Archive for Water Conservation

Arctic Ice: Thinner than ever

Global warming strikes again. This is a long alleviated issue that we must get control of. Arctic Ice has melted to an all-time low as of  9/16/12, shattering the previous record set in 2007. The worst part is that in 2007, the all-time low record was shattered. The ice has shrunk from covering 1.61 million miles to 1.32 million miles. This means that the burning of fossil fuels is penetrating our protective ozone layer and our oceans are heating up. Sea levels could rise as much as 20 feet. At the rate we are headed, the ice could be melted completely by 2050. It is imperative that we mandate clean energy and save our planet.

Below you can see the state of the Arctic ice is a fraction of what is used to be. The yellow line outlines the size of the ice recorded from 1979-2000.



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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:

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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:

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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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Earth Day 2011

This year, Earth Day landed on April 22nd and provided people opportunities to take action and participate in helping to preserve the planet.

Earth Day Network gave people the opportunity to register and pledge an act of green for their “A Billion Acts of Green” campaign on their website. EDN is trying to prove that real change can occur if millions of people commit to their actions. So far, a little over a million people have made a pledge.

“Our family will use less water, plant a tree and grow a food garden,” “I pledge to use less styrofoam, as well as recycle all paper and plastic products…,” and “I will bring my own reusable shopping bags to the store,” are all examples of pledges people have proposed.

Pledges range by topic from advocacy, energy, transportation, and water. EDN’s reasoning behind this campaign helps raise awareness on the way we treat our planet. It is true, also, that if millions commit to their actions, then maybe a big difference can be made. What do you pledge?

Earth Day photo from space. Photo from National Geographic.

To learn more about Earth Day or how to make a contribution, visit Earth Day Network.

To view more photos of Earth Day, visit National Geographic.

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Water Shortage From Local to Global

As global water supplies are diminishing, demand is rising in energy and agriculture production. However, scientists warn that demands for water will spike, while catastrophic floods and droughts will occur within the next 40 years.

In Michael Comte’s article, “Scientists Warn of Water Woes,” the amount of money spent on water consumption, flood damage, improvements in infrastructure and distribution, and water in agriculture is expected to rise to a trillion dollars annually by 2020.

This means that by 2020, approximately $10,000,000,000 will have been spent on water.

This year, water experts and stakeholders are meeting in Canada for the Canada Water Resources 2011 conference to share ideas and tools on how to help other countries face the uncertain future of water.

According to the Canada Water Network site, while water demand will exceed supply in many countries by 40%, one-third of humanity will only have half the water they need for life’s basics.

CWN director, Margaret Catley-Carlson warns that we need to brace for one of humanity’s greatest shortages.

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Los Angeles Needs More Shade Trees

by Karoline Steavenson

When you fly to various other cities around the country you’ll see a variety of habitats from the air. Over the Midwest you’ll see a quilt of farmland broken up by groves of woods, rivers, ponds and lakes. Over the Southwest you’ll see barrenness, like this photograph of New Mexico from 35,000 feet:

Photo of a southern section of New Mexico.


But when you fly over Los Angeles you’ll see a desert that humanity has tried to turn into something other than desert for over 100 years.

L.A. doesn’t get much natural rainfall, so many years ago developer and entrepreneur William Mulholland designed a way to divert water from the Owens Valley, far north of L.A., and bring it here.  Without this water the city never would have been able to grow into the metropolis it is now. The aqueduct system that brings us water from the north was also expanded in the 1970s.

In spite of all this trouble to bring water to L.A., the city is still low on trees in my opinon. Many species of trees are some of the most water efficient plants homeowners and cities can invest in. Here is evidence of how the city and county needs more trees:

Los Angeles County from the air.



There are thousands upon thousands of rooftops lying bare to the heat of the sun. Trees branches offer shade and that shade over homes and yards slows the evaporation of water from the ground and cools off homes. But look at all the naked rooftops in L.A.

A portion of the L.A. River.



Many areas  beside the L.A. River are barren and bereft of trees. The cement developers used to encase the river prevents flooding. That helped real estate developers build homes and businesses up against the river, but it also took away all the natural opportunities trees had to drop seeds and have them grow beside this water source.

We could remedy this. Those of us who live here now could tell our leaders we want the L.A. River to be repopulated with trees. They’d have to be planted by humans and managed by humans, but it could be done. The L.A. River could be surrounded by trees.

Downtown is also low on trees.



If you’ve spent any time downtown and you love trees, you will notice that many areas of the city center are treeless. There are plans on the table to build a large park downtown. There are even plans to build a giant park by putting a roof on the 101 freeway and covering it with sod.

But a simple, inexpensive, enduring-for-generations fix to the barrenness of downtown would be to plant trees now. Even if the city had to build an irrigation system for these city trees that would surely cost far less than trying to build a park on top of the 101 freeway.

Trees can save our lives because they create oxygen. As the carbon dioxide levels in our air increase thanks to our use of fossil fuels to power cars, trucks, other vehicles, and create electricity,  trees and the oxygen they make can help offset those CO2 levels.

We made this environmental mess.  We also have the power to clean it up.

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