Monthly Archives: January 2017

Florida Corals Tell of Weather History


dry-tortugScientists looking for an oceanic counterpart to tree rings that record past weather have found one in the Dry Tortugas National Park . Corals here contain chemical signals of past water temps.  Coral core evidence shows a 60-85yr long cycle called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) tha that has taken place since the 1730’s, influencing mainland rainfall, droughts,hurricanes, and Gulf Stream flows.

The AMO has a large impact on humans and the economy through it’s influence on rainfall patterns. Climate scientists suspect that the AMO is a natural climate cycle that has existed for more than 1,000 yrs. Until recently most of the evidence of it came from ships at sea, and only went back 150yrs.

Large brain coral, Little Africa reef. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA.

Large brain coral, Little Africa reef. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA.

The Dry Tortugas core samples show several complete AMO cycles going back 278 yrs.  This give climate modelers much new info to work with as they try to understand the past and try to predict future weather. The Dry Tortuga samples accurately track major climate phenomena like the Little Ice Age that ended in the early 1800’s , and the tough Dust Bowl drought of the 1930’s.

tortuga3Dry Torrugas National Park is a group of small remote islands at an important marine cross roads; the Florida Straits. where the gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea flow into the Atlantic Ocean. A large zone of sea water surrounds these islands called the Atlantic Warm Pool, which can heat up to 28.5 Celsius or more. The heat stored here appears to influence rainfall in the Caribbean and parts of North America, and the formation and intensity of hurricanes.tortuga1

The Dry Tortugas also lie near the origin of the Gulf Stream, the current that carries warm seawater north to Greenland, where it chills, descends deep into the water column , then heads back to the equator. This north/south movement is called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation(AMOC), which affects weather in the North Atlantic,and much of Europe. The AMOC has been understood for years, but parts of it like the AMO are only recent discoveries.



The coral core samples taken from the Dry Tortugas show growth rings that preserve evidence of past weather conditions. While alive corals take up strontium and calcium from seawater in ratios that vary with water temperature. By measuring the ratios in the coral we can reconstruct past sea surface temperatures going back 278 years. coral3

The corals showed that after a cool spell in the 1960’s sea surface temps have risen by .8 degrees Celsius between 1970 and 2012.  They also show two sets of oscillations in sea surface temps: a shorter cycle lasting 28-30 yrs, and a longer cycle of 80-90 yrs, consistent with the AMO.

By looking at the sea surface temps in the Dry Tortugas, climatologists may be able to predict weather changes that would affect the entire North Atlantic basin.

California’s Drought Is Over


snow4We have had a look at the intense drought that much of California has been experiencing over the last few years. Recently a series of storms has hit the Golden State, first in the north and now the southern area.


For the first time in 36 months the US Drought Monitor reports that no area of California is subject to “exceptional drought”. At it’s worst the exceptional drought status covered 2/3 of the state, and as recently as Christmas 2016 , 20% of California was still in the worst of the drought. The improved situation is seen in not just the drought stricken area, but all over as 38% of California is completely clear of dryness. snow3

The record El Nino of 2015/2016, was looked to provide much needed moisture but failed to live up to expectations. This winter a series of moisture rich storms riding atmospheric rivers has done the job.snow2

In a past blog, we looked at the key being getting a good snow pack up in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. An abundance of snow has hit the region with 246″ falling in Central California. The importance of the snow is to replace the water  in the lakes and rivers that drain out to the ocean, until next years snow hits.

As good as this news is there is still drought to be found. It takes time for the recent moisture to recharge the ground water or aquifers. People who are reliant on some wells will have to be patient for the water to arrive and activate their supply.snow

Californians have got used to living in drought conditions and would be wise to continue to be careful in using up the state’s water supply. History tends to repeat itself and so does the weather. Water conservation has become a way of life.

Flint is Healing

flinnA new study out has found that the level of lead in Flint’s water is below the federal threshold. Residents are still being told to use filtered water. This is obviously fantastic news for a city that has battled with one of America’s worst environmental disasters. Residents still remain cautious. flinn3

Last year a federal emergency was declared in Flint after it was discovered that many children had elevated lead levels in the blood and 12 deaths that were linked to Legionnaires disease ( a form of pneumonia caused by waterborne bacteria.

Yesterday, Michigan’s Dept. of Environmental Quality released an email stating that the lead levels had fallen below the action level. This is great news for everyone , including local, county , state, and federal levels of government working together to achieve a positive result for the people of Flint. The Flint water supply is one of the most monitored systems in the US for lead and copper. There is a plan to continue with further water testing and continued removal of the remaining lead pipes. flinn1

The contamination occurred after Flint changed it’s water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Old pipes were used to channel the water…pipes that had reportedly not been treated with corrosion inhibitors. This improper treatment caused lead to leach into the water from the aging pipes, affecting some 6,000-12,000 children.

Ontario to boost water bottling fee…..

bottPresently , Ontario charges $3.71 per million litres of water. The newly proposed rate is is $503.71 per million litres of increase of $500. This new charge is for companies who take water from ground sources and will be posted on the regulatory registery for a mandatory 60 day comment period. Charges for other water taking permits are still being reviewed.

The present $3.71 per million litres of water is on top of a fee of $750 for low to medium risk situations and $3000 for water from higher risk situations where there might be some environmental impact.bott1

The province has also proposed new restrictions for those applying for new permits,  for those with permits there are restrictions on expansion of their operation.

To understand the situation better we have to understand that Nestle has permits from their Aberfoyle operation to take 3.6 million litres of water per day and 1.1 million litres per day from nearby Erin.


used plastic

For it’s part Nestle has said it is prepared to pay more for water permits , but only if all permit holders face stiffer fees. Premier Wynne makes a distinction between permits for water bottlers, and permits for those who require water for agriculture or industrial uses. In a year end interview, Premier Wynne has stated we need to look at the bottled water industry as a whole , and why do we use bottled water at all as most of us don’t need bottled water.

Critics say that charging more is not the answer as the increase in charge will just be passed along to the consumer, Wellington Water Watchers feels that no price is too high to pay for a water permits as the profits are enormous. There are also groups pushing for a total ban on permits. plastic bottles

British Columbia charges $2.50 per million litres and Quebec $70 per million litres.

In addition to what water bottling companies take, municipalities, mining, construction, and golf clubs take 1.4 trillion litres a day from our surface and ground water supplies.

We have been following this story for several months now and will continue to update you with breaking news on this subject. Also, something to consider would be a deposit on the plastic bottles. Ontario does not have one , but is successfully being used else where.



Water Pollution..some questions answered.

coral1What is water pollution?

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies. Pollutants are either directly or indirectly discharged into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove the harmful compounds leading to environmental degradation. sailing4



What are the causes of water pollution?

About half of all the pollution in the oceans is caused by sewage and waste water. Each year human activity generates some 400 billion tons of industrial waste, much of this is pumped untreated into our oceans, rivers , or lakes. yammy

Why is it important to know about water pollution?

Water covers nearly 70% of the Earth’s surface and is an important resource that we can not live without. Human health and the natural environment are directly affected by water quality.rio8

What percentage of the world’s water is polluted?

In developing countries 70% of the industrial waste is dumped untreated in the water where they pollute the usable water supply. The food sector is responsible for nearly half of organic water pollutants.  round3



Syria: Wadi Barada repair deal reached

wadi-baradaDamaged water infrastructure at Wadi Barada has left 5.5million people in Damascus area with severe water shortages.

Syrian government workers have entered a formerly rebel held area near Damascus to restore water to the capitol after weeks of shortages. The government engineers were allowed to enter the Ain al Fija facilities in opposition held Wadi Barada with an agreement with the rebels. Military operations have been halted. wadi1

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights confirmed repair crews are on the scheme and estimate 3 days will be required to get the water flowing to Damascus again. Fighting in the area had damaged the infrastructure and left some 5.5 million people in the capital and surrounding area with water shortages. wadi2

Government forces has battled the rebels for the last few weeks in the Wadi Barada area. Even with this truce fighting continues. wadi3

The Syrian conflict started in March 2011 as a largely unarmed uprising, but has since developed into a full-scale civil war killing hundreds of thousands and displaces more than half of the countries prewar population.

In Ottawa and area we have roughly a million people or perhaps a bit more than that. It is astounding to consider a city of 5.5 million to be suffering from water shortage no matter what the reason. We are blessed to be able to turn on the tap and have water.



Precautionary boil water order what to do?

watermainMoncton is asking some of their residents to boil their water after a major water main break. Although we in Ottawa are not affected by this, we do from time to time have water mains that break. So what should you do when your local is hit with this issue?

First, do not drink the water without boiling it. The water should be boiled for at least one minute to be considered safe.

Any water to be ingested or used for drinking , preparing food, making ice cubes, washing fruits and veggies, and brushing teeth should be boiled. watermain-1

Contaminated water may cause illness in humans, including diarrhea, cramps , nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. Contaminated water is not the only cause of these symptoms. If you experience these, and the symptoms persist you may want to see your doctor.

The water is safe for showering and bathing.

Hands can continue to be washed using tap water and a proper hand washing technique, rubbing all parts of the hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. watermain-2

Laundry may be washed in tap water, either by hand or machine.

Dishes may be washed by hand or by machine in hot soapy water..then left to air dry.

Users may experience discolored water or air in their plumbing systems. If you completely lose water pressure you should turn off the circuit breaker for the hot water tank to prevent damage to the heating element.


Hydro Power in a Warming World

hoover-damHumans have harnessed the power of moving water for eons. From the Greeks on up were have exploited the power of water. By 2014 hydropower is responsible for producing 17% of the world”s electrical power and about 85% of renewable energy and it continues to grow. In the next two decades 3,700 major dams may more than double the amount of total electrical capacity to 1700GW. Hydro Power is the most important and widely used renewable source of energy. Lake mead

Questions to be asked are how “green”is hydro power, and how viable is it in a warming world with increasing water fluctuations and shortages? The type of facility is a consideration.


Large dams are often used for water storage, flood control, and power generation as a additional function. Some can also be used primarily for electrical generation. Small hydro can use run of the river methods and don’t store water. Pumped storage facilities don’t generate additional energy, but can store water and energy when prices are low, then release water and energy when prices are high. All having environmental impacts that differ. tidal power6

Large hydro dams often means flooding of large areas, rendering the areas uninhabitable. Damming rivers blocks fish, harms animal habitat, alters river temps and dissolved oxygen levels. Clearing vegetation to build a dam can result in the result of greenhouse gases.

So although hydro power is seen as green and helping slow global warming in many areas it’s viability is affected by climate change. The hydrological cycle is being affected by the changes in weather. Precipitation patterns and increased droughts are changing water levels in rivers and behind hydro dams. Results are seen in the massive Hoover Dam…operating at 30% of capacity or a brand new dam in Nepal being rendered virtually useless by low water levels. lake mead1

Hydro power will remain a big part of the energy equation, but a rethinking will be required in the face of growing uncertainty about technology, climate change, national security, and all the factors that affect energy.


Thanks to an article by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington..David Suzuki Foundation. July 14,2016.

The Big Six

Modern urban wastewater treatment plant.

Every year Water Canada publishes a list of Canada’s biggest water projects. this year we have the top six projects coating some $3.4 billion. These projects not only represent a major investment in infrastructure , but also are significant for the capacity of future growth where they are located. Also of note is 20 billion in federal money earmarked for water infrastructure in 2017.

First up in the big six is the North End Sewage Treatment Plant Biological Nutrient Removal Upgrade. $794.6 million. Winnipeg is the home of one of Canada’s oldest biological treatment plants..soon to get an upgrade. Presently Treating 200 million litres of waste water per day, and serving 705 of the cities population the new facility provisions for future expansion to 2067 population forecasts. lion-gate

The Lions Gate Secondary Wastewater Treatment Plant in North Vancouver. $700 million. New Federal and Provincial guidelines require the upgrade of all primary treatment plants in urban areas to secondary sewage treatment by 2020. Of note once operational Lions Gate will be able to remove 90% of organic matter.

In Calgary we have the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant D Expansion. $600 million. One of three of Calgary’s treatment plants , Bonnybrook, is undergoing an expansion with the plant estimated to be able to service an additional population of 325,000. When completed in 2022 the facility will be servicing a population of 1.366 million people in Calgary and surrounding areas.


Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Expansion. $550 million. This Vancouver facility improvement will accomodate future growth, improve on the ability to withstand a major earthquake, take advantage of green energy captured on site, and manage odour.

Hanlan Water Project. Mississauga. $450million. Will help in the management of continued growth.

South End Water Pollution Control Centre.$335.6million. Water and wastewater is a big issue in Winnepeg with wastewater treatment plant expansion in both the north and the south end.