It’s Friday, 11:45 am, and in the atrium of the Interdisciplinary Research Building at USF students & faculty with coffee mugs begin to appear and gather around for a new USF Reclaim social: “Tea Time.” Recent USF PhD graduate and “Tea Time” initiator, Dr. Matt Verbyla provides an assortment of tea bags and electric kettles are set-up for a hot cup of tea. These 15-20 minutes in the atrium have become an open space and a welcomed break for our USF Reclaim research team. “Tea Time” provides a time to gather and catch up with peers in our department, provide insight on each other’s research, encourage one another, and brainstorm ways that we can continue to #Reclaim! Afterwards, we all head over to the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Seminar where every week we have a guest speaker that covers a topic relevant to a global challenge and how they are uniquely contributing to solving it. Check out the seminar schedule here.
The “Tea Time” idea was well received by students and faculty. Dr. Jeffrey Cunningham especially encourages USF graduate students “Tea Time” and recalls that as a graduate student at Stanford University he would also have a similar tradition that he says “helped to foster a valuable esprit de corps.”
“Building a strong network and community among our graduate students helps everybody in a number of ways. It helps you now because you learn from your peers and you know whom to ask when you have questions; it helps you later because you will have a professional network of your fellow graduates from our program; and it just makes life more enjoyable when you feel that you are part of a community, rather than working in isolation… We have a very strong faculty and a very strong group of students here at USF, and I am very proud of our program, but I do believe that our program can be made even stronger by building these traditions and culture. “– Dr. Cunningham
Check out our USF Reclaim Tea Time video here: https://youtu.be/skvEa5eNJiY
Do you have a “Tea Time” break at your school, university, or workplace? We’d like to see them! Share your pictures on our FB page of your “Tea Time” break, and how you are building a culture that encourages a sense of community, support, and new ideas for innovations and solutions to our present environmental challenges. As always, remember: There is no such thing as waste. Everything can be #Reclaimed!
The energy demand associated with provision of sufficient and safe water is a real issue for water managers. Water and wastewater treatment and transport can account for up to 44% of a city’s municipal energy cost. Some have also reported that with population growth, urbanization, and stricter water quality standards, the energy associated with water and wastewater management may increase by an additional 20% by 2023.
The estimated carbon footprint associated with RO desalination ranges from 0.4 to 6.7 kg CO2eq/m3 (of water produced), whereas water reuse systems range from 0.1 to 2.4 kg CO2eq/m3. Ranges are primarily because of several study differences: geographical location, technology, life cycle stages considered, and estimation methodologies. For example, location not only impacts the quality of a source but also the distance to transport reclaimed water. Furthermore, regional energy grids differ in their carbon intensity.
RO technologies have lower CO2 emissions than thermal desalination technologies and the carbon footprint of seawater RO desalination (0.4–6.7 kg CO2eq/m3) was generally greater than brackish water RO desalination (0.4–2.5 kg CO2eq/m3) and water reuse systems (0.1–2.4 kg CO2eq/m3). Brackish water desalination also yielded a lower carbon footprint (0.4-2.5 kg CO2eq/m3) compared to seawater desalination (0.4-6.7 kg CO2eq/m3). Furthermore, the carbon footprint of RO systems with membrane pretreatment (e.g. ultrafiltration) (0.4-4.0 kg CO2eq/m3) is generally higher than RO systems with conventional pretreatment (e.g. granular media filtration) (2.3-2.5 kg CO2eq/m3) for seawater desalination.
Our study identified and critically reviewed 16 tools that can estimate carbon emissions from water reuse and desalination facilities. We compared the simplest tool that requires minimal data inputs (e.g. electricity consumption, electricity mix) to a more sophisticated tool that had greater input requirements (e.g. material production, chemical usage, fuel usage, electricity consumption, electricity mix). We then applied both tools to estimating the carbon footprint of a 26.1 MGD facility used for: 1) seawater desalination, 2) brackish groundwater desalination, and 3) water reuse. Results showed the estimated carbon footprint from the simpler tool accounted for 55–58% of the more data-intensive estimation tool. This difference demonstrates the simpler tool underestimates life cycle impacts that are included in the more comprehensive tool.
The paper is available here:
Learn more about the research and demonstrations related to water and wastewater management:&
James Mihelcic can be followed on Twitter,
This blog post was originally published on IWA Water Wiki on May 15, 2015.
For those of you who are in the Tampa Bay area, we would like to invite you to join us to welcome Dr. Warren Washington of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to the College of Marine Science, on Friday, November 20th. Dr. Washington is an internationally recognized atmospheric scientist, a former chair of the National Science Board, and chair of the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Science. In 2010, Dr. Washington,, was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest science award for his lifetime contributions to global climate change research and his service in support of a diverse STEM workforce.
Dr. Washington’s Research Seminar
“My Journey as a Climate Modeler and How the Earth’s Climate is Likely to Change”
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
USF College of Marine Science, MSL Conference Room, 1st floor
Dr. Warren Washington is a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). He holds a B.S. in Physics and M.S. in Meteorology from Oregon State University, and Ph.D. in Meteorology from Penn State University. Dr. Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with Akira Kasahara when he came to NCAR in the early 1960s. These models, use fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, have helped scientists understand climate change. Washington worked to incorporate the oceans and sea ice into climate models. Such models now include components that depict surface hydrology and vegetation as well as the atmosphere, oceans, and sea ice.
He has more than 150 publications and an autobiography, Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents. An Introduction to Three‐Dimensional Climate Modeling, written by Washington and Claire Parkinson in 1986 and updated in 2005, is a standard reference in the field. Washington has engaged in research for over 50 years, and has given advice, testimony, and lectures on global climate change. Dr. Washington is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is past president of the American Meteorological Society.
As the second African‐American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences, Washington has served as a role model for generations of young researchers from many backgrounds. He has mentored dozens of graduate students and undergraduates. In 2010, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest science award “for his development and use of global climate models to understand climate and explain the role of human activities and natural processes in the Earth’s climate system and for his work to support a diverse science and engineering workforce.”
Sargassum is a brown macroalgae that tends to aggregate into large mats and are commonly found throughout the template and tropical oceans. It provides habitats, food, refuge and breeding sites for many commercially important marine fish such as Mahi Mahi, as well as other marine animals such as sea turtles, birds, and crabs. A fun fact is that some of these animals can live their entire lives within these floating environments. Regionally, these algal mats are found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Sargasso Sea, and the Caribbean. They can reach the beaches of the northern coast of South America, the Caribbean coasts of Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean.
What are the underlying issues with Sargassum?
During the last ~10 years, especially in 2011 and 2015, unprecedented amounts of Sargassum have been observed in the Caribbean Sea. Generally associated with the “Sargasso sea” located in the North Atlantic (Gower et al. 2006; Hu et al. 2015), recent studies indicate that these algae have become concentrated in the tropical Atlantic Ocean off South America (Gower et al. 2013). Sargassum can tolerate a wide range of water temperature, salinity, and pH conditions making it easy for them to reach coastal areas. They reproduce asexually which might be one of the reasons of its high concentrations. But, exactly why have we seen such vast amount of these mats in the Caribbean is currently a topic of much scientific research.
What are the impacts of large Sargassum mats on our coasts?
Decomposition of Sargassum creates a foul smell. This is a nuisance to people and animals. Regional and local tourism dependent economies have been heavily impacted by these large decomposition events when Sargassum reaches and piles up on beaches. In Jamaica the government has allocated up to USD 5 million to remove Sargassum from their beaches. The Barbados Sea turtle Project has documented increased sea turtle deaths due to being trapped in large concentrations of Sargassum. Barbadian fisherfolk on the other hand have reported increased quantities of fish catch due to the sargassum. Other coastal animals like corals seem to be impacted by shading due to Sargassum (Vega-Rodriguez, M et al. in progress; USF-College of Marine Science).
How can we study these Sargassum events?
Due to their critical ecological role and the economic impacts of Sargassum strandings additional research is needed to fully understand the distribution of this alga in our oceans. Scientists can rely on using data obtained from satellite-images. These data are unique. They cover large areas of the oceans every day. This information can help scientists better understand the sources, distribution and life-span of these important “floating habitats”. An example of the usefulness in satellite data can be found in Dr. Gower, Dr. Young and Dr. King’s work published in the Remote Sensing Letters journal (2013), and from Dr. Hu, an USF-College of Marine Science professor, in the Gulf of Mexico (2015). Dr. Gower’s group was among the first to suggest that the Sargassum source in 2011 was the area of the tropical Atlantic off South America, an area where the water from the Amazon River forms a large plume every year. Whether this river plays a role in the formation of these blooms is not at all clear. They also used satellite-derived data to track the patterns of this seaweed in the Caribbean.
As scientists, we recognize the ecological importance of these “floating habitats”. As people that live on the coast and Islanders we also understand the economical and recreational burden of having large quantities of Sargassum wash up and decompose on our beaches. Future research will help understand the causalities of these Sargassum “invasions” which governments and managers could then use to help mitigate the economic impacts of these events. The University of the West Indies organized a sargassum symposium in August 2015 and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) is the designated lead on co-ordinating efforts in the Caribbean region to understand and sustainably manage sargassum http://www.sargassum-at-cermes.com/.
Jim Gower , Erika Young & Stephanie King (2013): Satellite images suggest a new Sargassum source region in 2011, Remote Sensing Letters, 4:8, 764-773
Jim Gower, Chuanmin Hu, Gary Bostad & Stephanie King (2006): Ocean color satellites show extensive lines of floating Sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 44:12, 3619-3625.
Chuanmin Hu, Lian Feng, Robert G. Hardy, Eric J. Hochberg (2015): Spectral and spatial requirement of remote sensing measurements of pelagic Sargassum macroalgae, Remote Sensing of Environment, 167, 229-246.