Energetic middle schoolers fill the classroom air with excitement. Three UA graduate students are standing in the way between their final hours of summer school and unlimited summer fun. We better make this engaging! I think to myself. Today, we are there to talk about environmental science, and how the quality of our environment- the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the soil that we run on- affects our every day lives, including our health (read more) ...
As I drive southwest along highway 82 from Sonoita, Arizona toward the Town of Patagonia, Red Mountain emerges on the skyline. The north face of the mountain is covered in vegetation, cloaking the red rhyolite that is visible from the south. Even more concealed are the systems of fractures, faults and old mining tunnels that complicate the hydrology of the area. I turn off the highway, ascend a winding dirt road, park my car and walk down a steep valley south of Red Mountain, keeping an eye on my GPS. I soon find myself at the entrance a gaping hole in the rock. The hole appears to be a cave, but it is not. Old mine adits; the mouths of snaking underground tunnels of abandoned mines, leak water, sludge, and a cool, ominous, vapor. The entrance of some are covered in a tongue of green moss; the opportune plant making the most of the moist mouth of the adits. Historic mines create a unique plumbing system in a mountain of fractured rock and act as massive pipes that drain out groundwater from the mountain. (Read more)
Today, water shortages affect 1 out of 9 people. To put this in perspective, imagine a room with 9 people in it, 8 of those people may grab a cup full of water from a pitcher in the room but 1 person must walk thirty minutes for the same cup of water. Water shortages are not limited to dry environments, like Tucson, places with a stable water supply can, unfortunately, lack the infrastructure to provide access to safe drinking water. Imagine you were that unlucky person who had to walk for a drink of water. However, there are places where you do not have to walk thirty minutes because there is abundant groundwater but the infrastructure to supply is yet to be constructed. You may be thinking, drilling wells, pumping the groundwater, treating it to safe drinking standards and designing the delivery system will be rather costly. It is. But are there economical alternatives that can provide safe drinking water to rural communities around the globe? Luckily for us, there are, and one we have been practicing for over 4,000 years: rainwater harvesting. (read more)
“Nairobi is a city of opportunities” said Mwangi – a 26-year old man who worked as an assistant to a private water provider. Mwangi’s job was to keep a check on the water pipes and kiosks that this employer recently installed in the settlements of Mukuru to sell water at a price of 5 Kenyan Shillings ($0.05) per 20-liter jerrycan. Mwangi aspired to start his own water business one day, as he explained, “Sister, in this city, water is the most valuable possession one would have. If I can run a water business consistently, it is pesa ya haraka – cash cow/quick money.” Responding to the perplexed expression on my face, he said, “It is simple, just work on making the right connections, with the right people.” Every year I go to Nairobi to conduct fieldwork, Mwangi’s words echo in my mind. What makes selling water so lucrative? Who are the right people to make connections with? I also ponder the tone of ease, self-evidence with which Mwangi called it a ‘cash cow’. It appeared to suggest that the question mark on my face was rather naïve, ignorant of the realities of urban life in Nairobi city. (read more)