Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Hidden wells, dirty water Part 1

Leah Beth Ward, Yakima Herald-Republic
Evidence of groundwater contamination in the Lower Valley has been ignored for years, leaving poor rural residents exposed to health risks and nowhere to turn

OUTLOOK — Like many rural Lower Yakima Valley residents, Norma and Leonardo Solano used their well water for years with little thought.

But in January, Norma Solano saw a television report about contaminated well water at nearby Outlook Elementary School. The water had tested high in nitrates, an odorless compound found in water and soil that can pose health risks.

For days afterward, she tried to learn how widespread the problem might be

… The couple now spends $200 a month for bottled water, the equivalent of more than $1 of every $10 they earn, as they struggle to keep up with the mortgage on their 1910 wood-frame farmhouse.

Their situation isn’t unique.

A little noticed scientific study six years ago found that one in five of 195 wells tested outside five Lower Valley communities contained levels of nitrates above federal safety limits.

The wells that were tested serve homes situated amid and around dairies, cornfields and orchards. The wells are usually shallow and old, and may be too close to aging septic systems that could be failing. In any case, the wells are not connected to municipal water supplies, which are regularly tested for contaminants.
(11 October 2008)

Bottled water versus tap: Which is safer to drink?

Elena Conis, Los Angeles Times
Both have their risks, but your home’s water is subject to broader scrutiny.

Those ubiquitous plastic water bottles have been increasingly vilified in recent years. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, among others, have banned them from purchase with city funds. A few trendsetting restaurants, and even some markets and hotels, have banned them too.

The trend has left many consumers wondering: Isn’t bottled safer than tap?

“Bottled water isn’t any safer or purer than what comes out of the tap,” says Dr. Sarah Janssen, science fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, which conducted an extensive analysis of bottled water back in 1999. “In fact, it’s less well-regulated, and you’re more likely to know what’s in tap water.”

Bottled and tap water come from essentially the same sources: lakes, springs and aquifers, to list a few. In fact, a significant fraction of the bottled water products on store shelves are tap water — albeit filtered and treated with extra steps to improve taste.

It’s not news to anyone that tap water can taste funky (too much chlorine, usually) or look discolored (from air bubbles or rust in pipes). But generally, that doesn’t mean it isn’t safe to drink, says Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water with the Environmental Protection Agency.
(13 October 2008)

Bottled water firm steamed about Miami-Dade water ads

Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald
Radio commercials that touted Miami-Dade tap water have landed the county in legal hot water with Nestle.

In the radio ad, a talking faucet extols Miami-Dade’s tap water as cheaper, purer and safer than bottled water.

It may have sounded innocuous to most listeners, but the 30-second spot left the nation’s largest purveyor of bottled water boiling mad.

Nestle Waters North America, which makes nearly $4 billion a year selling Zephyrhills and other brands, is threatening to sue if the county doesn’t kill commercials the company brands as false advertising.

”It’s an attack on the integrity of the company,” said Nestle spokesman Jim McClellan. “It’s an attack on the product we produce — and it’s blatantly wrong.”

With the ads ending a five-week run last month and no plans to revive it, the county considers the legal issues moot. But John Renfrow, director of the Water and Sewer Department, defended the county’s right to tout its tap water. ”Basically, the message is that our water is fine,” he said. “It’s wonderful. It’s delicious. This is just one of many different spots we’ve done.”

Environmentalists blasted the threat against the state’s largest utility — believed to be a first — as a warning shot from an industry worried about slow sales after years of gushing growth.
(13 October 2008)

Water: a source of Middle East peace?

Václav Havel et al, Guardian
Nations in the region are using more water than arrives on a renewable basis. Cooperating to secure it is the only way forward

The global financial crisis may be grabbing all the headlines, but resolving it should not be allowed to crowd out other vital issues. In the Middle East, for instance, Israelis and Palestinians – as well as many others around the world – are beginning to believe that the negotiations to determine the long-term status of Palestine are going nowhere.

The situation may be more promising than it appears, but one cannot deny that hope for real changes on the ground has faded since talks were relaunched two years ago. This loss of faith is, sadly, establishing a dynamic that will itself inhibit the concessions that are needed if a permanent agreement is to be found.

Because an impasse beckons, it is vitally important to work on those areas in which intensive negotiations have the potential to produce quick results. Fresh water is one such area.

Across the Middle East, water is a security issue. Indeed, people are now recognising two important facts. First, nations faced with conflicting claims to water have historically found ways to collaborate rather than to fight. Even during the 60 years of conflict in the Jordan Valley, water has more often been a source of cooperation than of conflict.

Second, water scarcity is seldom absolute, and even less often an explanation of poverty.

Václav Havel is former president of the Czech Republic; André Glucksmann is a French philosopher; Frederik Willem de Klerk is a former president of South Africa; Mike Moore is a former director general of the World Trade Organisation; Yohei Sasakawa is a Japanese philanthropist; Karel Schwarzenberg is foreign minister of the Czech Republic; George Soros is a financier; El Hassan bin Talal is a Prince of Jordan; Desmond Mpilo Tutu is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate; Richard von Weizsäcker is a former president of Germany; Grigori Yavlinsky is a Russian politician.
(12 October 2008)