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Water News

China Flooding Has Killed Hundreds and Tested Three Gorges Dam – The New York Times

By Water News

After Covid, China’s Leaders Face New Challenges From Flooding

Unusually heavy rains have wreaked havoc in central and southwestern China, leaving hundreds dead and disrupting the economy’s post-pandemic recovery.

The southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing on Wednesday. Premier Li Keqiang visited the flood-stricken city this week.

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Having brought the coronavirus pandemic largely under control, China’s leaders are now struggling with a surge of crippling floods that have killed hundreds of people and displaced millions across the central and southwestern parts of the country.

Flooding on the Yangtze River peaked again this week, in Sichuan Province and the sprawling metropolis of Chongqing, while the Three Gorges Dam, 280 miles downstream, reached its highest level since it began holding water in 2003.

This year’s flooding has unfolded not as a single natural disaster, with an enormous loss of life and property, but rather as a slow, merciless series of smaller ones, whose combined toll has steadily mounted even as official reports have focused on the government’s relief efforts.

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Desalination Breakthrough Could Lead to Cheaper Water Filtration

By Water News

 

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Photo courtesy of Tyler Henderson/Penn State.
AUSTIN, Texas — Producing clean water at a lower cost could be on the horizon after researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and Penn State solved a complex problem that had baffled scientists for decades, until now.Desalination membranes remove salt and other chemicals from water, a process critical to the health of society, cleaning billions of gallons of water for agriculture, energy production and drinking. The idea seems simple — push salty water through and clean water comes out the other side — but it contains complex intricacies that scientists are still trying to understand.

Click here to watch a video explaining this research. Experiment photos and video footage courtesy Tyler Henderson/Penn State.

The research team, in partnership with DuPont Water Solutions, solved an important aspect of this mystery, opening the door to reduce costs of clean water production. The researchers determined desalination membranes are inconsistent in density and mass distribution, which can hold back their performance. Uniform density at the nanoscale is the key to increasing how much clean water these membranes can create.

“Reverse osmosis membranes are widely used for cleaning water, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about them,” said Manish Kumar, an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at UT Austin, who co-led the research. “We couldn’t really say how water moves through them, so all the improvements over the past 40 years have essentially been done in the dark.”

The findings were published today in Science.

The paper documents an increase in efficiency in the membranes tested by 30%-40%, meaning they can clean more water while using significantly less energy. That could lead to increased access to clean water and lower water bills for individual homes and large users alike.

Reverse osmosis membranes work by applying pressure to the salty feed solution on one side. The minerals stay there while the water passes through. Although more efficient than non-membrane desalination processes, it still takes a large amount of energy, the researchers said, and improving the efficiency of the membranes could reduce that burden.

“Fresh water management is becoming a crucial challenge throughout the world,” said Enrique Gomez, a professor of chemical engineering at Penn State who co-led the research. “Shortages, droughts — with increasing severe weather patterns, it is expected this problem will become even more significant. It’s critically important to have clean water availability, especially in low-resource areas.”

The density of filtration membranes, even at the atomic scale, can greatly affect how much clean water can be produced. (Enrique Gomez/Penn State)

The National Science Foundation and DuPont, which makes numerous desalination products, funded the research. The seeds were planted when DuPont researchers found that thicker membranes were actually proving to be more permeable. This came as a surprise because the conventional knowledge was that thickness reduces how much water could flow through the membranes.

The team connected with Dow Water Solutions, which is now a part of DuPont, in 2015 at a “water summit” Kumar organized, and they were eager to solve this mystery. The research team, which also includes researchers from Iowa State University, developed 3D reconstructions of the nanoscale membrane structure using state-of-the-art electron microscopes at the Materials Characterization Lab of Penn State. They modeled the path water takes through these membranes to predict how efficiently water could be cleaned based on structure. Greg Foss of the Texas Advanced Computing Center helped visualize these simulations, and most of the calculations were performed on Stampede2, TACC’s supercomputer.

Journal Reference:

  1. Tyler E. Culp et al. Nanoscale control of internal inhomogeneity enhances water transport in desalination membranes. Science, Jan 1st, 2021 DOI: 10.1126/science.abb8518

Cite This Page: University of Texas at Austin. “Desalination breakthrough could lead to cheaper water filtration.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201231141511.htm>.

Will Water Unite Us?

By Water News

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue

Shortly after the networks called the 2020 presidential race for Joe Biden, a list of four priorities appeared on the president-elect’s transition website.

Until that point, the Biden campaign’s Build Back Better platform was anchored by a placeholder message, one that urged patience from the American people and noted that votes were still being counted.

On November 8, a day after the victory announcement, the four priorities appeared, simple and direct, a distillation of the Biden team’s main concerns as it prepares to take the reins of American government.

  • Covid-19
  • Economic Recovery
  • Racial Equity
  • Climate Change

Certain observers noticed a common thread — an undercurrent, if you will — that knitted these priorities together: water. Water, which washes hands during the pandemic. Water, which is needed for factories to produce goods, farms to grow crops, and cities to reboot. Water, which has sometimes been denied to communities of color or delivered in polluted form. And water, which is how a warming planet will wreak much of its havoc.

“Water is integral to all of those things,” said Heather Cooley, director of research for the Pacific Institute, a California-based environmental and public policy organization.

Read more at Circle of Blue

Opinion | Water Scarcity Will Increase Risk of Conflict

By Water News

By Dr. Peter Gleick, President Emeritus of the Pacific Institute

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 116-92), including the Intelligence Authorization Act of FY2020. Section 6722 of that law required a report be prepared on the national security effects of “global water insecurity” and be submitted within 180 days (by late June 2020) to “the congressional intelligence committees, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.”

The Trump administration failed to deliver this report on time, finally releasing the unclassified version three days after the November 2020 election. That report, “Water Insecurity Threatening Economic Growth, Political Stability” (National Intelligence Council Memorandum NICM-2020-05949) was sent from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on November 6th – though it is dated July 10, 2020 – to the congressional committees noted in the Act as well as House and Senate leadership. Read More

‘This Is the Time to Act Collectively’: Anticipating Coronavirus Spread, Groups Seek to Scale Up Handwashing and Hygiene Efforts

By Water News

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue

In tweets and business tweaks, the world is relearning that clean hands are a first line of defense against disease and infection.

Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, handwashing and hygiene are swelling in urgency and support, even though the message being delivered is not new.

“It’s a known solution,” said Lindsay Denny, health adviser to Global Water 2020, a water, sanitation, and hygiene advocacy group. Denny was referring to hygienic practices being a safeguard against disease transmission. “We’ve known the solution for 150 years. It absolutely could be scaled and should be scaled up.”

Handwashing is a hard sell in calm times, when aspects of the health and medical industry like drug development attract more attention and funding than preventative measures. But today, the simple but potent combination of soap and water is having a moment that advocates are looking to take advantage of.

Though messages about handwashing and hygiene are breaking into the mainstream during the Covid-19 outbreak, the global nature of the pandemic is erecting extraordinary barriers to the movement of goods.

Read More at Circle of Blue

HotSpots H2O: Venezuela, Where Hospitals and Homes Lack Soap and Water, Announces First Coronavirus Cases

By Water News

For years, Venezuela’s healthcare system has veered toward collapse. Water, medicine, protective equipment, and other essentials have been in short supply. As the country reports its first coronavirus cases, experts fear the nation could be an ideal breeding ground for the disease.

“I am very concerned that in Venezuela there are no supplies, medicines, or even water in hospitals or homes,” Josefina Moreno, a university professor with a history of respiratory disease, said in an interview with Reuters. “The prevention measures that everyone is talking about are hard to comply with here.”

As of Sunday afternoon, a total of 10 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Venezuela, according to Jorge Rodriguez, minister of communication and information.

After the first two cases were announced on Friday, schools across the country were closed indefinitely. Later that day, neighboring Colombia — which announced its first case last week and now has several dozen cases — halted all border crossings with Venezuela. The two countries share a 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border.

Venezuela has also barred all flights with Europe and Colombia, and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó canceled planned street demonstrations.

The protective measures, however, fail to address Venezuela’s major vulnerability in combating the virus: a woefully unprepared healthcare system.

Read More at Circle of Blue

As Pandemic Magnifies Navajo Nation Water Deficit, Coronavirus Funding Questions Arise

By Water News

A water tank on the Navajo Nation. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons user CEBImagery

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue

The Navajo Nation, one of the U.S. populations hardest hit by Covid-19, will receive at least $600 million in emergency funding from the CARES Act to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s an enormous amount of money for the tribe, amounting to about half of the Navajo Nation’s $1.3 billion budget for 2020. But the country’s second-most populous tribal nation might not be authorized to use the funds for one of its greatest needs, which is clean water.

The CARES Act, which was signed by President Trump on March 27, provided $8 billion to tribal governments. Three-fifths of that amount ($4.8 billion) has been allocated so far. Because of its size, the Navajo Nation will receive a large portion of that sum.

Read More at Circle of Blue