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With the world facing an inevitable increase in water shortages in many parts of the globe, it will require innovative thinking to come up with solutions. Here are some innovative tools that offer ways to alleviate the problems of insufficient freshwater availability.

SE200 Community Chlorine Maker
Contaminated drinking water is a major problem throughout the world and the SE200 was developed to allow people to easily purify water with salt and a 12-volt battery. Through the process of electrolysis, the mixture of salt, water, and electricity produces chlorine that kills harmful bacteria in the water. It was designed to be so easy to use that even a school-age child can do it. The device was created by Mountain Safety Research and PATH and costs $239.

LifeStraw
LifeStraw is a small and inexpensive microfiltration device that removes over 99.9% of waterborne bacteria. Each LifeStraw weighs just 2 ounces and can filter 264 gallons to 0.2 microns. For every LifeStraw purchased, the company also provides safe drinking water to one school child for one school year.

Water-Gen Atmospheric Water-Generation Units
Water-Gen, an Israeli company developed the Atmospheric Water-Generation Unit that generates drinking water from the moisture in the air. Each system can produce 65-210 gallons of potable water per day and uses two cents of electricity per liter of water. The air is dehumidified to remove the water, then the water is passed through an extensive water filtration process to remove any contamination. However, the technology is relatively expensive with the models ranging from $18,000 to $30,000.

Desolenator
Solar desalination offers a promising way to generate freshwater from the vast amount of available seawater. The Desolenator is a portable solar desalination tool that removes 99.9% of contaminants from water and can produce about 15 liters of freshwater per day at a cost of about $774 for the device. The company estimates that the device has a life-span of 20 years.

OrbSys Shower
Swedish company Orbital Systems developed the OrbSys Shower which collects shower water, purifies it, and pumps it back through the showerhead. This process saves 90% of water usage when showering which is ideal in areas where freshwater is scarce. While a regular shower uses 150 liters for a 10 minute shower, the OrbSys Shower only uses about 5 liters which the company says could save a family $1,000 in a year on their water bill.

Warka Water
The Warka Water is a 30-foot tall tower that can collect up to 26 gallons of drinking water per day. The structure holds a nylon or polypropylene net that catches droplets of dew which roll down to a collection container at the bottom where it can be dispensed. The Warka Water is also biodegradable and can be set up in less than a week without mechanical tools. The estimated cost is about $1,000 per tower.

Omni Processor – S200
The Omni Processor S200 by Janicki Bioenergy is a heat and power plant that converts sewage into energy and 13,000 – 22,700 gallons of drinking water that meets US FDA standards. The company was recently funded by the Gates Foundation with Bill Gates publicly drinking water produced by the system. The prototype is currently in Washington state and a test system is scheduled to be built in Dakar, Senegal this year.

4 Ways to Lower Your Water Footprint

by admin on July 27, 2015

The things that most people think of when reducing water use are often domestic uses like sprinklers, showers, and toilets. However, the water hidden in the food we eat and the products we use make up a much larger portion of our total water consumption. Although we will always have plenty of water on Earth, the amount of usable freshwater that is easily accessible will continue to decline. This article suggests four ways that you can reduce your water footprint.

Use Less Electricity or Use Solar or Wind Power
Electricity generation from thermoelectric power generation rivals agriculture as the largest consumer of water in the United States. The latest numbers from US Geological Survey from 2005 show that freshwater withdrawals for thermoelectric power equates to 143 billion gallons per day or about 41% of US freshwater withdrawals. The water is used to cool the power plant and water is needed to cool 90% of the power plants in the United States. Lighting a 100 watt lightbulb for 10 hours will consume one kilowatt‐hour (kWh) which may require 20-60 gallons of water by a coal or nuclear power plant to produce. Some of the largest consumers of electricity in the home include refrigerators, water heaters, central air conditioning, and home heating systems. The world energy demands will continue to grow which will put a strain on local fresh water supplies. By the year 2040, it is predicted that there will not be enough freshwater resources to meet world demand for both drinking water and energy production. Solar and wind energy do not require water for cooling so switching to solar or wind energy will significantly reduce water use.

Learn About the Water Footprint of Foods
Waterfootprint.org provides figures for the global average water footprint of different food products. For example, the global average water footprint for beef is 1849 gallons per pound while pasta has a water footprint of 219 gallons per pound. Therefore choosing pasta instead of a burger will have a smaller footprint. Almonds and walnuts are some of the most water intensive foods, requiring an estimated 2,126 and 1,226 gallons per pound respectively. Vegetables and fruits tend to have a lower footprint than meat products. Oranges have a water footprint of 67 gallons per pound, cucumbers have a water footprint of 42 gallons per pound, and cabbage have a water footprint of 28 gallons per pound. Drinks also have a water footprint of 1.39 liters per liter of bottled water, 2.02 liters per liter of soda, 4 liters per liter of beer, and 4.74 liters per liter of wine. You can find the water impact of your food choices by viewing the product gallery at Waterfootprint.org.

Learn About the Water Footprint of Products
Water is required to manufacture all products and the amount can be significant. 500 sheets of paper requires 1321 gallons of water. A car requires an estimated 39,090 gallons while a pair of cotton jeans requires 1800 gallons. One ton of steel requires about 62,000 gallons of water while a ton of cement requires 1,360 gallons. It takes about 24 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic. Considering how much water can go into manufacturing a product and buying recycled goods can be a good way to reduce your water footprint.

Travel Less
Another way to reduce your water footprint is to limit travel by working from home or vacationing locally. Traveling requires gasoline or electricity which both require significant water resources. Refineries use about 1 to 2.5 gallons of water for every gallon of petroleum products which equates to about 1 to 2 billion gallons of water per day in the United States. The shale gas industry also expends significant water resources to produce oil with one estimate of 2 million gallons per frack job. Flying commercial airlines can cost thousands of gallons of water per flight. A 700 mile round-trip flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes about 9,000 gallons of water.

Facts About the Shrinking Colorado River

by admin on July 13, 2015

The 1,450 mile Colorado River is the Southwest’s only major river, providing drinking water for about 40 million people as well as irrigation for close to six million acres of farmland. However, below average snowfall and drought conditions are causing a significant decrease in its freshwater resources. We have gathered 13 interesting facts about the Colorado River’s shrinking levels.

Colorado River.The Colorado River Basin stretches across seven states: from Wyoming across Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California.
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The Colorado River Basin covers about 246,000 square miles.
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The Rocky Mountains snowpack that flows into the Colorado River is at half of normal levels again this year.
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Some global-warming studies conclude that rising temperatures will reduce the Colorado’s average flow after 2050 by five to 35 percent.
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Each year, 16.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water is apportioned to the states of the Colorado Basin and Mexico.
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The Colorado River basin has lost 15.6 cubic miles of freshwater in the last 10 years.
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Since December 2004, the basin of the Colorado River lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater (about 75% of the loss was groundwater).
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The Colorado River has been experiencing 14 years of drought which is nearly unrivaled in the past 1,250 years.
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Most years, every drop of water is pumped out of the Colorado River before it empties into the Gulf of California.
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2000 to 2014 was the lowest 15-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.39 million acre-feet, or 78% of the 30-year average (1981-2010).
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The Colorado River supplies hydropower plants that generate more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours annually.
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Lake Mead, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River, has dropped over 140 feet over the past 15 years.
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If Lake Mead continues to drop and fall below 1075 feet, water rationing would result in Southern Nevada losing 13,000 acre-feet per year and Arizona losing 320,000 acre-feet per year.
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Groundwater is an essential source of freshwater, accounting for about 30.1% of the world’s available freshwater. However, groundwater resources are being rapidly used up at an alarming and unsustainable rate in many areas of the world. A recent NASA study concluded that 21 of the largest 37 aquifers in the world have exceeded sustainability tipping points and are being depleted. Here are some important facts about the world’s groundwater that you should know.

Nearly 50 percent of people living in the United States get their drinking water from groundwater. But its biggest use is irrigation.
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About 27 trillion gallons of groundwater are withdrawn for use in the United States each year.
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30 percent of the Kansas portion of the Ogallala Aquifer has already been pumped out, and another 39 percent will get used up in the next half-century at existing rates.
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According to NASA satellite data 13 of the largest 37 aquifers in the world are considered significantly distressed.
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Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide.
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An estimated 20 percent of the world’s population depend on crops irrigated by groundwater.
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California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent.
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Roughly 2 billion people rely on water supplied from underground aquifers as their main source of freshwater.
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The world’s most overstressed groundwater source is the Arabian Aquifer System, which supplies water for more than 60 million people.
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Some areas of Mexico City are sinking as much as an inch per month due to groundwater depletion underneath the city.
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Scientists have estimated that northern India, which includes the nation’s breadbasket of wheat and rice production, is depleting groundwater at a rate of 54 billion cubic meters per year.
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The water table under Beijing has dropped by nearly 1,000 feet since the 1970s.
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While the future is difficult to predict, available freshwater resources will certainly decrease in the coming years due to the increasing demand of a growing world population. Many areas of the world that are already experiencing a shortage of water resources will see their water issues worsen, causing hardships for millions. Here are 18 projections that attempt to predict the future of the world’s water supply.

Last bottle of collected fresh water on the coast near the sea.By 2020 about 30-40% of the world will have water scarcity, and according to the researchers, climate change can make this even worse.
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With only 7% of the world’s freshwater, China plans to produce 807 million gallons a day from desalination by 2020, roughly quadruple the country’s current capacity.
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By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions.
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There will be about 1 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by 2025 and global agriculture alone will require another 1 trillion cubic meters of water per year (equal to the annual flow of 20 Niles or 100 Colorado Rivers).
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UN studies project that 30 nations will be water scarce in 2025, up from 20 in 1990.
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According to the U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security, by 2030 humanity’s “annual global water requirements” will exceed “current sustainable water supplies” by 40%.
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The global middle class will surge from 1.8 to 4.9 billion by 2030, which will result in a significant increase in freshwater consumption.
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Water demand in India will reach 1.5 trillion cubic meters in 2030 while India’s current water supply is only 740 billion cubic meters.
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If current usage trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030.
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By 2035, the world’s energy consumption will increase by 35 percent, which in turn will increase water use by 15 percent according to the International Energy Agency.
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By the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today.
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The number of people living in river basins under severe water stress is projected to reach 3.9 billion by 2050, totaling over 40% of the world’s population.
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Compared to today, five times as much land is likely to be under “extreme drought” by 2050.
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Feeding 9 billion people by 2050, will require a 60 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals.
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Water demand is projected to grow by 55 percent by 2050 (including a 400-percent rise in manufacturing water demand).
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By 2050, 1 in 5 developing countries will face water shortages (UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization).
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Between 2050 and 2100, there is an 85 percent chance of a drought in the Central Plains and Southwestern United States lasting 35 years or more.
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If farmers in Kansas keep irrigating at present rates, 69 percent of the Ogallala Aquifer will be gone in 50 years.
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Asia Faces Major Water Challenges

by admin on June 1, 2015

Asia has three of the top five most populated countries in the world with China, India, and Indonesia accounting for over 3.75 billion people. All three countries face significant challenges in the present and future to provide enough freshwater needed for agriculture, energy, industrial, and domestic use.

China
With over 1.3 billion people, China faces multiple challenging issues in providing freshwater availability to its growing population. Pollution is widespread across many of the country’s freshwater resources. A government report estimates that 70% of China’s rivers and lakes are polluted while more than half of China’s rivers have vanished in the past two decades. An estimated 21% of available surface water in China is too polluted to use for agriculture. Another issue is that a quarter of China’s population lives in The North Plain where water resources are stressed. To provide freshwater to the north, China is developing one of the largest construction projects in history to transfer as much as 44.8 billion cubic meters of water per year. Simply feeding the 1.3 billion population is another challenge that requires a tremendous amount of water and water availability will be a top concern to ensure the future food security of the nation.

India
India’s population of 1.2 billion also faces several critical issues in meeting its people’s basic water needs. Like China, most of its freshwater sources are contaminated by pollution. Tragically, water-related diseases result in the deaths of over a thousand people each day in India. Over 100 million people are living near severely polluted water and about 99 million lack access to an improved water source. Additionally, the available water is being used up at a rapid rate for farming and industrial use. More than 40% of the surface water is being used each year while groundwater levels across 4,000 wells fell about 54% over seven years. A report by McKinsey & Company predicts that water demand in India will reach 1.5 trillion cubic meters in 2030 while India’s current water supply is only 740 billion cubic meters.

Indonesia
Indonesia is the fifth largest country in the world with over 250 million people and an estimated 39 million are without access to improved drinking water sources. This is about the same number of people living in the state of California (38.8 million). While the economy is growing, the 1998 financial crisis led to a severe lack of water infrastructure investments and infrastructure improvements continue to be severely underfunded. Indonesia has about 21% of the freshwater available in the Asia-Pacific Region but it can not efficiently capture and distribute the nations water resources efficiently because of the poor infrastructure.

15 Interesting Facts About Desalination

by admin on May 18, 2015

San Diego recently invested a billion dollars into a desalination plant to convert Pacific Ocean saltwater into as much as 56 million gallons of drinking water per day. However, desalination is very energy intensive and produces waste products that can affect the environment. Could desalination help solve freshwater shortages in many parts of the globe? Here are some interesting facts about saltwater desalination that you should know.

water desalination plantAs of 2013, Dubai was sourcing over 98% of its potable water supply from desalination.
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“The top three desalination countries are Saudi Arabia with 17 percent of global output, United Arab Emirates with 13.4 percent, and the United States with 13 percent.”
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Reverse-osmosis desalination was invented in California in the 1950s.
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“Some 80 percent of domestic water use in Israeli cities comes from desalinated water.”
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“There are about 15,000 plants producing desalinated water, most in the Middle East and North Africa—the largest is in Saudi Arabia.”
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“Desalinated water typically costs about $2,000 an acre foot — roughly the amount of water a family of five uses in a year.”
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“In order to supply water to 300,000 people, the Carlsbad desal plant will require the equivalent of a 31.3 megawatt power plant operating around the clock — enough electricity to power nearly 40,000 average California households for a year.”
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“Energy is the largest single expense for desalination plants, accounting for as much as half of the costs to make drinking water from the sea.”
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Desalination plants around the world consume more than 200 million kilowatt-hours each day.
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The Sydney Desalination Plant has cost around $2 billion although it hasn’t produced water since 2012 because dam levels are above 70%.
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It takes about 2 gallons (8 liters) of seawater to make 1 gallon (4 liters) of freshwater.
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Desalination plants operate in more than 100 countries.
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Desalination takes only a quarter of the electricity to generate drinking water as it did in the 1980s because of more efficient pumps, membranes and energy-recovery devices.
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The Jebel Ali plant in the United Arab Emirates can produce 564 million gallons of water a day from the sea.
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A thousand gallons of freshwater from a desalination plant costs the average US consumer $2.50 to $5, compared to $2 for conventional freshwater.
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When most people think of major consumers of water resources they tend to focus on things that they can see like showers and lawn sprinklers. However, home water use is only the tip of the iceberg and a large majority of the water consumed is hidden from plain view. Here are some of the largest water consumers that are not obvious to the public.

Electricity
People don’t often think of their lights, electronics, and appliances as major water consumers but energy production is the second largest consumer of freshwater resources in the world. Huge quantities of water are needed to cool the power producing equipment. This amounted to about 143 billion gallons of water per day of freshwater withdrawals in the United States in 2005 (41 percent of total freshwater withdrawals). The average American uses 670 gallons of water per day for electricity production which is much higher than the 100 gallons of water per day used for household purposes. By 2035, the world’s energy consumption will increase by 35 percent, which will increase water requirements by 15 percent according to the International Energy Agency.

Agriculture
While water experts are well aware that agriculture consumes about 70% of the global freshwater withdrawals and 40% of US freshwater withdrawals, this fact is not widely known by the public. A large percentage of this water is wasted due to inefficient irrigation techniques such as not measuring water use with irrigation flow meters. The water needed per year to feed the world will increase by about 1 trillion cubic meters as the population grows by 1 billion by 2025.

Almonds and Walnuts
According to a UNESCO Institute for Water Education study, shelled almonds and walnuts were among the top three most water-intensive foods. They require an estimated 2,126 and 1,226 gallons of water respectively to produce a pound of food. In California, almond trees cover nearly 1 million acres and consume 1.07 trillion gallons of water per year.

Meat Products
Meat products, especially beef, are some of the most water-intensive foods because livestock consume a lot of food. A typical cow can eat thousands of pounds of food during its lifetime so beef requires an estimated 1,875 gallons of water per pound. Pork and chicken are also among some of the most water-intensive foods at 728 gallons per pound and 293 gallons per pound respectively. For comparison, wheat and corn require 241 gallons per pound and 161 gallons per pound respectively.

Manufacturing
Every product that you buy requires water during the manufacturing process. Approximately 39,000 gallons of water are required to produce a new car including tires while it takes about 2,100 gallons to produce a pair of leather shoes. Other notable products include a pair of jeans (about 2900 gallons), a cotton t-shirt (about 700 gallons), and a microchip (about 8 gallons).

On April 1st, California governor Jerry Brown made an executive order that requires cities and towns to cut 25% of water use (excluding agriculture) to save an estimated 1.5 million acre feet of water over the next 9 months. Here are 17 interesting facts about the longest California drought in over a century.

Grapevines in CalifoniaThe drought currently encompasses over 98% of the state of California.
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More than 44% of California is in “exceptional” drought — the worst level of drought.
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Some parts of the Sierra Mountains that typically have 66 inches of snow pack are barren.
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Farmers could sell their water for $700 an acre foot, more than they would earn by using the water to grow crops.
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“Nearly 60 percent of the state’s water needs are now met by groundwater, up from 40 percent in years when normal amounts of rain and snow fall.”
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“The drought forced California farmers to fallow 500,000 acres of land in 2014. And the number could double in 2015.”
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“California-based trade organization Western Growers Association estimated 17,000 farm jobs were lost in 2014.”
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“California is the world’s fifth-largest supplier of food.”
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“California grows 43 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables and more than 90 percent of its almonds, grapes, and broccoli.”
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“The current drought cost the (farming) sector an estimated $2.2 billion last year.”
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“In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.”
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“The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is counted on to provide 30 percent of the state’s water supply as it melts through early summer, is at its second-lowest level on record.”
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“The diminished hydropower capacity of California’s dams cost electricity customers a total of $1.4 billion in the past three years.”
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“It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water (42 cubic kilometers) — around 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir — to recover from California’s continuing drought, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data.”
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California’s current drought is driest period in the state’s 163 years of recorded rainfall history.
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NASA scientists predict that there is an 80 percent chance of a megadrought in the Southwest United States before the end of the century.
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Rows of almond trees cover nearly 1 million acres in California and consume 1.07 trillion gallons annually in the state, one-fifth more than California families use indoors.
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While many parts of the world face major challenges due to limited freshwater availability, a significant amount of the limited freshwater resources in the world are contaminated by pollutants from industry, farming, energy generation, and other activities. Here are 15 interesting facts about water pollution.

“The Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, creating a “dead zone” in the Gulf each summer about the size of New Jersey.”
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“Approximately 40% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.”
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“Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are dumped into US water.”
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“Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water (UN WWAP 2003), the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people.”
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“Tens of millions of people in Bangladesh have been exposed to poisonous levels of arsenic from contaminated groundwater.”
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“In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters, polluting the usable water supply.”
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“More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas.”
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About 10% of America’s beaches fail to meet the federal benchmark for what constitutes safe swimming water.
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“Federal authorities estimate that the headwaters of 40 percent of Western rivers are tainted with toxic discharge from abandoned mines.”
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In the United States there are thought to be over 20,000 known abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites and these sites could contaminate the groundwater if there is a leak.
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The annual discharge of sewage and industrial waste in the Yangtze River has reached about 25 billion tons.
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“More than 70 percent of China’s rivers and lakes are polluted, government reports have said, and almost half may contain water that is unfit for human consumption or contact.”
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“Every year, more people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war.”
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“Industry dumps an estimated 300-400 MT of polluted waste in waters every year.”
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“Nitrate from agriculture is the most common chemical contaminant in the world’s groundwater aquifers.”
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