Posts Tagged ‘Water’

Crowdsourcing Science: Citizens Measuring water levels

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on July 16th, 2013

Source: FastCoExist

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Image from the CrowdHydrology project.

From the article “An Army Of Citizen Scientists Is Tracking Our Water Levels” by Zak Stone.

In an age of mechanized, digitized labor there are still some jobs where humans get it done better or more cheaply than just about any machinery–particularly when that human labor is crowdsourced by volunteers. University of Buffalo Geologist Chris Lowry figured that out when trying to collet basic information on the water level of streams across a large watershed in western New York, an endeavor that would eat up cash using machinery or time using labor from the lab. After reading an article about a researcher who used crowdsourcing to get the public to help monitor roadkill, “I was like ‘If these people can get people to help out with their research, why can’t I get people to help out with water level measurements?'” explains Lowry. He started simple, printing out a half sheet of paper that said “‘Please text me the water level,’ and it had a phone number. “And then I bought a giant ruler, I brought this into the stream, I put this sign on top, and then I just waited for someone to send me a text message,” he explains. “And sure enough, a couple people sent me text messages.”

That basic idea turned into the pilot project CrowdHydrology at nine New York freshwater sites, starting in 2011. Now, with support from the U.S. Geological Survey, the project will expand to more than 50 new sites across New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The data can help fill in gaps in data collection as budget cutbacks mean the USGS is discontinuing monitoring of certain streams.

When citizens are contributing data, quality is always a concern, but Lowry says control tests–where a pressure transducer measures water levels in the same sites where people are measuring by hand–show that “people who send us text messages do a really really good job.” The level of error turned out to be to be as small as one tick mark on a ruler.

Lowry has found that engaging local communities is the key to getting a high volume of texts from any given site–more so than just foot traffic. And locations where passersby are more likely to take an interest in science–like a nature center–have worked best. “I really think that as scientists we may just be on the cusp of crowdsourcing scientific data. I think there’s going to be a big boom in the future for using these kinds of methods,” Lowry says. […] “On one side we’re using [the project] for cutting edge research. On the other, we’re using it as this outreach tool to foster the next generation of scientist.”

>>> Read the full article on FastCoExist.
>>> Learn more about the CrowdHydrology project on their website.


Risk maps facilitate innovative water solutions

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on January 17th, 2013

Source: Circle of Blue via AWA

Aquaduct's mexico_water_risk_map
Image from Aquaduct.

From ‘Entrepreneurs in Mexico City Turn Water Risk into Opportunity‘ by Paul Reig.

Mexico City, the biggest metropolis in the Western hemisphere, faces significant water shortages, leaving many domestic, agricultural, and industrial users exposed to severe water-related risks. The city was built on the foundations of the Aztec capital, on the bed of Lake Texcoco. Today, centuries later, its groundwater supplies are rapidly diminishing, and it relies on a network of reservoirs and decaying infrastructure to pump in water from hundreds of miles away. Furthermore, urban growth and climate change are pushing Mexico City’s water supply to the edge. Reservoirs were dangerously low during the 2009 drought, leading the government to cut off water in some areas of the city.

While the situation in Mexico City is undeniably alarming, these risks can also create new opportunities for businesses to prosper by delivering innovative solutions to water scarcity. In 2012, four entrepreneurs in Mexico City founded Sistemas de Captación de Agua Pluvial® (SCAP®), a company providing rainwater harvesting solutions. Harvesting rainwater and storing it for later use is an increasingly popular solution to unpredictable and limited water supplies. From a backyard rain barrel for lawn watering to the massive network of rainwater storage tanks that China’s Gansu province uses to provide drinking water to 1.3 million people, rainwater harvesting is being used in a wide range of scales and geographies.

SCAP helps its clients in Mexico overcome unreliable and limited water supply by designing and installing efficient, affordable rainwater collectors. SCAP has already completed a project in Colonia Florida and is planning additional installations in El Pedregal and Mixcoac. By collecting rainwater, SCAP clients can cut back on the cost of water and store freshwater for times of shortages. To better understand water-related risks in Mexico City and how they compare to the rest of the country, SCAP used a preview version of Aqueduct’s forthcoming improved global water risk maps. Aqueduct’s granular and comprehensive maps of water scarcity, supply variability, and groundwater stress (among other indicators) helped SCAP target and inform clients in central Mexico on areas most in need of solutions. Having this up-to-date data in a widely accessible format allowed SCAP to turn water risk into business opportunities—in turn, helping Mexico’s citizens meet their water needs. […]

>>> You can read the full article on the website.
>>> You can learn more about the Aquaduct project and water maps on the World Resources Institute website.


Seasonal Calendars: learning from Indigenous ecological knowledge

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on November 14th, 2012


Seasonal calendar from the Ngan’gi language group in the Northern Territory (TRaCK)

From the SBS Podcast Indigenous weather knowledge bridges gap by Naomi Selvaratnam

Indigenous communities across northern Australia have helped to develop seasonal calendars using their environmental knowledge. The calendars detail the changes in plant and animal life across the year, and can include as many as 13 seasons.

Darwin-based CSIRO researcher, Emma Woodward says the project highlights the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge into scientific research projects. She told Naomi Selvaratnam the value of indigenous knowledge is frequently underestimated by scientists.

The following comes from the CSIRO about the most recently released seasons calendar from the Gooniyandi language group in the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberly.

The Mingayooroo – Manyi Waranggiri Yarrangi, Gooniyandi Seasons calendar was developed by key knowledge-holders of the Gooniyandi language group from the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberley and CSIRO, as part of a Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge project on Indigenous socio-economic values and rivers flows in northern Australia.

The seasonal cycle recorded on the calendar follows 4 main seasons: Barranga (‘very hot weather time’); Yidirla (‘wet season time when the river runs’); Ngamari (‘female cold weather time’) and Girlinggoowa (‘male cold weather time’). Gooniyandi people closely follow meteorological events, including wind speed and direction, clouds and rain types, as each event is linked to different behaviours of animals. Gooniyandi people can therefore look to the weather to tell them when it is the best time for hunting and collecting different plants and animals.

The Gooniyandi Seasons calendar represents a wealth of Indigenous ecological knowledge. The development of the calendar was driven by a community desire to document seasonal-specific knowledge of the Margaret and Fitzroy Rivers in the Kimberley, including the environmental indicators that act as cues for bush tucker collection. The calendar also addresses community concern about the loss of traditional knowledge, as older people from the language group pass away and younger people are not being exposed to Indigenous ecological knowledge.

>>> You can listen to the podcast on SBS World News Radio and download the Gooniyandi seasons calendar from CSIRO.
>>> You can also access seasonal calendars for other Indigenous groups from TRaCK (Tropical Rivers and Coast Knowledge) research hub.


Tidal Energy for Darwin: pilot plant and research centre

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on September 26th, 2012

Source: RenewEconomy


Photo by Oceanflow Energy via flickr CC

From “Plan to power Darwin with tidal energy gains momentum” by Sophie Vorrath

A plan to power Darwin with tidal energy – and to turn the Northern Territory into a tropical tidal energy hub – has come one step closer to being realised this week, after the signing of an MoU to build a 2MW pilot plant and research centre in Clarence Strait, off the Territory’s coast. Australian tidal energy company Tenax Energy said on Tuesday it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NT’s Power and Water Corporation to develop a 2MW Pilot Plant and Research and Tropical Tidal Testing Centre, the first steps on the path to a utility-scale generation facility that would deliver renewable power to Darwin.

Tenax says the project – to be located between Darwin and Melville Island – will be generating electricity by 2015, and could reach commercial scale before the end of the decade. The 2MW project will be followed by a 10MW pilot array test.  The Darwin-based company was first given a provisional licence to occupy 16.8sqkm in the Clarence Strait in 2010, having identified the area as one of three locations around Australia ideally suited to tidal energy; with high tidal velocity movement, sufficient water depth, and proximity to existing power grid infrastructure. (The other two locations are Banks Strait, Tasmania, and Port Phillip Heads, Victoria.) Tenax says power from the Clarence Strait has the potential to provide a “significant percentage” of Darwin’s electricity supply, and would go a long way to helping the Territory achieve a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.

The project’s staged development process is designed to allow the establishment of appropriate environmental and performance standards for tidal energy technologies in tropical waters, while also showing the Darwin community that tidal energy is a safe, convenient and reliable energy source.  “The idea with the testing station is to test out a number of different turbines and technologies in the Clarence Strait,” said Power and Water’s manager for sustainable energy, Trevor Horman, on ABC radio on Monday. “(The project) is reasonably close to an existing power line, so we’ll give it a trial over a couple of years and see how the technologies work out there… but we do hope this will prove a safe, reliable and inexhaustible energy source.” According to Tenax’s managing director, Alan Major, reliability is one of tidal energy’s strong points. ”The generating capability of tidal generators is predictable, with exceptional accuracy many years in advance,” he said back in 2010. “Twice a day, every day, the sea rises and falls … creating powerful and reliable water currents.” Major also says that one of the company’s main goals is to to position Darwin as the global centre of excellence in tropical tidal energy, “before the opportunity is captured by others.” “Tidal energy generation in tropical waters will demand new technical solutions that will be developed first in Darwin,” he said in the company’s statement on Monday. “This project is going to place Darwin at the forefront of a global industry, providing local employment and skills development and opening major export opportunities to Asia.”

Read the original article by Sophie Vorrath.


Traffic Roundabout: Award-Winning Civic Space

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on February 1st, 2012

Source: City Parks Blog

Photo: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects

From “A Design that Celebrates the People”: Normal, IL Traffic Circle Wins Smart Growth Award as New Civic Space” by Colleen Gentles:

[In December last year], EPA announced the winners of the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. We are excited to report that Normal, Illinois is the recipient of the award in the Civic Places category for their traffic roundabout.

We’ve written before about how the town’s new traffic circle has successfully managed traffic flow at a busy five-way intersection, diverted thousands of gallons of untreated stormwater away from the nearby creek, and become the town center by bringing residents together in an attractive public space. The more recent news is how the traffic roundabout is spurring local economic development with the construction of a multimodal transportation station adjacent to the circle, courtesy of a U.S. Department of Transportation grant. Both the transportation hub, which will eventually have high-speed rail service and create an estimated 400-500 new jobs, and the circle take advantage of the town’s existing infrastructure, bus service, and the historic central business district to attract even more residents to the new town center.

“The one-third-acre roundabout does much more than move cars. It invites pedestrians with shade trees, benches, lighting, bike parking, green space, and a water feature. People have lunch, read, and play music, and the open space invites community gatherings such as a holiday caroling event. It is the anchor for a community-wide revitalization and is part of Uptown Normal’s LEED-ND Silver recognition.

A popular rails-to-trails conversion, the Constitution Trail, leads to and around the roundabout, helping both to revitalize Normal and to bring people from surrounding areas to Normal’s central district. A new Children’s Discovery Museum on the edge of the roundabout already receives over 140,000 visitors per year, and a hotel and conference enter have recently opened nearby. One indication of the success of the redevelopment is that property values in the district have increased by about 30 percent since 2004.” Smart Growth Awards

According to the short video, this traffic circle was almost banned to pedestrians. It’s a good thing town officials fought back. [Watching the video, it looks like there are weekly farmers markets held on the roundabout too.  KA]

Read more about the project here, as well as the other winners from the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.

The roundabout was designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects.  Check out their site for more photos and project details.

Photo: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects


Smart Stormwater Management: India

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on December 12th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From “A Success Story in Parched India” by Kamaria Greenfield:

Wankute, a tiny village located high in the Sahyadri mountain range of the Maharashtra state of India, was dry and near-barren in the 1990s. Agriculture was limited to crops that could withstand hot temperate and little water, such as millet and certain legumes. The men worked outside of the village to bring in enough income for their families. Women sometimes walked for a kilometer and a half to obtain the day’s water. During the three months of annual, inevitable drought, the villagers would pay to have water tankers come in.

[…]

In 2003, the residents heard about the success of watershed development in similar nearby villages and wanted to try it for themselves. The main problem in Wankute was not that there was no rainfall, but that the limited 450 millimeters that fell every year did so during a short period of time, usually for less than three weeks. To transform their community, the village partnered with the Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), a not-for-profit NGO that works in several Indian states, to bring much-needed water and prosperity to Wankute.

Since 1996, WOTR has conducted 747 watershed projects in India. The first of its eleven developmental sectors is a commitment to Integrated Water Resources Management. Efforts were at first met with some skepticism and resistance. Villagers were especially uneasy when WOTR mandated a ban on tree felling and the free grazing of cattle. But this was necessary for the planting of new trees and grasses, which would hold the soil and moisture in place. The main idea of the watershed development in Wankute was to build a water treatment structure composed of bunds (ridges and ditches in the soil) and check dams.

Today, the results are clear. The water tables have risen significantly and the villagers have not imported tankers for water since the project was finished. The vegetation planted eight years ago continues to thrive on the hillsides. And overall employment has increased because farmers can work with their crops for eight months out of the year instead of a meager three. A wide variety of more water-intensive crops now flourish, including wheat, tomato, onion, and potato. Because of this bounty, the export of foodstuffs and the import of agricultural labor have both increased. In addition to agricultural benefits, the watershed development has also had health and social benefits for the village. There is now no shortage of potable water, reducing the risk of waterborne illnesses such as cholera and dysentery. With their greater total income, the villagers built a new community hall, two new schools, a public health center, 150 latrines, and more roads for better transportation of goods. The women of Wankute have formed nine different self-help groups and invested in alternative energy methods such as solar lampsbecause they can no longer cut down trees for fuel. Furthermore, because labor and resources are now both readily available in the village, men can work locally and families are more physically intact. The introduction of watershed development has had far-reaching effects that, ten or fifteen years ago, neither the people of Wankute nor the world at large could have imagined.

Read the full article by Kamaria Greenfield for Nourishing the Planet.


Public Rainwater Systems: Childrens’ Playground

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 10th, 2011


Photo © Aspect Studios

The new development by Aspect Studios at Darling Quarter in Sydney recently featured on the InDesignLive website.  At the heart of the site is a children’s playground with heaps of things for kids to play on, climb up or mess around with.  At ground level there are stepping stones of various heights, looking much like tidal pools along a beach, and there’s an enormous rope climbing frame.  Site-harvested rainwater irrigates the playground and the surrounding public parkland, and is also used in the industrial-looking water features from Germany.  Low-energy lighting is used for night lighting.

The harvesting systems and related quality controls for the use of rainwater on this public site must be quite highly resolved – does anyone know of other examples (especially in Australia) where rainwater is used for play as well as for irrigation?  KA

Read the article on the InDesignLive site.

 


Restoring a River and its Wildlife: People Power

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 14th, 2011

Source: guardian.co.uk


Photo by danielbradberry via flickr CC

From “Yorkshire’s revived river Aire is a lesson in people power” by Peter Lazenby:

News that Britain’s once foully polluted rivers are achieving levels of cleanliness and wildlife occupation not seen since the industrial revolution is to be welcomed. But credit for this cannot be claimed only by the government’s environment agency and anti-pollution legislation. Behind many of the improvements lies people power – the mobilisation of individuals and organisations to force polluters to clean up their act. In the 1980s and 90s, that is exactly what happened in my part of the world, industrial west Yorkshire.

The river Aire starts out as a healthy river in the Yorkshire dales, springing from beneath a limestone cliff known as Malham Cove, where falcons nest. By the time it wound its way through Bradford and Leeds, some 50 miles downstream, it had received the industrial waste of textile, chemical and engineering industries, plus the domestic waste of more than a million people. The pollutants killed off the river’s oxygen supply.

[…]

In the 1980s, a group was formed called Eye on the Aire. Its volunteers brought together more than 30 organisations with an interest in the river. They included community groups representing people living near its banks, conservation and environmental organisations, sporting groups such as rowing clubs, local councils and companies such as Tetley’s brewery, which had a riverside location. For a decade the group campaigned to press Yorkshire Water to install an extra level of filtration at its sewage works – tertiary treatment. The system involves the filtering of already treated sewage effluent through pebbles and increasingly fine layers of sand.  It took a decade to win the campaign, which included the harnessing of government influence and action by the environment department.

Yorkshire Water installed the tertiary treatment at a cost of millions of pounds. The effluent it produced was often as clean as the fresh river water into which it passed. The effect was near miraculous.In the late 1990s, more than a decade ahead of much of the rest of Britain, otters, heron and other wildlife began to return to the river Aire in the heart of industrial Leeds. Salmon appeared in the lower reaches, blocked only by weirs and other obstacles. Water passes will eventually allow them to reach spawning grounds in the Yorkshire dales where they have not been seen in more than two centuries.

There was an economic spin-off. The Aire in Leeds had been part of a comprehensive canal and river transport network in the days before rail. Its city riverside was littered with semi-derelict warehouses and factories not used in decades. No one wanted to invest in and develop buildings adjacent to a stinking open sewer. The restoration of the river to life changed all that. Today the Leeds waterfront thrives with homes, restaurants, bars and markets. The Aire hosts an annual water festival.

The driving force behind the return to life of the river was Eye on the Aire, an organisation made up of ordinary people with determination and a belief in their cause. We should remember their example in the face of future struggles.

Read the full article by Peter Lazenby for the Guardian


Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 29th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute
From “Innovation of the Week: Harnessing the Sun’s Power to Make the Water Flow” by Janeen Madan:

Nearly 2 billion people around the world live off the electricity grid. Lack of access to energy can take a huge toll, especially on food security. Without energy for irrigation, for example, small-scale farmers must rely on unpredictable rainfall to grow the crops they depend on for food and income.

In the Kalalé district of northern Benin, agriculture is a source of livelihood for 95 percent of the population. But small-scale farmers lack access to effective irrigation systems. Women and young girls spend long hours walking to nearby wells to fetch water to irrigate their fields by hand. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a U.S. nonprofit, has introduced an innovative solar-powered drip irrigation system that is helping farmers—especially women—irrigate their fields. The pilot project launched in partnership with Dr. Dov Pasternak of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRASAT), has installed solar panels in Bessassi and Dunkassa villages.  This cost-effective and environmentally sustainable project is improving food security and raising incomes by providing access to irrigation for small-scale farmers, especially during the six-month dry season.

Read the full article by Janeen Madan for Nourishing the Planet.


Using ICT for Water Management in India

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 21st, 2011

Source: Springwise

From In India, mobile water tracking system updates local residents:

The reliability of water supply is a major issue for millions of households in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Although water is meant to be delivered to communities via a piped supply on a rotational schedule, the water often isn’t being piped when it should be — leaving families waiting indefinitely for supplies. Hoping to provide a solution, we recently came across NextDrop.

The NextDrop system, designed and set up by a team of Stanford and Berkeley graduate students, began operations in Hubli, India last year, having won a grant from the Gates Foundation, according to a report on MobileActive.org. In order to communicate with residents when the water is available, valvemen call the NextDrop interactive voice response system upon opening their neighborhood valves. NextDrop then texts the inhabitants of the area the news that water is being piped 30 – 60 minutes before it arrives, as well as texting the engineers at the utility live data on the water delivery. Residents are then contacted randomly to verify the accuracy of the data supplied by the valvemen.If there is any conflict between the data supplied by the valvemen and the residents, the engineers are alerted. These engineers are also able to step in if the valves are not initially reported open when they should be.

According to mobileactive.org, the Hubli pilot initially launched with 180 participating families across five water valve districts in Hubli, and NextDrop now plan to go on and expand to encompass 1000 households covering 25 valve areas over the next year. Crowdsourcing may be one of the simplest ways of solving social problems we know of; relying on the participation of those it benefits. What other social problem could you apply the model to?

Read the full article on Springwise for related articles. or visit NextDrop to find out more

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