All the Water on Planet Earth

Explanation: How much of planet Earth is made of water? Very little, actually. Although oceans of water cover about 70 percent of Earth’s surface, these oceans are shallow compared to the Earth’s radius. The above illustration shows what would happen is all of the water on or near the surface of the Earth were bunched up into a ball. The radius of this ball would be only about 700 kilometers, less than half the radius of the Earth’s Moon but slightly larger than Saturn's moon Rhea which, like many moons in our outer Solar System, is mostly water ice. How even this much water came to be on the Earth and whether any significant amount is trapped far beneath Earth's surface remain topics of research.

Illustration Credit & Copyright: Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Howard Perlman, USGS

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Replies to This Discussion

Demand for water outstrips supply

Groundwater use is unsustainable in many of the world's major agricultural zones.

Almost one-quarter of the world’s population lives in regions where groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished, concludes a comprehensive global analysis of groundwater depletion, published this week in Nature1.

Water redistribution as the planet heats up will follow a simple trend, dry areas will get much drier and wet areas will get much wetter.

Ruth, thank you for these clearly stated challenges facing us, with climate and water being just one. Economics, politics, energy and environmental changes require flexibility in thinking and acting. 

I highly recommend a program that takes people and the environment into account. He gives definitions and describes process that effect us all. Although he is not an economist he is trained as a biochemist; he is able to identify systems and how they function and morph. Somewhere in this material are recommendations of things we must consider, such as water, energy, environment, etc. He provides an index to chapters so you can pick and choose as you will. 

Chapters are between 3 and 20 minutes in length. All 20 sections take 3 hours and 23 minutes to watch in full.

The Crash Course

Increasing Pollution, Dwindling Options

"The reality is that "volunteer efforts" are largely underwritten by taxpayers through government programs that pay farmers to reduce pollution. The same people who are paying the price for contaminated water and decimated fisheries also, it seems, get stuck paying the tab for fixing the problem at its source. Taxpayers, of course, are also shouldering the staggering cost of farm subsidies and government-financed crop insurance."

photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algal_bloom

The Trillion-Gallon Loophole: Lax Rules for Drillers that Inject Po...

There are now more than 150,000 Class 2 injection wells in the US, where fluids from oil drilling and fracking are pumped virtually without regulation. This is another way fossil fuels end up polluting ground water legally.

Injection wells have proliferated over the last 60 years, in large part because they are the cheapest, most expedient way to manage hundreds of billions of gallons of industrial waste generated in the U.S. each year. Yet the dangers of injection are well known: In accidents dating back to the 1960s, toxic materials have bubbled up to the surface or escaped, contaminating aquifers that store supplies of drinking water.

State and federal regulators ... rely heavily on an honor system ...

...material from oil and gas drilling is defined as nonhazardous, no matter what it contains.

An EPA staff member might spend an entire year reviewing an application for a new hazardous waste well. Class 2 wells are often permitted in bulk, meaning hundreds can be green-lighted in a matter of days.

As much as 70 percent of the waste destined for Class 2 facilities would be considered toxic if it were not for the loopholes in the law,...

... efforts to get around the rules for injection wells are common. Sometimes, he said, they result in the contamination of private drinking water wells.

“We have people who have constructed wells that are not certified injection wells, or we have people who will put their brine in a tank and carry it over and put it in somebody else’s well,” Ream said.  “One guy, he’s got oil coming out of his shower head.”

“There is just so much brine,” Ream added, “and you have to get rid of it.”

Much of the problem with oversight comes down to money, critics say. In some states, budgets and staff for oil and gas agencies have dropped...

“There are not enough people to know what is going on. It is the ideal storm for industry. Less and less people, more and more things that the EPA has to do.”

“Most of our environmental law requires self-reporting and that requires honest people.”

When violations are identified – such as the 140 times waste was illegally injected and noted in the regulatory reports – the consequences can be minimal, and only in rare cases do transgressions rise to the level of criminal prosecution. In the three years of national data reviewed by ProPublica, which included more than 24,000 formal notices of violations, only one case was referred to criminal investigators.

Usually, violations result in citations or informal warnings.

Interactive Graphic of US Underground Injection Wells as of 2010.

Drilling wastewater, routinely labeled as "a benign mixture of salt and water", exploded this tanker, killing three people.

Just stopping by to get caught up on the posts here.

Hidden water demand of many energy sources is extreme.

Huge demands on increasingly scarce water are a major hidden cost of a “business as usual” approach to American electricity generation that needs to be more fully understood by policymakers and the public, according to research by Synapse Energy Economics. For example, nuclear power has critical cooling requirements that require enormous amounts of water,...

A similar story is true of coal-fired power, which also relies heavily on water for cooling,...

In 2010, the EPA estimated that the hydraulic fracturing of shale wells can use anywhere from two to 10 million gallons of water per well, Synapse says. Even green power sources such as biomass plants are water intensive, the report says. A typical 50 MW biomass plant could withdraw roughly 242 million gallons of water per year and lose most of this, the report says.

By contrast, wind and solar photovoltaic power requires little water in the electricity generation process. Concentrating solar power requires water for cooling purposes, but new technologies are placing greater emphasis on dry cooling. Solar power plants with dry cooling use only around 80 gallons per MWh – about a tenth of the low-end estimate for nuclear power and one-sixth of the low-end estimate for coal-fired power generation, the report says.

Water demand extreme hidden costs

On the distribution of water.

25,000 people walking 700 kilometres for 2 weeks in Ecuador. Because their food and water livelihoods are dwindling. Because mining uses enormous amounts of water e.g. the mine "Mirador“ on the border of Peru uses up an astonishing 140 LITRES OF WATER PER SECOND. This adds up to two million litres per day which are removed from the surrounding rivers and as a result are not available in the neighbouring areas. This is just one of many suchlike projects in Ecuador.

from Generation Alpha

The coal-burning carferry SS Badger dumps more than 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each season it sails. In 2008, the EPA gave the owners 5 years to stop. Instead, the owners have sought permanent exemptions and even more time to continue dumping.

The ash has been tested by EPA-approved labs and results show the presence of toxic metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury.

In 2008 the owners of the S.S. Badger made a commitment to end coal ash dumping by May of 2012 as well as a commitment to run the ship "for another 83 years." Instead of working to end the dumping, the owners participated in various efforts aimed at garnering permanent exemptions that would allow the practice of dumping to continue in perpetuity. No meaningful progress has been made and no firm commitment to end coal ash dumping has been confirmed. Instead the owners have worked to ensure another 83 years of operation as a coal burner on "historical" grounds.[emphasis mine, excepting first two lines]

I urge you to sign the petition against this exemption.

Sign the Petition – Stop Coal Ash Dumping.

Study: Energy Industry Water Use Set To Double By 2035

While climate change is increasing drought the energy industry is poised to hog twice as much water by 2035.

This use of water increase for industry raises serious questions. As our forest soils dry out with lowering ground water, trees become stressed, beetled invade, fires threaten entire regions and all that CO2 means very serious consequences.

"The surest way to reduce the water required for electricity generation, IEA’s figures indicate, would be to move to alternative fuels. Renewable energy provides the greatest opportunity: Wind and solar photovoltaic power have such minimal water needs they account for less than one percent of water consumption for energy now and in the future, by IEA’s calculations.

Study: Energy Industry Water Use Set To Double By 2035
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/31/1523301/energy-water-do...

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