We all can do our part for the planet

Myth Busters – A Thicker Water Tank Liner is Not Better

We’ve noticed an increasing effort from one water tank supplier in Australia to focus on puncture strength as the most important property of a tank liner. Don’t be deceived by misleading tank liner “test” data Trump-eting puncture resistance. It’s fake news. When it comes to water tank liners, thicker doesn’t necessarily mean better. Have you

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Myth Busters – A Thicker Water Tank Liner is Not Better

We’ve noticed an increasing effort from one water tank supplier in Australia to focus on puncture strength as the most important property of a tank liner. Don’t be deceived by misleading tank liner “test” data Trump-eting puncture resistance. It’s fake news. When it comes to water tank liners, thicker doesn’t necessarily mean better. Have you

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Myth Busters – A Thicker Water Tank Liner is Not Better

We’ve noticed an increasing effort from one water tank supplier in Australia to focus on puncture strength as the most important property of a tank liner. Don’t be deceived by misleading tank liner “test” data Trump-eting puncture resistance. It’s fake news. When it comes to water tank liners, thicker doesn’t necessarily mean better. Have you

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UConn Extension Encourages Water Conservation with the 40 Gallon Challenge

By Angie Harris

dripping tapUConn Extension is inviting all Connecticut residents to join the 40 Gallon Challenge and take on new practices to increase water conservation. The 40 Gallon Challenge is a national call for residents and businesses to reduce water use on average by 40 gallons per person, per day. The challenge began in 2011 as a campaign funded by the Southern Region Water Program and coordinated by the Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and the Southern Region Drinking Water and Rural-Urban Interface Education Program Team.

As a participant in the challenge, one commits to taking on additional indoor and outdoor water savings activities. The top three most pledged commitments are: reducing irrigation station runtimes by 2 minutes, using a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks, and fixing a leaky toilet. There are many other commitments to choose from and each has a daily gallon savings equivalency. Some of the most impactful actions include: installing a “smart irrigation controller” that adjusts for temperature and precipitation (40 gallons daily savings), replacing an old, non-efficient showerhead with low flow showerhead (20 gallons daily savings), and fixing a leaky toilet and faucet (45 gallons daily savings). Participants are encouraged to commit to actions adding up to 40 gallons or more of daily savings.40 gallon challenge logo

This year, UConn Extension is on a mission to spread the word about the challenge and increase Connecticut’s participation. To date, the number of pledges in Connecticut is 10, compared to around 2,000 in Georgia and 4,000 in Texas, states where this program is rooted. We want to increase that number many times over, and demonstrate our commitment to preserving this critical and limited natural resource.

On September 15, 2017, UConn Extension will launch their outreach efforts at the Big E in Springfield, MA with pledge forms and water savings materials available to encourage Northeast residents to take the challenge. The Big E, also known as The Eastern States Exposition, is billed as “New England’s Great State Fair”. It is the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard and the seventh-largest fair in the nation. Participation is open to residents of all states and counties. Farmers, gardeners, business owners, homeowners, school children, and all others interested are encouraged to participate and begin the conversation in their communities about why water conservation matters.

To sign up, visit http://www.40gallonchallenge.org/ and fill out a pledge card. To learn more about what UConn Extension is doing about water quality and quantity issues in our state and region, visit http://water.extension.uconn.edu.

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How can we make water and sanitation more inclusive and accessible?

“What’s wrong with this picture?” Louisa Gosling of WaterAid asked the participants at her training on Disability-inclusive Water Operations at the World Bank Water Week in March 2017. She pointed to a photo of a woman standing on the wall of a well. It was round and high, the ground around it muddy, and there was no lifting mechanism in sight.

More pictures followed… latrines and water sources with steep steps, narrow doorways, unstable construction without handles or rails. The more pictures we saw, the clearer it became what was wrong – all the facilities shown were inaccessible and dangerous, quite likely impossible to use for many people. 

Photo Credit: WaterAid

One billion persons, largely in developing countries, live with some form of disability. A World Bank WASH Poverty Diagnostic report conducted recently in Tajikistan found that 55% of surveyed households had at least one household member facing some level of difficulty with core functional domains such as walking, seeing, hearing, cognition, self-care and communication (see The Washington Group Short Set of Questions on Disability for further explanation). Nine percent of the households indicated that they have at least one household member experiencing these difficulties at the highest level of severity. Persons with disabilities experience physical, social, and institutional barriers to water and sanitation access.
Accessible water and sanitation infrastructure is crucial for going to school, holding down a job, and participating in the community for all persons across the spectrum of disability. Creating accessible infrastructure isn’t just the right thing to do – it makes economic sense as well.  That’s because it benefits not only persons with disabilities, but also family members who take care of them, freeing up their time and resources. It provides easier access for women carrying young children, pregnant women, older persons, and those with temporary injuries and disabilities, a group particularly visible in conflict-affected and fragile areas.

Photo Credit: WaterAid

Often, simple adjustments can be the most transformational.  Adding a ramp, handrails, navigation aids, a wider entrance, or making a path wide enough for a wheelchair to pass – these things can make all the difference between independent living and waiting all day to use facilities others take for granted, or bearing additional expenses to hire assistants or helpers.
The good news is that when it is part of the planning process, and not an afterthought, making infrastructure more accessible is not expensive. Estimates vary, but the cost of accessible WASH facilities is generally less than 3% of the total cost of the project – a small investment with huge benefits for all.
For the first time in our history, the World Bank has produced a guidance note, Including Persons with Disabilities in Water Sector Operations (2017), to offer water sector practitioners strategies and resources they need as they work towards inclusive water and sanitation systems.

It is not ‘rocket science.’  Tools, such as those created by the Water, Engineering, and Development Centre (WEDC) and WaterAid, are available to identify the different types of access barriers. At her training session, Louisa suggested that a useful way to identify solutions to the physical-environment barriers is to consider “getting there” and “getting in/on/near” when designing water and sanitation initiatives. For example, “getting there” refers to providing smooth, clear paths to water and sanitation facilities, while “getting in/on/near” refers to minimizing the difference between apron and surrounding areas (shown in Photo 2). The guidance note points to several good practices and resources.

How can we make water resources and services more inclusive at a systems-level? The Guidance Note proposes a dual approach.  First, mainstreaming, which means incorporating accessibility into all design and consulting with persons with disabilities.  Second, disability-specific actions, such as adapting facilities for persons with disabilities and building the capacity of water practitioners on disability-related needs.

In short – we need to ask the right questions, ensure the voices of those excluded are heard, involve persons with disabilities in implementation, build practitioner capacity, and address the physical, institutional, and social barriers that persons with disabilities face.

Because how can we provide water for all, if we can’t make the picture right?
Read the Guidance Note:
Including Persons with Disabilities in Water Sector Operations

www.worldbank.org/water   |   www.worldbank.org/disability

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Stream Critters Reveal Much About Water Quality

by Micka Peck

I was never a huge ‘bug person’ as a kid. It wasn’t that I bolted in terror at the sight of anything crawling my direction, but I didn’t greet a dangling spider with much enthusiasm either. My little brother, on the other hand, loved running through fields of tall grass in search of massive grasshoppers and butterflies. So, it may have come as a surprise to my family when a colleague and I eagerly set off to West Virginia in search of benthic macroinvertebrates, or the bottom-dwelling stream critters that lack backbones and are visible to the naked eye. Think insects, crayfish, worms, mussels, etc.

A couple of things piqued my interest about these creatures. I had learned that benthic macroinvertebrates are a crucial indicator for understanding water quality. While a single “grab sample” from a stream can tell you something about its water quality at that moment, macroinvertebrates are exposed to a range of conditions throughout their life stages in water. Therefore, they more accurately represent long-term conditions of water quality. Some macroinvertebrates are very sensitive to pollutants and as the water quality worsens, are less prevalent. All of our Region 3 states rely on macroinvertebrates to assess whether a waterbody is supporting aquatic life, so I thought I should go see what all the fuss was about.

We arrived at the stream bank in waders toting buckets, scrub brushes, and a large net. After surveying the stream, we chose a few spots with fast moving water and a variety of rocks and cobble, which are popular habitats due to their shelter from predators. With the net placed on the streambed facing upstream, I grabbed the scrub brush, brushed the rocks and let any attached macroinvertebrates float into the net. Next, I kicked the rocks in front of the net to stir up any macroinvertebrates hiding underneath and let the water guide them into the net. At times, it looked like I was dancing the twist in the middle of the stream. Then, I dumped the contents in the net into a bucket and marveled at the bounty. It was teeming with crayfish, scuds, larvae of mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, and so much more. And now, rather than feeling ambivalent, I’m filled with a sense of childish wonder at the many surprises a stream may hold.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – in the lab!


About the Author: Micka Peck is a physical scientist in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region working on improving impaired waters through total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), or water quality improvement plans.


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The Real Cost of US Infrastructure Problems


In this new era of shiny, pretty, and hip new technologies, we have gotten very good at turning a blind eye to the things that we know need to be addressed. One of the most important of those is the aging wastewater treatment infrastructure. The time has come for us to wake up and pay attention to the new challenges that we are being faced with. Much of our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, the million miles of pipes beneath our streets, is nearing the end of its useful life and approaching the age at which it needs to be replaced. And as our population brings significant growth to urban areas of the country, the need for better and more robust treatment systems is here.

According to the AWWA study, Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge¹, if we are to maintain even the current levels of water service, restoring existing water systems and expanding them to serve a growing population will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years.

Let’s take a look at that number. One trillion dollars may seem to be a lot of money but postponing infrastructure investments in the near term will only add to the problems we will face in the years to come. According to the AWWA if we don’t begin to solve this problem our costs of fixing our water infrastructure could double to over $2 trillion if action isn’t taken now.

Another point that we need to remember is, not only will the cost to implement new infrastructure increase, but it also increases the odds of facing the extraordinarily high costs associated with water main breaks and other catastrophic infrastructure failures. We need to keep in mind that the $1 trillion needed doesn’t need to be invested over night. It will by fiscal necessity be spread out over the next 20 years. But, if we act now there is time to plan and implement policies that will get us on the right track and headed for a more definite future.

Business as usual, is not an answer to this problem. Not only do we as residents need reliable water systems but all of us, public and private rely heavily on our infrastructure.  If we choose to wait to address the updating of our water systems our economy may be in jeopardy because of rising costs and the loss of valuable marketshare.

With the recent atrocity in Flint, Michigan where thousands of people were poisoned by lead contaminated drinking water, we know easy fixes will not suffice and that action must be taken.  We can’t delay the inevitable and with the costs inevitably rising now is the time when new technologies can be implemented and encouraged. Status quo won’t work anymore.

There are many actions that we can take as a community and as a country to ensure that our water infrastructure lasts for generations and that our economic future is safe.  Can we really afford not to?

Interested in learning more about how advanced technologies can help alleviate our infrastructure problems at a fraction of the cost? Learn more here. 

Learn More


¹ http://www.awwa.org/Portals/0/files/legreg/documents/BuriedNoLonger.pdf

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My 2017 Climate Corps Summer Internship

By Nikki Pirtel

Bruce and students

Student teams led by Bruce Hyde and other CLEAR faculty will work with Connecticut towns as part of the UConn Climate Corps.

The shoreline community of Westbrook, Connecticut, situated halfway between New Haven and New London, is home to approximately 7,000 residents while supporting seasonal tourists with numerous beaches and shopping stores in the town’s outlet. It is also the municipality I was assigned to research and create a vulnerability assessment for during my time at the UConn Extension Office Internship in partnership with the Climate Adaption Academy and Climate Corps. Through the internship I achieved the Extension Office’s mission of using scientific research to engage with members of the public and municipalities, breaking down complex problems and developing easy to understand solutions that may help inform policy in the future.

Using the town’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan and various mapping services, I compiled a list of assets that I determined to have some level of vulnerability to climate hazards (such as flooding, sea level rise, damage from high precipitation events) primarily based on their geographical location to bodies of water. Although this information was similar to that described in the town’s plan, my created final product takes the basic material and provides recommended actions to reduce vulnerability, thus going one step further. With my help and the aid of future interns, the municipality can prepare for the impacts already being seen from climate change while simultaneously saving money. Figuring out the best way to protect assets and people within communities, whether proposing solutions on a town wide or specific infrastructure basis (an approach this internship takes with the Climate Corps Information Sheet), is an important discussion to have and comparison to make. Creating the vulnerability assessment was a rewarding process and the completed 38-page document (including references and figures) is something that I am proud to show to anyone willing to learn about the risk-based evaluations. I hope that the work done in this internship will grow into a much more substantial program and help Connecticut become a leader in climate adaptation.

Additional internship responsibilities included website updating and offering recommendations for a role-playing exercise that will occur in a new Climate Corps related class during the upcoming semester. These activities helped me reflect on past, similar experiences so that I could make any changes to proposed material to avoid previous problems I had encountered. Finding links to put on the Adapt CT website (through UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research) helped bring out my creative side and allowed me to delve into topics that really interest me.

Although attending meetings (except with the Westbrook town planner) and conducting a field site visit were not a part of my official obligations, seeing people and infrastructure in person really tied everything in the internship together. By seeing the people, along with their properties and other assets, that will be most negatively impacted by climate change in the future, my work felt much more important knowing what I did this summer may have a positive influence in time. Talking to members of shoreline communities from various backgrounds also made me realize that the climate will leave people of all classes vulnerable to events such as sea level rise, storm surge, flooding and tropical storms/hurricanes. Overall, this was more than just a summer job, rather a learning experience teaching me the ins and outs of local government, how input from the public affects an administration’s policies and the importance of maintaining natural landscapes within man-made ones.

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Standing for the value of water

Last week, water practitioners gathered in Stockholm for World Water Week.  This is an annual meeting to discuss the world’s water issues, organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute.  And if any reminder were needed as to the urgency of water challenges, this year’s event took place against a backdrop of Tropical Storm Harvey in the United States, monsoons and flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, and an ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa.  Billions of dollars’ worth of damage to economies, communities displaced and people killed – it’s a terrifying window into the devastating impacts of water-related extremes. 
It’s for these reasons and others that the World Economic Forum categorizes water scarcity as one of the main global risks facing humanity today. Around the world, 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation and 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed water.  And new World Bank research provides a wake-up call about the scale of the challenge in low and middle-income countries.
If we are to manage these hazards to minimize future suffering, urgent action is needed.  One of my main reflections post World Water Week is that valuing water must be an essential part of the policy agenda if we are to bend the curve towards a water-secure world.

“Valuing water must be an essential part of the policy agenda if we are to bend the curve towards a water-secure world.”

As I have written before, water is a unique issue because it has an economic aspect, an ecological aspect, and a spiritual, cultural and social aspect.  These three all interlink with one another so the solution needs to be cognizant of this complexity. 
Historically, water has been undervalued.  Perhaps that’s because so many of us take it for granted – we turn on the tap and it flows.  But this undervaluing has led to misuse and misallocation – because water provides multiple uses and services, all too often it is it is used for purposes that do not maximize wellbeing and regulated in ways that do not recognize scarcity or promote conservation. 
So how do we translate the individual and community-level values into a common value system for societies and countries?  Institutional mechanisms to manage water and deliver services are crucial. 
Released earlier this year, the Bellagio Principles on Valuing Water encourage us to do a number of things.  Firstly, they encourage us to recognize water’s multiple values principle by considering the multiple values to different stakeholders in all decisions affecting water. Secondly, to build trust by conducting all processes to reconcile values into management systems in ways that are equitable, transparent, and inclusive of multiple values. Thirdly, to protect water sources by valuing and protecting all sources of water, including watersheds, rivers, aquifers and associated ecosystems for current and future generations. Fourthly, empowering people by promoting education and public awareness about the essential role of water and its intrinsic value. And finally, to invest and innovate by putting resources behind our institutions, infrastructure, information and innovation to realize the full potential and values of water.

All of this involves broadening our outreach and turning up the volume.  With so many important issues in the world and so much content competing for public attention, events like World Water Week are crucial for raising awareness, highlighting the scale of the challenge and showcasing solutions.  But we need to go beyond talking to those in the water sector and engage those from other sectors.  And we need leadership on this topic to catalyze action, such as from the High Level Panel on Water, which presented some of its global initiatives at World Water Week and launched a consultation on the Bellagio Principles.
In conclusion, I believe we need a seminal shift to value water based on the values necessary to chart an inclusive course that respects culture, religion, and environment. 

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2012_11_27_Loch Leven_AirLandWater1

Loch Leven in Scotland, where water quality has significantly improved in the last 25 years following effective water management. Image: Laurence Carvalho

Between 19th and 21st September the MARS project will host an online eConference on The Future of Water Management in Europe.

The eConference aims to gather constructive and practical suggestions from the scientific community to help improve the monitoring and management of aquatic ecosystems across Europe.

Speakers from across Europe will lead presentations and discussions on key issues surrounding aquatic science, policy and conservation. These include Dr Lidija Globevnik from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, talking about the stressors impacting freshwaters in Europe, and Dr Victor Beumer from Deltares, Netherlands, who will present on the implementation of nature-based solutions to supply multiple benefits in water management.

More than 200 delegates are expected to take part in online discussions at the eConference, the outcomes of which are intended to inform the effective implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), which is scheduled for review in 2019-20.

Leven_sampling_20170815 (2)

Ecological sampling on Loch Leven. Image: Laurence Carvalho

Professor Laurence Carvalho, the eConference organiser, and a freshwater ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) said, “The aim of this eConference is to bring together leading experts in river basin management concerned with constructive and practical ideas on how we can more effectively implement the Water Framework Directive, due for review in 2019-20.

“It is over 15 years since the WFD was formerly adopted and in that time Europe has changed, with new pressures being recognised. This includes impacts linked to climate change – and associated flood and drought risks – as well as the rise of invasive species and a broad range of emerging pollutants. At the same time new perspectives on environmental management have developed, including payment for ecosystem services, nature-based solutions and circular economies.

“Given these changes in pressures and policy approaches, this eConference aims to gather scientific opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of current WFD implementation, innovation in monitoring and management and best practice in policy implementation.”

The eConference presentations are being recorded and will be available on the conference website for a year afterwards. A synthesis of the eConference will also be written up as a science-policy opinion article.


Online registration for The Future of Water Management eConference is free.

Attendees will be able to pose questions to presenters, and take part in discussions. Afterwards, they will asked to complete a survey to give their views on future options for water management in Europe, which will be used to help shape policy recommendations from the eConference.


eConference programme

All times are Central European Time (CET)

Tuesday 19th September: Monitoring and Assessment Systems – The Good, the Bad and the Innovative

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to eConference & day from Chair
Anne Lyche Solheim (NIVA, Norway)

11:00 – 11:30 Strengths and weaknesses of current assessment systems
Martyn Kelly (Bowburn Consultancy, UK)

11:30 – 12:00 Innovation in Monitoring – Satellites, citizens and sequences
Laurence Carvalho (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Christine Argillier (Irstea, France)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 Tracking progress in a one-out-all-out world
Daniel Hering (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

14:30 – 15:00 A new biomonitoring approach to optimize mitigation and recovery
Annette Baattrup-Pedersen (Aarhus University, Denmark)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Peter Pollard (SEPA, UK)

Wednesday 20th September: Programmes of Measures – How do we Best Manage Multiple Stressors?

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to day from Chair
Ursula Schmedtje (Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Germany)

11:00 – 11:30 Stressor situation in Europe
Lidija Globevnik (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

11:30 – 12:00 How do we diagnose the cause of degradation under multiple stressors?
Christian Feld (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Dr Jeremy (Jay) Piggott (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 How multiple stressors are managed under water scarcity? The case of the Ebro River
Sergi Sabater (University of Girona and ICRA, Spain)

14:30 – 15:00 Implementation of Nature-based Solutions to supply multiple benefits
Victor Beumer (Deltares, Netherlands)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Teresa Ferreira (Univ. of Lisbon, Portugal)

Thursday 21st September: The Policy Mix – Can we get Better Integration?

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to day from Chair
Ana Cristina Cardoso (European Commission Joint Research Centre)

11:00 – 11:30 Integrating ecosystem service concepts into River Basin Management
Bruna Grizzetti (European Commission Joint Research Centre)

11:30 – 12:00 Synergies and conflicts between policies – how do we join up?
Josselin Rouillard (Ecologic, Germany)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Angel Borja (AZTI, Spain)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 Joining up water & agricultural policy
Sindre Langaas (NIVA, Norway)

14:30 – 15:00 Legal Issues for Policy Integration
Sarah Hendry (University of Dundee, UK)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Kirsty Blackstock, James Hutton Institute, UK

15:30 – 15:45 Closing remarks to eConference
Sebastian Birk (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

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