How Water Conservation can Help Save Energy, Too

Watering the lawn less, taking shorter showers, and switching to a low-flow toilet all conserve water. And they also reduce carbon pollution. “About 20% of the state of California’s energy use is associated with the water system,” says Frank Loge of the University of California, Davis.

He explains that every step of a water system uses energy: pumping water from lakes and reservoirs, treating it to make it safe to drink, and pumping it into homes and businesses. Then, if it’s sent down a sink or toilet, it’s usually processed at a wastewater treatment plant, which Loge says takes a tremendous amount of energy.

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The Pandemic Has Suddenly Shined Light On Long-Neglected Indoor Air Concerns

For more than 25 years, Tom Smith has run 3Flow, a company whose sole mission is to make sure people don’t get sick from airborne hazards in their workplaces.

He suddenly has the attention of a lot of employers who never really gave thought to it before the pandemic.

Typically, Smith’s team focuses on how the air moves through places like labs or factories, but since the pandemic started, his business has been getting calls about open layout offices, conference rooms and auditoriums.

“A lot of people have found out that their systems are dysfunctional,” Smith said.

Office spaces are often a lot harder to work with than labs, Smith said, because they weren’t designed with floating pathogens in mind, and the systems have not been well maintained. He says there’s a simple reason for that: it wasn’t required.

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Is California Ready for Brown Lawns and Shorter Showers? Drought Requires Less Water Use

In the face of rapidly worsening drought conditions this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged all Californians to voluntarily cut their water usage by 15% — but what exactly does that mean for the average California household?

The governor made his plea Thursday as he extended a regional state of drought emergency to 50 counties, comprising about 42% of the state’s population. For many, the talk of water reductions reminded them of the shriveled lawns, attenuated showers and water-bucket toilet flushing of the last devastating drought.

It also prompted some to wonder just how much more water Californians can conserve, since they continue to use substantially less water than they did before the 2012-2016 drought.

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U.S. West faces little-known effect of raging wildfires: contaminated water

Early this spring, water bills arrived with notes urging Fort Collins Utilities customers to conserve. The Colorado customers may have thought the issue was persistent drought in the U.S. West.

But the problem was not the quantity of water available. It was the quality.

Utilities are increasingly paying attention to a little-known impact of large-scale fires: water contamination.

Huge forest fires last year denuded vast areas of Colorado’s mountains and left them covered in ash – ash that with sediment has since been washed by rains into the Cache la Poudre River. The river is one of two sources for household water in this college town of 165,000. With more and fiercer storms expected this year, officials worry about water quality worsening beyond what treatment systems can handle.

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Worried About Returning to the Office? What to Ask Your Boss to Ensure You’re Safe

As employees and students prepare for their return to offices and classrooms, an NBC Bay Area investigation reveals a surprising lack of oversight regarding indoor air quality, which may have led to more COVID-19 infections and deaths.  Experts argue the problem existed well before the pandemic and continues to threaten workplaces and schools across the country.

A lack of education, awareness, and accountability may be leading to hazardous indoor air conditions inside a wide array of buildings throughout the nation.  One study found 85% of classrooms had inadequate air ventilation, allowing toxins to accumulate.

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UC Davis Developed Sealing Technology Raises $22 Million from Breakthrough Energy Ventures

Aeroseal LLC, a company with a technology to better insulate buildings, raised $22 million from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund backed by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates. The technology, AeroBarrier, was developed at UC Davis by professor emeritus Mark Modera.

Air leaks in buildings waste energy and can cause moisture and indoor air quality problems. Current methods for tightening building shells have relied primarily on manual sealing methods that are labor intensive and often insufficient. AeroBarrier improves energy efficiency in homes and offices by pressurizing a building while applying an aerosol “fog” to the interior. As the air escapes through leaks in the shell of the building, the aerosolized sealant is transported to the leaks, and seals them as the particles try to escape from the building.

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zoomed in image of backlight industrial smoke stacks

For Americans’ Health, a Dollar of Carbon Emissions Prevented Is Worth a Ton of Cure

In late February, the Biden administration made a major announcement that has the potential to affect the health of Americans for generations. Notably, it had nothing directly to do with COVID-19 or even health care reform.

Instead, the news was that the recently reestablished “Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases” had released a preliminary report on the federal government’s best estimate of the cost to society of continuing to burn fossil fuels. A final report is due early next year, but for now, the administration values a metric ton of emitted carbon dioxide at $51, methane at $1,500 and nitrous oxide at $18,000. These are the figures that will be used in calculating the costs and benefits of the administration’s climate policies, including measures to protect Americans from the health effects of the changing environment.

As a physician in Texas and a professor of environmental economics in California, we have seen from our different vantages how people are struggling to respond to the unprecedented threat of climate change. Patients evacuate an oncoming storm in a rush, only to forget critical medications at home. Governments face grueling choices between providing essential services or cutting off the electricity to prevent a wildfire. There is no longer a question that climate change, in the form of warmer temperatures, rising seas, more frequent extreme events and compounding natural disasters is already here and is already affecting the health and well-being of many Americans.

Rather, the question now is how decisively the administration will move to address this threat.

Thankfully, unlike its predecessor, the Biden administration is taking climate change seriously. The IWG calculations are one data point that reflects this.

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The Biden Administration Increases the Social Cost of Carbon

…Last month, economists Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz suggested a value around $100 per ton by 2030; Carleton and a colleague set it at about $125 per ton of carbon in a paper published in January; and Frances Moore, an environmental economist at the University of California at Davis, put it at $220 per ton in the estimate she and a colleague produced in 2015….

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