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Water - Dec 27

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Private Water Companies Come to Texas Bringing Soaring Rates, Little Recourse for Consumers

Jeremy Schwartz and Eric Dexheimer, Austin American Statesman
... Across the state, a growing number of suburban Texans are getting their water from large, private corporations owned by investors seeking to profit off the sale of an essential resource. State figures show private companies are seeking more price increases every year, and many are substantial.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates water and sewer rates for nonmunicipal customers, doesn't keep numbers, but "their rate increases tend to be 40 and 60 percent," said Doug Holcomb, who oversees the agency's water utilities division.

For years, small private companies have played a crucial role in Texas, providing water and sewer service in new developments outside of cities. Analysts say private companies will continue to fill an essential need in the future, when public money is projected to be insufficient to make the billions of dollars in costly upgrades needed in water and sewer systems.

Increasingly, however, the companies are neither small nor local.
(18 December 2011)



Portraits of the Southwest in the Shadow of Drought

Cornelia Dean, New York Times
Though we think of the Southwest as dry — and it is dry — its development and population took off during a period in the 20th century when it enjoyed perhaps its wettest weather in hundreds of years. The killing droughts that have lately gripped the region were unusual by recent standards but otherwise all too typical and all too likely to recur — a prospect the National Research Council has called “sobering.”

That prospect is the subject of two new books, “A Great Aridness,” by William deBuys, a conservationist based in New Mexico, and “Bird on Fire,” by Andrew Ross, a social scientist at New York University.

“The story of the West is essentially a story about water,” Dr. deBuys writes.

Water, that is, “and its lack.”
(26 December 2011)



No Time Left to Adapt to Melting Glaciers

Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service via ZNet
UXBRIDGE, Canada - The water supplied by the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, vital to a huge region of northwest Peru, is decreasing 20 years sooner than expected, according to a new study.

Water flows from the region's melting glaciers have already peaked and are in decline, Michel Baraer, a glaciologist at Canada's McGill University, told Tierramérica. This is happening 20 to 30 years earlier than forecasted.

"Our study reveals that the glaciers feeding the Río Santa watershed are now too small to maintain past water flows. There will be less water, as much as 30 percent less during the dry season," said Baraer, lead author of the study "Glacier Recession and Water Resources in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca", published Dec. 22 in the Journal of Glaciology.

When glaciers begin to shrink in size, they generate "a transitory increase in runoff as they lose mass," the study notes.

However, Baraer explained, the water flowing from a glacier eventually hits a plateau and from this point onwards there is a decrease in the discharge of melt water. "The decline is permanent. There is no going back."
(27 December 2011)

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