Category: Featured

John Wesley Powell, Great Explorer of the American West

Just over 150 years ago, on May 24, 1869, John Wesley Powell set off from Green River, in the Wyoming Territory, into the “great unknown.” The first known descent of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, his daring and courageous exploration captivated a young nation. Powell exited the Canyon on August 30, 1869, with enough food to last only five more days. No one died on the river, but they came close. Four of the 10 men abandoned the expedition before it ended. Powell embarked on this expedition with only one arm, having lost his other during the Civil…

Los Angeles needs to reclaim what we used to consider ‘wastewater’

Hyperion Treatment Plant

The city of Los Angeles’ Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant has long symbolized the absurdity of water policy in the American West. Although the plant generates a volume of water equal to the seventh largest river in the United States, until recently, the city of Los Angeles dumped every drop into the Pacific Ocean. Nonsensically, a desert city always in search of water disposes of 190 million gallons a day into the ocean. L.A. is not alone. Most cities do the same thing. Treated sewage and storm water is considered “wastewater,” a substance to get rid of as easily and cheaply…

Three Authors See Water, Water Everywhere, for Better and Worse

THE WATER WILL COME Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World By Jeff Goodell 340 pp. Little, Brown. $28. The most pernicious consequence of global warming is the rise of sea levels, which threatens cities around the world and has already triggered what may become the largest mass migration in human history. According to the International Organization for Migration, by 2050 as many as 200 million climate refugees will seek dry land to call home. Other writers have told the story of sea-level rise, but perhaps none as compellingly as Goodell. His riveting stories, from traveling…

Could Craft Breweries Help Lead The Way In Water Conservation?

As water shortages increase across the country, beer companies are adapting to this new reality in innovative ways. At the Other Half Brewery Company in Brooklyn on a frigid morning in January of 2017, hundreds of people waited in line at dawn to buy the latest India pale ale, although the brewery wouldn't open until 10 a.m. Across the United States, craft beer enthusiasts wait like this for hours, or even camp out, to purchase six-packs of a limited-edition offering from a favorite brewery, even though each bottle may cost as much as a bottle of fine wine. Since 1980,…

Challenges to Nestle’s Bottled Water Strategy

From Maine to California, controversy follows Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. like paparazzi follow a Hollywood star. The rap against the bottled-water division of Nestlé, a Swiss-based company, may rest in part on nativist opposition to multinational corporations. It’s also because Nestlé extracts vast quantities of public water without paying for it, other than a modest permitting fee. But the same could be said of western farmers who irrigate their fields or of Dasani and Aquafina, two other major brands of bottled water, marketed by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, whose expansion plans seldom generate controversy. The big difference in public reaction…

The Era of Water Reallocation

The demand for water for municipal, industrial and agricultural use is a bit like the game of Musical Chairs. There isn’t enough to go around without building costly and environmentally destructive dams, diminishing flows in rivers and streams or unsustainably pumping groundwater. We can’t make nor can we destroy water – all the water there is, is all we’re ever going to have. We can only augment the supply in one way: by desalinating ocean water. This option will help only in circumstances where the need is acute and the financial resources substantial. The process of desalination is costly, energy…

The Unfolding Tragedy of Climate Change in Bangladesh

A three-foot rise in sea level would submerge almost 20 percent of the country and displace more than 30 million people—and the actual rise by 2100 could be significantly more In some places, the impact of climate change is obvious. In others, scientists predict that climate change will occur based on elaborate computer models. In Bangladesh, it is already happening at a scale that involves unprecedented human tragedy. I witnessed this in December 2016, when I visited Bangladesh to give some talks at the University of Chittagong. December 9, 2016.“How do they survive?” I kept wondering as I walked the…