Morocco water man (via cbertel @ flickr’s creative commons)

In 1991, in order to protect the surrounding towns from flooding, Morocco began work on the Al Wahda Dam. Since its construction, the dam has reduced flooding by 90% in areas near the Ourgha and Sebou Rivers, and has provided the area with a green electricity source. By 2020 Morocco hopes to have 42% of their energy generated from green sources.

Though hydropower is a good source of renewable energy, dams are complicated structures that take a lot of energy themselves to maintain. Sediment can build up on the upstream side of dams, which puts pressure on the Earth’s crust and raises the water levels. Over time, as sediment builds up, the weight can cause the Earth below to collapse under the pressure which can lead to earthquakes. Natural and human-induced erosion have caused the dam to lose approximately 60 million m3 of capacity each year. Is it worth all the trouble?


This is part of a project for my EARTH111 class, Water: Science & Society. Since this assignment is due tonight at 11PM (eek!), stay tuned for some more real-life water crises, which will ultimately be documented and available for free download in the form of a Google Earth file that geolocates all of these issues.

Keep questioning,

Water for Food, Irrigation, and Fisheries
  • Water for Food, Irrigation, and Fisheries
  • Joe Pilling
  • WaterBytes

WaterByte #3: Water for Food, Irrigation, and Fisheries

Length: 4 minutes, 49 seconds
Script: Click
here to download a PDF of the script & references

This podcast examines the role of water in food production, irrigation for agriculture, and the new industry of aquaculture. The research has shown  that enormous quantities of water are used in the production of food, particularly animal products. Irrigation depends on freshwater sources greatly, especially groundwater. Also, aquaculture can pollute water with chemicals and waste. Nevertheless, there are policies that have been taken and that can be taken in the future to preserve water and use it wisely.

Photo credit:PivotIrrigationOnCotton” by United States Geological Society via Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Supplemental Material

  1. The Water We Eat: A video from UCTelevision
  2. Top 10 Problems with Ocean Fish Farming: Food & Water Watch
  3. United States Geological Society (USGS): Water Use in the United States, 2005
  4. Water for Food: A video from FAOWater
  5. Water, forgotten in the food crisis,” an article from Science Alert

Check out more related material at Joe’s delicious social bookmarking account.

Stay tuned for more WaterBytes!

  • Industrialization, Urbanization, and The Role of Water
  • Christopher Collins
  • WaterBytes

WaterByte #12 - Industrialization, Urbanization, and The Role of Water

Length: 5 minutes, 47 seconds

Script: Click here to download a PDF of the script and references

The destruction of wildlife habitats, the loss of water for evaporation and hence a reduction in rainfall, and other unforseen environmental fall-outs have proved devastating. Urbanization, altered flows and draining wetlands all contribute to the growing problems. 

Photo: Urbanization in Asia, from United Nations Photo on flickr.

Check out more related material Chris has on his delicious social bookmarking account, and by searching for the “wearepsuwater” tag.

Adult & juvenile blue crabs (via chesbayprogram @ flickr’s creative commons)

The blue crab is the keystone species of the Chesapeake Bay. It is one of the few creatures in the bay’s complicated ecosystem that acts as both a predator and a prey, making it an invaluable link in the food chain. Over the years, agricultural, urban, and suburban run-off have polluted the Chesapeake Bay causing a rise in nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment levels. Poor water quality has hit the blue crab population hard. The bay’s ecosystem is at a critical point. The blue crab are disappearing.

Over one-third of the entire country’s blue crabs sold for consumption come from the Chesapeake. The area has recently gone through a population increase. Agricultural run-off has had a negative impact on the underwater bay grasses the crabs call home. All of these things are contributing to the decline of the blue crab population.

The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have created initiatives and laws that have alleviated some of the pressure put on the bay’s ecosystem. Plants that act as pollutant buffers have been placed along the bay, restrictions on commercial fishing, and pollutant limitations for businesses and farms have all been put in place, but the blue crab is still disappearing.


This is part of a project for my EARTH111 class, Water: Science & Society. Since this assignment is due tonight at 11PM (eek!), stay tuned for some more real-life water crises, which will ultimately be documented and available for free download in the form of a Google Earth file that geolocates all of these issues.

Keep questioning,

I’ve lived in a lot of places with starkly different cultures: Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Indonesia, the Philippines, California, Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, New York City and Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound. Surprise! Look beneath the colorful differences in cultural expression and you find at the core everyone wants to breathe clean air and drink clean water. They want tasty, nutritious food uncontaminated with toxins. They want meaningful work, a living wage, success and happiness for their children and security in their old age. They want a say in the decisions their governments make and to live in peace. These are all forms of real wealth that are not available for purchase or sale and have no monetary equivalent. These are our primary sources of true happiness.

CSRwire Talkback: “The leading source of corporate social responsibility and sustainability press releases, reports, and information.”

  • Read the rest of this article here.
End Water Poverty
  • End Water Poverty
  • Jonathan Hartline
  • WaterBytes

WaterByte #7: End Water Poverty

Script: Click here to download a PDF of the script and references.

End Water Poverty is an organization setting out to place political pressure on governments to do more to combat the water crisis. The organization has conducted various events to this end, including their most recent “The World Walks for Water” campaign.

Walking to the well by Lars Plougmann at flickr’s creative commons

Check out more related material at Jonathan’s delicious social bookmarking account.

(Photo credit: Living Water International by flickr’s creative commons)

During my last class of Water: Science & Society, we were each asked to write an essay in the style of “This I Believe: A public dialogue about belief, one essay at a time.” Though I have many more thoughts about the global water crisis, here is what I came up with during our last class together:

One billion people in today’s world do not have access to clean, safe water. That’s almost one out of every eight people you meet… but so what? I am one in a billion and I have clean water. Everyone I know has enough water to live, so what does it matter to me that some people in poverty-stricken areas are barely surviving without this basic need? How does it affect me on a daily basis?

Because it’s just that: water is a basic human need. Everyone has the right to clean water. It shouldn’t be something that is manipulated, managed, bought, sold, hidden, dirty, damaging, or unhealthy. I believe that our three most fundamental human needs are food, water, and deep, personal connections with others. Adequate food and water are needed on a physiological level – for our bodies to function. I need food and water to physically wake up in the morning, to put words to my thoughts, to give my precious two year-old niece the love she deserves, to do my best in school – the list goes on. I need personal connections with others for my emotional health. Without the important people in my life to share my struggles and successes with, I would not be finishing my junior year of college at 22 years old with – not to toot my own horn – a mature outlook on life and personal relationships.

This is why I so firmly believe in what non-profit organizations are doing for the water crises in today’s world. Not only are organizations like water.org and charity: water providing aid to developing countries by supplying poverty-stricken areas with clean water and the infrastructure and education to sustain a healthy water supply, but these organizations are doing something much more. Many non-profits are nourishing these small communities by teaching them to work together, by allowing them to take ownership of their health, of their lives.

I’ve come across so many pictures of smiling young faces from places like Kenya, India, Bangladesh, and Haiti. These children are usually holding a bottle of clean water, or splashing clear water on their face. It is not only important that these children have water that is safe from deadly diseases, but that they have interpersonal connections that make them smile when times inevitably get tough. It is these fundamental human needs that help all of us survive.

Keep questioning,

boiling balata at nappi (via nicholaslaughlin @ flickr’s creative commons)

Guyana is a small country of 750,000 at the northern tip of South America, bordering Venezuela and Brazil. In the early 2000s, the British company, Severn-Trent, was contracted to manage the country’s water supply. Severn-Trent received funding from the British government and the World Bank to alleviate some of the water-related problems that were occurring in the country.

Before the privatization of water, the people in Guyana suffered from poor water quality, a lack of access to water, and major flooding. The infrastructure that governed access to water and sanitation was very weak, so Severn-Trent was brought in to manage (not own) the water supply. 

Unfortunately, no clear goals were outlined or communicated. Severn-Trent continued to get major funding from the Guyanese and British governments and the World Bank, in the hopes of improving Guyanese access to water, but little money went toward building a stronger infrastructure. In 2003, Severn-Trent withheld water from citizens who could not pay water bills. Ultimately, the partnership was severed; none of the parties involved felt there was any value in water privatization.

This is part of a project for my EARTH111 class, Water: Science & Society. Since this assignment is due tonight at 11PM (eek!), stay tuned for some more real-life water crises, which will ultimately be documented and available for free download in the form of a Google Earth file that geolocates all of these issues.

Keep questioning,

Food and Water Watch: Their Mission

“Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping the global commons — our shared resources — under public control” (About Food & Water Watch, n.d.).

The “Water” page on foodandwaterwatch.org is dedicated to the following topics:

Learn more about the World Water Crisis and help us over on twitter, @WeArePSUwater, to get the tag #worldwatercrisis trending in time for Earth Day!

Image Credit:

The La Santisima Church in Mexico City has been slowly sinking… along with the rest of the city (via Wikimedia Commons)

When Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors came to Mexico in the 1500s, they destroyed Lake Texcoco and began to build what is now Mexico City on top of the dry lake bed. People living in Mexico City today are suffering the consequences of this choice. Over the past 100 years, Mexico City has been sinking.

Mexico City’s population of approximately 19 million is the largest in the world living in an enclosed basin. This means that the water in the area has no natural outflow to the sea. The water that is pumped from underground for public use is restored by Earth’s natural processes, but not fast enough. The demands of the population above are too much. With the disappearing water supply underground and the increasing weight on the Earth’s crust from the city above, the ground upon which Mexico City resides has been buckling under the pressure. This is not only a huge problem because it has been destroying buildings and homes, but it is an illustration of how badly this city needs water that it does not have.

The infrastructure that delegates water use is also crumbling. Small towns on the outskirts of Mexico City have been providing the metropolis with water for over 50 years, but now they are protesting. The government has authorized many expensive water projects (that they cannot afford) to re-route water from outside of the city to provide for the growing population. Insufficient funds and short term vision for such lofty projects may cause Mexico City’s water supply to run out as the Earth swallows the city.

This is part of a project for my EARTH111 class, Water: Science & Society. Since this assignment is due tonight at 11PM (eek!), stay tuned for some more real-life water crises, which will ultimately be documented and available for free download in the form of a Google Earth file that geolocates all of these issues.

Keep questioning,

  • My Song
  • Sara Neville
  • Sara Neville's Album

WaterByte #16 - Water and the Shale

This podcast focuses on the issue of water quality in relation to drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The drilling, also known as natural gas extraction, is done through a process called hydraulic fracturing. Fracturing involves dangerous chemicals that often find their way to local water supplies, harming the environment and public health.

Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds

Script: Click here to download a PDF of the script and references

(Image from Marcellus Protest in flickr)

Check out more related material Taj has on his delicious social bookmarking account, and by searing for the “wearepsuwater” tag.

Book Recommendation - Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization

Steven Solomon (2010), Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization

Far more than oil, the control of water wealth throughout history has been pivotal to the rise and fall of great powers, the achievements of civilization, the transformations of society’s vital habitats, and the quality of ordinary daily lives. In Water, Steven Solomon offers the first-ever narrative portrait of the power struggles, personalities, and breakthroughs that have shaped humanity from antiquity’s earliest civilizations, the Roman Empire, medieval China, and Islam’s golden age to Europe’s rise, the steam-powered Industrial Revolution, and America’s century. Today, freshwater scarcity is one of the twenty-first century’s decisive, looming challenges and is driving the new political, economic, and environmental realities across the globe.

As modern society runs short of its most indispensable resource and the planet’s renewable water ecosystems grow depleted, an explosive new fault line is dividing humanity into water Haves and Have-nots. Genocides, epidemic diseases, failed states, and civil warfare increasingly emanate from water-starved, overpopulated parts of Africa and Asia. Water famines threaten to ignite new wars in the bone-dry Middle East. Faltering clean water supplies menace the sustainable growth and ability of China and India to feed themselves. Water scarcity is inseparably interrelated to the global crises of energy, food, and climate change. For Western democracies, water represents no less than the new oil—demanding a major rethink of basic domestic and foreign policies—but also offering a momentous opportunity to relaunch wealth and global leadership through exploiting a comparative advantage in freshwater reserves. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Steven Solomon’s Water is a groundbreaking account of man’s most critical resource in shaping human destinies, from ancient times to our dawning age of water scarcity.

View more on the HarperCoillins website.

Colorado River north of Yuma (via auntie rain @ flickr’s creative commons)

In the 1950s, the Colorado River fell victim to a sharp decline in water quality. As development spread to the southwest United States, agricultural practices became heavily dependent on the river’s water. In order to satisfy the needs of all farmers, the U.S. began diverting water from the Colorado River to neighboring areas by digging channels and pumping water across towns. As water became scarce, the government mandated a certain amount of water be returned to the river. With the returned water, however, came salt and other pollutants. Water quality declined.

Seventeen million people depend on the Colorado River for water, but if things are not changed, the river will dry up… in our lifetime. By 2021, scientists have predicted that Lake Mead, which lies across Arizona and Nevada could run dry.


This is part of a project for my EARTH111 class, Water: Science & Society. Since this assignment is due tonight at 11PM (eek!), stay tuned for some more real-life water crises, which will ultimately be documented and available for free download in the form of a Google Earth file that geolocates all of these issues.

Keep questioning,

Book Recommendation - Running Dry

Jon Waterman (2010), Running Dry - A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River

In 1869, John Wesley Powell led a small party down the Green and Colorado Rivers in a bold attempt to explore the Grand Canyon for the first time. After their monumental expedition, they told of raging rapids, constant danger, and breathtaking natural beauty of the American landscape at its most pristine.

Jon Waterman combines sheer adventure and environmental calamity in this trailblazing cautionary account of his 2008 trip down the overtaxed, drying Colorado. Dammed and tunneled, forced into countless canals, trapped in reservoirs and harnessed for electricity, what once was untamed and free is now humbled, parched, and so yoked to human purposes that in most years it trickles away 100 miles from its oceanic destination.

Waterman writes with informal immediacy in this eye-witness account of the many demands on the Colorado, from irrigating 3.5 million acres of farmland to watering the lawns of Los Angeles. He shows how our profligacy and inexorable climate change spark political conflict, and how we can avert this onrushing ecological crisis. As he follows Powell afloat and afoot, Waterman reaches out both to adventure travelers and to scientists, conservationists, environmentalists, and anyone interested in the fragile interplay between nature and humans.

You can purchase the book from the National Geographic Store.

Children's Safe Drinking Water & the PUR Solution
  • Children's Safe Drinking Water & the PUR Solution
  • Sarah DeMartino
  • WaterBytes

WaterByte #2: Children’s Safe Drinking Water & the PUR Solution

Length: 5 minutes, 6 seconds
Script: Click here to download a PDF of the script & references 

Four thousand children die every day from water-related diseases, and a total of 1.8 million children die each and every year. In response to this staggering statistic, Procter & Gamble teamed up with 11 other organizations to give these children and their families over 2 billion liters of clean water.

Girl Drinking Clean, Safe Water at Bureij Elementary School by Middle East Children’s Alliance at flickr’s creative commons

Supplemental Resources

  1. Check out Children’s Safe Drinking Water at www.csdw.org!
  2. Clean Water Around the World, Scholastic

Check out more related material at Sarah’s delicious social bookmarking account.

Tune in tomorrow for another WaterByte!