Soil into sponges

MIT case study shows costly infrastructure

may not be the answer to drought

An MIT-based research team argues in a new paper that when looking at drought and water infrastructure projects, small-scale ones may position cites and counties in advanced countries the best in the long run.

The team used Melbourne, Australia, as a case study. The city, which experienced a drought from 1997 to 2009, built a $5 billion facility to hold water. But it wasn't completed until three years after the drought ended, and it’s hardly been utilized since.

“The MIT team's new framework for water-supply analysis incorporates several uncertainties that policymakers must confront in these cases,” reports, “and runs large numbers of simulations of water availability over a 30-year period. It then presents planners with a decision tree about which infrastructure options are best calibrated to their needs.”

The results made the case for incremental additions to water infrastructure instead of expensive large-scale projects.

Read more about the research here.

Soil into sponges

Healthier soils can help farmers fight back

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists indicates healthier soils may reduce runoff in flood years, cut flood frequency and make more water available for crops during dry times.

The report, Turning Soils into Sponges, “draws on experiments from across the world to quantify the benefits of soil-improving agricultural practices, and then predicts the results of applying these practices on a large scale across the state of Iowa,” UCS reports.
The healthier soil is more sponge-like and reduces flood and drought vulnerability. The key to building healthier soils it to keep plants with living roots in the soil year-round.
Some of the report's findings (verbatim):
• Keeping soil unplowed and covered with living plants increased its ability to absorb water in 70 percent of the field studies analyzed.
• Water infiltration rates improved by 59 percent with perennial crops, 35 percent with cover crops, and 58 percent with improved grazing practices.
• During devastating droughts in 1988 and 2012—each of which caused more than $30 billion in damage—adoption of soil-improving practices would have made as much as 16 percent more water available for crops to use.
Read more on the results, and find video and photo galleries, here.

SCIPP releases new report on local drought management

In late July, SCIPP released a report focused on local drought management in the South Central United States. The report summarized how counties or parishes in a six-state region use information on drought monitoring, preparedness, response and mitigation.

The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, a NOAA RISA Team, asked county-level stakeholders, “How do these national efforts reflect at the local level?”

What they discovered? Local networks, especially in Texas and Oklahoma — which tend to be drier states — are actively working to help all sectors manage drought.

“Those in the network had access to a wealth of information,” SCIPP’s announcement on the project stated, “but there are opportunities to improve their connection, particularly through the U.S. Drought Monitor process and representing local conditions.
Access the report here.

You’re never too young to analyze
NASA data sets to combat drought
Artash Nath, a 10-year-old, and Vikas Nath, co-founder of Space Watch, took a big bite out of drought for the Space Apps Challenge 2017.
The duo entered the Our Planet Our Home challenge with the goal of comparing NASA Earth Science data with data about people. Their chosen topic? Drought.
Artash set his sights on predicting drought so those people, properties and animals most at risk would have time to act to prevent droughts from turning into famine.
He and Vikas overlaid land maps of Kenya and Uganda with vegetation data from the Terra Modis Satellite and then added in human settlements data from NASA-SEDAC as well as population density.
Their Drop the Drought simulation successfully “detected” drought in Kenya a month before drought was declared there in February 2017 and two months before Kenyans migrated to Uganda to avoid further effects.
Learn more about this young achiever’s project here.
The Drought Risk Management Resource Center conducts and applies research to improve drought resilience across the United States. It is a partnership between the National Integrated Drought Information System and the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. NIDIS supports the DRMRC through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sectoral Applications Research Program.
Soil into sponges
Soil into sponges
Soil into sponges
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