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No Water, No Power

Drought in Kenya and neighboring countries became so severe earlier this year that the government of Kenya declared a national disaster. Already, the effects have been devastating: Food production dropped, leaving more than 2.6 million people without access to sufficient food. Some villagers have lost 40 percent of their livestock.

Water stress looms over electricity generation.

Amidst the human tragedy of this drought, an unexpected actor faced shutdowns and economic losses due to water scarcity: the power sector. Almost 70 percent of Kenya’s electricity is generated by two water-dependent sources: hydropower and fossil fuels. According to Business Daily, the drought has caused Kenya’s reserve energy margin—the amount of energy needed to meet peak demands— to drop to 4.4 percent, far lower than the recommended 15 percent needed to minimize risk of blackouts. Read more

U.S. Cities Go to the Source to Protect Drinking Water

In 2002, a catastrophic wildfire that burned 138,000 acres of forest made Denver’s drinking water supply run black with ash and soil. Cleanup of infrastructure damage, debris and erosion cost more than $25 million, while the fire-ravaged landscape caused increased flooding that wreaked havoc on water infrastructure and roads for years.

Many communities in the U.S. West depend on such sources for drinking water. Photo by Kara DiFrancesco.

This catastrophe pushed Colorado’s biggest city to examine new ways to protect its drinking water, looking beyond the water utility and into the forested watersheds where the water supply originates. To lessen wildfire risks, Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) started a watershed investment program to improve management of source water forests, together dedicating a total of $32 million to forest restoration over five years. Starting in 2011, Denver Water has invested in forest restoration and improved forest management to reduce the risk of wildfires, and USFS shares costs and implements those restoration activities. Read more

Researchers Have Made The First Laser Out of Water And Light

Researchers have developed the world’s first water-wave laser, demonstrating that lasers can, in fact, be created by interactions between light and water waves.

These new lasers offer researchers incredible control, and could help them to use lasers on tiny ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technologies, enabling them to more effectively study microscopic cells and test different drug therapies that could lead to better healthcare down the road. Read more

A Mars ice deposit holds as much water as Lake Superior

Frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on Mars lies about as much water as what’s in Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes, a team of scientists led by The University of Texas at Austin has determined using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

This vertically exaggerated view shows scalloped depressions in a part of Mars where such textures prompted researchers to check for buried ice, using ground-penetrating radar aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They found about as much frozen water as the volume of Lake Superior.

Scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region, in the mid-northern latitudes, with the orbiter’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument. Analyses of data from more than 600 overhead passes revealed a deposit more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico. The deposit ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, with a composition that’s 50 to 85 percent water ice, mixed with dust or larger rocky particles. Read more

Earth Doesn’t Actually Have The Most Water in The Solar System

Earth seems drenched with water from mountaintop to ocean bottom.

But our home planet is a desert compared to some places the solar system, both in terms of its total water volume and the amount of liquid on Earth relative to its size.

Consider Jupiter’s ice-encrusted moon Europa, which is smaller than Earth’s moon. Scientists recently used 20-year-old Voyager data to find even more evidence that Europa has twice as much water as our planet. Read more