This Week in Eco News - March 21, 2014

Walmart is pushing their suppliers to reduce the amount of fertilizers used, wood stoves are becoming popular for heating Eastern homes and after LA's earthquake, some are nervous about the tremor's connection to wastewater injection. Check out these stories, along with the latest Ecocentric blog posts, climate news and multimedia this week in Eco News.

Best of the Web Video - Water

Hidden Costs Series: Bottled Water
Thirsty? You might not be aware that the simple choice of a bottled water has hidden health, environmental and economic costs, such as chemical leaching from plastic bottles, the oil to produce plastic and its relative high expense compared to tap water.

Take Action: Learn more about why tap water is a better, more sustainable and less expensive way to get hydrated that simultaneously supports the jewel that is the US water infrastructure.


Waterkeeper Alliance: Factory Farm Swine Operation Violates Clean Water Act
Sewage does not belong in waterways, which is why a swine operation in North Carolina is facing a lawsuit for dumping tons of waste directly into the watershed, despite local outrage over the past two decades. The case is amongst many across eastern North Carolina where the state has failed to enforce the Clean Water Act, leading to rampant pollution. [EcoWatch]

Congress Members Tell USDA Not to Speed Up Poultry Lines
In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, 68 members of Congress have demanded a freeze on the USDA proposal to increase poultry processing speeds, at least until the concerns of public health and labor groups are addressed. The letter criticizes the proposal's shaky data, citing the high rates of salmonellosis and worker injury already reported by the industry. [Huffington Post]

The System Supplying America's Chickens Pits Farmer Vs. Farmer
Industrial chicken producers take the brunt of the industry's risks in a contract farming system that incentivizes quick bird growth and leaves producers with expensive hidden costs. Critics of contract farming argue that this system saddles farmers with massive debt, affords unpredictable income and allows chicken companies to treat contract growers unfairly. [NPR]

Wal-Mart Pushes Plan to Reduce Fertilizer
Synthetic fertilizers threaten clean water and environments across the county, so avoiding them is smart. Wal-Mart isn't working to completely avoid these applications, but they are pushing for a reduction in usage by requiring their suppliers to develop fertilizer-optimization plans. It's a small step that could have big impacts if the megastore's move influences major retailers and producers. [USA Today]

Meatless Monday

Thinking About Cutting Back on Soda? Try Monday
The World Health Organization's draft guidelines recommend we limit our added sugar intake to less than 5 percent of total calories, That's no more than two-thirds of a 12-ounce can of regular soda each day if you're eating an average 2,000 calorie a day diet. Nutritionist Diana Rice from The Monday Campaigns suggests easing off that soda habit by cutting out one soda per week - why not this Monday? [Huffington Post]


Was the Los Angeles Earthquake Caused by Fracking Techniques?
No indication yet if this week's 4.4 magnitude earthquake in California was triggered by oil wastewater disposal injections - proven in some cases to cause tremors - but watchdog groups are concerned. The "Shaky Ground" report finds that "more than half of the state's permitted oil wastewater injection wells are located less than 10 miles from an active fault." [Mother Jones]

How to Fix the 10 Worst Wastes of Water
World Water Day reminds us that despite Earth being a blue planet, water needs protection since it's not always where we need when we want it. Here are 10 industries and related processes often harmful to water, ranging from textile dyeing pollution to data center cooling to inefficient agricultural irrigation to factory farming, along with suggested solutions. [Greenbiz]

International Energy Agency: Energy Sector's Use of Water to Rise by 20 Percent
World Water Day 2014's theme is the Water-Energy nexus, and just ahead of the March 22 celebration, an International Energy Agency report notes that the global energy sector currently uses 15 percent of all water withdrawals and is expected to surge by 20 percent by 2035. How best to shrink energy's water footprint? Solar PV, wind, advanced cooling systems and water reuse technologies. [EurActiv]

West's Drought and Growth Intensify Conflict Over Water Rights
With much of the American West in drought, water rights lawyers are busy sorting out water allocations in legal battles that are often determined on a "first in time, first in line" basis. Demand for water is growing, pitting sectors like urban populations, electricity generators, fossil fuel extractors and agriculture against each other. [New York Times]

Effluent Continues to Pollute Waters With Nutrients, Report Says
Rather than continue to pollute waterways with nitrogen and phosphorus released from wastewater treatment plants, a recent Charting New Water report calls for utilities to adopt technologies that remove and reuse nutrients for the agricultural sector. If the under-development "nutrient roadmap" is combined with greater data collection and tools, it could encourage more programs. [Environmental Leader]


Now You Can Buy Solar Power (Of a Sort) at Best Buy
The solar leasing company SolarCity will soon be setting up shop within Best Buy to help shoppers go solar. SolarCity will install the equipment and then sell the electrons to you from the solar system, saving customers an estimated 10 to 12 percent on their electric bills. [Marketplace]

Power Grid Preparedness Falls Short, Report Says
More than 2,000 participants from utilities across North America participated in a two-day emergency drill to test how prepared they are for online and physical attacks. The results are in and...nearly all the utilities said that they're not prepared enough. But as a result, utilities are now coming up with better plans to protect themselves from a variety of different attacks (not to mention other boring threats like hurricanes and solar flares). [New York Times]

Increase in Wood as Main Source of Household Heating Most Notable in the Northeast
Wait, we're back to heating our homes with woodstoves again? All nine states in New England and the Middle Atlantic saw at least a 50 percent jump from 2005 to 2012 in the number of households that rely on wood as the main heating source. Sounds cozy - but there are health concerns with the release of fine particulates from burning wood. [Energy Today]

Eastern Seaboard is a Tidal Energy Hotspot
Tidal energy devices are most effective when they're placed in narrow, fast moving channels. Unfortunately, that's exactly where they could interfere with shipping, aquatic life and recreation. Engineers on the US East Coast are experimenting with hydrofoil shapes - think airplane wings - as an alternative to potentially problematic underwater windmills. [CleanTechnica]

Faced With Production Declines, Drillers Cook Up New

Recipes for Growth
While we're often told how abundant the oil reserves are in the Bakken shale under North Dakota, the reality is that it's getting harder to wring that oil from increasingly stubborn rocks underground. The proposed solution, at least for now, is to stick yet more horizontal "straws" into the fossil fuel milkshake below. [E&E]


Climate Change Will Reduce Crop Yields Sooner Than We Thought
A new study by the University of Leeds has revealed that global warming of only 2 degrees Celsius will have a detrimental effect on crops in temperate and tropical regions, reducing yields from the 2030's onwards. Researchers were able to compile the largest dataset on crop responses, concluding that yield decreases of over 25% will become increasingly common. []

West's Drought and Growth Intensify Conflict Over Water Rights
With much of the American West in drought, water rights lawyers are busy sorting out water allocations in legal battles that are often determined on a "first in time, first in line" basis. Demand for water is growing, pitting sectors like urban populations, electricity generators, fossil fuel extractors and agriculture against each other. [New York Times]

Global Maps
Satellites give us a global view of what's happening on our planet. To explore how key parts of Earth's climate systems change from month-to-month, click on one of the maps. You can find topics like chlorophyll, fire, surface temperatures and productivity. [NASA]


Liquid Courage
The Nature Conservancy wants you to take a few minutes to learn about all things water. Do you know where your water comes from or how much water it takes to make a pair of jeans? Find out inside this infographic. [TNC]

Explore More Than 3,000 Miles of Tunnels Beneath Montreal
This is a civil engineer's playground! Montreal, Canada has a sewer system encompassing over 5,000 kilometers. Andrew Emond, a Montreal-based photographer, amateur geographer, and DIY gonzo spelunker, just launched an excellent website complete with an interactive map of the city's subterranean streams, documenting Montreal's invisible rivers for all to see. This is a good way to waste an afternoon. [GIZMODO]

Flushed Away: Saving Water At Home
Water consumers don't always know the best ways to conserve water around the house. And some conservation strategies may break the law in some states. So what is the best way to save water? Are why are some water reuse methods off-limits to those who want to conserve? Find out in this podcast. [KNPR]

Chemicals Might Be Distorting Chicken Safety-test Results
The USDA is looking into pathogen testing by chicken-processing plants to determine if aggressive bacteria-killing chemicals are creating false test results. This infographic illustrates how it happens. [Washington Post]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News by Kai Olson-Sawyer; Energy Eco News by Peter Hanlon and Multimedia content by Robin Madel.