Tag Archive for: Water Footprint
Becoming water positive is a more difficult task than becoming carbon positive. Both in practice and in tracking complex water data. Less than a decade ago, experts questioned if it was even feasible to have a net-positive impact when it comes to water. Perhaps the biggest reason for the difficulty with water is a relative volatility when compared with carbon. Seasonal environmental changes in rainfall, as well as droughts and floods, effectively make water consumption a non-zero-sum game. And with water, quality is more important than volume. Today, companies and organizations are believing that goal a more attainable one.
Organizations are now shooting for a goal that will create a net-positive impact on volume and quality. Recently, Microsoft announced their goal of becoming water positive by 2030. Their goal is not only impressive, but it is complex and multi-faceted. They plan to achieve more freshwater collection, lower consumption, working with various agencies and NGOs on regulatory changes, and perhaps most importantly digitizing their water data.
Why is this goal so important? Almost a third of the world’s population, over 2.2 billion individuals, lack access to safe and clean water. With potential chronic shortages becoming more common and increased demand being more likely, the need for fresh water will be more drastic as time goes on. Organizations aiming for water positivity will lessen the momentum of water becoming less available.
Where does Locus come in? We can’t solve a problem that we can’t understand. With Locus software, companies and organizations can accurately track and report complex ground and surface water data. Our calculation engine can deliver real-time estimates of supply and demand and our water quality software can manage sample planning and configure notifications for late or missing samples or exceedances in pre-defined limits. Our water quality solutions, long used by utilities like San Jose Water Company and Santa Clara Valley Water, can also help businesses achieve a greater perspective on their water consumption, providing the tools to allow them to become water positive.
Does the solution for over 5% of world CO2 emissions lie in the 2000-year-old concrete-making technology from ancient Rome?
Concrete is the second most consumed substance on Earth after water. Overall, humanity produces more than 10 billion tons (about 4 billion cubic meters) of concrete and cement per year. That’s about 1.3 tons for every person on the planet— more than any other material, including oil and coal. The consumption of concrete exceeds that of all other construction materials combined. The process of making modern cement and concrete has a heavy environmental penalty, being responsible for roughly 5% of global emissions of CO2.
Scientists explain ancient Rome’s long-lasting concrete
So could the greater understanding of the ancient Roman concrete mixture lead to greener building materials? That is what scientists may have discovered and published in a 2017 study, led by Marie Jackson of the University of Utah. Their study uncovered the Roman secrets for formulating some of the most long-lasting concrete yet discovered. Our ability to unlock the secrets of ancient concrete formulas is dependent upon interdisciplinary analytical approaches utilized by the Jackson heat group and could lead to further discoveries that would reduce cement-based carbon emissions.
Unlike the modern concrete mixture which erodes over time, the Roman concrete-like substance seemed to gain strength, particularly from exposure to sea water. And most importantly, the process generates fewer CO2 emissions and uses less energy and water than “modern”, Portland cement-based concrete.
California approves AB888, an important bill to prohibit the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products for sale in California by 2020. When someone uses a product – like a face wash, for example – that has microbeads, several things happen. First – they get a unique kind of cleanse in their face that beauty companies suggest they can’t get any other way. Second – the microbeads (tiny pieces of plastic) are washed down the drain with water. These microbeads do not get recycled. They do not get caught in filters before they hit the sea. They pollute.
With two just-released studies showing overwhelming levels of plastic pollution in San Francisco Bay and in Half Moon Bay’s marine life, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this bill will have a huge impact on the health of California’s waterways — and its people. Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington also tried and failed this year to enact bans on manufacture and sale, while Oregon’s legislature is considering similar bans.
Studies found that San Francisco bay is contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic in greater concentrations than other U.S. bodies of water — at least 3.9 million pieces every day. Many of those plastic particles are tiny microbeads, less than one millimeter in diameter, which can be found in personal care products like shower gels, facial scrubs and toothpaste.
AB888 will ban the beads by 2020. Product manufacturers can use other exfoliants that aren’t as environmentally destructive, and increasingly, states are demanding that they do so. Six other states have already passed legislation that bans or restricts their use.
In addition to the plastic polluting our waterways — there are 471 million microbeads released into the bay every day from wastewater treatment facilities, Gordon said — they also contaminate the fish that we eat. A recent study in the publication Scientific Reports found “anthropogenic debris” in 25 percent of the fish sampled at markets in California.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed new standards for mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants that are discharged into the water bodies (rivers and streams) from steam-powered electric power plants.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rules, the first national limits on pollutants from steam electricity plants, will provide significant protections for children and communities across the country from exposure to pollutants that can cause serious health problems.
The rule will remove 1.4 billion pounds a year of toxic discharge nationwide. More than 23,000 miles of rivers and streams across the US are polluted by steam electric discharges, which occur close to 100 public drinking water intakes and nearly 2,000 public wells across the nation, the EPA said.
Toxic metals do not break down in the environment and can contaminate sediment in waterways and harm aquatic life and wildlife, including killing large numbers of fish. Steam electric power plants account for about 30 percent of all toxic pollutants discharged into streams, rivers and lakes from U.S. industrial facilities. The pollutants can cause neurological damage in children, lead to cancer and damage the circulatory system, kidneys and livers.
The EPA said most of the nation’s 1,080 steam electric power plants already meet the requirements. About 12 percent, or 134 plants, will have to make new investments to do so. A water quality management software like Locus EIM can help utilities automate their compliance with this new rules and manage water quality across portfolio of their plants.
How many times has water played a part in your routine activities today? Maybe you have taken a shower, made coffee, flushed a toilet, or washed your hands. Chances are you’ve already counted on water multiple times today, and probably didn’t think twice about it.
As we count down the last few days of National Water Quality Month, I would like to elaborate on the importance of this resource, and urgency of this subject. Water is obviously a crucial resource to sustain life. Not only used for daily consumption, but also for general hygiene, recreational purposes, and as the necessary fuel to propel everyday business operations. Most energy generation sources also heavily depend on high water availability. However, water is not a limitless resource. Yet, most of us continue to take it for granted while it grows in scarcity as the world’s population booms.
Only about three percent of the world’s water supply is drinking water, and more than half of this is unavailable, locked in ice at the North and South poles. The remaining supply is distributed in surface water bodies like lakes and rivers, and in underground repositories as groundwater. According to the United Nations, 783 million people do not have access to clean water. This number is likely to worsen in the future as the demand for clean water is expected to rise 40 percent by 2030.
With water being at such high demand, and such limited availability, it is essential that proper water quality be achieved. This is most important for safety reasons, but water quality issues also pose potential liabilities of billions of dollars to businesses worldwide.
Water is key to the operations and success of many businesses in various industries, such as agriculture, oil & gas, and nuclear. It is the responsibility of these businesses to properly manage this risk, and of all the types of water-related data that companies need, measurements pertaining to water quality stand out in terms of their sheer quantity and complexity.
Existing regulations are largely limited to requiring the monitoring and reporting of the contamination of surface water bodies and groundwater by various industrial processes, spills, and other releases. However, the focus has begun to shift from compliance-based monitoring and reporting, to the scarcity and quality of drinking water supplies, and the impact that energy consumption associated with water activities has on carbon emissions. As detection technology improves and human exposure to low-level contamination is linked to more diseases, more testing will be required for ever smaller and smaller concentration levels. All of this means only more and more information that needs to be captured, stored, managed, and reported.
In order to effectively manage all the data for this critical resource, it only makes sense to use the most up-to-date technology. In this case, it comes in the form of a robust, web-based information management system that allows businesses to manage, organize, and visualize their water quality data from a single access point in near real time.
At Locus, we recognize the importance of this resource and the challenges that accompany water quality management. This is why we continue to mold our software offerings to best help organizations responsibly handle this data, and ensure positive decision making. It’s the decisions we make today that will affect the state of this precious resource in the future.
While some scientists may still disagree as to whether or not greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities are largely responsible for global warming change, there is almost no dispute that water-related issues represent a challenge to mankind that is of no less importance than climate change.
Any emission of unwanted gases into the air can be almost instantly remediated by cutting off the source. However, any gases that have escaped cannot be recaptured to be remediated. In contrast, water that is contaminated frequently can be treated, but the process is generally lengthy, costly, and energy-intensive.
Amid the rapidly growing concerns regarding the degradation of water quality and water scarcity, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) launched the CDP Water Disclosure, an initiative that seeks to increase reporting on water-related risks and opportunities, especially by companies operating in water-intensive sectors. Governments and other voluntary reporting organizations such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are expected to provide the industry with more water reporting frameworks in the near future that are similar to those that exist for carbon reporting. Furthermore, water-related activities such as pumping, purification, irrigation, energy production, hydro fracturing, etc. are some of the biggest, if not the biggest contributors to GHG emissions. It is estimated that over 25 percent of GHG emissions in California are attributable to water-related activities. The entire output of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is spent on moving water in California, and that’s a lot of Giga-Watt hours (GWh).
Of all the types of water-related data that companies need, one stands out in terms of its sheer quantity and complexity: the measurements pertaining to water quality. Existing regulations require monitoring and reporting of the contamination of surface water bodies and groundwater by various industrial processes, spills, and other releases. Monitoring and reporting on such activities generate enormous quantities of data that until recently have rarely been used for anything other than to comply with regulatory reporting requirements. However, entities such as the CDP Water Disclosure project and the GRI reporting initiative are starting to shift the focus from compliance–based monitoring and reporting of effluents, to the scarcity and quality of drinking water supplies and the impact of energy associated with water activities on carbon emissions.
As detection technology improves and human exposure to low-level contamination is linked to more diseases, more testing will be required for ever smaller and smaller concentration levels. All of this means only more and more information that needs to be captured, stored, managed, and reported.
If one can find information on almost any topic within seconds on the web and for free, why should companies pay their consultants to mine their own water, carbon, and other environmental data to find information that the company already owns? A different approach is called for, one that relies on new web-based software that gives environmental professionals Google-like abilities to search complex water data sets and growing piles of seemingly unrelated water quality information. Finding water quality information on the fly should be no different and as easy as creating graphs showing financial performance of the stock over time using one of the popular financial websites, such as Yahoo Finance.
New Web 2.0 technologies provide a low cost means of making critical information available that organizations need to understand and manage their overall water or carbon footprint. Web-based Environmental Information Management systems offered through Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms (increasingly referred to these days as Cloud Computing), can provide the collaborative software tools businesses need to (1) organize and manage their water quality information from a single virtual location, (2) automate workflow processes, 3) gain ownership of their data, and (4) open up relevant datasets to the public via overlays on web-based GIS technologies such as Google maps. An added benefit of these systems is that they allow for the possibility of accessing and linking not just water quality data, but all relevant environmental information, including compliance, greenhouse gases, sustainability and climate change data, and even health data and information, from a single entry point on the web.
Governmental agencies, companies, and other NGOs that have to manage water quality data would benefit from adopting the Cloud Computing model. Cloud computing-based software allows companies to manage and organize their water quality data on a larger and more comprehensive scale, including water and carbon footprint reporting, thus avoiding the need to buy additional software or store the same data in more than one location. It is slowly making its way into companies that have to manage large quantities of water quality data and meet routine compliance requirements. The Cloud-based enterprise software model fits the way environmental information needs to be managed through the use of mashups (applications that integrate data or functionality from multiple sources or technologies), and has the potential to completely upend the way corporations manage their water, carbon and other environmental data. And with proliferation of smart phones connected to the Web, one can collect and report data in real time directly from a smart phone. In summary, what industry needs is Cloud-based Environmental Enterprise Resource Planning, or EERP.
Water quality issues pose potential liabilities of billions of dollars to businesses worldwide. Companies would find themselves able to make quicker, more confident decisions at less cost if they managed the data associated with these risks using robust web-based information management systems similar to existing ERP systems. What industry needs is a portal-like software platform that allows Single Sign On (SSO) to multiple applications for managing, organizing, and visualizing air, water, soil, emissions, energy and sustainability data that can easily mash up.
There is a saying from the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) “Water is powerful. It can wash away earth, put out fire, and even destroy iron. Water can carve its way through stone. And when trapped, water makes a new path.” There is also a famous Chinese proverb about water: “not only can water float a boat, it can sink it also.”
And with global water shortages on the horizon, climate change supporters say an extreme response will be needed from international governments to provide enough drinking water in some parts of the world. The World Bank in a report said that 1.4 million people could be facing water scarcity by 2025. But the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecast is even gloomier. It estimates that 47% of the world’s population could face water stress in the same period–equivalent to more than three billion people.
The issue isn’t restricted to countries that typically see temperatures soar like ones in the Middle East. Northern hemisphere nations like the U.K. are also finding themselves in the midst of a drought in some regions, forcing governments to start to take action. The U.K. government, for instance, plans to issue a Water White Paper this December (2011) that will focus on the future challenges facing the water industry and measures to increase protection of river flows during summer months. No one really knows whether this year’s snows and rains in California are providing only a temporary respite from a long dry spell or signaling a return to normal—or at least what much of the developed world considers normal.
Maybe Israel’s entrepreneurial approach to the issue is the way forward. In the recent book “The Big Thirst” Mr. Charles Fishman, makes an interesting argument for a market-based approach to water’s distribution and usage… But the fact remains that water scarcity is now firmly on the agenda of the world’s governments, and isn’t going to evaporate overnight.
“The Big Thirst” offers a torrent of statistics. It is overflowing with stories large and small about water: The average American flushes the toilet five times a day, the author says, using 18.5 gallons of water. That comes to “5.7 billion gallons of clean drinking water down the toilet.” An Australian rice farmer with 10,450 acres uses six gigaliters of water—that’s six billion liters, or enough to hand almost everyone on the planet a bottle of Evian.
Water is a local problem. The wastefulness (and water conservation) has little or no effect on people in other watersheds because water is so difficult to ship. Shipping consumes energy. Energy production generates GHG. Hence a close relationship between water and climate change. Compared to other big problems facing society today, such as finance, climate change, and energy consumption, they are all interconnected in some way. No way out. And water will move to the top of agenda during this decade.
Mr. Fishman predicts that we will arrive at a water solution by putting a market price on water, because in most places today, neither farms nor industry nor residents pay what it costs to develop, purify and deliver water to their faucets. Rather than pay a market price for their water—which would direct the resource to where it provided the most economic value—most users pay a rate set by the government or their water utility, a rate usually aimed only at recouping the portion of the cost not subsidized by the general taxpayer. This distortion tends to keep the retail price of water lower than it would otherwise be where water is scarce, encouraging consumption rather than conservation.
Mr. Fishman asserts that pricing water beyond a basic ration for all would “help fix everything else,” including scarcity, unequal distribution, misuse and waste. Putting the right price on water would stop us from using purified water to flush our toilets or water our lawns, and it would lead us to more aggressively tap our own wastewater—the water from your shower could be used to wash the car or water the lawn. “The right price changes how we see everything else about water.”
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Locus Technologies provides cloud-based environmental software and mobile solutions for EHS, sustainability management, GHG reporting, water quality management, risk management, and analytical, geologic, and ecologic environmental data management.