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

Robotics, Artificial Intelligence Make Headway in the Water Industry

Imagine H2O, a startup accelerator, is mentoring a new crop of entrepreneurs. Tom Ferguson explains how they are applying the latest technology to water treatment, leak detection and other problems in the water sector.

You Wu, chief executive of Pipeguard Robotics, holds the robot he invented, which he calls Daisy. It travels with the flow in water pipes to detect and gather data on water leaks. Photo Courtesy Pipeguard Robotics

WE HEAR PLENTY these days about breakthroughs in green energy, robotics and communications. But as everyday technologies go, water management is virtually invisible to the general public.

One organization that’s working to change that is Imagine H2O, a startup accelerator based in San Francisco. A nonprofit, it provides support to emerging companies working on water problems, helping them find investors and customers.

Every year, Imagine H2O hosts a competition to nurture a class of promising water entrepreneurs. The latest class attracted 206 applicants from 36 countries, each of them seeking to benefit from expert guidance in the water industry and from relationships with investors. Read more

15-Year Study Indicates Huge Increase in Pacific Ocean Microplastics

Charles Moore, who first sailed the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997, has returned five times over 15 years to document the concentrations of plastic in the ocean. His results show microplastics are accumulating at a rapid rate.

Plastic bottle floating in the Pacific Ocean. 

In 1997, sailboat captain Charles Moore sailed from Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean, taking a shortcut to his home port of Los Angeles after a sailing race. As he cut across the then-seldom-sailed stretch of ocean – the swirling North Pacific Gyre – he came upon an enormous accumulation of plastic trash and made it famous. He helped captured the public’s imagination around the problem of marine plastic pollution by writing about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

On Monday, two decades after his discovery, he reported a seemingly dramatic 60-fold increase in the tiny pieces of microplastic during his 15 years of study of the now-infamous ocean area. From 1999 to 2014, he and a team of researchers regularly returned to 11 sites across this area with Algalita, the nonprofit he founded, scooping up plastic samples using a manta trawl from Moore’s research catamaran in an attempt to quantify change in plastic over time. Read more

How People Get Water Around the World

Water is the common denominator of life.

All around the world, water is a precious resource, the common denominator of life. When it’s reliable and clean, people tend to take it for granted. When it’s the opposite, it can become the crucial fact of a person’s existence, something that, if left unaddressed, prevents anything else from happening.

United States, Flint, Michigan

Roughly 2 billion people don’t have reliable sources of clean drinking water and one child every minute dies from preventable waterborne diarrheal disease. Read more