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U.S. Ecosystem Report Indicates Trouble

Ben Block, WorldChanging
Years of industrial and agricultural growth have left an indelible imprint on many formerly vibrant U.S. ecosystems. While nature is adept at resilience, the depletion and contamination of natural resources, especially water, may affect human health and wellbeing, a new report suggests.

Released last week by the federally funded environmental think tank The Heinz Center, The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems offers what the authors consider the most comprehensive look at countrywide ecosystem health.

… Among the findings, U.S. freshwater resources are being continually depleted and polluted. Between 1960 and 2000, freshwater withdrawn for consumption increased 46 percent. Meanwhile, drought and melting glaciers have reduced the flow of many water sources.

Contaminants, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and medications, have been detected in “virtually all” freshwater streambeds, the report said. Streams are contaminated above benchmarks set to protect aquatic life in 57 percent of farmland and 83 percent of urban and suburban areas. These pollutants have contributed to growing “dead zones” where aquatic life cannot survive.

Contaminants at concentrations above the benchmark for human health are found in 7 percent of urban and suburban streams. Nitrate, a runoff of agricultural fertilizers, exceeds federal drinking water standards in 20 percent of farmland groundwater wells.
(27 June 2008)

The Intersections of Energy and Water
Robert Wilkinson, Energy Conversation via Energy Policy TV
Robert Wilkinson, Lecturer of the Environmental Studies Program and Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, discusses the global water crisis and its ties to energy. Wilkinson emphasizes the importance of water in, not only just everyday consumption, but in terms of use in energy production and agriculture. Climate change, Wilkinson argues, is leading to water disruptions such as droughts, glacier melts, and river flows which causes economic, food production, and energy production problems. He closely examines California in those regards and also looks at the potential for international confrontations between China and India and among countries depending on the Nile River, such as Egypt and Ethiopia.
(23 June 2008)

US Mayors Agree to Phase Out Bottled Water

Agence France Presse via Common Dreams
The US Conference of Mayors on Monday passed a resolution calling for a phasing out of bottled water by municipalities and promoting the importance of public water supplies.0625 02 1 2

The vote comes amid increasing environmental concerns about the use of bottled water because of its use of plastic and energy costs to transport drinking supplies.

The mayors, meeting in Miami, approved a resolution proposed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom along with 17 other large-city mayors to redirect taxpayer dollars from bottled water to other city services.

“Cities are sending the wrong message about the quality of public water when we spend taxpayer dollars on water in disposable containers from a private corporation,” said Newsom.
(25 June 2008)