.

Another concern to South Florida government and policy makers is salt-water intrusion into the Biscayne Aquifer (used for drinking water). As sea levels rise and aquifer levels are depleted, this becomes more and more a possibility. Already, in Hollywood, FL , salt water intrusion into the aquifer east of 15th Avenue have caused this water supply to be too salty even for landscape irrigation. Desalination is a costly and energy-intensive process, but in the future may be one that South Floridians rely on to get clean drinking water. We are rapidly approaching the end of inexpensive water, a thought worth pondering today as we commemorate World Water Day.

What is your water footprint? Check out this interactive map.


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Dengue Fever in South Florida, Vector-Borne Disease and Climate Change

Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aegypti) mos...

Image via Wikipedia

For the first time since 1934, Key West has seen an outbreak of dengue fever. With 27 confirmed cases in 2009 and 18 as of July this year, dengue returns once again to Key West.

Dengue fever is the world’s most widespread vector-borne disease. A viral disease, dengue is transmitted by urban Aedes (also known by the genus name Stegomyia) mosquitoes. The Aedes mosquitos, especially the species Aedes aegypti, often live in close proximity to humans in tropical urban areas.

This mosquito lays its eggs in containers filled with water, such as bird baths, cisterns and devices used for water collection.

The spread of vector-borne disease, like dengue fever and malaria, are expected to increase as our climate changes, allowing these mosquitos to inhabit areas that were once too cold for them.

The effects of future climate change on the spread of dengue fever are complicated. In areas where temperature and rainfall increase, we are likely to see a greater spread of the disease. But, rates of dengue transmission may actually increase in regions that are projected to become more drought-prone. This is because as drought increases, there will be greater need for water collection devices like rain-barrels, cisterns, bottles and jugs that serve as a breeding ground for dengue mosquito vectors.

By 2085 climate change will put an estimated 3.5 billion people at risk of dengue fever said the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007. Currently, Canada is the only country in the Americas not experiencing a resurge in dengue fever.

There are four strains of dengue fever. When a person contract the disease, he or she develops immunity to the strain of dengue they have contracted, but not to the to the other types of dengue fever. According to the WHO, there is good evidence that the person becomes more apt to contract dengue haemorrhagic fever if infected with another strain of the virus. Dengue haemorrhagic fever is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian countries.

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EPA Whistleblower on Agency Cover-Up of Effects of Oil Spill Dispersants in Gulf

With BP having poured nearly two million gallons of the dispersant known as Corexit into the Gulf of Mexico, many lawmakers and advocacy groups say the Obama administration is not being candid about the lethal effects of dispersants. In this Democracy Now interview, Amy Goodman and Sharif Abdel Kouddous speak with Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response and a leading critic of the decision to use Corexit.

Here is a partial transcript of that interview.

AMY GOODMAN: First of all, explain what Corexit is, the company that makes it, what’s in it, and your concerns.

HUGH KAUFMAN: Well, Corexit is one of a number of dispersants, that are toxic, that are used to atomize the oil and force it down the water column so that it’s invisible to the eye. In this case, these dispersants were used in massive quantities, almost two million gallons so far, to hide the magnitude of the spill and save BP money. And the government—both EPA, NOAA, etc.—have been sock puppets for BP in this cover-up. Now, by hiding the amount of spill, BP is saving hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in fines, and so, from day one, there was tremendous economic incentive to use these dispersants to hide the magnitude of the gusher that’s been going on for almost three months.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve made comparisons between Corexit, the use of Corexit and hiding BP’s liability, and what happened at Ground Zero after the attacks of September 11th, Hugh Kaufman.

HUGH KAUFMAN: Yeah, I was one of the people who—well, I did. I did the ombudsman investigation on Ground Zero, where EPA made false statements about the safety of the air, which has since, of course, been proven to be false. Consequently, you have the heroes, the workers there, a large percentage of them are sick right now, not even ten years later, and most of them will die early because of respitory problems, cancer, etc., because of EPA’s false statements. And you’ve got the same thing going on in the Gulf, EPA administrators saying the same thing, that the air is safe and the water is safe…Same thing with OSHA with the workers, they’re using mostly BP’s contractor. And BP’s contractor for doing air testing is the company that’s used by companies to prove they don’t have a problem. If you remember the wallboard pollution problem from China, the wallboard from China, this company does that environmental monitoring. It’s a massive cover-up. And so far, luckily, we have two members of Congress and one member of the Senate on the case. Hopefully more will join in.

SHARIF ADBEL KOUDDOUS: Hugh Kaufman, can you talk about this video clip? (It’s from an investigation from WKRG News 5 into the toxicity levels of water and sand on public beaches around Mobile, Alabamba. One of the water samples collected near a boom at Dauphin Island Marina just exploded when mixed with an organic solvent separating the oil from the water.)

HUGH KAUFMAN: Well, yes. I saw that when it first came out, I think on Sunday. And what they documented was that the water—you know, when you’re on the sand with your children and they dig, and there’s a little water?—they documented there was over 200 parts per million of oil waste in the water, and it’s not noticeable to the human eye, that the children were playing with on the beach. On top of it, the contamination in one of the samples was so high that when they put the solvent in, as a first step in identifying how much oil may be in the water, the thing blew up, just as he said, probably because there was too much Corexit in that particular sample. But what’s funny about that is, on Thursday, the administrator of EPA, in answering Senator Mikulski’s question at the hearing that you played the clip on, said that EPA has tested the water up to three miles out and onshore and found that it’s safe. And then, a few days later, the television station in Pensacola and in Mobile document with their own limited testing that that statement was false, misleading and/or inaccurate by the administrator, under oath, to Senator Mikulski in that hearing.

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Dry Season Returns & Broward Commission Considers 2-day-a-Week Watering Restrictions

Update: January 12, 2010 Broward Commission Unanimously Pass 2-Day Week Water Restrictions with an Eye Toward Enforcement http://bit.ly/7PA6iB

Most residents in South Florida realize we have two seasons; rainy and dry. Yet, how many realize what a precarious water dance we do?

According to the South Florida Water Management District, Florida receives an average annual rainfall of 53 inches, making it one of the wettest states in the US. Except, in the central and southern part of the state, most of this rain falls during just four summer months with much of it lost to evaporation. Because of this, the region is prone to extreme weather conditions of flood and drought.

Global warming is likely to exacerbate those extremes. During the rainy season, increases in temperatures caused by climate change will lead to higher evaporation rates and more intense rainfall events. We are also likely to see more record drought years. The 2008-2009 South Florida dry season became the third driest on record dating back to 1932. 2006 and 2007 were the driest back-to-back calendar years.

Amazingly, the latest US Geological Survey water use report shows South Floridians average per capita water use of 179 gallons per day! This exceeds that of any other part of Florida, and is twice the national average.  In Broward County, this could equate to as much as 322 million gallons of water per day. It is estimated that half of that goes to water our lawns (with more than 50 percent of irrigation water lost to evaporation and runoff due to overwatering).

In a recent email to residents, Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said, “Continuing to use water in this way will undoubtedly lead to seriously adverse consequences for not only our residents, but also the Everglades – which occupy two thirds of Broward County – and our sole source of potable water, the Biscayne Aquifer.”

At the Tuesday, December 8, 2009 County Commission meeting, the Broward Commission will be considering enactment of a permanent, year-round, two day per week landscape irrigation water conservation ordinance. Nearby, Miami-Dade and Lee counties have already implemented permanent two day a week year-round watering restrictions.

You are key to passing this ordinance. If you live in Broward County, tell your Commissioner that you want them to protect our water resources.

Commissioner Telephone Number Email Address
Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, District 1 (954) 357-7001 ilieberman@broward.org
Commissioner Kristin D. Jacobs, District 2 (954) 357-7002 kjacobs@broward.org
County Mayor Stacy Ritter, District 3 (954) 357-7003 sritter@broward.org
County Vice Mayor Ken Keechl, District 4 (954) 357-7004 kkeechl@broward.org
Commissioner Lois Wexler, District 5 (954) 357-7005 lwexler@broward.org
Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, District 6 (954) 357-7006 sgunzburger@broward.org
Commissioner John E. Rodstrom, Jr., District 7 (954) 357-7007 jrodstrom@broward.org
Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin, District 8 (954) 357-7008 dwassermanrubin@broward.org
District 9 (954) 357-7009 cymartin@broward.org
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