How we manage local water sources drastically alters how we grow crops and get drinking water. Cape Town is currently experience a water crisis that was in the making for decades because of poor water use policies. Desalination plants can help coastal cities provide water to their populace by separating salt from seawater. Wired has a good article on how one company is improving desalination techniques for growing crops, which, they predict can help bring plant life to arid regions.
The structure’s double-layered fibreglass roof transmitted sunlight but captured heat, diverting it through ducts into a compartment at the building’s rear. There, the heat was used to distill freshwater out of seawater for irrigation. The rest was vaporised and sucked through the growing space by fans to cool and humidify the plants, reducing transpiration. Paton calculated that a square metre of crops adjacent to the greenhouse would have required eight litres of water per day to offset what they lost in transpiration. “But inside we were using closer to one litre per square metre per day, and we were growing a better crop.”
Paton is also interested in the long term restorative benefits of his invention. Davies’ model predicted that the greenhouse’s cooling and humidifying effect would seep into the surrounding environment: “You can see there would be a plume of cool air coming off the greenhouse,” he says. And since the region hasn’t always been barren, Paton thinks greenhouses could return parts of it to the naturally vegetated state it was in before overgrazing and drought took hold. “I believe that when you get to, say, 20 years, you’d have enough vegetation to do the job of the greenhouses because they’re creating shade and shared humidity – changing the climate.” Because vegetation sequesters carbon, that also has broader ramifications for mitigating the effects of climate change.
Cities need to work with their local ecosystems and not against them. This is evidently true when it comes to waste management and overt displays of green initiatives. There is a harder aspect of ecological thinking for cities and it’s usually beneath our feet: water.
Water systems are complex in every direction – getting drinking water in and storm water out. The way cities plan for water issues is more important than ever before as we enter a time of water scarcity and extreme weather. What we should be doing (and smart cities already are) is designing our urban spaces with the flow of water in mind.
“We need to acknowledge that the water is eventually going to do what the water wants to do, and shift our approach, as human populations living on the Earth, from one of trying to dominate nature to one that acknowledges the power of nature and works in synchrony with that,” says English. “We’ve already set ourselves down this path of dams and levees and water control systems, and it’s really hard to turn back. But we don’t need to keep replicating that. We don’t need to make the situation worse. It’s time to step back from the approach of control and fortification.”
“Cities that today start to embrace water and take advantage of the skills of water, will be the cities that have a better performance economically and socially and politically in 20 to 30 years,” says Koen Olthuis, founder of Waterstudio, a Dutch firm that has found designing around water to be more than a niche market. “When situations change—and that’s happening now, the environment is changing, the climate is changing—cities have to react. You have to change the skills and the performance of the city to give a reaction to this situation, and the reaction should be not fighting it, it should be living with it.”
China’s amazing economic growth came at the expensive of the natural environment (amongst other pains) which the country is now trying to revitalize. The country is literally paying the price of not having good environmental protecting policies, let this be a lesson to other countries that good policy can prevent a lot of bad things.
China spent $100 billion in the first half of 2017 to clean its waterways and update policies. Indeed, stricter rules have been in place around water management and new equipment has been installed to clean water. There have been over 8,000 water clean up projects launched this year! This is a massive effort that is good to see in a country that for too long neglected the environment.
With China desperate to increase supplies to guarantee future food and energy security, it promised in 2015 to make significant improvements in its major waterways and curb untreated wastewater from highly polluting sectors like mining, steelmaking, textiles, printing and oil refining.
In a bid to protect rural water supplies, China also identified 636,000 square kilometers (246,000 square miles) of land that would be made off limits to animal husbandry, and it shut 213,000 livestock and poultry farms in the first six months.
The ministry also said 809 new household sewage treatment facilities were built in the first half, but the regions of Tianjin, Jiangxi, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Xinjiang, Hubei and Guangdong were behind schedule, it said.
Guatemala is a gorgeous country with a rich Mayan history, particularly around Lake Atitlán (and the more famous Tikal). The country will now be home to a UNESCO project toking at best practices for underwater archaeology. The main idea is to work with the local population to ensure cultural sensitivity and to match that care with environmental concerns. When the practices are outlined UNESCO will expand their underwater archeology knowledge to the world’s researchers with some locations already identified.
UNESCO’s technical mission to Lake Atitlán (southwest of Guatemala) will take place in the autumn. It will be funded by Spain and will be carried out by the experts of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. María Helena Barba Meinecke, head of the Yucatan Peninsula underwater heritage programme of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History will lead the mission, which will examine the archaeological sites in the lake and propose a management plan in consultation with the local communities, for whom these vestiges are of great cultural importance.
Several submerged archaeological sites were discovered in 1996 in Lake Atitlán, the deepest lake in Central America. Among them is a Mayan villages known as Samabaj, which retains the remains of domestic structures and religious monuments. The village appears to have been built on an island that was submerged, possibly because of a volcanic eruption, a landslide or another natural disaster.
The last month brought a lot of rain to the city of Toronto which has led to the Toronto islands being half submerged and a temporary (and lax) travel ban to be put into effect. The rest of the city has fared slightly better. The city has slowly been improving its water management over the years by implementing green roofs and providing more green space along ravines to absorb water. That’s not enough to deal with the increased rainfall from climate change. Over at the CBC they have an article looking at effective ways that Toronto is already using and what more can be done.
Of course, the techniques used in Toronto can be applied to many other cities.
The water that makes it past collection systems or soaks through green spaces ends up in Toronto’s sewer system.
In cases of a heavy downpour, that can send a mix of storm and sanitary water into Lake Ontario, due to the city’s combined sewer system.
While the city has dedicated reserves for storm water, it has no choice but to pump the mixed sewage and storm water into the lake during extreme rainfall.