Daniel Collins

Kyrgyzstan trips over utility price hikes - Crikey Creek

Apr 09, 2010

The sudden fall of the Kyrgyz government may have had its roots in meteoric rises in utility rates, including water: “One expert said the government had triggered the protests by imposing punitive increases on tariffs for water and gas. “In the last few months there has been growing anger over this non-political issue,” said Paul Quinn-Judge, central Asia project director of the International Crisis Group.” Peter Hodge remarks: “Tyranny rule no. 1: take away people’s constitutional rights but don’t mess with their basic necessities.” This reminded me of the 2000 Cohcabamba riots, which followed privatisation of the municipal water supply. Water supply rule no. 1: price water to reflect water’s value to society, and to reflect a price’s value to society. Read More

Euro geoscience conference enters the blogosphere - Crikey Creek

Apr 08, 2010

I’ll be heading to Vienna at the end of the month for the European Geoscience Union conference, to give a talk on large-scale ecohydrology. Wondering whether science bloggers have started talking about a meet-up, a google search found the official EGU 2010 conference blog. It’s just got off the ground, offering tips for pending attendees, but I expect it’ll be there live-blogging Kuhn’s the scientific revolution. Read More

HydroEtymology: Aquifer, infer - Crikey Creek

Apr 07, 2010

The first known instance of ‘aquifer’ dates to a 1901 Science article: “The artesian system shows four or five aquifers, or water-bearing strata, more or less completely separated from one another.” ‘Aquifer’ is a combination of the Latin ‘aqui-‘ meaning ‘water’, and ‘-fer’ meaning ‘bearing’ (from the Latin verb ‘ferre’). ‘Ferre’ is also the origin of the English verb ‘to infer’. It was inferred into the English language by 1526 with the meaning ‘to bring into discourse’ or ‘to mention’. By 1529, it had adopted the present connotation, ‘to bring in or draw as a conclusion’. ‘Ferre’ also lent itself to the word ‘feracious’ (1637), meaning ‘bearing abundantly, fruitful or prolific’. If someone could send me a PDF of the 1901 Science article, I’d appreciate it. And one thing I don’t know is if the English preceded the … Read More

Geological lessons from Easter and Passover - Crikey Creek

Apr 06, 2010

We’ve all heard the lessons from Easter Island: population growth and a consumer culture butting heads with a finite island. But what teachable moments were there from Easter itself, or from Passover for that matter? I can see a geology teacher and father taking a frozen Cadbury creme egg, slicing a quarter out of it, and showing his kid the Earth’s structure: chocolate crust, white gooey mantle, and molten caramel core. To complement the creme egg, common matza come in very handy to the rheological rabbi. Held vertically, their parallel structure depicts the sequential deposits of water and glacial flour. As for parables, the story of Jesus’ burial on Good Friday and rising on Easter Sunday lends itself well to tale of sedimentary deposit, burial, and subsequent orogenesis, with the newly-risen reaching to the heavens. And for the 10th plague … Read More

Responding to errors in the Press - Crikey Creek

Mar 31, 2010

I had a chat with David Williams of the Christchurch Press last Thursday. He was interested in my previous post about the ‘70%’ error in the Creech Report. He followed up on it and wrote an article in today’s paper. He rang around and confirmed my analysis. Unfortunately there are two things I’ll have to take issue with: 1. While it is true my day job is at NIWA, as I write in the ‘About’ page for transparency, I blog as an individual. Nothing I write or say in connection with my blog reflects NIWA’s position in any way. I tried to stress this both in email and verbally before we talked. Unfortunately, the Press article does not get this very important point across. I am a hydrologist by dint of my PhD, not my employer. 2. Read More

Overheard in Christchurch - Crikey Creek

Mar 31, 2010

Not quite New York, but much more on topic. Nicky Wagner, National list member and Christchurch resident, suggested during question time following the ‘Blue Gold’ screening last Thursday that perhaps Canterbury should think about restricting the number of cows it houses. She also suggested that part of the delay in ECan’s consenting was due to the complexity of the problem, including scientific. I wonder if she read this. And after the panel (four politicians, two Oxfam reps) had been asked questions, I popped one to the audience: Which is the greatest threat to Canterbury’s water resources in the near future? (a) The thirst for profit (b) The population’s consumption (c) Climate change; or (d) Climate variability A few people voted for (b), and I didn’t see any votes for (d) though someone did conflate … Read More

Citizen oversight of water abolished in Canterbury - Crikey Creek

Mar 30, 2010

In what was described by opposition MPs as a bloodless coup, Environment Canterbury’s democratically elected councillors will be replaced by a set of central government-installed commissioners. Cantabrians won’t have a democratic say in their regional body until 2013. Also removed is the Environment Court as a means to appeal consent decisions. The commissioners will be led by Dame Margaret Bazley, who appears to be a successful and apolitical fix-it person. Whoever the other commissioners are, they will be given… “…powers to impose targeted moratoria on water take consents and to make decisions on water conservation orders. This is to ensure they have all the tools at their disposal to deliver the step change required to effectively manage Canterbury’s water.” The final say on water issues will rest with Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith. Citing ECan’s successes, … Read More

‘Blue Gold’ – Water doco that tugs the anti-capitalism strings - Crikey Creek

Mar 30, 2010

I attended a screening of the film ‘Blue Gold: World Water Wars’ last Thursday at a fund-raising event. I had prepped myself by reading WaterWired’s review that afternoon, and so had a critical hat on. While I was very sympathetic to the review, I was not as disparaging of the film when it finished as I thought I would have been. And my head did not explode. The film made many important points by illustrating failures to get water to the world’s thirsty, and the tensions that can arise. To Michael Campana’s list, I’ll add: • fostering greater public understanding of their catchment • public-private partnerships • narrative of the Mayan collapse • subsidence of the Omani city, Ubar, following groundwater depletion But along side the good, there were also bad sides to … Read More

Introducing a new series: HydroEtymology - Crikey Creek

Mar 29, 2010

Words are historical archives of how people perceived the world, or their place in the world. They are products of evolution. Just as we can analyse an organism’s anatomy for clues of its evolutionary ancestor’s habitats and behaviour, a word’s etymology can give us clues of what was going on around people as the word developed, and thus what they needed to verbalise. The first word in the series is ‘rival’ (n.). It’s first known occurrence in English dates to 1577. It comes from the Latin ‘rivalis’, meaning either a ‘person using the same stream as another’ or a ‘person on the other side of the same stream’. ‘Rivus’ is Latin for stream or creek, hence English’s ‘rivulet’. ‘RIver’ is an obvious sibling. Also closely related is ‘riparian’, from Latin’s ‘ripa’, meaning ‘water’s edge’, and ‘riviera’. ‘Arrive’ … Read More