Beer Brewers Tap Growing Economic Clout to Fight for Clean Water

Dear EarthTalk: I heard that a number of beer brewing companies have banded together to support the Clean Water Act. Can you enlighten?—Mitch Jenkins, Cincinnati

Beer-BrewersIn April 2013 the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brought together two dozen nationally respected craft beer brewers to launch the Brewers for Clean Water Campaign, which aims to leverage the economic growth of the craft brewing sector into a powerful voice for bolstering clean water protection in the United States.

“Whether brewers are creating ales, pilsners, porters, wits or stouts, one ingredient must go into every batch: clean water,” says Karen Hobbs, a senior policy analyst at NRDC. “Craft brewers need clean water to make great beer.” Read more

Nicaragua launches construction of inter-oceanic canal

Nicaragua has announced the start of work on a new canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. At an opening ceremony, Wang Jing, the president of HKND, the Chinese company building the canal, said this moment would go down in history.

Nicaragua-canalThe 278km (172 mile) waterway will be longer, deeper and wider than the Panama Canal. But critics fear a negative environmental impact and doubt its viability and economic benefits.

The Grand Canal of Nicaragua, as it has been called, aims to rival Panama’s waterway and lift the country out of poverty. The opening ceremony was largely symbolic, as work began on an access road for machinery needed to build a port for the canal on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Read more

Chinese construction is due to start—but of what?

ON DECEMBER 22nd an odd couple—Nicaragua’s left-wing government and a Chinese-born telecoms magnate—say they will begin the realisation of a dream that has captivated Nicaraguans for generations: the construction of an inter-oceanic canal to rival Panama’s. According to Manuel Coronel, an octogenarian who runs the canal authority, their intentions are now beyond dispute. “When the bride and groom set a date, you know it’s serious,” he says.

NicaraguaBut ask Mr Coronel just where construction will begin and who will pay for it, and he has no answers. Neither does HKND, the Hong Kong-based company run by Wang Jing, which is to build the $50 billion waterway. The project has been shrouded in secrecy since Nicaragua’s National Assembly awarded a 50-year concession to HKND in 2013. No feasibility study, environmental-impact report, business case or financing plan has yet been released. Instead come platitudes from the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega about how it will bring a jobs bonanza and end poverty. Read more

This Tower Pulls Drinking Water Out of Thin Air

In some parts of Ethiopia, finding potable water is a six-hour journey.

People in the region spend 40 billion hours a year trying to find and collect water, says a group called the Water Project. And even when they find it, the water is often not safe, collected from ponds or lakes teeming with infectious bacteria, contaminated with animal waste or other harmful substances.

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Warka Water towers are designed to take advantage of condensation. (Architecture and Vision )

The water scarcity issue—which affects nearly 1 billion people in Africa alone—has drawn the attention of big-name philanthropists like actor and Water.org co-founder Matt Damon and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who, through their respective nonprofits, have poured millions of dollars into research and solutions, coming up with things like a system that converts toilet water to drinking water and a “Re-invent the Toilet Challenge,” among others. Read more

Scientist discusses three-year mission to study how soil, water, and carbon interact

Dara Entekhabi, an MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering and of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences, is the science team leader of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 29.

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Artist’s rendering of the SMAP instrument. Credit: NASA

The satellite will provide measurements of the moisture in the top 2 inches of the soil, everywhere on Earth, over the course of its planned three-year mission, as well as specifying whether that water is liquid or frozen. Entekhabi discussed what he hopes this mission will be able to accomplish.

Q. How much of an improvement will SMAP represent over current ways of assessing soil moisture around the world? Why is it important to be able to do so?

A. Why we need soil moisture information, and what capability SMAP adds, can be explained by following a timeline of what we know about how the Earth system works, starting in the 1980s and 1990s. Read more