With more than 10 million service points, India’s rural drinking water system provides a real monitoring headache for public health officials. To help address the challenge, a three-continent research consortium is evaluating a novel environmental crowdsourcing technique that relies on 53-cent test kits and the nation’s ubiquitous mobile phone service.
Studied in eight villages this summer and scheduled for more widespread evaluation in 2015, the technique could empower residents to check their own water quality and address the problems they find. If successful, this environmental crowdsourcing could be expanded to other nations and other large-scale environmental monitoring needs.
From the most parched areas of Saudi Arabia to water-scarce areas of the western U.S., the idea of harvesting fog for water is catching on. Now, a novel approach to this process could help meet affected communities’ needs for the life-essential resource. Scientists describe their new, highly efficient fog collector, inspired by a shorebird’s beak, in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Cheng Luo and his doctoral student, Xin Heng, explain that deserts and semi-arid areas cover about half of the Earth’s land masses. In some of these places, trucks bring in potable water for the people who live there. To find a more sustainable way to get water, these communities, which can’t draw water from underground or surface supplies, have turned to the air — and to nature for inspiration.
Mars Meteorite Yields Evidence of Possibility for Life
A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists. The finding of a cell-like structure — which investigators now know once held water — came about as a result of collaboration between scientists in the UK and Greece. Their findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology.
While investigating the Martian meteorite, known as Nakhla, Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the National Technical Univ. of Athens found an unusual feature embedded deep within the rock. In a bid to understand what it might be, he teamed up with long-time friend and collaborator Prof. Ian Lyon at the Univ. of Manchester.
Around the world, there is more salty groundwater than fresh, drinkable groundwater. For example, 60 percent of India is underlain by salty water — and much of that area is not served by an electric grid that could run conventional reverse-osmosis desalination plants.
Now, an analysis by MIT researchers shows that a different desalination technology called electrodialysis, powered by solar panels, could provide enough clean, palatable drinking water to supply the needs of a typical village.
Research Uncovers Role of Water in Gold Nanocatalysis
Researchers from the Univ. of Houston and Trinity Univ. have for the first time provided direct evidence of a water-mediated reaction mechanism for the catalytic oxidation of carbon monoxide.
The work used gold nanoparticles and titanium dioxide as a catalyst to speed the process and determined that water serves as a co-catalyst for the reaction that transforms carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. While researchers have worked with carbon monoxide oxidation using gold catalysts for years and have realized that water can change the reaction, none have previously been able to fully explain why it worked.
About 63 trillion gallons of water have been lost to drought in the western U.S., enough to blanket the region with four inches of water, according to a study.
Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD, arrived at the conclusion by measuring the level of the earth’s crust with a network of GPS stations that is normally used to predict earthquakes.
Many Considerations Needed for Water Conservation Strategy
In April, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order asking residents to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. That hasn’t happened. Since then, the state’s dry conditions have worsened, with more than 80 percent of California now in an extreme drought according to the National Weather Service.
As a result, officials are getting tough on water wasters: The State Water Resources Control Board recently adopted regulations giving local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day. But efforts to hit Brown’s target might have unintended, and potentially harmful, consequences for the health of Californians and their communities.
In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming.
Now, scientists at Stanford Univ. have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis. The battery sends an electric current through two electrodes that split liquid water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Unlike other water splitters that use precious-metal catalysts, the electrodes in the Stanford device are made of inexpensive and abundant nickel and iron.
California has allocated five times more surface water than the state actually has, making it hard for regulators to tell whose supplies should be cut during a drought, UC Davis researchers have reported.
The scientists said California’s water-rights regulator, the State Water Resources Control Board, needs a systematic overhaul of policies and procedures to bridge the gaping disparity, but lacks the legislative authority and funding to do so.
Model Predicts Water Scarcity, Climate Change in 2095
What will a global water scarcity map look like in 2095? Radically different, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, depending on the type and the stringency of the climate mitigation policies chosen to reduce carbon pollution.
In a first of its kind comprehensive analysis, the researchers, working at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, used a unique modeling capability that links economic, energy, land-use and climate systems to show the effects of global change on water scarcity. When they incorporated water use and availability in this powerful engine and ran scenarios of possible climate mitigation policy targets, they found that without any climate policy to curb carbon emissions, half the world will be living under extreme water scarcity. Some climate mitigation policies, such as increasing growth of water-hungry biofuels, may exacerbate water scarcity.
Physicists at The Australian National Univ. (ANU) have created a tractor beam on water, providing a radical new technique that could confine oil spills, manipulate floating objects or explain rips at the beach.
The team, led by Horst Punzmann, discovered they can control water flow patterns with simple wave generators, enabling them to move floating objects at will. The team also experimented with different shaped plungers to generate different swirling flow patterns.
A new laboratory at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township aims to speed and improve the process of testing water at beaches in Michigan.
The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens and The Detroit News report the lab opened this week in Harrison Township following years of work to improve testing. The lab is part of a pilot project designed to help state officials plan for future water monitoring.
Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made the first structural observations of liquid water at temperatures down to -51 F, within an elusive “no man’s land” where water’s strange properties are super-amplified.
The research, made possible by SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser and reported in Nature, opens a new window for exploring liquid water in these exotic conditions, and promises to improve our understanding of its unique properties at the more natural temperatures and states that are relevant to global ocean currents, climate and biology.
Ban on Pavement Sealant Significantly Impacted Lake
In 2006, Austin, Texas, became the first city in the country to ban a commonly used pavement sealant over concerns that it was a major source of cancer-causing compounds in the environment. Eight years later, the city’s action seems to have made a big dent in the targeted compounds’ levels — researchers now report that the concentrations have dropped significantly. They published their study, which could have broad implications for other jurisdictions and public health, in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Peter Van Metre and Barbara Mahler from the U.S. Geological Survey point out that in 2005, researchers figured out that pavement sealants made from coal tar were contributing high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the environment. This is a serious public concern because studies have shown that PAHs cause cancer in animals, and they likely impact human health as well.
Water is thought to be embedded in the moon’s rocks or, if cold enough, “stuck” on their surfaces. It’s predominantly found at the poles. But scientists probably won’t find it intact on the sunlit side.
New research at the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates that ultraviolet photons emitted by the sun likely cause H2O molecules to either quickly desorb or break apart. The fragments of water may remain on the lunar surface, but the presence of useful amounts of water on the sunward side is not likely.