Archive for March, 2012

Spicewood Beach, Texas: Dry As A Bone

Water delivery truck at Spicewood Beach, Texas/Photo: Ben Sklar/NY Times

Dried up Lake Travis at Spicewood Beach, Texas/Photo: Jeff Heimsath/StateImpact, TX

Because of a weak La Nina weather pattern that results in below average rainfall, a very real drama is playing out in the small community of Spicewood Beach, Texas, because it’s the first town in Texas to literally run out of water.

Located 45 miles northwest of the state capital of Austin, Spicewood Beach is suffering from the worst drought since the 1940s and 1950s, with record low rainfall of just 14.88 inches in 2011.

With a La Nina weather pattern in place, where surface temperatures are cooler in the Pacific, which creates drier, warmer air in the southern states, the U.S. Drought Monitor reports that Central Texas has been suffering from extreme drought conditions since last summer.

The water in nearby Lake Travis, which was once prime waterfront property, has dropped to a record low, which means the ground water supplies have dried up. As a result, the 1,100 residents of the Texas town are without running water.

The 129,000 gallon water storage tank level has been dropping one foot a day and is projected to be empty in the next few weeks. Currently, water is trucked in four times daily carrying 4,000 gallons of water from neighboring communities.

According to the National Coalition of Food and Agriculture, drought conditions cause more damage than floods and have extreme effects on the enviornment, by putting stress on plant and animal resources, creating a negative impact and disrupting the ecosystem, affecting ranchers, agriculture, residents and livestock.

The Texas Forest Service reports that the drought has destroyed 500 million trees, or 10% of the state’s total.

With extreme water conservation measures in place, the estimated cost in damage is $5.2 billion.

According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, recent storms have brought some relief, but the area still suffers from extreme drought conditions.

To learn more about the dry weather conditions, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at: www.noaa.org

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Eco-Friendly Ireland Hostel

Spaceship-looking hostel/Photo: Cheap-Hostels Website

Located in the North-West Irish countryside of Sligo County near Castlebaldwin, the eco-friendly Gyreum Ecolodge Hostel is designed to lower the carbon footprint by reducing the impact of human activities on the planet.

Derived from the Greek root ‘GYR’ that means ’round’ and ‘EUM’ implies ‘building,’ the innovative 100 ft. wide structure overlooks Lough Arrow and has a 360 degree view of Sligo’s cairned mountains and lakes spanning five counties.

On the cutting edge of energy saving technology, the iconic structure uses solar and wind power that aligns to dawn and dusk of the winter and summer solstices.

Renewable resources include solar panels that generate hot water, flagstone floors that are geothermally heated and wall insulation made of sheep’s wool. The water recycling system involves the collection of rain water in a 1500 litre tank that is pumped back for use in showers and toilets.

With its indoor-like camping features, the hostel-style accomodations include: capsule-tents, a glass domed library, a central hall with an open fireplace, a large movie screen and an organic vegetable garden.

The Gyreum Hostel is Ireland’s first ecolodge to be awarded the EU Flower for enviornmental and ecological standards and was one of four national finalists in 2007 for Best Ecological Building of the year.

For more information, visit the hostel’s website at: http://www.gyreum.com/

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Is It Safe Living Near Nuclear Generating Stations?

San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant Near San Clemente/AP Photo Lenny Ignelzi


With the recently reported radiation leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, operators of the facility said a ‘small’ amount of radioactive material from one of the units ‘could have’ escaped, but poses no danger to the surrounding communities.

Jointly owned and operated by Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric and the city of Riverside, officials at the San Onofre Generating Station said the leak was barely measurable.

Located just two miles from the residential seaside community of San Clemente and 45 miles north of San Diego, it’s estimated that 7.5 million people live within 50 miles of the nuclear generating facility.

The emissions-free station generates enough power to supply 1.4 million homes.

According to the World Nuclear Association, there are currently 104 nuclear reactors in 31 states producing 807 billion kWh worth of nuclear energy, supplying 20 percent of America’s electrical energy.

Upon further inspection of the entire facility a few days after the leak by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, officials said they discovered damage to another unit, which has been closed for several months for routine maintenance. The commission’s findings revealed extensive damage to dozens of tubes that carry radioactive liquid.

A spokesperson for the plant told ABC News that the plant is safe and the leaks and damage to the tubes are probably due to faulty equipment.

The leak raises concerns among enviornmental and nuclear watchdog groups because of possible radioactive material entering and contaminating the atmosphere and potentially creeping into groundwater supplies.

After the March 2011 cataclysmic 9.0 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake that generated a deadly tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people, devastating nearby towns and triggering a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is it time to rethink nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels and find safer, low carbon, renewable energy sources?

For more information, visit the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station website.

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Steamboat Springs Ski Resort Green Initiatives

ResortQuest Green Initiative Program/Photo: ResortQuest Website


With the purpose and goal of promoting green, sustainable enviornmental practices, Steamboat Springs, Colorado ski resort has set new standards for its eco-friendly initiatives that protect the enviornment in which the ski resort resides.

The internationally known ski resort is located in the upper valley of the Yampa River, just west of the Continental Divide at Rabbit Ears Pass.

With the ultimate goal of a 100% waste-free community by 2014, ResortQuest Steamboat and the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council have committed to developing and maintaining eco-friendly initiatives that include green hotel practices and the Zero Waste and Sustainability Initiative.

Resortquest green hotel practices include towel and linen re-use programs, trash recycling, using Cascades ‘North River’ bathroom paper products and Thymes Eucalyptus bath products in enviornmentally safe paper-bottle containers made of 75% paper, biodegradable Green-Key electronic keycards produced from paperboards instead of plastic, water conservation and post-departure thermostat control.

The Zero Waste and Sustainability Initiative is inspired to protect the community of Steamboat Springs by reducing the amout of waste that goes into landfills. The grassroots organization called the ‘Green Team’ aims to eliminate all waste from food and beverage outlets by using biodegradeble packaging, solid-waste recycling, reusing and composting programs.

Since 1993, the ski resort has won numerous awards in recognition of their enviornmental programs, such as: The Silver Eagle 2010 Award for Waste Reduction and Recycling, The U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership and the Green-e Renewable Energy Certification Program.

The National Ski Areas Association awarded Steamboat Springs Ski Resort as the best resort in Reduction and Recycling Program in North America for reducing landfill usage by 63%.

To learn more about the Steamboat Springs ski resort enviornmental initiatives, visit the Resortquest Steamboat and Yampa Valley Sustainability Council websites.

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