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Climate Change Harms Fresh Water Quality

A study published in Global Change Biology claims that the quality of fresh water is beginning to diminish in lower elevation forests, and that climate change is to blame.

The director of the Institute for the Environment, and distinguished professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lawrence E. Band, states that the lower elevated watersheds are becoming greatly stressed due to the recent frequency of droughts in those areas. “If we become more dependent on upper elevation catchments for our water supplies,” Band warns, “they become much more valuable.”

This study has been carried out by researchers from UNC, the University of Minnesota, the University of Georgia, and the U.S. Forest Service. The research is being conducted in the Southern Appalachian Mountains near the border of North Carolina and Georgia. Through studying the leaf-fall data of the low elevation areas and researching the diverse ecosystem of the area, these researchers have concluded that droughts brought on through drastic climate change is vastly affecting the availability of high-quality fresh water.

Chelcy Miniat of the US Forest Service and member of the research team states, “Water quality and quantity are two ecosystem services that are derived from forests. It is important to understand what affects these services, especially in the face of climate change and increasing U.S. population.”

UNC’s The Water Institute Celebrates World Water Day

As activists across the globe celebrate World Water Day on Saturday, UNC’s The Water Institute is working on campus and internationally to help make safe water and sanitation a reality for all people.

Dr. Jamie Bartram, Director of The Water Institute, is currently in Brisbane, Australia, delivering a keynote address for The International Water Centre’s: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) International Conference.

Ashley McKinney, a Communications Specialist for the institute, says that Bartram and his team published a study which estimated that 28 percent of the world’s population, or 1.8 billion people, had used unsafe water in 2010. That estimate was one billion people more than the estimate by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

“The study really questioned how you define what is safe water. It has really pushed the essence of who is living without safe water much higher,” McKinney says.

In response to the global water crisis, The Water Institute was created three years ago with two main missions: to teach and to research.

The institute, along with other partners, launched the ‘Water In Our World” campus-wide theme for 2012-2015 school years.

“The whole campus will be united around this academic theme of ‘Water.’ The goal really is to think about how each of us, and the choices that we make, can have an impact locally and globally,” she says.

The theme for World Water Day this year is “Water and Energy.”

“We need to really think forward. We need to think ahead. Of course the demand for water is increasing widely. The demand is increasing because the population is increasing. The demand for fresh water and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades. It will put a lot of challenges and strains on our resources,” McKinney says.

World Water Day has been observed since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 as the global day of awareness for clean water.

McKinney explains The Water Institute holds three conferences annually to bring together people from diverse disciplines to tackle water and public health issues.

In 2010, the institute launched the “Water and Health: Where Science Meets Policy” conference. In 2013, more than 500 researchers, policy-makers, students and entrepreneurs from 45 countries attended the event.

In March, the institute launched the first “Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference.” And, coming up on May 5 through May 7, the institute is hosting the 2014 Water Microbiology Conference.

McKinney adds there are ways the community can contribute.

On March 26, the Aveda Institute on Franklin St. is hosting a “Cut-A-Thon” from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. McKinney says all donations go to The Water Institute in efforts to support the clean water initiative.

Water Contamination Notice Issued For North Chatham

A water system malfunction in Chatham County has authorities urging residents to boil their water, according to the News and Observer.

Areas directly affected include Fearrington Village, Briar Chapel, Hudson Hills, Galloway Ridge, Woods Charter School, Manns Chapel, Hamlet Grove, Prestonwood, and Monterrane.

The issue was first noticed when reports of low water pressure and outages came in from residents. Those problems could allow bacteria to get into the water pipes.

The cause of the malfunction is under investigation, but an official told the N&O that boiling water for one minute should eliminated any disease-causing bacteria.

The warning will remain in place until a written notice is delivered.

UNC System Cuts Energy/Water Costs By 20/40%

CHAPEL HILL – The UNC Board of Governors is working to cut energy and water costs for the schools to make a more efficient system and President Tom Ross says the schools are making small changes to save big.

“You may recall that our strategic plan identifies some key areas of work, like including energy-related research, analysis, instruction, and outreach, where with targeted investments UNC, we believe, can make a real and meaningful difference,” Ross says.

The UNC system averages $225 million per year on energy and water costs.  Since last year the university system has saved $63 million in energy costs and $13.7 million in water costs.  Since the 2002-2003 school year the total equals $297 million in savings.

System wide, the schools have managed to cut electricity by 20 percent and water by 40 percent, and President Ross says there are more plans to continue making the University more efficient.

“To date, this board has authorized 15 guaranteed energy performance projects across the system,” Ross says. “Ten of these projects are currently under contract producing energy savings of more than $10 million per year.”

Current energy sources can be costly in terms of money and for the environment.  The UNC system has often been at the forefront of innovation and new ideas, and energy is no different.  Ross says that UNC will stay at the forefront when dealing with energy and water to improve the system.

“Recognizing that most sources of easily accessible energy are limited and that many are non-renewable, the plan calls for UNC to be in the forefront, in collaboration with private industry and non-profit organizations and making discoveries that will fuel our state and the world in the future,” Ross says.

The University schools have worked to reduce costs of energy and water by substantial amounts.  However, Ross says that they will continue to work and cut costs for expenses like water and energy.

“But we know we can do more, and we have as a collective goal in our university system to save $1 billion over the next 20 years in water and energy costs,” Ross says. “And while the financial savings are important, we will also be helping to preserve our natural and environmental resources for future generations. “Water, for example, is, we believe, the new precious metal, and we have to be sure its preserved as a public asset and that we protect our water supplies and find new ways to reduce consumption.”

UNC has implemented many ways to conserve water, like grey water in the bathrooms.  The University says plans like these will continue to appear as it works to conserve resources.

Beat the Heat- Hydrate!

Roaring Temperatures on Wednesday, August 3rd!

As the heat and humidity of a typical North Carolina summer continue to rise and force us indoors for reprieve, we often neglect a critical component to beating the heat. Every cell in your body contains water and thus proper hydration is critical to your health. Water is essential in managing blood volume and blood pressure, transportation of nutrients and oxygen, cushioning joints, metabolizing fat stores, removing toxins and waste from the body, converting food to energy, and protecting organs, just to name a few! 

Your body also needs water to help regulate body temperature in both hot and cold weather. Temperatures are soaring and adequately hydrating your body could be the difference between enjoying your lazy summer days and suffering severe discomfort, or worse. Obviously, restoring or maintaining normal levels of water in your body requires ingesting water. However, turning up a glass and chugging away is not the advised means as the intake is far too quick, causing your body to initiate the process of eliminating the water from your system quickly in an attempt to keep your blood pressure and electrolyte levels steady. A better way to ingest water safely and efficiently is sipping on water through the course of the day and consuming foods that contain high levels of water.
Fruits and vegetables are 75%-95% water, depending on the food, and are far easier and more pleasant to consume regularly than a tall glass of water. Moreover, the nutrients they contain can aid in the absorption of water and keep you hydrated longer by allowing a slower and steadier absorption. Fruits and vegetables of all varieties are readily available this time of year, making it an easy fix to the heat the season brings, as well. Cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, leafy salad greens, and strawberries are all high in water content as well as vital nutrients. If you want to do even more to ensure proper hydration, you can add citrus fruits, strawberries and raspberries, or cucumbers to a glass of water to enhance the flavor and increase absorption.
The next time you are shopping for groceries, pick up as many vegetables and fruits as you can. If you are also careful to add a variety of color, you will not only treat yourself to better hydration, but all the other health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

What’s your secret to staying cool in this blazing heat? Favorite pool?

Lots of fresh fruits!

Ellen Thornburg
Exercise Physiologist
Duke Center for Living at Fearrington