All posts in "Environment & Conservation"

Toilet To Tap: AZ Households Will Soon Be Drinking Reclaimed Water



Reclaimed water, or wastewater, has been used in Arizona for agriculture and irrigation, but never for human consumption.

Earlier this month, the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved new regulations that will allow approved facilities to purify reclaimed water for drinking water.

Trevor Baggiore, the Water Quality Division Manager for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said there is no need for people to worry.


Read more…

Read More >

University of Arizona Opens Centre For Biofuels And Bioproducts Research

The University of Arizona has received a five-year grant of up to $15 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to lead a new centre focusing on the mass production of biofuels and bioproducts in the Southwestern U.S.

Kimberly Ogden, director of the UA Institute for Energy Solutions and a professor in the College of Engineering, will head the Sustainable Bioeconomy for Arid Regions Center. The goals of the centre include addressing the nation’s needs for biofuels and bioproducts, strengthening Arizona’s bioeconomy – the parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources such as crops or algae – and providing training for the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“Researchers at the University of Arizona are ideally positioned to solve complex environmental and economic problems,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “This grant will help us work alongside the community, industry and partner universities across the Southwest to grow our region’s economy while finding cleaner and more sustainable energy sources for the future.”


Read more…

Read More >

EPA Scraps Clean Power Plan, But AZ Still Vow Lower emissions



WASHINGTON – Arizona utilities and regulators said they plan to continue working toward the lower carbon emission goals that had been set in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, even though federal officials said this week that they are scrapping the program.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday that he will revoke the Obama-era plan, which set emission-reduction goals for every state but which critics said ended up handcuffing states.

Arizona had faced some of the nation’s steepest emissions cuts under the plan. But Arizona regulators said they would continue to work on the plan, and utilities in the state said they are still committed to cutting emissions, with or without the plan.


Read more…

Read More >

BHC Turns Switch On Pilot Project To Save Water



Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady has the honor of pressing the panel to start the injection wells at the Bullhead City wastewater treatment plant. The $1 million project was funded by grants from the Bureau of Reclamation, the Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Denver Water.

“This project will save water today and into the future,” said Chuck Cullom, Colorado River project manager for the Phoenix-based Central Arizona Project, Arizona’s largest water utility. CAP uses a 336-mile system of aqueducts, tunnels and pipelines to provide Colorado River water to residents in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. It gets its water from Lake Havasu near Parker.

The project takes treated water — effluent — from the wastewater plant near the Colorado River Nature Center and injects it into the Colorado River Aquifer, an underground pool of water, for its eventual return to the Colorado River. Cullom said the process takes “weeks to months” for the injected water to be restored to the river.

Agrawal said the plant processes between 2 million and 2.5 million gallons of wastewater every day. The treatment facility will direct much of that — more than 700 million gallons a year — back into the system.

Previously, the effluent sat in evaporation pools, waiting for the sun to literally evaporate the water into the air. Now, with the technology approved by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, more than 2,200 acre-feet of water — enough to support 6,000 homes for a year — will be returned to the river. An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre of land with a foot of water, about 326,000 gallons.

“Bullhead City is the first to utilize this techology,” he said. “If it is successful, which we truly expect it to be, I would think there would be a number of places that will use it.

“We’re going to learn from this project.”




Read More >

Art, Plants And Time Turn a P.V. Horse Property Into A Private Nature Retreat


The backyard to Rick and Barbara Rosenberg’s cool home is part outdoor museum, part botanical garden and part arty natural preserve

Wide gravel pathways meander between Texas ebony and ironwood trees and cacti of all shapes and sizes. Spiny lizards and Gambel’s quail scatter underneath thorny shrubs.

Shaded benches invite visitors to relax and commune with nature, but those who keep walking will discover more than a dozen sculptures tucked into the landscape – stone abstractions, bronze Buddhas, and two-foot-high cast iron heads.

Is it an outdoor museum? A botanical garden? An especially arty nature preserve?

The answer is: All of the above. It also happens to be Rick and Barbara Rosenberg’s backyard.

The Rosenbergs, who both grew up in New York, met at Brooklyn College, where Rick was walking in to his chemistry class just as Barbara was leaving hers. In 1977, the couple moved to Luke Air Force Base, where Rick was stationed after finishing dental school. Barbara found work as a science teacher and they agreed that the Valley was a great place to settle down.

By the early 1990s, when the Rosenbergs were looking for a new house to fit their young family, they hoped to find something with some space around it.

“I really wanted to have some room and a place for animals and birds,” Barbara explained. “In New York, if you wanted a decent amount of land, you would have to go way out of town and also have a small fortune.”

Instead, they found a centrally-located horse property in Paradise Valley for an affordable price. Built in 1962, the lot offered 1.29 acres with a modest ranch house and plenty of room for Rick to indulge his lifelong interest in plants.

“It was a blank slate,” Rick recalled. “The house was at the front of the property and then it was all just open.”

He got rid of the corrals and started planting trees and shrubs, partly because he didn’t know anything about cacti.

“I grew up in Brooklyn,” he explained. “It was all concrete everywhere!”

But, despite his urban origins, Rick had some experience with gardening. As a child, he took classes at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and even had a small vegetable plot there. When he and Barbara travel, they always visit the local botanical gardens to see what grows around the world.

In Paradise Valley, however, Rick didn’t set out to collect plants just for the sake of collecting.

“I was in it for the wildlife,” he explained. “That was one of the things that attracted us to this area in the first place, so I planted anything thorny and scrubby that would be attractive habitat for them. That’s why there’s a lot of hackberry and wolfberry and mesquite.”

He chose plants native to Arizona, both because they would best suit the animals and because they would use little water. Despite the size of the yard, there is very little irrigation.

But, as he learned about the flora of his adopted state, Rick became interested in its more distinctive forms, such as saguaro and cholla cacti. He joined the Central Arizona and Tucson Cactus and Succulent Societies, and his passion “kind of grew from there.”

The garden also grew. Since he had a large space and a limited budget, Rick mostly purchased young plants in one or five gallon pots. He shopped at the discount section of local nurseries and got cuttings from other gardeners.

But, although they started small, many of the plants took off. Today the garden is a rich tapestry, with mature trees providing shade and height, shrubs adding density and texture, and a now-impressive collection of cacti and succulents that range from tiny pincushions to tall columns.

The combination screens the garden paths from the surrounding neighborhood so effectively that, except for the occasional glimpse of Mummy Mountain, it feels like a private world – albeit a world where owls, hawks, rabbits and javelina often drop by.

Rick doesn’t know how many specimens he’s put in the garden at this point. It’s probably close to two thousand, although not all have survived.

Of that number, some of the most treasured are the two-hundred-plus barrel cacti that he and Barbara rescued through the cactus and succulent societies.

Cactus rescues are an organized attempt to salvage plants that would otherwise be bulldozed by developers. Sanctioned by the Arizona Department of Agriculture, they allow plant-lovers to dig up and take home what can be sizable cacti for the price of a registration tag.

Although Barbara generally leaves the gardening to Rick, she’s gladly joined the rescue missions.

“It’s nice because you’re saving them,” she explained.

The rescued plants include stout fishhook barrels and globe-like golden barrels, which add bold shapes as well as flowers and fruit for the birds and animals.

But in addition to the sculptural plants, the garden also features literal sculptures – the products of Rick’s other interest.

Twenty years ago, one of Rick’s dental patients was a sculptor who offered to trade artwork for dental work.

“He did a stone carving for me,” Rick remembered, “and I really liked it and I thought: ‘I’d like to try that, too.'”

Rick enrolled in beginner class at Scottsdale Community College and never stopped. Adding skills a little at a time, he’s learned stone carving, welding, bronze casting and any other technique he needs to bring his ideas to reality – even as his ideas have become more complex. While the smaller and more delicate pieces are displayed in the house, the larger ones ornament the landscape, where they are carefully sited to complement the living collection.

There are, Rick has found, a lot of similarities between dentistry, sculpture, and landscape design.

“Doing sculpture is all about proportion,” he explained. “In dentistry, you also use the rule of proportion, so I have a lot of experience with that. And it’s a big thing I consider when I’m planting, too.”

Although on most days the Rosenberg’s only share their well-proportioned yard with the critters that crawl, fly, or hop through it, they occasionally open it to other plant collectors and artist friends.

In July, the property was featured on a garden tour organized for the biennial convention of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, which was held in Tempe, and it is profiled in the August issue of Phoenix Home and Garden magazine.

And, now that the Rosenbergs are both retired, they have more time to enjoy their private retreat themselves, which is good because Rick plans to keep adding to it.

“I’m kind of stuck here because of the garden,” he acknowledged. “But it’s not a bad place to be stuck.”

Read or Share this story:




Read More >

How Can Tucson Electric Get Solar + Storage For 4.5¢/kWh?


Subsidies and aggressive pricing assumptions are key to the stunning Arizona PPA price, analysts say

Tucson Electric Power’s recently signed power purchase agreement for a solar-plus-storage project has been hailed for its low price, but it also signals a solution that could become more common as renewable energy grid integration problems grow.

TEP declined to reveal the exact pricing, but the all-in cost for the solar-plus-storage project is “significantly less than $0.045/kWh over 20 years,” said Carmine Tilghman, senior director for energy supply at TEP. And, at under 3¢s/kWh, he says he believes the solar portion of the PPA is “the lowest price recorded in the U.S.”

The project, which is being built by NextEra Energy, calls for a 100 MW solar array and a 30 MW, 120 MWh energy storage facility.

If the value of the available subsidies is backed out, the pricing on the project is probably closer to $0.09/kWh, but that “is still impressive,” says Jesse Jenkins, a PhD candidate at the Institute for Data, Systems and Society at the MIT Energy Initiative.

The previous low water mark for a solar-plus-storage project was $0.11/kWh, set in January for a PPA between the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) and AES Corp. for a project that combines a 28-MW solar array with a 20-MW, 100-MWh battery system.

For the Arizona project, Jenkins says the developer is likely banking on continuing cost reductions for both solar and storage technologies. Those assumptions are probably “baked into the bid,” says Jenkins.

NextEra Energy, the developer of the TEP project, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

In the solicitation, issued in November, TEP was seeking 100 MW of solar power that could be in service by early 2019. TEP says the NextEra facility would boost its total “community-scale solar energy resources” by nearly 40% and help it meet a mandate to source at least 30% of its power from renewable resources by 2030. Under that mandate, TEP estimates it will add about 800 MW of renewable capacity by the end of 2030.

TEP spokesman Joseph Barrios says three of the finalist proposals received in response to the solicitation included a storage component.

Jenkins says continuing expectations for lower PV and storage costs will lead to solar-plus-storage projects becoming more competitive under current tax incentives and will probably lead to yet more projects. He expects to see similar projects developed elsewhere in the Southwest, as well as in California and Texas.

Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at GTM Research, notes that there have been at least three other utility-scale solar-plus -torage projects signed in recent months.

In addition to the AES project, KIUC in March also brought online a 13 MW solar array backed up by 272 Tesla Powerpack batteries that can provide 52 MWh of energy. And in April, Salt River Project signed a 20-year PPA with NextEra Energy for the Pinal Central Energy Center near Coolidge that will combine a 20 MW solar array with a 10-MW lithium-ion storage system. Duration (MWh) specifications for the battery were not released.

“This is a sign of the improving economics of such projects, and their benefits to utility off-takers,” Manghani said.

From a developer’s perspective, Manghani says the ability to capture the 30% investment tax credit for both the solar and storage portions of the project is “paramount” and makes the economics of developing a combined facility more attractive than developing separate projects.

The ITC not only offsets 30% of the cost of the storage project, the developer also benefits because the combined interconnection and installation costs are arguably lower with co-installation.

The ITC can only be claimed for storage, however, if the battery array is charged at least 70% by an ITC-qualifying resource, usually solar. That can create another incentive to pair projects together.

Aside from declining costs, the other key component of the TEP deal is the utility’s changing resource mix. TEP recently stopped burning coal at its H. Wilson Sundt station in Tucson and plans to retire 170 MW of coal-fired capacity when unit 2 at the San Juan plant in New Mexico closes at year end. TEP is also looking at closing additional coal-fired capacity over the next 15 years.

In addition to the closure of coal plants – the utility plans to reduce its coal-fired capacity by 508 MW over the next five years – the integrated resource plan TEP filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission in April calls the expansion of the utility’s fleet of combined-cycle gas turbine plants, the addition of 200 MW of reciprocating engines and 200 MW of storage.

“All of this is to address our version of the ‘duck curve,’ which is far more exacerbated than the California curve due to the predominant feature of solar relative to other renewables,” says Tilghman.

The duck curve first attracted attention in California where it was used to describe the sudden need for quick ramping power to offset the rapid decline of renewable resources that can occur in the evening when solar power fades. But California has a greater variety of renewable resources – such as hydro, wind, biomass, and geothermal power – than Arizona, where solar power plays a more dominant role in the state’s renewable resource mix. That makes Arizona’s duck curve “far more dramatic,” Tilghman said.

Adding storage to the utility’s system provides the ability “to simulate load by allowing us to charge during the day and minimize the duck curve issues,” Tilghman says. But, he notes, storage does not solve all the problems associated with the duck curve.

Storage still has some “significant limitations to both peak shaving, which can easily be longer than four hours,” and to use if the battery has to cycle more than once a day.

Tilghman steers clear of comparing battery storage with peaking plants, which are often used to provide power during periods of peak demand. They are different products and “should not be compared with each other and as replacement for one another,” he said.

Tilghman also takes issue with the idea that the declining costs of solar-plus-storage facilities could provide a viable mechanism for proposals like a Clean Peak Standard (CPS). That proposal, floated by the state consumer advocate last year, would mandate that a certain amount of renewable energy be delivered during peak demand hours, likely necessitating energy storage. It has been parlayed into two bills for similar market constructions in California.

The CPS “solves a problem we don’t have,” Tilghman said.

For TEP the utility’s main problem is not managing summer peaks, but integrating renewables in low load shoulder months, such as the spring and fall. TEP’s approach is to use both storage and reciprocating engines to meet summer peak load and maximize renewable generation.

Tilghman, who also notes that the CPS is not being considered and that docket is on hold, says the proposal is not a cost effective solution. It “may be appropriate for some entities, but not for us.”




Read More >

6 Arizona Young Women Are Taking On The STEM Gender Gap


Think of the last time you went to get your car’s engine looked at or needed help recovering files on a computer.

Who helped you?

Odds are, it wasn’t a woman.

Historically, men have dominated science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

That can be problematic; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says STEM occupations grew at twice the rate of other jobs from 2009 to 2015 and tend to pay more than the national average.

Women make up half of the nation’s college-educated workforce but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce, according to 2016 data from the National Science Board. Women tend to be well-represented in the social and life sciences and underrepresented in fields such as engineering, where women comprise 15 percent of the workforce.

But the gender gap might continue to close as young Arizona women enter STEM fields through school or extracurricular programs, kickstarting their STEM careers while still in their teens.

The working world of STEM

TGen Chief Operating Officer Tess Burleson said there is catch-up to do because men tend to dominate the pool of potential employees at Translational Genomics Research Institute, a Phoenix-based non-profit that researches genes to identify and treat diseases.

Burleson said that to close the gender gap, women should be encouraged to pursue STEM fields from a young age, saying that oftentimes young girls who are math or science-minded aren’t recognized or encouraged to do anything with it.

“If people more consciously said, ‘Engineering would be a great field for you because you have great critical thinking skills,’ just verbalizing those things would be really helpful,” she said.

TGen strives to be aware of the gender gap, Burleson said.

Its Helios Scholars program, a biomedical research internship that is open to Arizona high school and college students, actually has slightly more women than men.

That breakdown doesn’t usually carry over into the professional world, but Burleson said TGen tries to encourage diversity.

“It’s not that we’re not looking, it’s just that they (women) are not available sometimes,” Burleson said. “It’s fair to say TGen does a good job of making sure we keep the awareness of the gender gap and leadership gap. We look for opportunities to encourage women in the workforce to make their lives as happy as they can be.”

Part of that means making women feel like their opinions and needs are valued at TGen.

“Women are taught that you want to play nice on the playground,” Burleson said. “Sometimes you have to say, ‘Speak up to get what you need to be successful.'”

Equal opportunity

Scottsdale Unified School District spokeswoman Erin Helm said getting more women in STEM doesn’t necessarily mean offering special district programs for girls, but simply treating everyone equally.

“Hopefully that equal playing field by itself will encourage more girls (to pursue STEM),” Helm said.

She attributes the professional lag to earlier years when women weren’t given as many opportunities in STEM.

“As much as we have an even playing field now, that’s not to say there hasn’t been some catch-up in society,” Helm said. “What I hope in Scottsdale Unified School District is that they (girls) see that there is space for them to step up and be a part of STEM.”

Young women across the Valley have stepped up to be part of STEM, making their mark in the field at a young age.

Meet six of them.

Aakanksha Saxena: Solving real-world problems

Aakanksha Saxena helped develop an app that syncs outdoor sprinkler systems to smartphones to save water while still caring for plants.

She has won awards for making solar panels that are 85 percent cheaper than those currently used, built a system that calculates and recommends ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from K-12 schools, and founded a non-profit that sends female orphans in India to college.

And she’s 17.

She graduated from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale this week.

Saxena wants to be a sustainability professor so she can “make sure our future is green and efficient and spreading the message of how important STEM is to future generations.”

She developed a passion for sustainability as a student at Basis Scottsdale, where she created an algorithm to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in schools.

“I’ve always been really interested in solving real-world problems,” Saxena said.

Saxena credits her success in STEM to her access to education. She’s taken Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes and had extracurricular opportunities that allowed her to work with researchers at Arizona State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Saxena said there’s “definitely a little more focus on boys pursuing STEM,” but the gender gap is even larger in places like India, where she founded a non-profit organization, Literacy Spree, to promote education and make STEM accessible to women.

“I’ve seen firsthand in India where so many girls are so intelligent and driven and are told, ‘You aren’t going to college, you’re going to be married at 18,’ ” Saxena said. “We live in America, and we have access to education, but there is still a lot of room for improvement not only here, but more so in developing countries.”

So far, Saxena’s efforts have allowed seven Indian orphans to go to college.

Saxena was accepted into MIT, Stanford Harvard and Yale universities and decided to attend Stanford this fall.

Emma Eddy: Studying rats to understand the human brain

Most people wouldn’t want to work around rats all day, but 19-year-old Emma Eddy is testing the cognitive and working memories of rats to better understand the human brain and eventually find ways to eliminate Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Eddy graduated from Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale in 2016 and studies physiology and anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

At the lab, Eddy observes the rats as they try to find a platform in a water main and then she sees if they still remember where the platform is if the conditions of the water main are changed.

Eddy tests three groups of rats: young, middle-aged and older.

After the experiment, Eddy said she and the other scientists study MRIs of the rats’ brains, seeing how the brain neurons differ between rats that performed well and rats that performed poorly.

Eddy said her findings so far indicate that “younger rats will find the platform consistently quickly over time.”

Eddy always knew she wanted to go to medical school, so in high school she joined the inaugural class of a four-year biomedical science program, eventually graduating with an Advanced Placement + Project Lead the Way credential, proving her aptitude for advanced science coursework.

Advanced Placement is a program created by the College Board, the organization also responsible for the Scholastic Assessment Test. Project Lead the Way is an organization that provides STEM curriculum to schools.

Also during high school, Eddy assessed the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels on the environment through a summer program at the UA’s honors college.

Eddy said she wants to be a reproductive endocrinologist to help women who can’t conceive get pregnant, but she said sometimes the career journey can be tougher for women.

“It’s hard when you’re a woman getting into the medical field,” Eddy said. “People assume you want to start a family and do things right after college.”

Eddy said there are a lot of women in her pre-lab classes but added there’s still much to be done when it comes to including women in STEM.

“I have hope one day it’ll balance out,” Eddy said.

Nancy Twishime: Searching for medical discoveries

Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease that damages nerve endings in the brain and spinal cord and affects up to 200,000 Americans at any given time.

Nancy Twishime, who just finished her junior year at Bioscience High School in the Phoenix Union High School District this week, wants to find out why.

Twishime, 17, participated in a high school research program at Barrow Neurological Institute to understand how neurons die in the brains of those with ALS.

Three days each week during the school year, Twishime headed to the lab after school to analyze data obtained from pictures of stained cells. During the summer, Twishime works in the lab full-time.

Twishime said she’s passionate about ALS research because there’s still much to be discovered.

“There’s not much known about it,” she said. “You always hear research about cancer or other things, so I found it’s worth my time to do something that can be invested in and improved, and I learn a lot too during the process.”

Despite her ALS research, Twishime wants to combine her love of the brain and passion for kids by becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon.

Twishime said women are well-represented in her lab.

Twishime said she chooses not to dwell on gender disparities, saying that getting caught up in the numbers gets in the way of her progress.

“If it takes me working harder than a man does, then I’ll have to do it,” Twishime said. “My education and my learning and furthering my knowledge is most important to me. If that means working harder, then that’s OK.”

Still, Twishime said she doesn’t understand why a STEM gender gap exists at all.

“When you give a woman as much opportunity as a man in STEM, there’s a greater amount of opportunity to learn from each other,” Twishime said. “I just don’t see why that’s there in the first place.”

Elizabeth Chiffelle: Looking to the stars

An interest in Greek mythology and “Star Trek” opened the door for 16-year-old Elizabeth Chiffelle to discover her passion for astronomy.

Chiffelle, who just completed her junior year at Bioscience High School in downtown Phoenix, researches young stellar objects, which are stars in the earliest stages of development.

It’s part of a program between NASA and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center called the Teacher Archive Research Project.

The program pairs teachers with a mentor astronomer to conduct research in the field and encourages teachers to involve their students in the venture as well.

Chiffelle takes data from telescopes in space and identifies high-quality young stellar objects for IPAC to explore.

Chiffelle and her peers presented their findings at an American Astronomical Society meeting in Dallas this year.

“That’s when I realized that that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Chiffelle said. “Going to Dallas and seeing different posters and astronomers, I was so excited, and I had so much energy finding out this new information.”

Chiffelle and her teacher are doing their own independent research after coming across unusual data from the telescopes.

When looking at graphs that plotted the young stars’ growth, some of the plots formed a zig-zag pattern instead of a more steady, stable line that’s typical as a young stellar object matures into an adult star.

Chiffelle’s dream college is California Institute of Technology, but in the meanwhile, she’s applied for an internship with NASA this summer.

Alyson Neaves: Making lives easier through engineering

Signing up for extra math classes isn’t something a lot of high school kids willingly do, but 17-year-old Alyson Neaves did so gladly as part of the STEM Scholar Diploma program at Perry High School in Gilbert.

The program requires students to take five math and six science credits, but Neaves is taking her seventh math credit — linear algebra.

The program also requires students to complete a mini-internship, which Neaves described as a two-day job shadow at the Air Products campus in Chandler, where she worked under a plant engineer and learned about industrial engineering.

“It was a good experience because I had never considered that until I started speaking to him about it,” Neaves said. “It sounded like exactly what I wanted to do.”

Neaves said a plant engineer’s job is all about making a mechanical system cheaper, quicker and more effective.

“I like the idea of making life easier for people,” Neaves said. “Having a way we can be more effective and more sustainable is really important so we can move forward as a community to work smarter and not harder, and doing what we can to improve what we already have.”

Even though she’s balancing science and math courses, AP classes and summer camps that are required as part of the STEM Scholar Program,Neaves graduated this week as valedictorian of her class with a 4.84 GPA.

She’s been accepted into Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, as well as several universities in California and Colorado.

Neaves is staying local and attending ASU.

Dr. Elizabeth Hutchins: Exploring ‘uncharted territory’

Dr. Elizabeth Hutchins, 30, is a post-doctoral fellow at TGen and is studying concussions in a project with the ASU football team.

The project seeks to identify objective biomarkers (like those found in blood, urine and saliva) that indicate when a player suffers a concussion, providing an alternative to more subjective tests in use.

Her findings could lead to increased safety for players, whether through improved protective gear or a change in the rules to avoid injuries that could cause long-term damage.

Hutchins said the findings could be applied to anyone with a head injury, from soldiers on the battlefield to people in car accident.

Hutchins’ passion is exploring uncharted territory that could impact lives.

“You’re looking at new things that no one has seen before and trying to make sense of them,” she said. “Sometimes that’s incredibly frustrating, but it’s also very exciting.”

Even though she loves her work, Hutchins said she has faced subtle sexism in the field.

“There was someone that worked at our lab and asked a male member of the lab about my project instead of asking me,” Hutchins said. “He asked me the same question, and he didn’t listen to what I said, and he asked someone that wasn’t working on the project and took what they said and ignored me.”

Despite that, Hutchins said for every negative experience she’s had many positive ones. She encouraged young women pursuing STEM careers to find mentors who will encourage them.

“They’ll really help you move on, and finding someone that values you and can give you advice is a really good thing,” Hutchins said.




Read More >

Economic Prosperity Flows In Underground Pipes

Water is an essential ingredient to Arizona’s economy. There is an unmistakable connection between maintaining and updating infrastructure and economic prosperity.

Cities and states are more likely to thrive in this fast-changing global economy if they provide safe, reliable water for their residents and businesses. That means having the foresight and the determination to address needs before they arise. Repairing and replacing things like water mains, fire hydrants and miles of underground pipes may not be a trending topic on Twitter, but it provides a foundation for a diversified economy.

In 2016, I testified on Capitol Hill in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as president of the National Association of Water Companies. I stressed to the committee the importance of advancing sustainable solutions to meet the nation’s current water infrastructure needs and to ensure the delivery of the most basic need for millions of Americans.From aerospace to agriculture to advanced manufacturing, companies take water supplies into consideration when making decisions about where to locate. Building or expanding a company in a city or state with restricted water use can be an obstacle to job creation. Aging and deteriorating water systems threaten economic vitality and public health. We need to shift from a reactive mindset on infrastructure to a proactive one. Sound infrastructure investment looks a lot like sound retirement savings – investing now means more money later when you need it.

At the time, the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, was a stark reminder of how we need to be vigilant when it comes to managing our water supply and planning for its future. That vigilance on infrastructure investment can be seen in the form of repairs or upgrades which, if performed sooner rather than later, saves money in the long term for customers. If the system falls into disrepair – such as pipes that keep leaking or major parts that need to be replaced at treatment plants – the cost to customers is much greater.

Infrastructure investment offers other ways to save money. One example: Layering a community’s roadwork construction schedule on top of our schedule for line replacements or repairs means roads are disrupted only once, making these projects more efficient, less costly and less inconvenient for customers and communities.

But communities need to do some catching up first – and it will be an uphill climb. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure a D and D+ grade, respectively. Communities around the country are faced with massive fiscal challenges to replace critical infrastructure.

Clean and reliable water is foundational to every community’s economic engine and its quality of life. This will require investment to maintain and improve current systems and looking for new resources and programs to augment our current supply. Here at EPCOR, we are investing about $635 million over the next 10 years in infrastructure – creating nearly 300 construction jobs per year. Along with other regulated water utilities in Arizona, this is a top priority. These are needs none of us can afford to ignore.

EPCOR is making important investments that fuel our economy and will help replace and strengthen aging infrastructure. We maintain 117 miles of water and wastewater pipeline – nearly the distance between Phoenix and Flagstaff – that is 50 years old or greater and we’ve recently needed to replace wells that were installed as far back as the Great Depression. We are investing $95 million to build the Luke 303 Regional Water Reclamation Facility, which will create 4,400 acres of future residential and business growth along Loop 303 near Luke Air Force Base. That stretch of freeway is emerging as a catalyst of future commerce, bringing jobs, businesses and retail space to the West Valley.

EPCOR and regulated water utilities across the country, and our partners in the public utility sphere, share a deep commitment to responsible stewardship of our resources as we face the crucial challenges of drought and aging infrastructure. We continue to work with our elected leaders on funding programs that, when combined with the private sector, can deliver much-needed resources for water sustainability now and in the future.

Infrastructure Week 2017, from May 15-19, is a week-long spotlight on the importance and state of America’s roads, bridges, highways, power grids, ports, airports, water systems and more. But the infrastructure backbone that fuels our economy and our way of life deserves far more than a single week.

At EPCOR, our commitment will not waver. We will continue to help sustain communities across the state by making smart, strategic water infrastructure investments. It’s a commitment we make every day, because Arizona’s future depends on it.

— Joe Gysel is president of EPCOR Water USA.




Read More >

Lincoln Institute Launches Babbitt Center For Land And Water Policy In Phoenix


The Lincoln Institute today announced the establishment of the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, the centerpiece of a new initiative to integrate land use planning and the management of an increasingly scarce resource.

The Center, which will be based in Phoenix, is named for Bruce Babbitt, former Arizona governor, Interior secretary, and longtime board member of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Jim Holway, who has years of experience in water and land use issues in Arizona and throughout the Intermountain West, will serve as the first director.

“It’s been said that water is the new oil, and if we want to ensure that future generations have adequate supplies, we have to understand the intimate connection between land and water,” said George W. “Mac” McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute. “It’s a two-way street: how we plan and use land has an impact on water, and water availability has an increasing impact on how we can use land. We seek to bridge these two worlds to better meet the needs of people, agriculture, and nature.”

The Babbitt Center will gather data, develop indicators, and build and test new tools for fair, efficient, and sustainable management of water resources. An initial activity will be to develop a map, using satellite imagery, for selected tributaries of the Colorado River Basin. The aim is to provide a foundation – potentially scaled up to the entire basin, serving seven states and some 30 million people – that illustrates the relationship between land and water, and can be used for better projections, modeling, and scenario planning.

“We hope that conversations with communities and decision-makers throughout the basin might bring together stakeholders who don’t necessarily talk to each other,” said McCarthy. “We seek to help state and local officials integrate land and water policies across an entire geography, to imagine better futures.”

At the same time the Babbitt Center is launched, the longstanding joint program between the Lincoln Institute and the Sonoran Institute, previously known as Western Lands and Communities and now renamed Resilient Communities and Watersheds, will aim to better integrate land use planning and water management at the local level. The partnership with the Sonoran Institute will be an important part of the work of the Center.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the Babbitt Center will become a hub that connects the people and practices of the arid American West to people and practices in the rest of the world.  By 2025, the United Nations predicts that 1.8 billion people – nearly one-quarter of the planet’s population by that time – will be living in regions with severe water scarcity.

The Center will become part of the emerging global footprint of the Lincoln Institute, from Beijing, where long aqueducts are planned as the sprawling city confronts rapidly draining aquifers, to the megacities of Latin America, which struggle to provide water to citizens through cycles of drought and floods.

“I am honored to be associated with this initiative and vision,” said Bruce Babbitt, who is currently advising state government in California on water issues. “The Lincoln Institute has emphasized the importance of land and land policy in addressing the world’s toughest problems, and the stewardship of water resources is at the top of the list. We all need to be aware of the connection between water and land.”

“We are optimistic as we all share the goal of ensuring water for future generations,” said Holway, formerly director of the Lincoln Institute-Sonoran Institute joint program and assistant director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, who currently serves on the board of the Central Arizona Project.

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is an independent, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help solve global economic, social, and environmental challenges to improve the quality of life through creative approaches to the use, taxation, and stewardship of land.

SOURCE Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Related Links




Read More >

An End To Tucson’s Growth Wars


As the small Cessna airplane flies above Tucson, its passengers see the rugged, low-lying Tortolita Mountains to the east, followed by the huge green blocks of cotton fields. Over to the west, the bright blue Central Arizona Project canal slices through the desert. Farther south rise the untrammeled desert mountains of Saguaro National Park-West.

This aerial view showcases both the conservation successes and failures in the Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson, whose population totals about 1 million. In the past 17 years, Pima County has spent nearly $200 million, raised through voter-approved bond issues, to preserve more than 200,000 acres of deserts, mountain parks, riparian areas and grasslands. Though red-tile roofs dominate much of the land, which is surrounded by five publicly owned mountain ranges, you can still see plenty of open desert dotted with dark green mesquite and palo verde and gray-green cactus.

The county’s preservation efforts have also put it in the cattle business. The protected lands include 140,000 acres on which the county controls grazing leases. Ranchers who once feared that their remote mesquite flats and grasslands would be gobbled up by speculators still ply their trade, albeit with much-reduced cattle numbers.

All of this is thanks to one of the most aggressive and ambitious urban land conservation efforts ever undertaken in the Southwest. Approved in fall 2016 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after nearly 20 years of work, Pima County’s Multi-Species Conservation Plan transformed the politics of a region that was infamous for endless sprawl. It protects dozens of vulnerable species and conserves biologically sensitive lands while permitting development on other lands, thereby ending conflicts over growth that had dragged on for decades. The plan has become a national model, drawing praise from scholars, land planners and environmentalists around the country — particularly for the way it insulated scientific input from political considerations.

“It remains critical that scientists working on a conservation plan — or any project for that matter — be relatively isolated from political pressures,” says Reed Noss, a conservation biology professor at the University of Central Florida, who worked on a county-funded peer review of the plan back in 2001. “Scientists still must take into account political realities, so that what they produce is relevant and feasible. But they should not be pressured.”

Pima County’s habitat conservation plan grew out of a culture of runaway development and extreme political conflict. The catalyst was the 1997 federal endangered species listing for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, a small raptor whose desert-wash habitat was imperiled by development and groundwater pumping. Until then, the county had routinely approved major rezonings for well over two decades, despite opposition from local environmentalists. At the time, the desert was being paved at the rate of an acre every two hours, pushing Tucson’s suburbs toward the edge of the surrounding national forest and parkland.

The pygmy owl’s listing resulted in significant growth restrictions. Hoping to avoid similar controversy and litigation over other species, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and his staff, prodded by environmentalists, started work a year after the listing on a long-term Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan to protect the county’s natural and cultural resources. As part of that effort, they developed a plan to protect dozens of imperiled species. To determine which lands were most essential to wildlife, they created a “firewall” around a committee of scientists, insulating them from political pressure. “County leaders stated from the outset that their primary goal was to conserve biological diversity through a scientifically defendable process, not to come up with a plan that everybody could agree on,” wrote the late urban planning specialist Judith Layzer in her 2008 book Natural Experiments, which analyzed more than a half-dozen regional land-conservation efforts.

The scientists and county staff discussed the plan in public sessions, but county officials made it clear that their work would not be derailed by complaints from developers and other critics. The scientists established standards for identifying biologically valuable lands and used computer models, observation records and the judgment of local naturalists and recognized experts to come up with a biological preserve map.

In contrast, in other multi-species plans, scientists, politicians, agency staffers, developers and moderate conservationists collectively determined which lands to save, thus bringing political and economic considerations into the science.

Looking back this spring, Huckelberry, a former county transportation chief, says he was simply applying the best practices from his previous job, highway planning, to land conservation. Typically, both a technical committee and a citizens’ committee review big road projects, he says: “The whole purpose of a technical advisory committee is not to play with the numbers, not to slant the analysis. We felt the political side could potentially be used to manipulate the scientific side, and felt that would bias the entire process.”

After the science team created a map of the proposed preserve system, a separate steering committee of 84 people, including developers, environmentalists and neighborhood leaders, haggled over its details. By then, though, the plan’s broad vision was already solidly in place.

The scientists’ work led to the creation of the Conservation Lands System, 3 million acres of picture-book Sonoran Desert, grasslands and riparian areas, with about 60 percent of it preserved as open space. Nine of the 44 vulnerable species protected by the system are on the federal endangered species list, including the Gila topminnow, the western yellow-billed cuckoo and the Pima pineapple cactus.

In 2003, the county took another major step by folding the multi-species plan into its broader Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, which calls for conserving ranches, protecting culturally and historically sensitive properties and expanding an existing mountain park network.



Developers, homebuilders and realtors initially howled at the proposed multi-species plan, but backed off after winning two concessions. First, Huckelberry promised not to propose additional land-use regulations. Second, the county agreed to give small landowners more leeway, because their projects have much less impact. “As soon as it was clear it was going that way, most of the opposition from private-property owners dissipated,” says realtor Bill Arnold, leader of a vocal property-rights movement.

The plan’s backers say it also benefits developers. Within the million-acre area governed by the county’s federal Endangered Species Act permit, landowners who sign up for voluntary coverage under the plan are then exempt from prosecution for unintentionally killing or harming any federally protected species on their property. If any of 35 other species are later placed on the endangered species list, the landowners won’t be subject to new restrictions. The plan may also exempt them from protracted biological reviews if their projects need a federal Clean Water Act permit.

Coverage under the multi-species plan is “an insurance policy,” says Jenny Neeley, the county’s conservation science program manager. “It comes down to risk assessment.” If there’s a chance any of those 44 species might be on a landowner’s property, they’d do well to sign up for coverage, which costs from $720 to $3,160 per development project. (Builders of individual homes don’t have to pay.)

Whether they opt into the multi-species plan or not, all builders must also comply with tough county rules protecting riparian areas, native plants and hillsides, including a requirement to preserve at least 65 percent of sensitive lands. “It’s better than what we had anticipated,” says David Godlewski, president of the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association, adding, “We still maintain that Pima County has some of the most restrictive environmental policies in the U.S.”

Layzer’s 2008 book called the overarching Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan the most effective federal habitat conservation plan in the West: “Overall, (it) has shifted the status quo in Pima County from unfettered development accompanied by protection of isolated parcels to managed growth and landscape-scale conservation.”

Yet the county’s plan has limits to its power and scope, and now faces new challenges. In a huge swath of desert grasslands southwest of Tucson, for instance, some of the county-owned ranchlands now are crossed by an underground natural gas pipeline, which left a scar on the land and may increase soil erosion.

And in some of the prime foothills areas, tile roofs now dominate land that environmentalists had hoped to conserve; it has been rezoned for high-intensity development. And east of Tucson along the San Pedro River, a $2 billion power line project could damage grazing lands and riparian areas.

Environmentally speaking, it will take years of monitoring the protected lands to determine if the multi-species plan meets its goals. And drought and climate change could threaten the land’s future health. “Anytime you look at conservation on a landscape level, you take a chance that you are not hitting the right target,” says Carolyn Campbell, director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, which led the charge for the Sonoran Desert plan. “But I will say that conservation has already happened here, because of land set aside in perpetuity.”

Economically, the plan has been an absolute success, county administrator Huckelberry says. In the past year or so, the county says it has landed about 5,000 new jobs, with little environmentalist pushback. The jobs are generally not planned for sensitive lands, but more importantly, the preservation of so much open space has muted what would have been fierce opposition to some of the projects involved. Acquiring open space, Huckelberry says, “has really ended the growth wars.”

Tony Davis writes for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.



Read More >
1 2 3
Page 1 of 3