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Water & environment - Jan 23

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletinhomepage


When will the water run out?

Adam Vaughan, Guardian
Peak oil may be the least of our problems, scientists warned today. Growing industrial demand for water in developing countries such as China, rapidly expanding urban populations and the efficiency with which we use water have increased the risk of "peak water" – a resource that most of us presume will be infinite – entering a terminal decline.

Of course, we already knew one of the big eco-bummers of our modern lives is that products from beer to microchips use inordinate amounts of water. Last August, the WWF revealed that each Brit effectively uses 4,645 litres of water a day to produce the food on our tables and the T-shirts on our backs; see our world map for an idea of where Britain's "borrowed water" comes from.

Unsurprisingly, one of the solutions advocated by this new report is a better use of the water we have.
(22 January 2009)



Old-Growth Forests Dying Off in U.S. West

Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter via WaPo
Trees in old-growth forests in the Western United States are dying at twice the rate they were a few decades ago, and experts suspect regional warming is to blame.

The report, led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), found that the increase in tree deaths has included trees in a variety of forests, elevations and sizes. Species have included pine, fir, hemlock and other coniferous trees. In addition, the rate of new tree growth has not changed, according to the report in the Jan. 23 issue of Science.

"If current trends continue, forests will become sparser over time, and average tree ages will decrease by half," study co-author Phillip van Mantgem, a USGS research ecologist, said during a teleconference Wednesday.
(22 January 2009)
From the NY Times: Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths



Ecologists warn the planet is running short of water

Leo Lewis, Times (UK)
A swelling global population, changing diets and mankind's expanding “water footprint” could be bringing an end to the era of cheap water.

The warnings, in an annual report by the Pacific Institute in California, come as ecologists have begun adopting the term “peak ecological water” — the point where, like the concept of “peak oil”, the world has to confront a natural limit on something once considered virtually infinite.

The world is in danger of running out of “sustainably managed water”, according to Peter Gleick, the president of the Pacific Institute and a leading authority on global freshwater resources.

Humans — via agriculture, industry and other demands - use about half of the world's renewable and accessible fresh water. But even at those levels, billions of people live without the most basic water services, Dr Gleick said.

A key element to tackling the crisis, say experts, is to increase the public understanding of the individual water content of everyday items.
(22 January 2009)

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