Monthly Archives: March 2014

IPCC Climate Report: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2014 report today. You can read the report here.

From the New York Times today:

In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said at a news conference here on Monday presenting the report.

The Working Group II contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report considers the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems, the observed impacts and future risks of climate change, and the potential for and limits to adaptation. The chapters of the report assess risks and opportunities for societies, economies, and ecosystems around the world.

IPCC Climate Report: Tipping Point for Action?


The Guardian gave a glimpse of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report:

“In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans,” the final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say.

Some parts of the world could soon be at a tipping point. For others, that tipping point has already arrived. “Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts,” the approved version of the report will say.”

The big question, of course, is whether this report will spur action?

Last week, another poll suggested that climate change is still not viewed as an immediate problem:

“Still, the Gallup poll found that only 36 percent of Americans expect global warming to pose a “serious threat to you or your way of life within your lifetime.” The HuffPost/YouGov poll likewise found that only 36 percent think climate change will cause major harm to the United States during their lifetimes, while 33 percent think it will cause minor harm and 18 percent think it will cause no harm at all.”

Iowa State Daily: Iowa waterways need more attention


Our colleagues on the Iowa State Daily editorial board explored whether Iowa is doing enough to protect the state’s waterways, and fulfill federal EPA mandates. A new proposal was released by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers this week on wetlands rules under the Clean Water Act. The Iowa State Daily concludes:

It is clear that Iowa, like other states, is somewhat divided on how to proceed with water quality reform. We should not hesitate to enact new policies that would protect our waters, though. For far too long we as a state have benefited economically from under-regulation. It is time to place more importance on the health of Iowa’s waters and our effect on those downstream.

The Des Moines Register also covered the EPA proposal, which drew mixed views in Iowa:

“With the drinking water for 667,000 Iowans at risk, we’re thrilled to see the EPA moving forward to protect our waterways,” said Michelle Hesterberg, field organizer with Environment Iowa. “Today’s action is about securing that all our water is safe and healthy.”

Iowa City to the Mississippi River…by Boat?


While steamboats and other ships navigated the Iowa River in the 19th Century, few may know that an Iowa River Water Trail to the Mississippi River and beyond still exists.

Can recreational endeavors help nurture a better understanding of the Iowa River–and our agricultural and industrial impacts on its water quality?

Check out the Iowa River Water Trail for map details.

Main Library Photo Archives

I’ve been exploring some of the photo archives through the UI main library in search of understanding our early relationship to the river a hundred years ago.  Not only did I find a lot of old photos of people canoeing and ice skating on the river, but the marching band used to boat across the river.  The river was also a cornerstone to Homecoming celebrations, as seen below: “The Iowa River Monster.” 

River Monster

Update on Interviews

Two weeks ago I got the chance to interview Carol Sweeting and Mac Beideman about their thoughts on the health of the Iowa River.

Carol Sweeting, who works with the city to organize volunteer opportunities to clean up streams in the Iowa City area and an annual clean up of the Iowa River. She was able to give me some good insight on how people view the river and how their interaction with it can change those views.

“When we get people down to the water and actually in it they might come into it thinking ‘oh my gosh why would I do this or I can’t do something like this’ and they end up leaving with a totally different attitude about their importance in the quality and quantity of the river.”

Mac Beideman works at the university water treatment plant and was able to talk to me about the process that water goes through when it enters the plant to when it comes out of a faucet. I was also able to get some insight from him on the issue that the plant had a couple of weeks ago after a large snow melt overwhelmed the plant’s systems. Most of our discussion was focused on the cyclical spike of chemicals in the Iowa River during the spring and summer and how this alters where the university gets its water and how it is treated.

One quote that stuck with me was when Mac described the nature of working in the water treatment plant as constantly “fighting with the river.” This caused me to start to think about how we can move away from that mindset and start to view the river again as a vital part of our environment and necessary to our existence instead of a burden or disruption to our livelihood.

Changes In Water Taste Can Fluctuate With Season

In my interviews, many students mentioned the taste difference in tap water in Iowa City as compared to their own hometowns, and how this taste can contribute to the stigma that the river water is dirty or unclean.  As one student mentioned, “I think the chemicals we use to clean the water may be worse than the water itself.  It’s over-processed.”  The recent article in the DI explores the principle that chlorine loads in the filtration system can vary based on the season, resulting in different taste during the year.

Whassup With the Water

Mural Project 2014

The City of Iowa City is taking submissions for murals in three different locations, each with an applicable theme.

“The east wall under the College Street Bridge—across Ralston Creek from the Chauncey Swan Parking lot lower level.
Theme—Farmer’s Market, gardening, environmental focus, etc.*
The west wall of the pump building adjacent to the Fairmeadows Park Splash Pad— 2500 Miami Drive
Theme—Tropic, water fun, ocean, etc.*
The east wall of the old pool building at Mercer Park—2701 Bradford Street
Theme—5 of the sections— each section reflect an activity that occurs in the building— exercise, art, pottery, theatre, basketball, roller skating, swimming, etc.*”

The themes are safe choices. They’re literal interpretations of what each location is for, and not provocative enough to spark discussion. The environmental themed mural sounds like it will be geared more towards the Farmer’s Market rather than climate change itself. What do you think?fm2

Iowa City Farmer’s Market.

City Park or Climate Park on the Iowa River?


Should Iowa City create a Climate Park at City Park?

According to a news report this week, the Iowa City parks and rec department has decided against establishing a beach on the Iowa River at City Park.

After spring floods left behind banks of sand last year, some city officials suggested creating the first sandy beach along Iowa City’s riverfront since the 1920s. The Press-Citizen noted: “After the second major flood in five years and experts warning that such severe weather events could become more common, the city is considering leaving the sand in place and establishing a permanent beach at City Park – if the river allows it.”

Would the river allow a public art exhibit on climate change?

What is Our Water Footprint on the Iowa River?


Is there such a thing as a water footprint? If so, what is our water footprint on the Iowa River?

The University of Twente, in the Netherlands, along with UNESCO groups, have created a Water Footprint Network, working with hundreds of institutions to “apply the water footprint assessment methodology and contribute to further developing it. The interest focuses on questions such as: How to implement proper water footprint accounting in the context of my country or organisation? How to identify the spots where water footprints have the largest impact? How to reduce and possibly offset those impacts?”

Check out the Water Footprint Network:

“The interest in the concept of the water footprint and the accompanying methods and tools is overwhelming. This interest is rooted in the recognition that human impacts on freshwater systems can ultimately be linked to human consumption and that issues like water shortages and pollution can be better understood and addressed by considering production and supply chains as a whole. It is increasingly acknowledged that local water depletion and pollution are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. Many countries have significantly externalised their water footprint, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking. Not only governments acknowledge their role in achieving a better management of water resources, also businesses and public-service organisations increasingly recognize their role in the interplay of actors involved in water use and management.”