The ‘power of aridity’ is bringing a #ColoradoRiver dam to its knees — KUNC #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022 #GlenCanyonDam

These turbines at Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam are at risk of becoming inoperable should levels at Powell fall below what’s known as minimum power pool due to declining flows in the Colorado River. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Alex Hager). Here’s an excerpt:

The dam’s innards are a time capsule of 1960s engineering. Bolts as thick as a forearm hold together the hulking metal casing for hydroelectric generators. Here, the Colorado River surges through turbines, producing power for about 5 million people across seven states. Now, the Colorado River is on the decline, and the dam faces threats that could soon render it useless after decades as a symbol of American engineering achievement. In a room that evokes the inside of a submarine, Bob Martin opened a heavy door to reveal one of those turbines. A gleaming silver cylinder whirred along inside.

“This is all original,” he said. “This is like pulling your grandpa’s 1964 Cadillac out of the garage and it’s in the same condition it was in 1964. That’s the world class maintenance that we’ve done – generations have done – at Glen Canyon.”


The back of Glen Canyon Dam circa 1964, not long after the reservoir had begun filling up. Here the water level is above dead pool, meaning water can be released via the river outlets, but it is below minimum power pool, so water cannot yet enter the penstocks to generate electricity. Bureau of Reclamation photo.

Below the hydropower intake is the pipe which allows water to pass from Lake Powell to the river on the other side. Water levels could conceivably drop below that, too. At that point, the only pass-through would be a set of four rarely-used backup tubes near the bottom of the concrete. Those tubes, known as the “river outlet works,” were originally meant to be a failsafe pr to pass water in high flow years, and aren’t wide enough to carry the legally required amount of water from one side to the other. A century-old agreement mandates that the Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico must deliver a specific amount of water downstream to the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada each year. The bulk of that water starts as high-mountain snow in the Rockies. Because winter snowpack varies widely year to year, the Upper Basin states resolved to add some insurance in the form of Lake Powell. Since the 1960s, it has served as a way to bank excess during wet years, and ensure enough would flow to the Lower Basin during dry years.

#ColoradoRiver users set to meet, but #water deal seems a ways off — The Las Vegas Review-Journal #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Hoover Dam’s intake towers protrude from the surface of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, where water levels have dropped to record lows amid a 22-year drought. (Source: Bureau of Reclamation)

Click the link to read the article on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website (Colton Lochhead). Here’s an excerpt:

Nearly six months have passed since Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton first asked the Western states to come up with a plan to cut back on water use from the river next year by as much as 30 percent, but a cohesive proposal from the seven states that pull from the Colorado that supplies water to some 40 million people has yet to emerge. Things have only gotten worse along the river since Touton’s request, and that decline shows no signs of slowing down…

“The risks we saw then have only further materialized given the projected and plausible hydrology,” Touton said during a Dec. 2 meeting to discuss the options the federal government is looking at in lieu of a deal between the states…

Only piecemeal proposals have been made public thus far, including a proposal from California water agencies to conserve up to 400,000 acre-feet of water annually, or about 9 percent of the state’s annual allocation from the river, in exchange for the federal government making a commitment to contribute to Salton Sea stabilization efforts. The Southern Nevada Water Authority and nearly 30 other municipalities have signed a memorandum of understanding committing to drastically reducing the amount of thirsty decorative turf that lines their respective cities, an idea that took root in the Las Vegas Valley last year.

About one-third of the food Americans buy is wasted, hurting the #climate and consumers’ wallets — The Conversation

Wasted food – and land, labor, chemicals, water and energy. ATU Images via Getty Images

Brian E. Roe, The Ohio State University

You saw it at Thanksgiving, and you’ll likely see it at your next holiday feast: piles of unwanted food – unfinished second helpings, underwhelming kitchen experiments and the like – all dressed up with no place to go, except the back of the refrigerator. With luck, hungry relatives will discover some of it before the inevitable green mold renders it inedible.

U.S. consumers waste a lot of food year-round – about one-third of all purchased food. That’s equivalent to 1,250 calories per person per day, or US$1,500 worth of groceries for a four-person household each year, an estimate that doesn’t include recent food price inflation. And when food goes bad, the land, labor, water, chemicals and energy that went into producing, processing, transporting, storing and preparing it are wasted too.

Where does all that unwanted food go? Mainly underground. Food waste occupies almost 25% of landfill space nationwide. Once buried, it breaks down, generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Recognizing those impacts, the U.S. government has set a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

Reducing wasted food could protect natural resources, save consumers money, reduce hunger and slow climate change. But as an agricultural economist and director of the Ohio State Food Waste Collaborative, I know all too well that there’s no ready elegant solution. Developing meaningful interventions requires burrowing into the systems that make reducing food waste such a challenge for consumers, and understanding how both physical and human factors drive this problem.

Consumers and the squander sequence

To avoid being wasted, food must avert a gauntlet of possible missteps as it moves from soil to stomach. Baruch College marketing expert Lauren Block and her colleagues call this pathway the squander sequence.

It’s an example of what economists call an O-ring technology, harking back to the rubber seals whose catastrophic failure caused the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. As in that event, failure of even a small component in the multistage sequence of transforming raw materials into human nutrition leads to failure of the entire task.

MIT economist Michael Kremer has shown that when corporations of many types are confronted with such sequential tasks, they put their highest-skilled staff at the final stages of production. Otherwise the companies risk losing all the value they have added to their raw materials through the production sequence.

Who performs the final stages of production in today’s modern food system? That would be us: frenzied, multitasking, money- and time-constrained consumers. At the end of a typical day, we’re often juggling myriad demands as we try to produce a nutritious, delicious meal for our households.

Unfortunately, sprawling modern food systems are not managed like a single integrated firm that’s focused on maximizing profits. And consumers are not the highly skilled heavy hitters that Kremer envisioned to manage the final stage of the complex food system. It’s not surprising that failure – here, wasting food – often is the result.

Indeed, out of everyone employed across the fragmented U.S. food system, consumers may have the least professional training in handling and preparing food. Adding to the mayhem, firms may not always want to help consumers get the most out of food purchases. That could reduce their sales – and if food that’s been stored longer degrades and becomes less appetizing or safe, producers’ reputations could suffer. Reducing household food waste is a step that everyone can take to help slow climate change – but consumers may not know where to start.

Three paths to squash the squandering

What options exist for reducing food waste in the kitchen? Here are several approaches.

  • Build consumer skills.

This could start with students, perhaps through reinvesting in family and consumer science courses – the modern, expanded realm of old-school home economics classes. Or schools could insert food-related modules into existing classes. Biology students could learn why mold forms, and math students could calculate how to expand or reduce recipes.

Outside of school, there are expanding self-education opportunities available online or via clever gamified experiences like Hellman’s Fridge Night Mission, an app that challenges and coaches users to get one more meal a week out of their fridges, freezers and pantries. Yes, it may involve adding some mayo.

Recent studies have found that when people had the opportunity to brush up on their kitchen management skills early in the COVID-19 pandemic, food waste declined. However, as consumers returned to busy pre-COVID schedules and routines such as eating out, wastage rebounded.

  • Make home meal preparation easier.

Enter the meal kit, which provides the exact quantity of ingredients needed. One recent study showed that compared to traditional home-cooked meals, wasted food declined by 38% for meals prepared from kits.

Meal kits generate increased packaging waste, but this additional impact may be offset by reduced food waste. Net environmental benefits may be case specific, and warrant more study.

  • Heighten the consequences for wasting food.

South Korea has begun implementing taxes on food wasted in homes by requiring people to dispose of it in special costly bags or, for apartment dwellers, through pay-as-you-go kiosks.

Two bins marked with cartoons and colorful graphics showing what they collect
Kiosks for collecting food waste in Seoul, South Korea. Revi/Wikipedia, CC BY

A recent analysis suggests that a small tax of 6 cents per kilogram – which, translated for a typical U.S. household, would total about $12 yearly – yielded a nearly 20% reduction in waste among the affected households. The tax also spurred households to spend 5% more time, or about an hour more per week, preparing meals, but the changes that people made reduced their yearly grocery bills by about $170.

No silver bullets

Each of these paths is promising, but there is no single solution to this problem. Not all consumers will seek out or encounter opportunities to improve their food-handling skills. Meal kits introduce logistical issues of their own and could be too expensive for some households. And few U.S. cities may be willing or able to develop systems for tracking and taxing wasted food.

As the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded in a 2020 report, there’s a need for many solutions to address food waste’s large contribution to global climate change and worldwide nutritional shortfalls. Both the United Nations and the U.S. National Science Foundation are funding efforts to track and measure food waste. I expect that this work will help us understand waste patterns more clearly and find effective ways to squelch the squander sequence.

Brian E. Roe, Professor of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.