Category Archives: Sustainability

Are We Heading for a Groundwater Overdraft?

field-698343_640Much of the world is in danger of a groundwater overdraft.

In an episode of 60 Minutes that first aired on Nov. 16, 2014 (and rebroadcast on May 31, 2015), correspondent Lesley Stahl covers a story about how groundwater is being pumped from deep aquifers below the water table, to satisfy our growing population’s demand for fresh water.

According to the story, “Water experts say groundwater is like a savings account — something you draw on in times of need. But savings accounts need to be replenished, and there is new evidence that so much water is being taken out, much of the world is in danger of a groundwater overdraft.”

In some parts of the world, the ground is actually sinking because of all the water that has been pumped out to meet water demands for agriculture and other basic human needs.

Jay Famiglietti, a leading expert on groundwater states “These aquifers near the surface, they can sometimes be replenished very quickly. If we’re talking about a deeper aquifer, that could take tens or hundreds of years to recharge.”

Click here to read the script or watch the video and leave a comment to share your thoughts on how we can replenish our water “savings account”.

How Much Water Does it Take to Produce our Food?

avocado-713094_640Have you ever thought about how much water it takes to produce the foods we eat, that are grown in the United States?  Many of these come from drought-ridden California, where water is a vital component to support its agricultural industry.

The New York Times published a list, which calculates the average amount of water that is needed to produce an average serving of some of our favorite and necessary (who can live without avocado?) foods.

cappuccino-593256_640According to the article, these foods are among the highest amount of water needed:

  • Beef
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Rice
  • Almonds

What are the choices? Do we eat less of these foods? Should we seek to eat foods imported from other countries, or should we substitute foods that use less water to produce?

The story also lists foods that require less water to produce, like:

  • Apples
  • Cabbage
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes

Click here to see the rest of the artistically, but simply laid out story.

In the end, we have choices. The question is, which are best for a sustainable future?

Student Teams Compete for Sustainability Grants

waterwheel-233527_640According to an article in Water Citizen News, student teams showcased their projects at this year’s National Sustainable Design Expo while competing for the 11th Annual EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) awards.

Through the P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers opportunities to college students to compete for grants for their ideas that promote sustainable solutions that benefit people and the planet.

In April, teams brought bring their projects to the National Sustainable Design Expo for judging by a panel of experts from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The best student projects have the chance to win funding up to $75,000 to move the project design through to implementation and potentially, the marketplace. This year’s expo (Phase 2) was held from April 11-12 at Oronoco Bay Park in Alexandria, VA.

Several ideas were submitted, covering a range of topics across the spectrum of planet preservation like conversion of food waste into energy and using wastewater for crop fertilization, or ways to save water.

Among this year’s winners, an honorable mention went to the team from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University for Floating Island on a Roof for Rainwater Management.

Their idea addressed 2 issues faced by large cities:

  • Storm water management and
  • Loss of green spaces.

The project focused on urban growth causing a rise in impervious surfaces, which advances the amount of untreated rainwater runoff in rivers and lakes instead of penetrating porous soil; and that urban development also decreases area for vegetation, resulting in loss of biological diversity and also creating an urban heat island.

Students’ design objective was to reduce runoff from roofs, and provide biological diversity in urban areas using a ‘Floating Island on a Roof’, consisting of a pond on a roof with a floating island. The expected results are runoff reduction from roofs and an increase in green space and biodiversity in urban or built environments.

Congratulations to all of the participants for their efforts to preserve our planet through innovative and forward thinking, and to the EPA and American Association for the Advancement of Science for funding ideas that support a sustainable future.