California’s Drought: Thousands Are Living Without Running Water

tulare-2.0_0 Most of us are feeling the effects of the California drought from a distance, if at all: Our produce is a little more expensive, our news feeds are filled with images of cracked earth. But thousands of people in California’s Central Valley are feeling the drought much more acutely, because water has literally ceased running from their taps. The drought in these communities resembles a never-ending natural disaster, says Andrew Lockman, manager of the county’s Office of Emergency Services. Most disasters are “sudden onset, they run their course over hours or days, and then you clean up the mess. This thing has been growing for 18 months and it’s not slowing down.” Here’s what you need to know about California’s most parched places:

What do you mean by “no running water”? No water is coming through the pipes, so when residents turn on the tap or the shower, or try to flush the toilet or run the washing machine, water doesn’t come out.

Who doesn’t have running water? While a handful of communities across the state are dealing with municipal water contamination and shortages, the area that’s hardest hit—and routinely referred to as the “ground zero of the drought”—is Tulare County, a rural, agriculture-heavy region in the Central Valley that’s roughly the size of Connecticut. As of this week, 5,433 people in the county don’t have running water, according to Lockman. Most of those individuals live in East Porterville, a small farming community in the Sierra Foothills. East Porterville is one of the poorest communities in California: over a third of the population lives below the federal poverty line, and 56 percent of adults didn’t make it through high school. About three quarters of residents are Latino, and about a third say they don’t speak English “very well.”

Why don’t they have running water? Many Tulare homes aren’t connected to a public water system—either because they are too rural or, in the case of East Porterville, because when the community was incorporated in the late 1970s, there wasn’t enough surface water available to serve the community. Until recently, this wasn’t a problem: the homes have private wells, and residents had a seemingly unlimited supply of groundwater. Most domestic wells in East Porterville are relatively shallow—between 25 and 50 feet deep—because water wasn’t far below ground level. With California in its fourth year of drought, there’s been little groundwater resupply and a lot more demand—particularly as farmers resort to pumping for water—leading the water table to drop dramatically and wells to go dry. Those with money can dig deeper wells, but this generally costs between $10,000 and $30,000—a cost that’s prohibitive for many Tulare residents. images (1) If they don’t have running water, how do they function? Of the roughly 1,200 Tulare homes reporting dry wells, about 1,000 of them have signed up for a free bottled water delivery service coordinated by the county. Homes receive deliveries every two weeks; each resident is allotted half a gallon of drinking water per day. The county has also set up three large tanks of nonpotable water, where residents can fill up storage containers for things like showering, flushing toilets, or doing dishes. Portable showers, toilets, and sinks have been set up in front of a church in East Porterville.

Wait, people are showering outside a church? Yup. Some residents have been living without water for over a year, says Susana De Anda, the director of the Community Water Center, a non-profit serving the area. “It’s a huge hygiene issue where we don’t have running water. It kind of reminds me of Katrina,” she says. “The relief came but it came kind of late.”

The state’s offering temporary help, right? To provide interim relief, the county is also working to install water storage tanks outside of homes with dry wells. The 2,500-gallon tanks, usually set up in yards, are filled with potable water and connected to the home, giving a rough semblance of running water. Only about 170 such tanks have been installed so far, in part because the process for installing the tanks is so laborious. Applicants need to prove ownership of the house, open their home to a site assessment, and more—with each step of the process involving a days or weeks long queue. Some 1,300 homes still don’t have tanks installed. water Hundreds of rental properties don’t have running water, and because domestic water storage tanks aren’t set up at rental units, migrant workers aren’t likely to reap the benefits of this interim solution. Another challenge is misinformation: The free water programs are open to residents regardless of citizenship, but myths still prevents some from taking advantage of the services. When the portable showers were first installed in front of the church, says Lockman, many people suspected they were an immigration enforcement trap. Some parents haven’t been sending their children to school, having heard that child welfare services would take away kids from families that don’t have running water.

Who’s working on this? This year, the state has set aside $19 million to be spent on emergency drinking water. In Tulare, the Office of Emergency Services, which coordinates a network of contractors covering the needs of half a million people, currently has a staff of four people. (Three more positions were approved this week.) In the long term, community leaders are working to build an infrastructure so that homes can be linked to a municipal water supply. But that work is “slow and expensive,” says Melissa Withnell, a county spokesperson. 31203778 Are farmers taking the water? Yes, but it’s hard to blame them. Tulare County is among the biggest agricultural producers in the country, growing everything from pistachios and almonds to grapes and livestock. “If you were to just look at the landscape, it’s very green,” says De Anda. “You wouldn’t think we were in a drought.” The industry brings in nearly 8 billion dollars per year, employing many of those individuals who currently lack running water. Permits to drill new wells have skyrocketed—just this year, nearly 700 irrigation wells have been permitted, compared to about 200 domestic wells. (Wells permits are issued on a first come, first served basis.) “It’s like one big punch bowl that’s not getting refilled but everybody’s been slowly drinking out of it and now we have a thirsty football team at the same punch bowl as everybody else,” says Lockman. “Do we have sustainability problems? Oh yeah, absolutely.”

Advertisements

Peter Sutherland – former chairman of corporate giant Goldman Sachs International, thinks the government’s reaction to Calais migrants is wrong

dissolution-of-man-nicklas-gustafsson

Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General’s special representative on international migration and occasional strategic adviser to Goldman Sachs International (also former chairman he retired in June 2015), said the British reaction to the Calais crisis was “grossly excessive”.

In 2013, University College Dublin law school was renamed the Sutherland School of Law in his honour, following his financial contribution to the newly completed law teaching facility, the gentleman is clearly as respected as he is esteemed.

The great majority of migrants heading to Europe are genuine refugees, he said, and Britain receives far fewer applications for sanctuary than other European countries.

He said calls to stop economic migrants entering the UK are “a xenophobic response to the issue of free movement”.

He told the BBC: “In my opinion, the debate in the UK is grossly excessive in terms of Calais. We are talking here about a number of people – a relatively small number in the context of what other countries are having to do – who are in terrible conditions and have to be dealt with by France and/or Britain.”

dissolution-of-man-nicklas-gustafsson

Thousands making the perilous boat voyage across the Mediterranean to reach southern Europe are “in the main” genuine refugees fleeing violence and persecution, he said.

Britain also receives far fewer asylum applications that other European countries, he said.

“Germany last year received 175,000 asylum applications. Britain received 24,000,” said Mr Sutherland.

David Cameron has faced criticism for referring to the thousands of migrants who are camped in Calais trying to get across the Channel as a “swarm”.

Syrian-refugees-drowned-italian-coast

Mr Sutherland said: “I think it is most unfortunate to create an image of hordes of people, when in reality the highest figure I have seen for the actual numbers in the so-called ‘jungle’ around Calais – the place where these unfortunate people are living – is 10,000.”

Kevin Hurley, police and crime commissioner for Surrey, earlier this week called for the 2nd Bn Royal Gurkha Rifles based just outside Hythe, Kent, to be deployed to make sure Britain’s border is secure.

Mr Sutherland said: “The first thing we have to do collectively is to deal with their conditions. Instead of talking about sending Gurkhas or building fences, we should be thinking of the humanitarian crisis.”

Mr Sutherland urged the UK to join the common European approach to the migrant issue, warning: “Anybody who thinks that by erecting borders or fences in some way a particular state can be protected from alleged ‘floods’ – which are anything but floods – of migrants is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

Mr Sutherland delivered his thoughts on this subject with an astounding gentleness, considering the decidedly aggressive approach he adopted, when establishing the World Trade Organisation in 1993.

ps

Perhaps his approach has softened with age, the gentleman who elevated the role of the World Trade Organisation, so that it dealt personally with presidents and prime ministers as opposed to just ministers, now chooses to walk gently over eggshells when discussing the subject of migration with those same presidents and prime ministers.

The same gentleman was also a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, until he was kindly ask to leave the board by the British government, who took over the bank as it teetered on the verge of bankruptcy.

Peter Sutherland is also on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group and was a vice-chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists ( an organisation highly focused on improving considerably, business competitiveness within Europe).

He would appear to be a gentleman whose concerns centre (in the main) around the more intimate co-operation of nations across the world, on matters economic and political. He is a creature of the coporatocracy, one who also heads the International Catholic Migration Commission, which has been active in Afghanistan, Indonesia (after the Tsunami in 2004 and is now hard at work in Syria.

ei61bl

One wonders what has motivated him to comment on England’s xenophobia in relation to the Calais migrants. Mercy & compassion? Or cold blooded, clear eyed business sense?

In the words of Pietro Reichlin, economics professor at Rome’s Luiss university,

“When wages go down, there is more incentive to move towards the black economy (an economy fuelled by illegal migrant labour). It is almost a form of insurance, a way out” and he went on to say “Without the shadow economy, some economies would collapse. It’s the only part of the economy that keeps the economy thriving”. A black economy fuelled by migrant labour, as has become the case in parts of Italy (see Prato ) and Spain. Xenophobia aside, this doesn’t bode well for the migrants. 

 

Iowa Governor: Des Moines Water Utility Should ‘Tone Down’ Criticism of Agricultural Pollution

7BT2nyL1UgvWnpMHCB6FxJUFzTR

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad told reporters Tuesday that Des Moines Water Works — a private utility that provides water to some 500,000 residents in the Des Moines area — should “just tone it down” when it comes to monitoring water pollution from agriculture.

“The Des Moines Water Works ought to just tone it down and start cooperating and working with others, like Cedar Rapids is doing, and other communities in the state of Iowa,” Branstad reportedly said when asked if the state government would work to help Des Moines Water Works customers impacted by the utility’s expected 10 percent rate increase.

Water Works claims that the rate hikes are necessary to cover the increased costs of water treatment due to nitrate pollution, which comes from largely unregulated fertilizer runoff from surrounding farmland. According to the Des Moines Register, Water Works has spent $1.5 million for nitrate removal since December of 2014, and plans to spend up to $183 million more for new nitrate removal equipment built to keep up with high levels of pollution.

The EPA allows up to 10 milligrams of nitrates per liter in public drinking water — anything higher than that is considered a threat to public health. The Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, from which the Des Moines Water Works pulls its water, both have exhibited levels in excess of federal standards, a trend that’s mirrored in major rivers across the state. According to an April report by the Des Moines Register, nitrate levels across Iowa’s major rivers have more than tripled, increasing from about 2 milligrams per liter on average in 1954 to more than 7 milligrams per liter between 1954 and 2010.

work.5831669.1.flat,550x550,075,f.blue-gold-drop

“It’s unmistakable. The long-term trend is decidedly upward,” Keith Schilling, a research scientist at the Iowa Geological Survey at the University of Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. Researchers say that the rise of row-cropping, farm drainage tiles, and the loss of perennial crops have helped make nutrient runoff an issue in Iowa.

In response to high nitrate levels, the Des Moines Water Works announced in January of this year that they would sue three neighboring counties that have failed to properly manage the nutrients applied to their farmland.

“When they build these artificial drainage districts that take water, polluted water, quickly into the Raccoon River, they have a responsibility to us and others as downstream users,” Bill Stowe, general manager of the Des Moines Water Works, told Iowa Public Radio in a January interview.

helltraintitle

But taking aggressive action like this, Branstad said Tuesday, has alienated Des Moines Water Works from state officials and legislatures, many of whom represent districts where agriculture is the primary economic driver. In each of the three counties that the Des Moines Water Works is suing (Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties), farms account for 98 percent of the surface land.

“If they want to cooperate and work with us, they are much more likely to get assistance and support,” Branstad said. “If they are continuing to sue and attack other people, that is not doing to get them the kind of assistance and support they would like to have.”

Branstad contended that the state has taken steps to reduce nitrate pollution through a set of voluntary measures known as the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The Des Moines Register survey of nitrate pollution did show a slight decline in nitrate levels in recent decades, perhaps due to farmers employing more conservation practices.

Springer1

“I think we in the state of Iowa want clean water and we want to do everything we can,” Branstad told reporters. “We have a nutrient reduction strategy. We are working on a cooperative and collaborative basis.”

But Graham Gillette, chairman of the Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees, told the Des Moines Register that Branstad’s comments were “hurtful and derogatory.”

“There is no one in a better situation to help with the water situation in the state than the governor, and I am just baffled why he is not interested in even participating in the conversation,” Gillette said.

Councils quizzed in dispute over ‘undercutting’ pay rates at Tees-side energy-from-waste plant

shutterstock_112178771

Local authorities are being asked to say how much they are paying to use the energy-from-waste plant being built at the Wilton complex on Tees-side in a bid to prove that the cash-rich employer can pay the national rates of pay to workers.

The survey of councils across the UK by Unite, the country’s largest union, has been prompted by serious concerns about the employment and recruitment practices at the construction project, a joint venture between Sita and Sembcorp.

The focus of the dispute is that the project is being built outside of the terms of all the national agreements (CIJC and NAECI) for the construction industry which have been in place for more than 30 years.

money_quoteUnite has members working on the £200 million energy-from-waste plant and is critical about the lack of access to workers at the project. This follows on-going concerns about undercutting of wage rates and the failure to abide by the recognised national agreements, as well as health and safety issues; the latest being one of the protesters allegedly hit by a vehicle entering the complex today (Friday 31 July).

Also today Romanian workers contacted the protestors informing them that they had not received the €6 per hour pay for the last two months – once again Unite calls on Sita/Sembcorp to investigate both of today’s claims.

Unite is also worried at the lack of job opportunities for people from the local community. The union would like to see the companies taking the lead on apprenticeships and ensuring opportunities are available for young people.

There also appears to be a high number of agency labour onsite operating through umbrella companies who are employed with no employment rights.

Unite regional officer Steve Cason said: “We are in the process of contacting all of the local authorities across the country to determine how much money Sita is being paid to manage waste services.

lot-of-money1

“We believe the total awarded contracts will run into billions of pounds, so the issue is not that Sita can’t afford to pay the rates for the job, it just won’t pay the rates for the job.

“We could see a situation where the infrastructure to burn waste is completed and owned by Sita and, as competition is wiped out, prices to remove and burn waste from local authorities could rise, placing an unfair burden on the council taxpayer.”

Highly skilled construction workers and their supporters are protesting every week outside of the chemical complex over the issue of undercutting the national rates of pay in the construction sector – and these protests are set to continue.

Union members from Unite, the GMB and Ucatt have also vowed to step up the protests within Sita’s supply chain.

Steve Cason added: “Sita/Sembcorp could put an end to the mounting protests at any time by ensuring a forensic wage audit is carried out on the site, but they adamantly refuse to do this causing the dispute to escalate.

“Other issues raised included bonus and overtime rates, as well as holiday pay.

“Support from around the country is growing amongst construction workers who see their national agreements under threat from unscrupulous employers. They have vowed to come together nationally to defend their future, not only for themselves, but for the young people that enter the industry as apprentices.

“We call on the Sita and Sembcorp management to genuinely engage with us in meaningful and constructive talks, and adhere to the tried-and- tested national agreements.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.

How to feed nine billion within the planet’s boundaries: the need for an agroecological approach

mother-abigail-2

Global agriculture is challenged by a combination of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the growing demand for food, feed, fibre and energy. The research and development community has been looking into various ways of making agriculture more sustainable, and agro-ecological approach gives high expectations.

Agro-ecology is a scientific approach to sustainable agriculture which follows ecological principles such as diversity and regeneration. This “nothing wasted, everything transformed” approach preaches for low input, nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. Agro-ecology is also a system approach, and has a strong social focus, paying attention to public health, cultural values, and community resilience as well as to social and economic justice.

There are Seven steps for an agro-ecological transformation of farming to feed the world within the planet’s limits:

1. Raise awareness among policy-makers and extension agents of the benefits of agro-ecological farming, focusing on its contributions to rural livelihoods, ecological sustainability, climate change adaptation and the resilience of food systems.

2. Provide a new perspective on agriculture – particularly what is a ‘productive’ and ‘efficient’ system – among financial partners, governments and farmers. Instead of a short-term focus on maximising production (and profits), they should consider the benefits of farming practices that support ecosystem services and resilience and use fewer resources.

monsanto-carlos-barberena

3. Provide economic incentives to adopt agro-ecological practices on a landscape level, e.g. subsidies for actions that support ecosystem services, and taxation of actions that reduce them. Other helpful measures include integrating agro-ecological farming in public food procurement schemes (e.g. for schools, hospitals or public catering); supporting agro-ecological extension services; and supporting local business development and markets for agro-ecological products.

4. Sharpen environmental laws and regulations (and their enforcement on a landscape level) to better protect ecosystem services. Revise trade regulations and agreements so that they support markets for environmentally friendly agricultural products. Amend regulations that distort local markets for agricultural products.

5. Build strong farmer-led, bottom-up knowledge and research systems. Farmers should be at the centre of the agricultural innovation system, setting the agenda for research and extension services and shaping policies and investments.

monsanto-hero

6. Mainstream agro-ecology in agricultural education at all levels (from pre-schools to universities) and encourage interdisciplinary research on the social, environmental and economic aspects of food production.

7. Provide incentives for more sustainable diets and consumption patterns. Rising meat and dairy products consumption, as well as food waste, are increasing pressures on the land; these trends need to be reversed as part of an agro-ecological transformation of our food systems.

monsanto

Courtesy of Ecosystem Based Adaptation conference in Kenya, July 2015.

 

Worms found in neighbourhood’s drinking water in Texas

bluegold-splsh

 

HOUSTON – If there’s one thing that can get a whole neighbourhood in the street in 100 degree heat, it’s this: “That’s worms! That is so worms!” said neighbour Tammy Early. “That’s just gross. Oh my God, I’m freaking out right now.”

Tiny worms clogged Early’s sprinkler and it was even worse for Tara Miles.

“This water was coming out of the bathroom faucet,” said Miles, holding up a bottle of water with several worms floating inside.

About 30 neighbours in the Woodland Acres subdivision of Old River-Winfree came out to the water facility Wednesday afternoon with their own samples to show. They all said the worms are flowing out with their tap water.

“There’s these red ones, there’s these black ones, almost look like tad poles,” said Andrea Devault. “Which is the grossest?” asked KHOU 11 News Reporter Alice Barr. Devault answered, “All of them. I do not like bugs in my water.”

It’s been going on for a couple of days now. The private company, J&S Water, says it did have a power outage this weekend and some equipment broke, so it flushed the system and on Tuesday asked folks to start boiling their water.

But the company says it’s tested the water multiple times with the state environmental agency and found no sign of worms. They’re blaming some other source, like the pipes.

“For the record, we have replaced our pipes over and over again and it is PVC pipe. There’s nothing coming from our pipes,” said Miles.

Neighbors came to the water facility hoping to talk to someone from the company but the spokesman is out of town.

The mayor came out and offered free bottled water and showers at a city facility. He says state environmental crews won’t make it out until Friday to take a look.

“It’s not good enough but what can you do,” said Old River-Winfree Mayor Joe Landry.

For now, neighbours plan to do their washing somewhere else and keep their eyes out for any slimy intruders.

A J&S Water spokesman says the company is following every step of protocol and working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to address the problem.

These Beautiful, Translucent Barriers Quiet Traffic—And Generate Power At The Same Time

3048222-slide-s-4-these-beautiful-translucent-barriers

Where could this be? The Netherlands of course, where it seems like all such clever plans start (solar bike path, anyone?).

And this has to be one of the best Dutch ideas yet—roadside noise barriers that also generate solar power. Not only that, they work on cloudy days, and one kilometer (0.62 miles) provides enough electricity to power 50 homes.

The plan seems so obvious, you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. But the key is a new kind of solar panel. They’re cheap, they’re transparent, and they use a different light-gathering tech that works under the gray skies of Northern Europe. They’re called luminescent solar concentrators (LSC), and they’re translucent sheets which bounce light internally to the edges of the panels, where it is beamed onto regular solar panels “in concentrated form.”

The LSC panels can be made in different colors, so the result is something like an oversized stained-glass window. Because light can shine through them, they could be used in urban areas, shielding noise without making either pedestrians or motorists feel cut off.

The test, which launched on June 18, along the A2 highway near Den Bosch, includes regular solar panels as a control, and also to see how both kinds of barrier fare in the outside world, when subjected to real life and real vandalism.

The project is being run by researcher Michael Debije, at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Debije’s breakthrough is this new kind of LSC panel. Regular LSC panels reabsorb light as they channel it to the solar arrays at their edges. Debije’s panels fix this. Added bonus: they also look good.