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Reality of Recycled Water is Being Recycled

Posted on 27 July 2015 by Jerry

They say the West Coast and specifically California leads major trends that overcome the greater U.S. and the world.  Nowhere is this more apparent than the region’s conservation of water.  Long known for wasting water with lawns, pools and golf courses, parts of the West are now recycling and conserving water in the face of one of its longest droughts in recent years, four years and still counting.

And no one expects significant help to come to either California or other Western states in 2015.  This year is shaping up in the entire world to be the warmest on record.  Even if the Western states of the U.S. face a strong El Nino that will bring a lot of rain, the rest of the world should have another record year of heat.  March, May and June 2015 have each set monthly “hottest” records.  This puts the first half of the year in the record category for the entire world.

Actually drinking recycled water is gaining adherents in the face of the drought.  While recycled sewage water has been used for more than a decade in San Jose and Santa Clara for irrigating golf courses, landscaping and industrial purposes, it is now being proposed as drinking water for the populace.  San Jose and Santa Clara mayors drank a glass of recycled sewage water in April of 2015.  They argued it is time to mix the recycled water with the normal water supply and serve it back to the population of both cities.

This is a new option that is being inserted between consuming surface water and water table or underground aquifers.  Our technology is now offering us another way of postponing our depletion of fresh water sources.

We completely agree and suggest this become the predominate option to postpone the looming water shortage worldwide.  We believe that the reuse or recycling of sewage water for drinking is an absolute necessity that will significantly slow our use of our most critical asset, our water table.  The rest of this article will further describe the problem this addresses.

Fully recycled water has been added to the normal water supply in a number of cities including Wichita Falls and Big Springs, Texas.  This remixing of recycled water with drinking water has also been used since 2008 in Orange County, California.  A June 2015 article in The Star states, “The Orange County Water District began filtering treated sewage water in a three-pronged process – purifying it through reverse osmosis and ultraviolet – and infusing it into aquifers.  It remains there for a year before being pumped into the drinking water system.”

Recycled water has long been used for non-drinking purposes.  The City of Los Angeles has been reusing water for irrigation since the 1990’s.  A few cities in Australia have been using recycled water for irrigation and experimenting with the drinking of former sewage water.

Of course cities around the world are seeing their surface water disappear.  With the absence of rain, the melting of high mountain glaciers and the falling levels of stored water in lakes and reservoirs, cities around the world are using up their sources of surface water.

Cities such as Las Vegas are putting in lower access pipes to their major water source and the U.S.’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead.  Lake Mead’s water is down to a level of 1,080 feet.  The Lake’s water level drop is equal to the width of a football field, down from a high of 1,225 feet in 1983.  Since the year 2000 this represents a reduction of almost 4 trillion gallons of water.  The problem is the projected level of 1,075 feet in January of 2016 would cause cutbacks in water use in Arizona and Nevada.

At 1,000 feet the water intakes to Lake Mead from Las Vegas will run dry denying the City of Las Vegas almost all of its drinking water.  This reality is causing the Southern Nevada Water Authority to spend in excess of $800 million to build a lower, new access pipe to Lake Mead.  This access pipe would be twenty feet in diameter.  This adds more water resources for a city that already reuses 93% of its water for irrigation and non-drinking purposes.

Cities are now using their underground water to a greater degree to make up for shortages.  They are using their underground water for irrigation and drinking.  This is a worldwide problem.  Unfortunately these underground natural water tables or aquifers require a much longer time for replenishment.  Large swaths of the Earth are running out of water.

In a nutshell our natural tendency is to run out of surface drinking water, then to use underground sources and then, as a final option, to recycle our water and reuse sewage water.  Because this underground water in the natural aquifer takes so long to replenish, sometimes hundreds or thousands of years, it must be the last option we choose.

We must recycle our water and drink former sewage water immediately to protect our underground aquifers as the last option for a thirsty planet.  In this our astronauts are once again showing us the way.  In space, they have been recycling their own water for many, many years.

This article celebrates the mayors of cities all over the world that take the lead encouraging their citizens to recycle and drink the resulting water.  We also salute the astronauts of the world who led the way we all need to go.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or access the original documents used to prepare this article.


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Feral (or Wild) Bees are Dying

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Jerry

There are an estimated 4,000 species of bees in the U.S. (more than 20,000 worldwide).  Domesticated bees, Apis millifera, are the most familiar and most studied but are only one species of bee.  These are highly social bees that live in human-managed, large farmed hives.  Beekeepers move them from one type of crop to another throughout the year.   This domesticated species appears to have a tolerance to pesticides that feral (wild) bees do not.  It does not face extinction.

Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying.  Feral bees are the large majority of bees.  They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting.  Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.

This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon.  These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon.  Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.

In a recent study described in the April 22, 2015 issue of Nature magazine a scientific team led by Maj Rundlöf established that bumble bees are harmed by seeds coated in neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides that are chemically close to nicotine).  Their report states, “Here we show that a commonly used insecticide seed coating in a flowering crop can have serious consequences for wild bees.”

The report states further that, “We found that seed coating with Elado, an insecticide containing a combination of the neonicotinoid clothianidin and the non-systemic pyrethroid β-cyfluthrin, applied to oilseed rape seeds (for canola oil), reduced wild bee density, solitary bee nesting, and bumblebee colony growth and reproduction under field conditions.”

These neoincotinoid-based pesticides have been banned in the European Union.  Pesticide producers and the rest of the world need to stop using them as well.  This study, which is highly respected, is a smoking gun that cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately this is only one smoking gun.  Bees are subject to harm from a number of causes.  These include an array of insecticides, parasites, and pathogens.

As another example, a study this year led by Andrew Barron at Macquarie University in Australia found that bee colonies are collapsing because as bees in a colony die due to any number of causes, younger and younger bees start foraging for pollen earlier.  Unfortunately, younger bees die after fewer foraging trips and they collect a smaller amount of pollen.  This is how bees react to such stressors.

Their study shows, “Bee colonies contain a precise balance of bees specialized in the different roles the society needs. If that balance is upset by young bees starting to forage early, sometimes the colony cannot cope.  There is a breakdown in division of labor, and loss of the adult population, leaving only brood, food and few adults in the hive.”

Our bees however, must be saved for the continued health of the human race.  We do not have any way of accomplishing the fertilization the bees provide us.  We therefore must eliminate each cause of bee death as we identify it.  We know that modern life has created a number of threats to our bees.  We must eliminate these threats.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or access the original documents that were the basis of this article.

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Ocean Farming When Wild Fish Are Gone

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Jerry

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) may be in our future but is actually a throwback to how some countries farmed fish on a small scale in ancient times.   In some places it continues today.  IMTA however, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is, “An evolving approach to seafood production that emphasizes an ecosystem management approach where ‘fed’ species, such as finfish or shrimp, are farmed in close proximity to species that can ‘extract’ nutrients from the water column, such as shellfish and algae or seaweed.”

This can be a model for a smaller isolated farm that is inland from a natural waterway or as described in the April 2015, issue of Scientific American in an article by Erik Vance, “Fishing for Billions”, implemented on a grand scale at Zhangzi Island and several other islands, near Korea.  These islands are being used for a grand IMTA experiment.

Instead of deploying neighboring cages that are used in most of the world, most notably in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, the Zhangzidao Company that is conducting the fish farming, according to the Scientific American article, uses entire islands.  After having “carefully studied the movement of nutrients along the shores….they seed nutrient-rich parts of the islands with young scallops bred to thrive here while carefully removing their predators.”

Critics argue the IMTA of the Zhangzidao Company is not legitimate because there are no finfish being raised which theoretically would feed the shellfish with their excrement.  These farms however produce 60,000 tons of kelp, 200 tons of sea urchins, 300 tons of oysters, 700 tons of sea snails, 2,000 tons of abalones and 50,000 tons of scallops each year.  The company references detailed island maps showing ocean currents, where nutrients congregate and where yields are highest.  They have also used 20,000 refrigerator sized concrete blocks to form needed artificial reefs.

Critics of IMTA rightly point out that where finfish are raised today there is net segregation of farmed fish from wild fish.  They state however that this separation is inadequate because finfish escape and breed with wild fish.  They observe that in open-ocean or bays some of the dangers of fish farms are still present.  Specifically, there is still the presence of sea lice and various diseases that can infect the area.  They also are critical of IMTA because it has not shown yet that it has the ability to scale in inland, artificial environments.

It is a reality that the oceans are being over fished.  This large-scale use of the open water around islands is probably not possible in and around most industrialized nations because of too many environmental laws, political pressures and the lack of public acceptance.

Unfortunately fish are appearing in much smaller numbers and are migrating to different environments as a result of climate change.  In addition, melting glaciers and the future absence of run-off streams due to global warming will eliminate many spawning grounds.  Something may need to be done if our world population continues to grow and increases its demand for fish as the protein source in its diet.

What is attractive about IMTA is its mimicry of the natural interdependence of multiple species in an ecosystem.  Its use is far cleaner for the environment and “green” by comparison to traditional farming techniques.

We salute the pioneers of IMTA as a model to be perfected and put to productive use around the world.  While it may not produce the same amount of fish the ocean now holds, it may serve as a necessary substitute for the wholesale fishing now conducted by too many nations.

Use the following links to gain more information or access the original source documents used for this article.  (watch film[s])

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Full Carbon Capture at Boundary Dam

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Jerry

Canada has just fired up the world’s first full carbon-capture-and-storage (CC&S) coal fired power plant.  Congratulations to Canada and SaskPower!  They have taken one large step against climate change.  SaskPower has turned on a refurbished Boundary Dam power plant near Estevan Canada.  SaskPower opened the plant after spending $1.3 billion on the upgrade.

If you consider that we have been talking about carbon-capture-and-storage plants for decades.  Every developed country that has coal-fired plants has spent many hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to trial these technologies.  You wonder why it took so long to have the first working CC&S power plant?

There are an estimated 7000 coal-fired units worldwide with over 1200 new power plants planned for the next few years.  The International Energy Agency estimates that CO2 emissions linked to the burning of fossil fuels was 33 gigatons in 2011.  Some 42% or 13 gigatons was from the generation of electricity and heat.  This CO2 pollution was mainly from coal fired power plants.

We are not going to replace all the coal-fired power plants anytime soon.  The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) however, stresses the need to make fundamental changes in how we burn coal to make it a much cleaner energy source.  Turning coal-fired plants into clean or nearly clean sources of energy is absolutely essential if we are to make progress against climate change.

The Boundary Dam Plant is using an acid-base reaction or amine scrubbing.  Using this methodology a recent article in the September 6, 2014 issue of Science News states, “The gas produced in burning coal – usually a mix of oxygen, water vapor, nitrogen, CO2 and other trace pollutants such as sulfur dioxide – is blasted through a 15-meter-tall, 30-meter-wide cylinder packed with layers of eggcrate-shaped material.  The gas blows in at the bottom, while an amine solution – an alkaline liquid – pours down from the top.  The solution trickles over the large surface area created by the grooves and ridges in the material packing the cylinder.  The exhaust, now scrubbed of any CO2, vents out the top.  Meanwhile, the CO2-bearing solution pools at the cylinder’s bottom before being sucked into another giant tower” where the mixture is boiled and releases a pure CO2 stream for capture.  This CO2 can be captured, sold or transported underground for storage.

This is one of three major types of technology.  This technology is called a postcombustion method where exhaust created by burning fuel is sent through silos to chemically scrub it of CO2 that is generally sent for storage in the ground.  This technology has long been used in other industrial applications.  Other methods include oxygen fuel combustion and precombustion.

Oxygen fuel combustion burns the fuel in pure oxygen, not normal air.   This produces a CO2 and water vapor exhaust that are easy to separate.  This technology unfortunately must use a considerable amount of energy in the initial air separation step.

Precombustion converts the fuel to a gassy mixture of CO2 and hydrogen.  The two gasses are separated with the hydrogen moving a turbine and the CO2 sent underground for storage.  This technology is very familiar since it is used in fertilizer, chemical and gaseous fuel and power production.

Other major projects that have cost a lot of money include the Jänschwalde, an aging power plant in Germany.  In 2011 after having spent some $2 billion, local politics, public fears, and policy battles caused the program to close down before it even broke ground.  Two billion dollars before even breaking ground!!  This has been the ongoing history of expensive projects that have been cancelled.  It is almost as if, after having spent literally billions of dollars, the powers that be are canceling a plant before any opportunity to trial something.

Power companies have been strong opponents of any requirement for new technologies.  They have been successful in pressuring the U. S. government to postpone further requirements for major reductions in CO2 emissions due to adoption of these new technologies.

These interests pressured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year to forego its requirement that new power plants come equipped with these carbon capture and storage technologies.  This requirement was dropped from new rules that the EPA announced in June of this year.

Finally we have a demonstration, at scale, of one of the technologies the coal industry has been resisting.  We still have an uphill battle to convince the governments of the world, that have been funding countless trials, to require their respective coal energy operators to embrace and adopt this technology.  Only in this way can we begin to seriously combat climate change.  We must thank Canada and the local power company, SaskPower, for completing its power plant conversion and providing an actual test of one of the technologies.

Use the following links to gain more information or see the source documents for this article.

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Food Should Be Available to All

Posted on 22 August 2014 by Jerry

I wonder if there was sufficient food in the Garden of Eden?  Why is there so much starvation in the United States?  Do we not have plenty of food for everyone?

We may have taken capitalism too far when our poorest citizens are starving.  This leads to big supermarkets avoiding neighborhoods where poor people live because these neighborhoods don’t represent viable business opportunities.  Something is wrong when an elaborate procedure and bureaucracy is set up to take donated food from retail stores, leading to more spoilage, and cart it to a central distribution facility where it is given out.

Having reviewed most of the various non-profit solutions to get surplus food to people that need it, the methods cover the full gamut.  This leads to a belief that we need an organizing principle to guide our efforts.  The most rational organizing principle was used in getting consumers to shop locally avoiding foods that have been sent from a long distance location somewhere around the world.

We should modify this principle to include the following thoughts:

  • We should work to eliminate the middleman between the food and the recipient.
  • We should focus on fruit or other produce that does not require refrigeration.
  • We should give special focus to nutritious foods rather than processed, high calorie junk food with little value to ongoing health.
  • If we have to transport food from its source we should look for the closest location and nearest distribution channel.
  • We need to look for alternate new distribution channels where necessary.
  • We should make minor changes to the responsibilities of existing resources to accomplish increased food distribution.

If we focus on fruit and produce, obviously the easiest distribution is from the fruit tree in the backyard and the residential owner of the property to the front.  In fact, people used to have gardens and plant multiple fruit trees on their property so they would always have fresh fruit and produce.  This was when people did not mind planting and harvesting, which included clean up.

An immediate suggestion would be that these same private fruit trees be repositioned on the property so any passerby can gain access directly to the fruit.  An alternative is that residents be given crates with which to move harvested fruit and surplus produce to the street in front of their house, much as recycling is done today.  This would make the food available to everyone.  These crates should be marked with a sign that says, “To Be Shared with Neighbors” or something similar.

Each city in America, which includes San Francisco, plants thousands of trees each year and takes care of large parks all over the city.  There is little reason beyond tradition that causes a city to select one tree over others or use supervised land for one purpose over another.

The Parks Department could be tasked with planting a variety of fruit trees in public orchards.  At certain times a year, these trees would bear fruit and notices of locations would be circulated.  Parks department employees would be re-tasked with planning these orchards, harvesting the fruit and putting it out for free distribution much as farmers used to do.

While supermarkets make food available for central distribution and do not want to attract an “undesirable” type of person to their locations, their insistence on central distribution increases deterioration of the foods.  This unnecessarily reduces the value of the contribution.

Supermarkets must realize that their customers sort themselves by type of food, location, times of being open, etc.  At the same time there is no part of major cities that do not have the poor or homeless nearby.  This is certainly true for most of San Francisco.

These supermarkets could make surplus foods available only at a few unpopular hours.  This food could be moved into pickup sites on their parking lots with the sites managed by representatives of the food banks that routinely pick the produce up for transport.  By delaying the pickup by a few hours these employees could be re-tasked with distribution before transport.

Again this would protect the freshness of the agricultural products and distribute the produce more widely.  Only the poor would go to the trouble of staying up to these undesirable hours, standing in line and braving their categorization as the urban poor.  It would provide more nutritious food for their consumption and would reduce other expenses, like medical care for malnutrition.

I am amazed however at how few religious organizations directly distribute food to the poor in their surrounding area.  While they each will tell you about the volunteers they send to food banks to pass out Thanksgiving turkeys or the bins they put out for parishioners to donate food they no longer want, they are really sidestepping the issue.  Where is their direct action?  At what door does the line form for those who want food?

These organizations enjoy their non-profit status granted to them by the citizens who pay taxes.  These are the citizens who allow donations to these non-profits to be tax-free.  If we want more of these organizations to distribute surplus food, we can require it as a condition of their non-profit status. This would represent a simple change in the law but it would be very controversial and require a lot of effort.  The religious lobby is very powerful.

Our society needs to restructure its priorities.  We must determine that redistribution of food to help those who need it is a primary objective of those in the grocery business, officials of our local cities and each citizen in their neighborhoods.

This is not a complete listing of steps that can be taken to reduce the intermediaries and simplify processes.  It should show however that concerted effort should be applied to solving the problem of urban hunger.  This is a shared challenge that joint efforts can surmount.  International hunger is another problem that only giving countries can address. This needs to be dealt with in another post.

I am encouraged by entrepreneurs who approach farmers to save fruit and vegetables they would normally toss.  These misshapen products can be sold on a secondary market at a lower price.  I encourage each of you to spend some time brainstorming solutions and to communicate your solutions to your neighbors, retailers in your community and local government.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents for this article. .  Go to section on Recreation and Open Space.  This covers parks and recreation, land use, etc. .  Use search box at upper right to find “Cost to raise a fruit tree”.   Select the first entry that is this document.

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