water shortage

Glaciers melting faster than originally thought, study finds

Three heavily-studied glaciers in Alaska and Washington are shrinking rapidly, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study, reports Erika Bolstad of the Anchorage Daily News. Changes in the Wolverine Glacier and Gulkana Glaciers in Alaska and South Cascade Glacier in Washington state have been monitored for more than 50 years. Each has a different elevation and climate, allowing them to act as indicators for glaciers across North America. Glacial runoff provides necessary cooling and oxygen to mountain streams, and a reduction in the amount of runoff would affect water temperature and downstream ecosystems. Less runoff also means less drinking water in some areas: Anchorage gets their drinking water from Eklutna Glacier runoff. Although Anchorage's water supply isn't threatened at this point, that of millions of South Americans could be if glacial melting rates continue to increase.

– Emily Linroth

Solar power sucks water -- now what?

By definition, deserts get lots of sun and little water.

Solar power proponents have found a way to harness the abundance of light, but some of their technologies require too much of what deserts lack: water.

The New York Times' Todd Woody reports that some desert communities in Nevada and other western states are fighting solar projects because they drain too much water.  As billions of dollars are spent on solar farms unfolding across the Southwest, what is the balance between making solar power economical and using the more expensive technologies that conserve scant moisture?  Will California politicians cave to the prospect of clean energy jobs and allow solar farms to tap drinking water, as proposed by a recent bill?

For more information on solar energy, visit the NYTimes' excellent solar page.

-- Kristen Young