Daniel Collins

Is California the future of Canterbury? - Crikey Creek

Mar 11, 2010

I’ve been mulling over this for a while. I’ve been looking for regions similar to New Zealand in terms of climate and geology, or to regions within New Zealand, but different in how the society manages its water. How do other people solve the same water resource problems, or fail to solve as the case may be? Call it comparative water resources management. My training is a mix of ecological engineering, physical geography and ecology, with a dash of anthropology, environmental planning, and a side order of reality and current affairs. I see a landscape first as a geological-climatic template, around which the hydrological-ecological system is folded. Into this I add humanity. There are feedbacks up the hierarchical chain, but a first pass is a good start. So to compare water resource management practices I need to isolate the non-human … Read More

Synchronised flushing during hockey final - Crikey Creek

Mar 10, 2010

When Canadians watched their hockey team take on the US in the Olympics, a new sport was born: synchronised flushing. Water use data from the Edmonton water utility, EPCOR, show how residential water use dropped during the game, only to spike between periods. And as the game became more nail-biting, even fewer people would give up viewing for the call of nature. It also appears that them Canadians had foresight – they conscientiously went to the toilet before the game started. If this isn’t a reason to install water meters, I don’t know what is. [HT: MO and Pat’s Papers] … Read More

Ugandan rains bury villagers - Crikey Creek

Mar 10, 2010

A few days before the Save the Elephant research site was washed away by a flash flood, villages along on the western flank of Mt Elgon were hit by landslides, killing at least 100. Minister David Wakikona, MP for Manjiya County in Bududa district, said “Everybody is dead. 320 people are unaccounted for. I don’t know if we shall get any survivors out.” The trigger was also heavy rain associated with the onset of the March-May rainy season. And while landslides are always to be expected sooner or later on steep terrain, this area had became more susceptible since the 1960s due to land clearance for crops and fuel. I visited the area in 2008. The local Uganda Red Cross team gave me a tour of the mountain side and I met the elders … Read More

System to monitor grape vine water status wins water start-up prize - Crikey Creek

Mar 09, 2010

Fruition Sciences, based in the US and France, has won the top prize in Imagine H2O‘s competition “to help innovators and entrepreneurs turn great ideas into real-world solutions that ensure available clean water and sanitation.” Fruition showed particular business potential by making significant water savings for nine California grape growers. “Fruition co-founder Sebastien Payen said he saw a real challenge in the wine industry because there were “absolutely no plant-based sensors to optimize water management.” He combined his expertise in sensor and information technology with co-founder Thibaut Scholasch’s research on vine water status to create the Web application.” The system seems to work as follows. Sap flow sensors at the base of the vines monitor how much water is flowing through the plants, and hence how much is transpiring. Weather data and knowledge of the site are … Read More

Kenyan rains wash away elephant research - Crikey Creek

Mar 08, 2010

The Save the Elephants research camp in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya, was hit by a flash flood on Thursday. No-one was killed, but according to STE the site was severely damaged and much research lost. “At approximately 5am this morning, a wall of water akin to a Tsunami surged through Elephant Watch Camp, catching tourists and staff unawares and sweeping away tents and facilities. It has been confirmed that camp owner Oria Douglas-Hamilton and guests managed to escape to safety by climbing to higher ground. Several members of staff were trapped in trees until the water subsided later today. At approximately 7am the flood hit and decimated Save the Elephants’ research facility down river. Researchers and staff managed to drive to safety within seconds of the flood waters surging through the facility.” According to the BBC, noteworthy research … Read More

Far North drought brings Kaitaia water restrictions - Crikey Creek

Mar 08, 2010

The Far North District Council has imposed water restrictions in Kaitaia and Opononi/Omapere, as the drought in the Far North intensifies and looks set to continue into April. While residents have reduced water consumption, total Kaitaia water use is still about 400 cubic metres (15%) per day too high. What was previously a 20% voluntary reduction has become mandatory, though David Penny, of the FNDC, believes a 50% is feasible: “People in the Far North are of pioneering stock. They are known for pulling together when times are tough, and that’s what we’re asking for now. Please work with us to help your communities get through this drought.” Analysis of rainfall data* collected since 1985 puts the current drought at least on par with those of 1986/87 and 1990/92, but could very well be worse. The following data … Read More

It’s not us or the cows - Crikey Creek

Mar 07, 2010

Idiot/Savant, commenting on the threat posed to Christchurch’s drinking water from agriculture, wrote today: “Basically, its us or the cows. That’s the stark choice we are looking at. And put like that, there can be only one answer: the cows have to go, or be regulated to within an inch of their lives to prevent them from being a threat to ours.” I don’t know if this is theatrical hyperbole or literal forecast. Dairy farming certainly poses current and future threats to water supplies and waterways, and as such would need to be managed, but I don’t see an either/or dichotomy. I drink milk – both cow and soy – though more out of habit than any nutritional requirement since calcium can be readily obtained from non-diary sources. I eat cheese – typically the snootier varieties – and … Read More

SciHistorian Oreskes on ‘Merchants of Doubt’ - Crikey Creek

Mar 06, 2010

Here’s an insightful video for a contemplative weekend. Naomi Oreskes, science historian from UCSD, recently gave a talk on her book ‘Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming’. In addition to chronicling the history of climate science and climate anti-science in the US, a major theme she addresses is what consensus means in science. Perhaps Oreskes most important work was her 2004 Science paper that reviewed where scientific papers on ‘global climate change’ stood in relation to reports and statements by national and international science organisations. What she found was that not a single paper directly dissented, while 75% supported the organisations’ statements. What impressed me when I first heard her in 2007 is that she successfully combines her knowledge of historical methods, epistemology and geoscience to develop … Read More

Responses to the CRI Taskforce - Crikey Creek

Mar 06, 2010

The big news in NZ science this week was the release of the CRI Taskforce report. (Press release; NZ Herald #1, #2) It did not recommend merging any CRIs as was thought (perhaps feared), but it did make a wide range of other suggestions. Paramount among these being: more reliable, less contestable funding encouragement of greater collaboration among CRIs and with other organisations a shift from short-term financial returns to long-term societal benefit (for example…) fostering stronger ties with stake-holders more effective board oversight a shift from commercialisation to broader technology transfer The various CRI heads, who no doubt already knew the report’s contents, gave their applause. The GNS CEO called it a “milestone”. The AgResearch Chairman called it “visionary and courageous”. The IRL Board Chair called it “an excellent report”. The … Read More