August 11, 2011

Drought     Photo: the Italian voice/Flickr

Texan Drought Worsens

Town to recycle wastewater

Prolonged triple-digit heat and dry weather this week have intensified water shortages in Texas, bringing 94 percent of the state to "extreme" or "exceptional" levels of drought. The National Weather Service reports that Texas has received less than half of its normal rainfall since January; the past ten months are now drier than any other ten-month period in Texas's recorded history. In response, the town of Big Springs recently announced that it will break ground on a new $13-million water treatment plant, allowing officials to recycle wastewater and return it to the city's drinking supply. The city—and much of the state—already uses "raw water" on golf courses and for other municipal projects, but the Big Springs plant will become Texas's first to use recycled water for drinking.

Read more at Fast Company



Harris-Moore Signs Movie Deal

Money will go to thief's victims

Colton Harris-Moore, the 20-year-old Barefoot Bandit, has signed a contract worth 1.3 million that gives film studio 20th Century Fox movie rights to his life story. Harris-Moore, who was arrested in a dramatic, July 2010 chase in the Bahamas after years on the run, pleaded guilty in June to seven counts of burglery for crimes ranging from petty larceny to the theft of at least several airplanes. As part of his plea, Harris-Moore agreed to repay his his victims $1.4 million. "I can't undo what I did. I can only try to make things better," Harris Moore said in a statement yesterday. For more than three years, Harris-Moore lived a life on the run, breaking into houses, stealing cars, and living in the woods near his childhood home on Camano Island in Washington State's San Juan Islands. He still faces local and state charges for larceny, and will likely spend more than six years in jail.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter


Wakhan Corridor

Wakhan Corridor     Photo: Courtesy of World Conservation Society

Afghanistan's Highest Peak Reopened

Foreigners make first ascent in 30 years

Afghanistan has reopened its highest mountain to climbers after years of violent unrest kept it off limits. A team of three Afghans and two foreign climbers from the Wildlife Conservation Society summited Mount Noshaq on August 4. The ascent is the first by foreign mountaineers since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, though a team of Afghans last climbed the mountain in 2009. Towering 24,580 feet above the Wakhan Corridor, Mount Noshaq is the second-highest peak in the Hindu Kush range and sits near Afghanistan's northern border with Pakistan. The approach at the base of the mountain was heavily mined in the 1990s in fighting between Afghanistan's Northern Alliance and the Taliban. The Afghan government and the WCS hope that reopening Mount Noshaq, which is home to snow leopards, ibex, and Marco Polo sheep, will draw tourists to the region.

Read more at National Geographic



IAAF World Championships Daegu     Photo: South Korea/Flickr

IAAF Will Test All Athletes

Track and field gets bio passport

The International Association of Athletics Federations will test blood samples from every athlete at the world track and field championships in South Korea later this month, implementing the sport's first comprehensive biological testing program. The IAAF, which introduced the program on a limited basis last December, will test some 2,000 athletes, looking both for illegal substances and establishing baseline blood samples for a significant majority of the world's top runners, jumpers, and throwers. Anti-doping officials will use those samples to track changes in blood profiles associated with doping. The biological passport program was unveiled in late 2009 and has recently been credited for dramatically reducing the incidence of doping in professional cycling. But one athlete scheduled to compete in South Korea has already tested positive. Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings, ranked among the world's best at 200 meters, will likely miss the championships after recording a positive test for a masking agent at a meet in Jamaica in June.

Read more at Bloomberg


    Photo: Drew Avery/Flickr

Could Icebergs End Water Shortages?

Engineer would drag icebergs across ocean

A French engineer has resurrected a plan to solve water shortages by dragging glaciers from Newfoundland to arid climates in Africa and the Middle East. According to Georges Mougin, an 86-year-old engineer, new computer simulations show that pulling a glacier across the Atlantic by barge could feasibly release huge reserves of freshwater to dry areas. Mougin first raised the idea in the 1970s but abandoned it as a time- and cost-inefficient way of producing freshwater. The new model suggests that a properly protected glacier would maintain enough of its mass to make the trip worthwhile. Mining glaciers for water, however, is unlikely to supplant desalination projects, which produce a liter of water for less than a cent. Israel recently announced that it would build the world's largest plant, at a cost of more than $400 million, on the coast of the Mediterranean. Mougin's plan would produce water at roughly five times the cost.

Read more at Scientific American