Posts Tagged ‘water’

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By Cameryn Aliya Burnette, Co-Founder and Vice President, Howard University Water and Environment Association

Going green can be difficult to commit to due to the sheer variety of choices you’re faced with in the process. I was confronted with many new questions when I first went green. Natural materials or cruelty-free? Do organic labels matter? and Am I really bout to drop a band on just one dress? I dived into sustainable living headfirst so you don’t have to.

Here’s my list of first steps to going green. These steps are designed to take some of the pressure off any aspiring earth-warriors who would love to be doing a little more to help the cause but don’t exactly know what doing a little more looks like. If that sounds like you, you’re in the right spot – and there’s no cliché stuff like “turn off the water while you brush your teeth.”

Get with like-minded people

Great minds think alike! There are other people out there with ideas on how to live more sustainably. Find a thread on social media, a club on your campus, or a group that meets for dinner monthly. Eco-living looks different for different people, and this is a way to find out how others best incorporate sustainability in their daily lives.

Buy reusables

I know y’all know what reusable water bottles are, and you should be using those, but I have to put you on to reusable plastic bags, reusable straws, and travel utensils. Yes, it is a little extra work to wash these things after using them. But, in addition to reducing pollution, you will save money usually wasted on plastic bags and utensils. Reusables pay for themselves. You won’t need to replace them until they break!

BYOB! Plastic is bad for the earth and you look so much cuter carrying a cool canvas bag back from Barnes and Noble or Trader Joe’s than you do with a bunch of plastic bags.

Here are some honorable mentions for the category of things-that-shouldn’t-be-disposable – cleaning rags, shaving razors, and menstrual products. Paper towels, plastic razors, and pads are things you forget at the store and always seem to run out of during an emergency. The reusable alternatives will last you longer and save you money.

Thrift your wardrobe

Ethical/sustainable/artisan boutiques are hella expensive. There’s a reason that you mostly see influencers and celebrities wearing Reformation. Luckily, there is an alternative you are very familiar with: thrifting! I could go on for years about why you should ditch the mall for a Value Village next time you go shopping, but here’s the bottom line: 1. You save money. A thrift store fit costs 10 dollars on a bad day. 2. You look good. Follow trends if you want, but you will find more unique, one-of-a-kind items at a thrift store. 3. Less stress. Thrift store clothing has already been tested out by someone else, so you won’t have to worry about color fading, garment stretching, or texture changing. 4. Thrifting is fun! Really, there’s no way thrifting can go wrong, so there’s no reason not to get into it already.

Make a shower playlist

This is my favorite sustainable baby step, even though it’s the most basic! Yeah, we need to save water by taking shorter showers, but having to watch the clock or set a timer detracts from the whole experience. The best way to track how long you’ve been in the shower is to make a playlist with 3-5 songs with a total run time of however long you need to get clean. My standard playlist 10 songs, 37 minutes long, and when I hit “Summertime Magic” (song 4), I know it’s time to get out. You can make multiple playlists to spice up your routine or make the same songs part of your everyday routine. Disclaimer: I am not advocating for half-hour showers, but I got a lot of 3c hair to clean, comb, and condition, so best believe I need that extra time on wash days.

Living an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle is about transitioning to living within a set of principles, not just a few actions. It will take more than a day to fully commit to this lifestyle and everyone’s circumstances will not allow them to be ‘100 percent green’.

Everyone will have a different opinion on these suggestions. The lifestyle is about doing what’s feasible for you. Any step, even a baby step, is a good step! The bottom line – continue to educate yourself and remember change doesn’t happen overnight. Get out there and find how to make it work!

Cameryn Aliya Burnette is an undergraduate student at Howard University studying Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is the co-founder and vice president of the Howard University Water and Environment Association. Have friends, will travel: She’s a native Houstonian, but you can find her running through the streets of any major city, from New York to Berlin, with her crew.

Photo Credits: Pexels, Ecodallaluna CC-BY-SA 2.0, Cameryn Aliya Burnette

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on What Every EcoWoman Should Know About the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan

By Sonia Abdulbaki

I recently wrote an article on the DC EcoWomen blog regarding the global concern of water shortage. I quote myself saying, “Luckily for us, water is a luxury available with a turn of a faucet.” Suffice to stay, I stand corrected, and have the account of the 100,000 Flint, Michigan residents to back up my claim.

You also might be wondering, where is Erin Brockovich when you need her? Well, she was right there, raising awareness on several cases of water contamination, including the recent water pollution crisis in Flint. She also brought it to the attention of President Obama, who then declared the issue a state of emergency.

According to MLive, on January 18, 2016 about 100 protesters in Ann Arbor called for the arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over the state's handling of the lead poisoning of Flint residents. Snyder lives in Ann Arbor.

According to MLive, on January 18, 2016 about 100 protesters in Ann Arbor called for the arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over the state’s handling of the lead poisoning of Flint residents. Snyder lives in Ann Arbor.

The gist of it

Before the President had a hand in the matter, Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, declared a state of emergency in December 2015. What started two years ago as a pursuit to supply water independent of Detroit to save money transpired into a water pollution crisis.

Lead from the old pipes seeped into the Flint River and citizens knew that if the water looked, smelled and tasted wrong, then something was wrong. Although the move to locally sourced water was planned as a temporary one, its expiration date came earlier than anticipated.

The event was accompanied by longer lasting effects, including the rising lead levels shown in children’s blood tests. Increased levels of lead can result in behavioral changes and negatively influence neurological development. Brockovich pleaded for action, with claims that the legionnaire’s disease was another outcome of the crisis.

Damage control

Once the news was out, the city turned back to Detroit’s water system to put things back on track. Regardless, officials responded slowly. Accountability, as well as the damage that remained, needed to be acknowledged.

Flint’s mayor set out to replace the pipes with a $55 million plan. Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, turned to the National Guard for help in giving Flint citizens clean water. The time it will take to achieve this goal is unknown. President Obama aided with $5 million and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover 75% of water related costs.

In the meantime, residents were taking action, obtaining water through filters and bottles and more seriously, filing a class-action lawsuit against political officials. The crisis was reported to have lasted for months, yet lawsuits are claiming that the state knew about the contamination for about one year.

Lawsuits may address accountability but major concerns remain, such as improving infrastructure and the accompanying cost, serious health risks and thorough investigation in order to stop it from happening in the future.

Erin Brockovich, an Eco-woman to be reckoned with

Erin BrockovichYou might remember her from the movie, starring Julia Roberts, as a single mother struggling to find a job, which led her to investigate a case involving the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. She discovered that land in the area was poisoning the residents, contaminated by a deadly toxic waste that the company was illegally dumping. She led her law firm into one of the largest class action lawsuits in the country’s history, one involving a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Yes, real woman, real story.

That was a couple of decades ago, and Brockovich is still on the move. She continues to fight for residents nationwide against toxic environments through her influence. Her voice resonates with the half a million followers on her social media, a platform that brought the Flint crisis to the media and government officials’ attention. Brockovich spoke out for Flint by calling out businesses, councils and the slow government response.

And yet, it is merely one of the hundreds of others in the nation whose water systems also are failing.

Sonia Abdulbaki is a freelance writer and the vice president at Daly Gray Public Relations, a firm specializing in hospitality. Sonia has extensive experience in the field of communications that includes her work at Green America. She is a contributing writer for Business Traveler magazine and MovieswithMae.com.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Water Shortages: a Global Concern

By Sonia Abdulbaki

California drought: a dry riverbed in 2009

California drought: a dry riverbed in 2009

Luxury is a concept synonymous with grandeur – at least in the first world. Strip away the layers and we find ourselves human. And being human means food, water, shelter and reproduction are our survival tools. Luckily for us, water is a luxury available with the turn of a faucet. Yet, water shortages are happening across the world, including in major cities.

Scope of Earth’s water distribution problem

Although Earth’s surface is composed of 70% water, only 2.5% is fresh water. According to National Geographic 1% of fresh water is accessible and only 0.007% is available to the almost 7 billion people. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), most freshwater lies in underground aquifers. Other freshwater sources include rainfall, reservoirs, lakes and rivers.

Thus, water is distributed throughout the world unevenly. According to the WBCSD, more than half of fresh water lies in nine countries: the United States, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Congo, Russia, India, China and Indonesia.

According to National Geographic, around 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. The United Nations estimates that one-fifth of the world’s population live in water-deprived areas and 500 million people will face this problem in the near future. Also, an additional 1.6 billion people experience water scarcity on an economic level.

The Nature Conservancy estimates that more than 3 billion people in major cities might experience annual water shortages lasting at least one month. And they will experience water shortages due in large part to climate change, industrialization, overpopulation, overconsumption, pollution, deforestation and destruction of wetlands.

As a child of first generation Lebanese-American parents, I have visited Lebanon many times. The electricity cut offs, low water pressure, lack of warm or clean water never resonated with me as a major issue that affected the whole world. But it was a taste of the reality that water deprived regions experience.

Mexico City, a sinking capitol

Mexico City, with 22 million residents and 25% of the Mexican population, is an overpopulated city where a small percent of citizens use a majority of the water, and demand exceeds supply. Although the city was built on top of Lake Texcoco during Aztec times, the Spaniards rebuilt the city, draining the water rather than building canals to help with the water flow.

Thus, the city’s infrastructure is unreliable; for example, distribution pipes lose 40% of the water before reaching the city’s homes. Yet Mexico consumes more bottled water than any nation in the world. Population growth is the cause of dried up wells, and the city sinking is into the lake-bed at three inches per year.

A sustainable solution for Beijing?

Water wheel in Lijiang Yunnan, China

Water wheel in Lijiang Yunnan, China

China’s water shortage is predominantly due to drought. According to CBS, Beijing’s Yongding River, along with 27,000 other rivers in the country, ran dry. And although citizens are digging wells near their homes to access ground water, their efforts are not enough.

According to the World Health Organization, around 700 million people in China drink water that does not meet their health standards. In response, the city built canals and tunnels to divert water from the humid south to the dry north, according to The Guardian. This means that many citizens need to relocate. This is not a long-term solution. Additionally, water pollution and poor infrastructure are hard to reconcile without the budget to do so.

Brazil and the economics of water, rich or poor?

Brazil possesses one-eighth of the world’s fresh water due to the Amazon and other great rivers. It is infamously rich in water resources yet it is experiencing its worst drought in a century, according to the New York Times.

Residents of Sao Paulo have started drilling their own wells and taking other measures to reduce water use. The government is executing water cutoffs and warning that the solution may be to flee the country. Experts predict that this is just the beginning of Brazil’s water crisis and will exacerbate problems with already low prices on Brazilian exports that weaken the economy.

Fuel to the conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

SYRIA, ALEPPO. Children fill tanks with water in Aleppo in 2012.

Children fill tanks with water in Aleppo, Syria in 2012.

The Middle East and North African (MENA) region receives a lot of media attention with its current political upheaval. Included in its detrimental state is its water problem.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) listed the water crisis as a contributing factor to the Syrian conflict. An inherently dry region, intense heat waves recently overwhelmed the area. WRI ranks 14 of the 33 water stressed nations to be in the MENA region. According to The Guardian, “analysts urge ending water subsidies for large farms, the raising of energy prices to discourage over-pumping and the use of ‘smart’ irrigation technologies to reduce water loss on farms.”

These are just a few cities and regions that experience regular water shortages. But from Delhi to Johannesburg to California’s dire drought, water is an eminent issue. Governments and citizens need innovation, infrastructure improvement, more efficient water usage, better management and nature-based solutions. The predicted environmental catastrophes threaten global security, forcing governments to take these issues seriously.

Sonia Abdulbaki is a Freelance Writer and Communications Specialist with experience in the environmental and hospitality industries. She is currently the Member Services Assistant at Green America and a contributing writer for Business Traveler magazine, National Wetlands Newsletter and contributing editor for MovieswithMae.com.

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on Everyone Needs Clean Water

By Sarah Peters

Water is essential to life, as Congress understood in 1972 when amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, now known as the Clean Water Act, was passed with bipartisan support. We have made significant progress in the following decades, but serious issues remain such as summertime toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie and the chronic poor health of the Chesapeake Bay.

CleanWater

Via nps.gov

Until now, the Clean Water Act has not kept pace with the times – it was last amended in 1987. One major issue is determining which waterways the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has jurisdiction to protect. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 generated further confusion on the limits of the EPA’s regulatory authority.

For the last two years, the Obama Administration and the EPA have worked to write a Clean Water Rule that would clarify this issue. Since the rule was released on May 27th, it has generated opposition from 27 states, the coal industry and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Conversely, environmental groups and the Army Corps of Engineers argue that the new rule does not go far enough.

What does the Clean Water Rule do?

The EPA has outlined the rule’s major provisions on the clean water rule website. The Clean Water Rule will:

  • Define and protect tributaries – any headwaters showing physical signs of flowing water that could affect the health of downstream waterways will be protected.
  • Set measurable enforcement boundaries on waterways near rivers and lakes.
  • Protect specific water features of importance: the Carolina and Delmarva bays, prairie potholes, pocosins, California western vernal pools and Texas coastal prairie wetlands.
  • Emphasize enforcement on streams but not ditches: ditches that are not part of streams and flow only during rainfall will not be protected.
  • Preserve the status quo for waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.
  • Limit the use of case-specific analyses to waters subject to Clean Water Act enforcement.

The Clean Water Rule will not:

CleanWaterRule

  • Protect any additional waters not historically covered under the Clean Water Act.
  • Place additional regulations on agriculture.
  • Affect private property rights.
  • Change policies on irrigation or water transfers.
  • Take into account land use.
  • Cover features created by erosion, groundwater, or tile drains.

As with many federal agencies, the EPA will have to contend with a future of reduced resources and budgets. The Agency anticipates that from 2014 to 2018 it will conduct 79,000 inspections, compared to the 105,000 inspections between 2005 and 2009.

The Clean Water Rule goes into effect on August 28th and should help the EPA make the most of its’ limited resources. Recent events like the accidental release of toxic mine waste into Colorado’s Animas River highlight the importance of clear and consistent enforcement of clean water protections.

Sources:

Sarah Peters is a Gettysburg College alum with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. She is currently doing volunteer Geographic Information Systems (GIS) work at the Wilderness Society and frequently volunteers for the Sierra Club.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Water in Washington: At Risk from Fracking?

A miracle happens several times a day. You walk to your kitchen sink, twist a knob, and clean, drinkable water cascades down from the faucet and into your hands.

This water has weathered miles of travel. It may have been recycled and treated hundreds of times over; from a sink in New York City, down a river to a well in Delaware, through a drainpipe and to a spring in Maryland, to be treated and cycled until it finally reaches your faucet.

Most of the time, you drink clean water without a moment’s thought. But it takes an incredible amount of work, upkeep, and regulation to ensure that the water you drink won’t make you sick.

A potential threat to our water safety has unsurfaced. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is suspected of contaminating the water supplies of several states across the country. As fracking continues to expand, this threat grows as well.

How dangerous is fracking for our water?

Hydraulic fracturing is the use of chemicals and materials to create horizontal fractures to stimulate production from gas and oil wells. Scientists worry that these chemicals may threaten groundwater either when underground or during the waste removal process.

EPA.gov

Whether or not fracking actually contaminates groundwater has caused a lot of controversy. Though there have been over 1,000 reported cases of contamination related to fracking, many scientific studies remain inconclusive.

That’s not for lack of trying. The Governor of Maryland has recently proposed spending $1.5 million to research the dangers of fracking in the state. And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently working on a study on “the dangers posed to drinking water sources by hydraulic fracturing,” due in 2016.

Could fracking affect the water in DC?

Currently, there is no hydraulic fracturing taking place in or around the District of Columbia. However, this might soon change, as Maryland opens up for fracking (amid protests from environmental groups). And extensive fracking in West Virginia may have even caused the earthquake that cracked the Washington Monument.

As fracking threatens to become a considerable part of our energy landscape, water safety is increasingly important.

Learn More at EcoHour!

Is fracking safe or unsafe? We’ll leave it up to you to decide. But before you do, you might want to learn more.

The task of protecting our water falls at the federal level to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are a surprising amount of complications surrounding something as simple and pure as water. We EcoWomen are lucky enough to hear from Nancy Stoner, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water, at our July EcoHour.

Nancy Stoner is a woman who lives and breathes water safety, and surely knows both sides of the argument. There are millions of websites giving one opinion or another about fracking, but sometimes it’s best to hear from the person working in the middle of it all.

Reserve your seat at EcoHour today!