Will Drinking Water for Millions be Devastated by Natural Gas Drilling?

From Colorado to New York, natural gas drilling is putting drinking water at risk.

By Jeff Deasy
AlterNet

The ordinary tap water available to 12 million residents in the New York Metropolitan area has been reliably clean and flavorful since 1842, when an aqueduct was built to bring pristine water from upstate to the city. For years the prideful city’s water is a consistent winner in blind taste tests. Easy to take for granted, it comes as a shock to learn it is now endangered by natural gas drilling.

For a couple of years there have been media reports from Pennsylvania to Texas of drinking water so tainted that folks are able to light the water from their kitchen tap on fire. There have been more than 300 instances of contaminated water in Colorado since 2003, and more than 700 instances in New Mexico, according to Bruce Baizel, senior staff attorney with Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. In West Virginia a once lushly forested area has been transformed into a dead zone.

Fracking in Gasland

Josh Fox made the Sundance award-winning documentary “Gasland” after he was asked to lease his land for gas drilling. That led him to embark on a cross-country odyssey. As the website for the show “Now” on PBS explains, his journey led to a film that “alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps.” It will be broadcast on HBO through 2012. The DVD goes on sale in December of 2010.

“Gasland” shows tap water being set ablaze and explores the drilling process known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, a technology developed by Halliburton. Millions of gallons water, chemicals and sand are injected into the ground under high pressure, cracking shale and tight rocks to allow gas to flow more freely from the well. It is a toxic mixture and believed to be the prime culprit in the pollution of groundwater in areas surrounding drilling sites. Even drinking water hundreds of miles from a well can be contaminated.

Hundreds of Thousands of New Wells Coming

It is hard to believe that risking the health of millions in order to extract natural gas would even be considered, but the N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation is close to issuing a final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing near a major watershed in upstate New York. The SGEIS is expected to facilitate the process for fracking near a vital watershed. Concerned citizens are asking for a delay until DEC can study and integrate the conclusions of a full report on gas drilling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Residents of New York are not alone in facing a future threat to the safety of their drinking water. According to an article published by ProPublica in December of 2009:

In the next 10 years, the United States will use the fracturing technology to drill hundreds of thousands of new wells astride cities, rivers and watersheds. Cash-strapped state governments are pining for the revenue and the much-needed jobs that drilling is expected to bring to poor, rural areas.

Keep Drinking Water Safe

Incredibly, a loophole exempts natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Drilling companies don’t even have to disclose the almost 600 chemicals that might be used in fracking and find their way into drinking water. Fortunately, our friends at Food & Water Watch have provided a way for concerned citizens to make their voices heard by contacting elected representatives. Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. The organization challenges abuse of food and water resources by empowering people to take action.

Source: AlterNet

Calling All Future-Eaters

By Chris Hedges
Truthdig

The human species during its brief time on Earth has exhibited a remarkable capacity to kill itself off. The Cro-Magnons dispatched the gentler Neanderthals. The conquistadors, with the help of smallpox, decimated the native populations in the Americas. Modern industrial warfare in the 20th century took at least 100 million lives, most of them civilians. And now we sit passive and dumb as corporations and the leaders of industrialized nations ensure that climate change will accelerate to levels that could mean the extinction of our species. Homo sapiens, as the biologist Tim Flannery points out, are the “future-eaters.”

In the past when civilizations went belly up through greed, mismanagement and the exhaustion of natural resources, human beings migrated somewhere else to pillage anew. But this time the game is over. There is nowhere else to go. The industrialized nations spent the last century seizing half the planet and dominating most of the other half. We giddily exhausted our natural capital, especially fossil fuel, to engage in an orgy of consumption and waste that poisoned the Earth and attacked the ecosystem on which human life depends. It was quite a party if you were a member of the industrialized elite. But it was pretty stupid.

Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together. And there is no way out. The 10,000-year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt. And humankind, which thought it was given dominion over the Earth and all living things, will be taught a painful lesson in the necessity of balance, restraint and humility. There is no human monument or city ruin that is more than 5,000 years old. Civilization, Ronald Wright notes in “A Short History of Progress,” “occupies a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone.” Bye-bye, Paris. Bye-bye, New York. Bye-bye, Tokyo. Welcome to the new experience of human existence, in which rooting around for grubs on islands in northern latitudes is the prerequisite for survival.

We view ourselves as rational creatures. But is it rational to wait like sheep in a pen as oil and natural gas companies, coal companies, chemical industries, plastics manufacturers, the automotive industry, arms manufacturers and the leaders of the industrial world, as they did in Copenhagen, take us to mass extinction? It is too late to prevent profound climate change. But why add fuel to the fire? Why allow our ruling elite, driven by the lust for profits, to accelerate the death spiral? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?

The news is grim. The accelerating disintegration of Arctic Sea ice means that summer ice will probably disappear within the next decade. The open water will absorb more solar radiation, significantly increasing the rate of global warming. The Siberian permafrost will disappear, sending up plumes of methane gas from underground. The Greenland ice sheet and the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers will melt. Jay Zwally, a NASA climate scientist, declared in December 2007: “The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now, as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”

But reality is rarely an impediment to human folly. The world’s greenhouse gases have continued to grow since Zwally’s statement. Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels since 2000 have increased by 3 per cent a year. At that rate annual emissions will double every 25 years. James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s foremost climate experts, has warned that if we keep warming the planet it will be “a recipe for global disaster.” The safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere, Hansen estimates, is no more than 350 parts per million (ppm). The current level of CO2 is 385 ppm and climbing. This already guarantees terrible consequences even if we act immediately to cut carbon emissions.

The natural carbon cycle for 3 million years has ensured that the atmosphere contained less than 300 ppm of CO2, which sustained the wide variety of life on the planet. The idea now championed by our corporate elite, at least those in contact with the reality of global warming, is that we will intentionally overshoot 350 ppm and then return to a safer climate through rapid and dramatic emission cuts. This, of course, is a theory designed to absolve the elite from doing anything now. But as Clive Hamilton in his book “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” writes, even “if carbon dioxide concentrations reach 550 ppm, after which emissions fell to zero, the global temperatures would continue to rise for at least another century.”

Copenhagen was perhaps the last chance to save ourselves. Barack Obama and the other leaders of the industrialized nations blew it. Radical climate change is certain. It is only a question now of how bad it will become. The engines of climate change will, climate scientists have warned, soon create a domino effect that could thrust the Earth into a chaotic state for thousands of years before it regains equilibrium. “Whether human beings would still be a force on the planet, or even survive, is a moot point,” Hamilton writes. “One thing is certain: there will be far fewer of us.”

We have fallen prey to the illusion that we can modify and control our environment, that human ingenuity ensures the inevitability of human progress and that our secular god of science will save us. The “intoxicating belief that we can conquer all has come up against a greater force, the Earth itself,” Hamilton writes. “The prospect of runaway climate change challenges our technological hubris, our Enlightenment faith in reason and the whole modernist project. The Earth may soon demonstrate that, ultimately, it cannot be tamed and that the human urge to master nature has only roused a slumbering beast.”

We face a terrible political truth. Those who hold power will not act with the urgency required to protect human life and the ecosystem. Decisions about the fate of the planet and human civilization are in the hands of moral and intellectual trolls such as BP’s Tony Hayward. These political and corporate masters are driven by a craven desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of human life. They do this in the Gulf of Mexico. They do this in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where the export-oriented industry is booming. China’s transformation into totalitarian capitalism, done so world markets can be flooded with cheap consumer goods, is contributing to a dramatic rise in carbon dioxide emissions, which in China are expected to more than double by 2030, from a little over 5 billion metric tons to just under 12 billion.

This degradation of the planet by corporations is accompanied by a degradation of human beings. In the factories in Guangdong we see the face of our adversaries. The sociologist Ching Kwan Lee found “satanic mills” in China’s industrial southeast that run “at such a nerve-racking pace that worker’s physical limits and bodily strength are put to the test on a daily basis.” Some employees put in workdays of 14 to 16 hours with no rest day during the month until payday. In these factories it is normal for an employee to work 400 hours or more a month, especially those in the garment industry. Most workers, Lee found, endure unpaid wages, illegal deductions and substandard wage rates. They are often physically abused at work and do not receive compensation if they are injured on the job. Every year a dozen or more workers die from overwork in the city of Shenzhen alone. In Lee’s words, the working conditions “go beyond the Marxist notions of exploitation and alienation.” A survey published in 2003 by the official China News Agency, cited in Lee’s book “Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt,” found that three in four migrant workers had trouble collecting their pay. Each year scores of workers threaten to commit suicide, Lee writes, by jumping off high-rises or setting themselves on fire over unpaid wages. “If getting paid for one’s labor is a fundamental feature of capitalist employment relations, strictly speaking many Chinese workers are not yet laborers,” Lee writes.

The leaders of these corporations now determine our fate. They are not endowed with human decency or compassion. Yet their lobbyists make the laws. Their public relations firms craft the propaganda and trivia pumped out through systems of mass communication. Their money determines elections. Their greed turns workers into global serfs and our planet into a wasteland.

As climate change advances, we will face a choice between obeying the rules put in place by corporations or rebellion. Those who work human beings to death in overcrowded factories in China and turn the Gulf of Mexico into a dead zone are the enemy. They serve systems of death. They cannot be reformed or trusted.

The climate crisis is a political crisis. We will either defy the corporate elite, which will mean civil disobedience, a rejection of traditional politics for a new radicalism and the systematic breaking of laws, or see ourselves consumed. Time is not on our side. The longer we wait, the more assured our destruction becomes. The future, if we remain passive, will be wrested from us by events. Our moral obligation is not to structures of power, but life.

Source: Truthdig

Water: Will There Be Enough?

By Sandra Postel
YES! Magazine

For at least three decades, Americans have had some inkling that we face an uncertain energy future, but we’ve ignored a much more worrisome crisis—water. Cheap and seemingly abundant, water is so common that it’s hard to believe we could ever run out. Ever since the Apollo astronauts photographed Earth from space, we’ve had the image of our home as a strikingly blue planet, a place of great water wealth. But of all the water on Earth, only about 2.5 percent is freshwater—and two-thirds of that is locked up in glaciers and ice caps. Less than one hundredth of one percent of Earth’s water is fresh and renewed each year by the solar-powered hydrologic cycle.

Across the United States and around the world, we’re already reaching or overshooting the limits of that cycle. The Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers are now so overtapped that they discharge little or no water to the sea for months at a time. [1] In the West, we’re growing food and supplying water to our communities by overpumping groundwater. This creates a bubble in the food economy far more serious than the recent housing, credit, or dot-com bubbles: We are meeting some of today’s food needs with tomorrow’s water. [2]

The massive Ogallala Aquifer, which spans parts of eight states from southern South Dakota to northwest Texas, and provides 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the country, is steadily being depleted. [3] As of 2005, a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie had been pumped out of this water reserve. Most farmers will stop irrigating when the wells run dry or the water drops so far down that it’s too expensive to pump.

At the same time, climate change is rewriting the rules about how much water we’ll have available and when. Climate scientists warn of more extreme droughts and floods, and of changing precipitation patterns that will make weather, storms, and natural disasters more severe and less predictable. [4] The historical data and statistical tools used to plan billions of dollars worth of annual global investments in dams, flood control structures, diversion projects, and other big pieces of water infrastructure are no longer reliable. [5]

While farmers in the Midwest were recovering from the spring flood of 2008 (in some areas the second “100-year flood” in 15 years), farmers in California and Texas fallowed cropland and sent cattle prematurely to slaughter to cope with the drought of 2009. In the Southeast, after 20 months of dryness, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue stood outside the State Capitol in November 2007 and led a prayer for rain, beseeching the heavens to turn a spigot on for his parched state. Two years later, Perdue was pleading instead for federal aid after intense rain storms near Atlanta caused massive flooding that claimed eight lives. [http://geology.com/events/iowa-flooding; “Governor Sonny…” href=”#-iowa-flood-midwest”>6]

Although none of these disasters can be pinned directly on global warming, they are the kinds of events climate scientists warn will occur more often as the planet heats up. It’s through water that we’ll feel the strains of climate change—when we can no longer count on familiar patterns of rain, snow, and river flow to irrigate our farms, power our dams, and fill our city reservoirs.

In answer to the climate crisis, the economy will need to move away from fossil fuels toward solar, wind, and other non-carbon energy sources. But there is no transitioning away from water. Water has no substitutes. And unlike oil and coal, water is much more than a commodity: It is the basis of life. A human being can only live for five to seven days without water. Deprive any plant or animal of water, and it dies. Our decisions about water—how to use, allocate, and manage it—are deeply ethical ones; they determine the survival of most of the planet’s species, including our own.
Shifting Course

For most of modern history, water management has focused on bringing water under human control and transferring it to expanding cities, industries, and farms. Since 1950, the number of large dams worldwide has climbed from 5,000 to more than 45,000—an average construction rate of two large dams per day for half a century. [7] Globally, 364 large water-transfer projects move 105 trillion gallons of water annually from one river basin to another—equivalent to transferring the annual flow of 22 Colorado Rivers. Millions of wells punched into the Earth tap underground aquifers, using diesel or electric pumps to lift vast quantities of groundwater to the surface.

Big water schemes have allowed oasis cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas to thrive in the desert, world food production to expand along with population, and living standards for hundreds of millions to rise. But globally they have also worsened social inequities, as poor people are dislocated from their homes to make way for dams and canals, and as downstream communities lose the flows that sustained their livelihoods.

Such approaches also ignore water’s limits and the value of healthy ecosystems. Today, many rivers flow like plumbing works, turned on and off like water from a faucet. Fish, mussels, river birds, and other aquatic life no longer get the flows and habitats they need to survive: 40 percent of all fish species in North America are at risk of extinction.

As we face the pressures of climate change and growing water demands, many leaders and localities are calling for even bigger versions of the strategies of the past. By some estimates the volume of water moved through river transfer schemes could more than double globally by 2020. But mega-projects are risky in a warming world where rainfall and river flow patterns are changing in uncertain ways.

Such big projects also require giant quantities of increasingly expensive energy. Pumping, moving, treating, and distributing water takes energy at every stage. Transferring Colorado River water into southern California, for example, requires about 1.6 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per cubic meter (about 264 gallons) of water; the same quantity of water sent hundreds of kilometers from north to south through California’s State Water Project takes about 2.4 kWh. As a result, the energy required to provide drinking water to a typical southern California home can rank third behind that required to run the air conditioner and refrigerator. [8]

Planners and policy-makers are eyeing desalination as a silver-bullet solution to water shortages. But they miss—or dismiss—the perverse irony: By burning more fossil fuels and by making local water supplies more and more dependent on increasingly expensive energy, desalination creates more problems than it solves. [9] Producing one cubic meter of drinkable water from salt water requires about 2 kWh of electricity.
Water for People and Nature

As the limitations of big?infrastructure strategies have become more apparent, a vanguard of citizens, communities, farmers, and corporations are thinking about water in a new way. They’re asking, what do we really need the water for, and can we meet that need with less? The upshot of this shift in thinking is a new movement in water management that is much more about ideas, ingenuity, and ecological intelligence than it is about big pumps, pipelines, dams, and canals.

Drinking dog

These solutions tend to work with nature, rather than against it. In this way, they make effective use of “ecosystem services”—the benefits provided by healthy watersheds and wetlands. And through better technologies and more informed choices, they seek to raise water productivity—to make every drop count.

Communities are finding, for example, that protecting watersheds is the best way to make sure water supplies are clean and reliable. A healthy watershed can do the work of a water treatment plant—filtering out pollutants, and at a lower cost to boot. New York City, for instance, is investing some $1.5 billion to restore and protect the Catskill-Delaware Watershed (which supplies 90 percent of its drinking water) in lieu of constructing a $6 billion filtration plant that would cost an additional $300 million a year to operate. [10] A number of other cities across the United States—from tiny Auburn, Maine, to Seattle—have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in avoided capital and operating costs by opting for watershed protection over filtration plants. [11]

Communities facing increased flood damage are achieving cost-effective flood protection by restoring rivers. After enduring 19 flood episodes between 1961 and 1997, Napa, Calif., opted for this approach over the conventional route of channelizing and building levees. In partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the $366 million project is reconnecting the Napa River with its historic floodplain, moving homes and businesses out of harm’s way, revitalizing wetlands and marshlands, and constructing levees and bypass channels in strategic locations. In addition to increased flood protection and reduced flood insurance rates, Napa residents will benefit from parks and trails for recreation, higher tourism revenues, and improved habitat for fish and wildlife. [12]

Similarly, communities facing increased damage from heavy stormwater runoff can turn roofs, streets, and parking lots into water catchments. Portland, Ore., is investing in “green roofs” and “green streets” to prevent sewer overflows into the Willamette River. [13] Chicago now boasts more than 200 green roofs—including atop City Hall—that collectively cover 2.5 million square feet, more than any other U.S. city. The vegetated roofs are providing space for urban gardens and helping to catch stormwater and cool the urban environment. [14]

Many communities are revitalizing their rivers by tearing down dams that are no longer safe or serving a justifiable purpose. Over the last decade more than 500 dams have been removed from U.S. rivers, opening up habitat for fisheries, restoring healthier water flows, improving water quality, and returning aquatic life to rivers. [15] In the 10 years since the Edwards Dam was removed from the Kennebec River near Augusta, Maine, populations of alewives and striped bass have returned in astounding numbers, reviving a recreational fishery that adds $65 million annually to the local economy. [16]

Conservation remains the least expensive and most environmentally sound way of balancing water budgets. Many cities and towns have reduced their water use through relatively simple measures like repairing leaks in distribution systems, retrofitting homes and businesses with water-efficient fixtures and appliances, and promoting more sensible and efficient outdoor water use. Motivated by a cap on groundwater pumping from the Edwards Aquifer in south-central Texas, San Antonio has cut its per capita water use by more than 40 percent, to one of the lowest levels of any Western U.S. city. [www.edwardsaquifer.org; water use from 2008 Annual Report, San Antonio Water System; the 130 gallon…” href=”#edwards-aquifer-authority-website”>17] Even more impressive, a highly successful conservation program started in 1987 in Boston cut total water demand 43 percent by 2009, bringing water use to a 50-year low and eliminating the need for a costly diversion project from the Connecticut River. [18]

But the potential for conservation has barely been tapped. It is especially crucial in agriculture. Irrigation accounts for 70 percent of water use worldwide and even more in the western U.S., so getting more crop per drop is central to meeting future food needs sustainably. In California, more famers are turning to drip irrigation, which delivers water at low volumes directly to the roots of crops. Between 2003 and 2008, California’s drip and micro-sprinkler area expanded by 630,000 acres, bringing its total to more than 2.3 million acres—62 percent of the nation’s total area under drip irrigation. [19]

As individuals, we’ll also need to make more conscious choices about what and how much we consume. Some products and foods—especially meat—have a high water cost. It can take five times more water to supply 10 grams of protein from beef than from rice. So eating less meat can lighten our dietary water footprint (while also improving our health). If all U.S. residents reduced their consumption of animal products by half, the nation’s total dietary water requirement in 2025 would drop by 261 billion cubic meters per year, a savings equal to the annual flow of 14 Colorado Rivers. [20]

We’ll need to change how we use water in and around our homes and neighborhoods. Turf grass covers some 40.5 million acres in the United States—an area three times larger than any irrigated farm crop in the country. [21] Particularly in the western United States, where outdoor watering typically accounts for 50 percent or more of household water use, converting thirsty green lawns into native drought-tolerant landscaping can save a great deal of water. Las Vegas now pays residents up to $1.50 for each square foot of grass they rip out, which has helped shrink the city’s turf area by 125 million square feet and lower its annual water use by 7 billion gallons. [22, 23] Albuquerque, New Mexico, has reduced its total water use by 21 percent since 1995, largely through education and rebates to encourage water-thrifty landscapes. [24]

Energy and water are tightly entwined, and all too often public policies to “solve” one problem simply make the other one worse. For example, the 2007 congressional mandate [25] to produce 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol a year by 2015 would require an estimated 1.6 trillion gallons of additional irrigation water annually (and even more direct rainfall)—a volume exceeding the annual water withdrawals of the entire state of Iowa. [26] Even solar power creates a demand for water, especially some of the big solar-thermal power plants slated for the sunny Southwest. [27]

It’s still possible to have a future in which all basic food and water needs are met, healthy ecosystems are sustained, and communities remain secure and resilient, even in the face of climate disruptions. Just as the economic crash is forcing Americans to reassess what they value financially, the water crisis requires us to pay attention to how we value and use water. Across the country, communities will need to learn to take care of the ecosystems that supply and cleanse water, to live within their water means, and to share water equitably.

Sarah Postel MugSandra Postel adapted this article for Water Solutions, the Summer 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Sandra is director of the Global Water Policy Project, a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and the first freshwater fellow of the National Geographic Society. She is the author of numerous books and articles, including the award-winning Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, which became the basis of a PBS documentary.

This article is an adaptation of a longer essay from The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises, forthcoming in Fall 2010 from Watershed Media.

Sources:

1. Where Have All the Rivers Gone?, Sandra Postel, World Watch 8, May/June 1995; When the Rivers Run Dry, Fred Pearce, Boston, Beacon Press, 2006.

2. Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? Sandra Postel, New York, W.W Norton & Co., 1999.

3. Ground Water Depletion in the High Plains Aquifer, Predevelopment to 2005, V.L. Mcguire, U.S. Geological Survey, USGS Fact Sheet 2007-3029, 2007. http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/; 30 percent figure from “High Plains Regional Ground Water (HPGW) Study,” USGS, http://co.water.usgs.gov/nawqa/hpgw/HPGW_home.html

4. Climate Change 2007 – The Physical Science Basis, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and Climate Change 2007 – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, “Summaries for Policymakers,” IPCC, Cambridge, U.K., Cambridge University Press, 2007.

5. “Stationarity is Dead: Whither Water Management?,” P.C.D. Milly et al., Science, February 1, 2008.

6. “Iowa Flood, Midwest Flooding: Videos, Maps, News and Background,” Geology.com, http://geology.com/events/iowa-flooding; “Governor Sonny Perdue Prays for Rain in Georgia, WDEF.com, November 14, 2007; “Rain Stops, but 8 are Dead in Southeast Floods,” Robbie Brown and Liz Robbins, The New York Times, September 22, 2009

7. Number of large dams (those at least 15 meters high) from Dams and Development, World Commission on Dams, London, Earthscan Publications, 2000; “Interbasin Water Transfers and Water Scarcity in a Changing World—A Solution or a Pipedream?,” Jamie Pittock et al., Frankfurt, World Wildlife Fund Germany, August 2009.

8. Methodology for Analysis of the Energy Intensity of California’s Water Systems, and an Assessment of Multiple Potential Benefits Through Integrated Water-Energy Efficiency Measures, Robert Wilkinson, Environmental Studies Program, University of California, Santa Barbara 2000; Electricity Efficiency Through Water Efficiency, Report for the Southern California Edison Company, QEI, Inc., Springfield, NJ, 1992.

9. Debbie Cook, former Mayor of Huntington Beach, Calif., has said “The next worst idea to turning tar sands into synthetic crude is turning ocean water into municipal drinking water.”, quoted in “Desalination – Energy Down the Drain,” The Oil Drum, March 2, 2009. www.theoildrum.com/node/5155.

10. Liquid Assets: The Critical Need to Safeguard Freshwater Ecosystems, Sandra Postel, Worldwatch Paper 170, Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute, 2005.

11. “Watershed Protection: Capturing the Benefits of Nature’s Water Supply Services,” Sandra Postel and Barton H. Thompson, Jr., Natural Resources Forum 29, no.2, May 2005.

12. Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision-Making, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., The National Academy Press, 2005; $366 million figure from “Sacramento District Project Wins Public Works Project of the Year,” David G. Killam, website of the U.S. Army, February 12, 2009. www.army.mil

13. Natural Security: How Sustainable Water Strategies are Preparing Communities for a Changing Climate, Will Hewes and Kristen Pitts, Washington, DC: American Rivers, 2009.

14. “Chicago Green Roof Program,” Emily Pilloton, Inhabitat, August 1, 2006 www.inhabitat.com

15. Figure from Serena McClain at American Rivers, April 26, 2010.

16. $65 million figure from Natural Security, Hewes and Pitts; for more on dams and rivers, see Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature, Sandra Postel and Brian Richter, Washington, D.C., Island Press, 2003.

17. Edwards Aquifer Authority website, at www.edwardsaquifer.org; water use from 2008 Annual Report, San Antonio Water System; the 130 gallon figure is an approximate average of recent years since per capita water use varied considerably between rainy and dry years; see the informative website of the San Antonio Water System at www.saws.org.

18. For conservation methods and examples, see Handbook of Water Use and Conservation: Homes, Landscapes, Businesses, Industries, Farms, Amy Vickers, Amherst, MA, WaterPlow Press, 2001; Boston example from Liquid Assets, Sandra Postel and “Lessons from the Field–Boston Conservation,” Sandra Postel, National Geographic, March 2010 environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/lessons-boston-conservation

19. USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2007 Census of Agriculture: Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey, 2008, Volume 3, Special Studies, Part I, November 2009; updated February 2010.

20. Dietary water requirement from “Nutritional Water Productivity and Diets,” D. Renault and W.W. Wallender, Agricultural Water Management 45, 2000; calculation assumes average annual dietary water requirement drops from 1,971 cubic meters per person to 1,242; U.S. 2025 population of 358.7 million is the medium variant estimate of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision. esa.un.org/unpp

21. “Mapping and Modeling the Biogeochemical Cycling of Turf Grasses in the United States,” Cristina Milesi et al., Environmental Management 36, September, 2005; “Our Love Affair With Our Lawns is Hurling the U.S. Toward Water Crisis,” Dara Colwell, AlterNet, October 2, 2009. www.alternet.org.

22. Southern Nevada Water Authority, accessed on April 20, 2010. www.snwa.com/html/cons_wsl.html.

23. Personal communication with Kristen Howe, Public Information Coordinator, SNWA

24. Personal email communication with Katherine M. Yuhas, Water Conservation Officer, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority, Albuquerque, NM, October 12 -13, 2009.

25. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, U.S. Congress, 110th Cong., 1st session, 2007.

26. “The Water Footprint of Biofuels: A Drink or Drive Issue?” R. Dominguez-Faus et al., Environmental Science & Technology, May 1, 2009.“

27. Alternative Energy Projects Stumble on a Need for Water,” Todd Woody, The New York Times, September 30, 2009.

Source: YES!

Obey: White House Suggested Cutting Food Stamps to Pay for Education Program

By Annie Lowrey
Washington Independent

This entire interview with Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), the head of the House Appropriations Committee and a powerful veteran member of Congress, who is retiring this year, is worth a read. But one passage is particularly striking. Obey is discussing his proposal to divert funds from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education program to save teachers’ jobs. Due to the states’ fiscal crises, as many as 200,000 local government employees, many of them teachers, might lose their jobs in the coming year.

The proposal made it in to the House war-funding bill, which needs a Senate vote. The White House has threatened to veto the war-funding bill if it contains Obey’s change. Here is the quote, from an interview with The Fiscal Times:

“The secretary of education [Arne Duncan] is whining about the fact he only got 85 percent of the money he wanted .… [W]hen we needed money, we committed the cardinal sin of treating him like any other mere mortal. We were giving them over $10 billion in money to help keep teachers on the job, plus another $5 billion for Pell, so he was getting $15 billion for the programs he says he cares about, and it was costing him $500 million [in reductions to the Race to the Top program]. Now that’s a pretty damn good deal. So as far as I’m concerned, the secretary of education should have been happy as hell. He should have taken that deal and smiled like a Cheshire cat. He’s got more walking around money than every other cabinet secretary put together.

“It blows my mind that the White House would even notice the fight [over Race to the Top]. I would have expected the president to say to the secretary, “Look, you’re getting a good deal, for God’s sake, what this really does is guarantee that the rest of the money isn’t going to be touched.” We gave [Duncan] $4.3 billion in the stimulus package, no questions asked. He could spend it any way he wants. … I trusted the secretary, so I gave him a hell of a lot more money than I should have.

“My point is that I have been working for school reform long before I ever heard of the secretary of education, and long before I ever heard of Obama. And I’m happy to welcome them on the reform road, but I’ll be damned if I think the only road to reform lies in the head of the secretary of education.

“We were told we have to offset every damn dime of [new teacher spending]. Well, it ain’t easy to find offsets, and with all due respect to the administration their first suggestion for offsets was to cut food stamps. Now they were careful not to make an official budget request, because they didn’t want to take the political heat for it, but that was the first trial balloon they sent down here. … Their line of argument was, well, the cost of food relative to what we thought it would be has come down, so people on food stamps are getting a pretty good deal in comparison to what we thought they were going to get. Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.”

If Obey is right about this, it is, in a word, horrifying. Food stamps are not particularly generous. They help families that are often desperate. They are just about the last thing that should get cut in the midst of a horrific employment crisis in the wake of a job-sapping recession.

Source: Washington Independent