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Water on Mars: What Does It Really Mean?

A new find of liquid water fuels hopes that life may yet exist on the red planet.

It’s tempting to say that the announcement of liquid water on the surface of Mars heralds a new era in Martian exploration.
You might think that the first human explorers on Mars will park next to a salty stream and use it to manufacture fresh drinking water. Maybe they could even find life in damp Martian nooks and crannies, areas where the dusty red planet can still fuel microbes.
Reality is much more subtle. Finding evidence for flowing water is not the same as finding life. Right now, scientists don’t know where this water is coming from, or if the chemistry in these Martian seeps is even life-friendly. And unfortunately, chances are it will be a long time before we can get there to find out.

“It’s hard to get a spacecraft clean enough to send a lander or rover there right now,” says Bethany Ehlmann, a planetary geologist at Caltech, referring to concerns about hitchhiking Earth microbes contaminating the Martian surface. Read more

Water Conservation Tips

Learn how to reduce your water usage.

Finding out what’s in your water will help determine what kind of filter you will need.

1994 was the year that federally mandated low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets started to appear on the scene in significant numbers. How can you conform to the standards and help increase energy efficiency in your home? Read more

Utah, America’s Thirstiest State, Wrestles With Unmetered Water Use

Most homeowners in Utah benefit from a unique resource: Cheap untreated irrigation water for their yards. The state has no idea how much people consume, even as it ponders investing billions in new water development projects.

New single-family homes and others under construction are shown on a ridge in St. George, Utah. In an effort to keep up with growth, Utah is considering several large water projects, but some say it should focus first on cutting consumption, starting with unmetered outdoor water.

IF YOU LIVE in Utah, chances are good that you’re getting a sweet deal on water for your lawn and landscaping. In fact, you might be paying next to nothing for it, at least compared to nearly everywhere else in the West.

Utah has a unique system of delivering irrigation water to residential yards that dates back to the 1800s, when the state was settled by Mormon pioneers. It allows homeowners to access untreated agricultural water from canals, sold at an unmetered flat rate, to irrigate their lawns, gardens and landscaping. Read more

Why a Supreme Court Battle Over Water in the West Could Have Been Avoided

Texas and New Mexico are squaring off over water rights in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the issues at the heart of the disagreement were settled in 2008.

The Rio Grande flows through southern New Mexico and is at the heart of a legal dispute between New Mexico and Texas.Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in a case pitting Texas against New Mexico over water rights along the Rio Grande. The Lone Star State initially filed suit against its partner in the Rio Grande Compact in 2013, charging project mismanagement and illegal use of water from the river and its connected groundwater in a roughly 130-mile stretch as the river leaves New Mexico and enters Texas.

The thing is, the two local water districts in southern New Mexico and Texas at the heart of the controversy had already resolved the primary issues underlying the case years earlier – and everyone played nicely for a few years, sharing the water. But then, in 2011, the state of New Mexico decided it didn’t like the agreement and tried to void the local districts’ deal. So Texas, in turn, filed suit, and the case went straight to the Supreme Court – which brings us to today. Read more

San Francisco’s Tallest Building Makes Big Water Recycling Statement

The Salesforce Tower in San Francisco is installing a water recycling system to treat gray water and black water from the building, reducing the need for 30,000 gallons of freshwater a day, writes Ceres’ Kirsten James.

An aerial view of the Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in San Francisco. The tower will utilize a state-of-the-art recycled water treatment system.Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

San Francisco’s newest skyscraper, Salesforce Tower, is a first in many ways.

At 1,070ft, it is the tallest building in the city, and except for the spire on the Wiltshire Grand in Los Angeles, it’s the tallest west of the Mississippi. It is the first thing seen by travelers approaching the city from any direction, rising above the city’s fog.

Of particular interest to me, Salesforce Tower will also house the largest water recycling system in a commercial high-rise building in the United States. A black-water system will recycle all of the water used in the building to be available again for nonpotable uses, saving about 30,000 gallons of freshwater a day. Read more