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Scientists Reveals Secrets Of Drought Resistance

A team of biologists in California led by researchers at The Scripps Research Institute and the University of California (UC), San Diego has solved the structure of a critical molecule that helps plants survive during droughts. Understanding the inner workings of this molecule may help scientists design new ways to protect crops against prolonged dry periods, potentially improving crop yields worldwide, aiding biofuels production on marginal lands and mitigating drought’s human and economic costs.

The findings were described in the journal Science Express, an advance online issue of the journal Science, on October 22, 2009.

“This molecular structure helps explain the mechanism behind drought tolerance in plants,” said Elizabeth Getzoff, a Scripps Research scientist who led the team from Scripps Research, UC San Diego, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and UC Riverside. “We’re very excited by the findings.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), major droughts in the last three years alone have collectively caused more than ten billion dollars in losses to crops and other damages in the United States. The problem is particularly pronounced in western farm areas such as those in California, which is now three years into a severe drought.

…The structure may reveal new ways of improving drought tolerance in plants, notes Getzoff. Such improvements would be a boon for agriculture, which is the single largest use for water in most of the world, consuming up to 90 percent of available water in some of the hottest and most arid parts of the world, which are often prone to drought…
(23 Oct 2009)

thanks to kalpa for several of the articles below

Speaker says water limitations not recognized

Heather Hacking, ChicoER
If California’s water leaders followed Robert Glennon’s advice, the state would find a replacement for flush toilets, get off the ethanol fuel bandwagon and find a way for people to realize that water is not as plentiful as air.
Glennon shared his ideas Wednesday at the Sacramento Valley Forum, held at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. The event was hosted by the Great Valley Center, a nonprofit group with the goal of improving life in the Central Valley.

The forum drew a crowd of hundreds to hear speakers on a variety of water topics.

Robert Glennon is the author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It.” He is the Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Arizona.

Glennon said that people in California think of water like they think of air — as something that is always available.

Water is less expensive each month than cable television or having a cell phone, he said.

Meanwhile, there are already many water crises taking place throughout the country. He cited several examples such as scientists’ predictions that Lake Mead has a 30 percent chance of going dry by 2050. Nuclear reactors have been denied construction due to lack of water in Georgia. Lake Superior is too low to allow fully-loaded ship cargo, Glennon said. In California and Oregon, commercial fishing has been halted the last two years.

“We may fret about oil, but water lubricates our economy,” Glennon said…
(28 Oct 2009)

A Drought-Stricken Land Offers Help With Water

Lisa Pham, New York Times
After more than a decade of failed rains, the Murray-Darling river system in the southeast of Australia — the catchment basin for roughly one-seventh of the country — dries up before it reaches the sea.

Intense drought has forced Australians to adapt and think about how to manage water. Despite usage restrictions and the building of new desalination plants, water remains scarce. At the end of August, reservoir storage levels in some metropolitan cities were as low as 28.4 percent of maximum capacity. The Pykes Creek reservoir in the state of Victoria, with a capacity of 22 billion liters, or 5.8 billion gallons, was barely 2.5 percent full.

“The approach is now to diversify supply, rather than relying on surface water,” said Andrew Speers, industry programs manager of the Australian Water Association, the industry’s main representative body.

In Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland and Australia’s third largest city, after Sydney and Melbourne, household water usage has been cut to 128,000 liters annually from 256,000 liters five years earlier, partly by installing dual-flush toilets, reducing shower head velocities and increasing consumer awareness.

Still, useful as this kind of economizing may be, it is irrigated agriculture that uses 70 percent of the world’s available water resources. The International Water Management Institute projects huge increases in irrigated cropland areas to meet rising demand for grain: a 30 percent expansion in South Asia by 2050 and a 47 percent expansion in East Asia.

…Rubicon uses water control gates, measurement systems, software and telecommunications to increase water efficiency and to raise crop yields. “Our technology modernizes existing canal infrastructure,” Mr. Aughton said.

…Another Australian company, Water Infrastructure Group, takes a different approach, developing alternative water resources for its clients. In South Australia its Virginia Pipeline system, serving a highly productive greenhouse and market garden area north of Adelaide, is one of the largest and longest-running water recycling projects in the world. Since 1999, more than 100 billion liters of recycled water have been delivered to 320 customers, irrigating more than 200 different crops…
(26 Oct 2009)

A Victory for the ‘Water Underground’

Melinda Burns, Miller-McCune
Plagued by drought and homeowner recalcitrance, California building officials last summer relaxed the rules for greywater use, allowing residents to hook up their washing machines to garden hoses without a permit … because they were doing it anyway.

On Aug. 4, the California Building Standards Commission effectively caught up with an eco-revolution that began here 20 years ago during the last drought. In 1989, the County of Santa Barbara became the first agency in the United States to change its building codes and legalize the use of household greywater — the slightly dirty wastewater from washing machines, bathtubs, showers and bathroom sinks — to irrigate backyard plants and trees. By 1992, the practice was legal in most western states, including California.

There was just one problem. Homeowners were installing greywater systems themselves without permits, or they hired plumbers who looked the other way. Over 20 years in Santa Barbara, city officials say, only four residents ever obtained greywater permits, much less paid the fees, set at $350 today. Meanwhile, hundreds, if not thousands, embraced do-it-yourself “laundry-to-landscape” diversions, bought biodegradable soap, connected their washers to outside tubes — if you actually hook it up to garden hose you can expect a burnt-out pump before long — and emptied buckets of bath water in their yards.

The Greywater Guerrillas, a Bay Area group that billed itself as part of the “Water Underground,” helped spread the know-how, and by 1999, according to a survey by the Soap and Detergent Association, nearly 14 percent of California homeowners were using greywater in their backyards. Today, that would be about 1.7 million households operating largely under the radar of city and county building inspectors. That growth is reflected in the Guerillas’ name, which has changed to Greywater Action.

…Greywater is not safe to drink, but any pathogens or organic material in it are quickly broken down and used up in the topsoil. Greywater can be safely used to irrigate ornamental plants and fruit trees but not root crops.

Water conservationists today talk about the benefits of “cascading” water quality — the notion that drinking water should flow to the bathtub and, once used, from there to the backyard, carrying nutrients to ornamental plants and fruit trees.
(13 Oct 2009)

EROWI – energy return of water invested

Ugo Bardi, The Oil Drum: Europe
The readers of “The Oil Drum” are familiar with the concept of “Energy Return of Energy Invested” (EROI or EROEI). It is the ratio of the energy produced by an energy plant during its life cycle to the amount of energy needed to build, operate and dismantle the plant.

EROEI remains one of the most useful parameters that can be used for evaluating an energy technology, but it is not the only one. Another element is the need of water. Water is needed for irrigation of plants to be used as fuel and all large plants using thermal engines need water cooling. We can speak, then, of Energy return of Water Invested (EROWI). It is a concept much more recent than that of EROEI, but which is rapidly gaining attention and may be not less important.

Recently, Robert F. Service reported the comparative table that you can see reproduced at the beginning of this post. The data are taken from an article by Dominguez-faus et al. published in “Environmental Science and Technology” in 2009. Service’s paper, as most of the studies published so far in this field, is dedicated to showing how water thirsty biofuels are. It is another drawback for a technology which has also a low EROEI, needs large areas, and competes for land with food production…
(5 Nov 2009)