June 18, 2014

With Lake Mead's infamous bathtub rings pointing to dangerously low water levels, people near the Colorado River are riding a slippery slope into critical drought.     Photo: miflippo/ThinkStock

Draining Water from SW Cities

As the drought worsens, restrictions get tough

Rising temperatures induced by global warming are enhancing a 14-year drought in the Western United States—the worst seen in the region in about 1,250 years. The region's dam system and the 30 million people dependent upon it are paying the price.

On the endangered Colorado River, a recent pulse flow linked the vanishing waterway to the Sea of Cortez, allowing a rare opportunity for adventurers to float its length. But the pulse was fleeting, and water supplies continue to be an escalating issue. Facing dire shortages, river authorities are, for the first time, considering rationing or cutting water to major cities in lower basin states such as Arizona.

Authorities began decreasing water flow into Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir, to protect the river and aged distribution policies for the first time this year. Recent water-level readings show that Lake Mead, which is only 40 percent full, has been losing a foot of water every day and is set to fall to its lowest level ever next month.

"Here's a reservoir that can hold two full years of the flow of the Colorado River, and it's now down to less than one year's worth of flow," said John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which supplies water to Las Vegas, in an interview with the Desert Sun.

To pump water and generate electricity, Lake Mead can’t fall below 1,000 feet; it’s projected to reach that level by 2020. If lower basin states can’t ration water themselves by 2019, they won’t get any at all. Lower basin states need to reduce drawdowns to at least 800,000 acre-feet of the 10.2 million taken annually—as much water as naturally evaporates from Lake Mead each year thanks to its large surface area.

Although global warming is playing a huge part in Western America’s water crisis, problems were enhanced for upper and lower basin states by faulty math in the early 20th century. When politicians first agreed on water allocations, they referred to historical water levels that grossly inflated how much water was truly available annually along the river. States have been drawing more water than the river can handle for almost a century.

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The ISSpresso makes the best coffee off Earth.     Photo: Lavazza/Google

Espresso in Space?

Because Tang and Nescafe are so Apollo 13

Everest climbers insist on bringing espresso up the mountain. Why should astronauts be any different? Problem is, pulling a quality shot of 'spro isn't that easy in zero gravity. Until now. Italian coffee company Lavazza has created an espresso machine built specifically for such conditions. Named for the International Space Station, where it will reside, the ISSpresso is expected to launch (sorry!) in November.

Due to espresso's hot water and high-pressure nature—along with the close quarters of the space station—a safe way to brew zero-gravity grounds was top priority for engineers. According to a Lavazza news release, the 44-pound ISSpresso uses a special steel tube that can withstand pressure of up to 5,800 psi to carry water that can be used for espresso, coffee, caffe lungo, tea, infusions, and broth.

  Photo: Wired/Google

Argotec, an engineering firm that has partnered with the Italian Space Agency and Lavazza, is currently testing a prototype to ensure it will meet all function and safety standards, according to a Gizmag report. When the machine is certified, it will be part of this fall's ESA Futura Mission. Don't picture astronauts nursing cappuccinos from bone china; the brew is pumped into a plastic bag and then sipped from there. Still, it beats Nescafe.

"Italian coffee is a beverage without borders," said Giuseppe Lavazza, vice president of Lavazza, in an NPR article. "We are in a position to overcome the limits of weightlessness and enjoy a good espresso."

We’ll raise a demitasse to that.

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Despite legal pressure from the international community, Japanese whaling campaigns are continuing.     Photo: Mother Nature Network/Google

Japanese Fleet Kills 30 Whales

Marks the country's first whaling campaign since IJC court ruling

Despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Japan to end its Antarctic whaling program, a Japanese whaling fleet killed 30 minke whales off the country's northeast coast, according to the Japanese Fisheries Agency.

This marks Japan's first whaling campaign since the IJC implemented its ruling in March, after the governments of Australia and New Zealand brought Japan to the court. The IJC's ruling states that the annual Japanese whaling excursion was commercial and not for research, as whalers claimed, according to a Discovery News report.

The latest hunt is a result of the court's decision to address only Japan's JARPA II whaling program in the Antarctic; the decision made no mention of the country's annual hunts in the Pacific, according to the Independent. So, although Japan has agreed to cease whaling activity in the Antarctic, other whaling endeavors will continue.

Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, expressed intent to boost efforts in resurging commercial whaling and Japan's right to hunt. His country's arguments state that whaling is crucial to understanding worldwide whale populations and that whaling is a facet of Japanese culture that is misunderstood by the international community.

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Happier days for Bradley Wiggins, when he was riding to glory for Great Britain.     Photo: Patrick Mayon/Flickr

Disaster for Wiggins

And other news from cycling's front lines

British cycling phenom and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, aka "Wiggo," has withdrawn from the Tour de Suisse after a nasty crash during stage four left his right thigh and knee badly bruised. Yesterday's accident decreases the Olympian's chances of being selected to ride in next month's Tour de France. Team Sky, of which Wiggins is a member, has nine more spots to fill, and the emphasis will be on creating the optimal supporting cast for last year's champion, Chris Froome.

As Cycling News reports, Wiggins was already skeptical about his chances before Tuesday's crash. Earlier this month, he told the BBC, "I am gutted. I feel I am in the form I was two years ago. Now if I want to go to the Tour again, the reality is that I might have to go elsewhere."

To his credit, Wiggins did get back on his bike after crashing, finishing stage four 11 minutes, 55 seconds behind winner Mark Cavendish.

In other cycling news, Belkin announced yesterday that it is withdrawing its sponsorship of the elite Dutch team that has borne its name for the past 18 months (previously the team was sponsored by Rabobank). According to VeloNews, the California-based consumer electronics company cited a shift in marketing priorities as the reason for the withdrawal. For the team, the timing of the announcement is less than stellar, as it must now scramble to find a new sponsor for the Tour de France, which kicks off July 5. 

Finally, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is pushing for harsher measures to be taken against Johan Bruyneel, former manager of defrocked cycling deity Lance Armstrong. The Belgian coach was given a 10-year ban from all sporting activity in April in a decision passed down by the American Arbitration Association. Apparently for WADA, which banned Armstrong for life, this punishment was far too lenient.

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