Geography and Freshwater Awareness

National Geographic was always a favorite magazine of mine as a kid and as an adult. As a self-professed geography geek, I am indebted to those folks for doing a us all great service by promoting awareness of our world, it’s resources, places, and people.  It seems they’ve taken the largely forgotten “National Geography Awareness Week” (proclaimed by President H.W. Bush in the late 1980s)  and brought it into the digital world.  And more thrilling to a water-focused geography-geek, here is their slick web page, resources, and short video highlighting the importance of freshwater resources to ourselves and our globe. Check it out by going here. Enjoy!

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Even Water Has its Day: World Water Day 2010

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For almost a month, I’ve been out of my office on a combination of vacation and work travel, so I admit that this blog has seemed a neglected alleyway off of the information superhighway. Well, there is nothing like a highly publicized, United Nations sponsored “Day” (with a capital “D”) to bring H2ONCoast back on-line.

Since 1993, the UN and a host of government agencies (such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), non-governmental organizations (such as Water For Life), and corporate entities (such as PepsiCo) have been marking March 22nd as World Water Day. This year’s theme could not be more important: “Clean Water for a Healthy World.”  Today’s theme reminds us that water quantity is not the only issue–quality is another ever more vexing one. Every drop of pollution to the world’s freshwater supplies leads to less water available overall, and ultimately to greater water stress for the people of the planet.

This might seem pretty obvious, but consider this: of all of the world’s freshwater, less than 1% is immediately available for our use as fresh water. And that water is not distributed evenly; nearly 1 billion people worldwide live with constant scarcity.  For example, as much as 50% of China is now deep into three years of drought that has reduced drinking water supplies by as much as 75% in some communities.  For an excellent rundown of the last month’s news on water–and a fitting place to visit for World Water Day, I recommend Circle of Blue’s excellent water news roundup.  The sweep of politics, economics, science and technology behind the world of water that most of us take for granted is pretty stunning to me, at least.

Lastly, to commemorate World Water Day, I cannot recommend enough a look at the photos just published on-line by the National Geographic Society. To me, these truly symbolize the power, promise and peril of our watery–and changing–world. You can check them out at the Boston Globe’s on-line presence.  Their April 2010 edition will be devoted solely to water.

What color is your water?

colorofwaterIf anyone reading this remembers the seminal career book “What Color is Your Parachute”, you aren’t going to find that kind of advice here. But OSU colleague Todd Jarvis has certainly made an entertaining splash in the water-centric blogosphere with his new offering: Rainbow Water Coalition. It’s got lots of nifty information about gray water (that water which is used in the kitchen or bathroom and then reused in your landscape), along with posts on water harvesting, biosolids and a few other topics that he explores with lots of good humor. Check it out: rainbowwatercoalition.blogspot.com. I highly recommend reading his explanation for the different water colors on the left panel of the blog homepage! Congrats on an excellent color-coded contribution, Todd!

H2ONCoast tweets into another new media experiment

twitter_logo_headerSigh… After many months of very subtle peer pressure I have given in and now can be found tentatively twittering and tweeting away. Well, actually, it’s been just one measly tweet but I’ll see if I can muster some more before too long.  So, those of you who follow the microblogging world, look for me at: http://twitter.com/h2onc. We’ll see how useful the microblogosphere is when this particular “macroblog” doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves! This could be a brief, feathered experiment, or it could be the start of a new on-line nest.

One thing I will say, new media is very new turf for those of us devoted to brick and mortar Extension offices, face to face meetings, in-person workshops and printed publications.  It has paid for me to experiment with it.  This blog was the first tentative leap into the New Media unknown. Since then I’ve experimented with social networks and now will try Twitter on for size.  Why is this important? Because Extension–to which I am quite wed–is facing a crisis of identity in the 21st century. Our model was based on roots that go back to the 19th century when agricultural extension agents roamed the back roads of rural America bringing new technology and know-how to a mostly agrarian America. Our offices were well known institutions in small town America. Well, things are very different now–most Americans live in cities (nearly 80% of us) bigger than 100,000.  And since the rise of the Internet, successive generations starting with mine (the Gen X’ers) have embraced the web with gusto. Millennials–those of the generation born after 1980 (and extending until about 2000) are indeed considered the newest and most pervasive “digital natives.”  For them, if it isn’t available on-line, it may not exist!  So if Extension–both Sea and Land Grant-based–institutions want to reach this mass of urban, digitally embedded people, we’d better modernize and fast! And at the same time, we had better learn to keep up because New Media is growing and changing at light speed.

For more on this crisis, check out this very short but engaging slide show put out by my former colleague Mark Crossler on the challenge of getting across the generational divide for Extension programs.  So, yes, I’ve joined the Twittering masses. My hope is that it’s a useful experiment for a good cause!

Water gets its own aggregator

Water blogging is relatively new stuff. Heck, blogging is just a few years old and only now gaining mainstream attention. But you know that something important or good is happening in your field when it has its own set of blogs devoted the cause. Just check out my blogroll to the right here for a list of those I think are good (and there are probably many more, so if you’re an author or reader of one of them, please drop me a line and I’ll add the link).

But now aggregators are taking the headlines of many a topical blog and feeding them to one handy website. Thus is the case with Alltop.com.  They now have a handy “water” themed page, linked here.  Check it out for a good dose of water in the blogosphere. Look for a widget that will send you there on H2ONC soon.

And yes, I’m lobbying to have this little blog on their list too.

Catchup on Chinook, Climate Change, World Water Day

It’s been a little while since I’ve had time to post to H2ONC. So here’s a quick update on a few newsworthy items that North Coaster’s and other readers should pay attention to:

Due to an amazingly sharp drop off in returning fish, the Sacramento Chinook salmon fishery has been closed from fishing, essentially closing down fishing from Cape Falcon (south of Manzanita) to the San Francisco Bay Area. This is exceptionally bad news for North Coast fishermen and the communities that depend upon the roughly $15 million fishery. Senator Wyden (D-OR) is working to get a salmon disaster declared quickly so that funds are disbursed in 2008, rather than two years later with the last fishery disaster. A full news article on the closure and the fishery collapse can be found at the NY Times here and at the San Francisco Chronicle here.

Couple of other important articles that have crossed my desk in recent weeks includes a report from the National Academies of Science on climate change impacts to coastal transportation. This topic should resonate with many here as the December Storm damaged a critical rail line and made roads rough-going for more than a few weeks in the aftermath. The shorter news on this topic can be found at the New York Times here.

Lastly, World Water Day was last Friday, March 21st. While there are a plethora of “days” out there for people to commemorate everything from battles to personal causes, this one remains important–though barely audible over the drone of the news cycle and the patter of everyday life (even mine, I admit). Below is an excerpt from the National Academies of Science press release on the event. It neatly underscores why water is so critical and why World Water Day is not “just another day.”

“Today 2.6 billion people, including almost 1 billion children, live without basic sanitation. Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation, leading to 1.5 million preventable deaths each year.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is sanitation. Organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, activities will take place around the world to raise awareness and accelerate progress toward reducing the number of people without sanitation by half over the next seven years.

The United Nations estimates it will cost $10 billion annually to halve the proportion of people without basic sanitation by 2015. If sustained, the same investment could achieve basic sanitation for the entire world within one or two decades.”