Groundwater tied to human evolution

Our ancient ancestors’ ability to move around and find new sources of groundwater during extremely dry periods in Africa millions of years ago may have been key to their survival and the evolution of the human species, a new study shows.

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Insert shows with arrow the location of study area in eastern Africa. Map of the Northern Tanzanian Divergence Zone depicts the East African Rift System (EARS), containing Lake Natron (north), diverging around the Ngorongoro Volcanic Highland massif and splitting into two separate rift valleys (Lake Eyasi on west) and Lake Manyara (on east). Prevailing wind is from the east. Olduvai basin lies to the west of and in the rain shadow of Ngorongoro.

The research — published in the journal PLOS ONE — combines geological evidence from the Olduvai sedimentary basin in Northern Tanzania, which formed about 2.2 million years ago, and results from a hydrological model.

It shows that while water in rivers and lakes would have disappeared as the climate changed due to variations in Earth’s orbit, freshwater springs fed by groundwater could have stayed active for up to 1000 years without rainfall. Read more

New Technology Tools Aim to Reduce Water Use

waterCan technology help ease the U.S. water crisis?

Some utilities and private well owners hope so, as about 40% of the continental U.S. battles some form of drought and demand for water continues to grow. Worries about water shortages are heating up in various areas across the nation, especially in California and other Western states, where a punishing drought has entered its third year.

In an effort to encourage conservation and manage water use more efficiently, utilities and consumers are turning to a variety of new technology tools, including software and mobile apps that let households know just how much water they are using and how that usage stacks up against the neighbors. There also are sensors that can determine when wells are running low, and leak-detection systems for homes that send alerts and shut off the water when problems are suspected. Read more

Water hidden in the Moon may have proto-Earth origin

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Earth’s Moon, as imaged by the Galileo mission.

Water found in ancient Moon rocks might have actually originated from the proto-Earth and even survived the Moon-forming event. Latest research into the amount of water within lunar rocks returned during the Apollo missions is being presented by Jessica Barnes at the European Planetary Science Congress in London on Monday 9th September.

The Moon, including its interior, is believed to be much wetter than was envisaged during the Apollo era. The study by Barnes and colleagues at The Open University, UK, investigated the amount of water present in the mineral apatite, a calcium phosphate mineral found in samples of the ancient lunar crust.

“These are some of the oldest rocks we have from the Moon and are much older than the oldest rocks found on Earth. The antiquity of these rocks make them the most appropriate samples for trying to understand the water content of the Moon soon after it formed about 4.5 billion years ago and for unravelling where in the Solar System that water came from,” Barnes explains. Read more

Underwater grass comeback bodes well for Chesapeake Bay

The Susquehanna Flats, a large bed of underwater grasses near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, virtually disappeared from the upper Chesapeake Bay after Tropical Storm Agnes more than 40 years ago. However, the grasses mysteriously began to come back in the early 2000s.

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After a decades long absence, the under water grasses in the upper Chesapeake Bay are back.

Today, the bed is one of the biggest and healthiest in the Bay, spanning some 20 square miles. A new study by scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science explores what’s behind this major comeback. Read more

Reducing water scarcity possible by 2050

Water scarcity is not a problem just for the developing world. In California, legislators are currently proposing a $7.5 billion emergency water plan to their voters; and U.S. federal officials last year warned residents of Arizona and Nevada that they could face cuts in Colorado River water deliveries in 2016.

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By looking at the problem on a global scale, we have calculated that if four of these strategies are applied at the same time we could actually stabilize the number of people in the world who are facing water stress rather than continue to allow their numbers to grow, which is what will happen if we continue with business as usual.”

Irrigation techniques, industrial and residential habits combined with climate change lie at the root of the problem. But despite what appears to be an insurmountable problem, according to researchers from McGill and Utrecht University it is possible to turn the situation around and significantly reduce water scarcity in just over 35 years. Read more