This Week in Eco News - May 23, 2014

Today, our thoughts turn to summer barbecues and outdoor family fun. (If this vintage photo is any indication, we're in longstanding good company!) Between the Monterey Shale's recoverable oil and gas supply to new EPA rules on power plant cooling water intakes, it's been another energ-etic week in Eco News. Catch up on all of our food, water and energy dispatches and kick back with some videos this weekend. As usual, if you see an Eco News story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected]!

Best of the Web Video - Water

Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure
The "Liquid Assets" documentary explains how essential water infrastructure systems like pipes, stormwater drainage and water and wastewater treatment plants are in serious disrepair around the United States. They must be fixed and upgraded even if much of the infrastructure is out of sight and under our feet.

Take Action: Engage with residents and public officials using the the "Liquid Assets" Community Toolkit that provides an outreach guide, logos and other materials and marketing/promotions materials to make abundant clean water a priority in your community.


Junk Food Just as Bad as Cigarettes and Should Be Taxed?
Should the US tax your junk food? According to a United Nations health official speaking on Monday, governments have been too focused on increasing calorie availability without taking into account calorie quality and aggressive marketing. Diet, the official said, poses a greater risk to global health than smoking, and governments need to act. [Food World News]

60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education, Segregation is Poisoning Young Minds
Thought we had taken care of segregation in schools, right? Well, no. A new study from Californians for Pesticide Reform says Latino students in the state are 91 percent more likely than white students to attend schools with high exposure to poisonous sprays impairing childhood development and cognitive skills. So far, years of fighting the system has changed nothing. [Grist]

Rural Oregon Voters Back Ban on GMO Crops
Genetically modified crops were shown the door in two small Oregon counties Tuesday where voters approved bans on GMOs within their borders. Supporters of the ban are concerned about chemical applications that usually accompany GMO agriculture, as well as genetic contamination risks to non-GMO crops. Oregon farmers were hit with economically damaging GMO contamination just last year. [Huffington Post]

Rate of US Honeybee Deaths ‘Too High for Long-Term Survival’
Honey-lovers, and anyone who enjoys apples, almonds or other foods composing one quarter of America’s crops, beware. The USDA has determined that despite improvements in bee deaths this winter, honeybee losses are too high to guarantee long-term survival. A recent study concludes that pesticides and nutrition issues due to lack of plant diversity are among the threats to bee health. [The Guardian]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Mondays
Blogger Lauren Kearney wrote a glowing recommendation for the Meatless Mondays campaign. Kearney says, "The wonderful thing about meatless Mondays is that it’s easy, ethical and healthy!" She highlights Philadelphia's Humane League campaign to add the Mondays campaign to all of its school lunches. It's one more way a small personal change can make a huge difference to the rest of the world. [TeenInk]


Note to Olympic Sailors: Don’t Fall in Rio’s Water
Word out of Brazil is downright bad regarding preparation for the monumental sporting spectacles that are the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Even worse than the shoddy and behind-schedule construction of venues and transportation is the atrocious water quality of the Rio’s Guanabara Bay where raw sewage mixes with trash and carcasses to threaten Olympic sailing events. [New York Times]

US Flood Monitoring Program Out of 'Crisis Mode' but Still in Jeopardy
While only 100 stream gauges used to help predict flooding were lost to federal sequestration, new partnerships and private money arrived to strengthen, but not settle, the US Geological Survey National Streamflow Information Program funding deficits. Stream gauges are also vital to monitor water quality, “ground truth” storm radar and to show sustainable withdrawals. [AccuWeather]

New Nukes Thirstier Than Cities on the Savannah River
Georgia Power is constructing two $5 billion nuclear reactors at the existing Plant Vogtle that will withdraw up to 74 million gallons of cooling water a day from the Savannah River, more than the 55 and 71 million gallons of drinking water for Savannah and Augusta, respectively. The Vogtle reactors are estimated to consume (evaporate) 71 percent of the water as compared to 25 percent of municipal water. [Savannah Now]

Water Pumping in California Elevates Mountains, Triggers Earthquakes Near San Andreas Fault – Study
Groundwater pumping in California's fertile but drought-weary San Joaquin Valley causes the earth’s crust (and mountains) to lift up and could produce tiny earthquakes, a study in Nature said. The scientists found through GPS monitoring that groundwater pumping released pressure on fault lines that could activate seismic activity, which spikes with summertime irrigation. [E&E News]


EPA Finalizes Power Plant Water Intake Rules to Save Billions of Aquatic Animals Every Year
That headline sounds so promising, doesn't it? Yet the rule that EPA released to reduce the amount of aquatic life needlessly killed by power plant cooling systems is weak, mainly because it punts the problem back to overburdened state agencies. As Steve Fleischli of NRDC says, "This rule will do little to protect America's fisheries from the enormous impact of power plants." [Think Progress]

US Officials Cut Estimate of Recoverable Monterey Shale Oil By 96%
Whoopsie, the EIA is expected to report that the amount of recoverable oil in California's Monterey Shale formation – thought to contain about two-thirds of the nation's shale oil reserves – isn’t 13.7 billion barrels as previously thought. No, it turns out the new estimate is just 600 million barrels of oil, or 96 percent less. [Los Angeles Times]

North Carolina GOP Pushes Unprecedented Bill to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals
There are 20 states that require the disclosure of industrial chemicals used in the fracking process, but North Carolina legislators want to go in the opposite direction with the introduction of a bill that would slap a felony on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. And if that info is leaked outside of emergency settings, be prepared for fines and several months in prison. [Mother Jones]

Fact Check: How Much Water Does Solar Power Really Use?
Do solar photovoltaic panels really not use any water? Let's get down and nerdy and say…not exactly. Big solar PV installations can use up to two gallons per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. So no, not zero, but still FAR less than the 15,000 gallons of water per megawatt-hour required by coal power plants. [KCET]

Climate Change

Cities that Depend on Snowmelt for Water Could Face Problems, Study Suggests
As precipitation falls more as rain then snow – likely to happen more frequently with climate change – there is a corresponding decrease in stream flows that ultimately drain into rivers and reservoirs, according to new research. For cities and regions whose water supplies depend on snowmelt, especially those already dealing with in water scarcity, lower flows could make water security more precarious. [Christian Science Monitor]

How Rising Seas Could Sink Nuclear Plants On The East Coast
Many nuclear reactors were built with an expectation that seas would rise at a slow, steady rate, but now many coastal nuclear plants are vulnerable to increasingly high storm surges. This is a problem not just because of potential outages but also because spent fuel is typically kept onsite, which presents a number frightening disaster scenarios. [Huffington Post]

The Bottom Line is Why Big Food Should Take a Stand on Climate
Being the first to act can be scary, even for giant players in the food industry. A new report by Oxfam points out, however, that companies especially vulnerable to climate upheaval, like Kellogg and General Mills, would benefit from advocating for government regulation against climate change. But if that means speaking out first, companies seem too chicken too do it. [Grist]


GEF Assembly - Water-Food-Energy Nexus
The Global Environment Facility was established in October 1991 as a World Bank pilot program to assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote environmental sustainable development. The GEF provides grants and funding to cover the incremental costs associated with transforming a project with national benefits into one with global environmental benefits. As their promotional video for the 5th GEF Assembly in Mexico indicates, their topics this year will be food, water and energy nexus-related. [GEF]

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus Package
Reporter Rochelle Alleyne talks with a pig farmer about the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, which has killed millions of baby pigs since it entered the US from China in 2013. Farmers are being told to limit the amount of people who enter their farms and disinfecting everything that enters their property to keep the virus from infecting their pigs. [WUFT News]

Map: California’s Water Use Per County (1985-2005)
Click through the interactive Google Fusion Tables infographic to see how California’s water use has changed over the last two decades and how these trends relate to population demographics and water contamination. [Circle of Blue]

Irreconcilable Temperatures: Episode 3 - Put the Upgrades on Our Bill
Are you left wondering if you can afford those upgrades recommended in your home energy assessment? Afraid you might have to sell off some heirlooms to pay for them? Check with your energy company. There might be a way to add the improvements to your bill, so you can pay for them over time, like the couple in this video did, preventing Russell from having to sell his prized Presidential sock collection. [NYSERDA]

Alison Bick: Making Your Water Safe, One Picture at a Time
In this Intel-sponsored video and program, this woman developed a simple way to test water for safety using a few simple chemicals and a smart phone with a camera and an app. Her system is being beta tested and is being considered for use in Nigeria. Nice job Alison Bick. [Intel – Building the Future Today]

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.